Blogs

Lefty Think Tank Sells Itself on eBay

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 6:02 PM EST

I've never even sold so much as a lamp on eBay, but the owners of a Bay Area think tank are taking the idea of peddling wares online to a whole new level: They're selling the whole damn tank. Their ad reads: "Own This Think Tank: BACVR for Sale on eBay - Perfect Holiday Gift for Political Junkies."

Allegedly the first to do so (eBay did not return my call or email), the Bay Area Center for Voting Research (BACVR) has garnered a few bids, one at approximately $5,100, according to co-founder Jason Alderman.

"You don't need to be an Ivy League professor or a former administration official to run a think tank. There's an enormous number of smart Americans out there that can do this, and this is a great way to solicit their help," Alderman told me at the end of last week.

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Can Fringe Anti-Mormon Fundamentalists Bring Down Romney?

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 4:57 PM EST

Don't ask me why, but I'm on the email list of several extreme Christian fundamentalist groups. And lately I've received a couple of warnings from them: watch out for Mitt Romney. He's a Mormon.

On Thursday, Romney is scheduled to give (finally) what's being called his "Mormon Speech." Romney recently said, "I can tell you I'm not going to be talking so much about my faith as I am talking about the religious heritage of our country and the role in which it played in the founding of the nation and the role which I think religion should generally play today in our society."

No one really wants to hear Romney expound on the history of religion in the United States. The issue is whether he can persuade conservative conventional Christians that he, as a Mormon, is as good a Christian as they (and Mike Huckabee) are. Why is he delivering such a speech just weeks before the Iowa caucus? Obviously he and his advisers have decided he has no choice, especially with Huckabee, the former Baptist minister, surging in the polls in the Hawkeye State.

There are Christians who consider Mormonism a heretical cult, but there's no telling if the fundamentalists who are gunning for Romney will have any influence on GOP Iowa caucus-goers, a relatively small slice of Iowans dominated by social conservatives.

One outfit called Godvoters.org has put out an email decrying Romney.

Video of The View: "I Don't Think Anything Predated Christians"

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 3:43 PM EST

I don't want to make this "Poke Fun at Christians Who Say Silly Things" day at MoJoBlog (see here), but I just can't believe this went over the national airwaves.

"I don't think anything predated Christians... Jesus came first." Really, Sherri Shepherd? I ask this because you seem like a devout Christian woman: Have you read the Bible? Because there's this part called the Old Testament. Much, dare I say all, of it predates the part with the Christians.

They should have to issue a correction on tomorrow's show, just like a newspaper.

(H/T Ygelsias)

Deck the Halls with LEDs

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 3:16 PM EST

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Tis' the season when Bill O'Reilly has been off and running since Thanksgiving, railing against all who dare to secularize Christmas. In the spirit of railing, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss Christmas waste, most notably energy waste. I like a sprightly Christmas tree just as much as O'Reilly (well, maybe not that much), but the energy it takes to light a Christmas tree each holiday season is enough to make you think twice about the tradition.

Robert Balzar at the public utility Seattle City Light estimates that a typical Christmas tree uses about 144 watts of incandescent lights. Let's say you light your tree for five hours a day for a month, that's 22 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy use. On the other hand if you light your tree with new LED lights, you will only use 2 kWhs of energy. Now, 22 kWhs is only 2 percent of the average household's per month electricity use, so admittedly, this doesn't seem like a big difference, but on a citywide scale things start to look more startling. The difference between using incandescent lights and LEDs for the estimated 300,000 Christmas trees in Seattle is as great as 6,540,000 kWhs and $400,000.

The word is already out to many large cities, including Washington D.C. and Boulder, CO, which have converted their city tree lights to LEDs. L.A.'s annual holiday light festival made the switch just this year, and yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg turned on the LED holiday lights at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

—Michelle Chandra

San Francisco GOP Dukes It Out With Paulites

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 2:40 PM EST

The San Francisco Republican Alliance (yes, there are Republicans here) fended off a throng of Ron Paul supporters that threatened to overwhelm its annual pre-election banquet last night at Fisherman's Wharf. The dinner was to be followed by a straw poll, but Alliance leader Gail Neira canceled it after the Paulites showed up in droves. Paul supporters are known for swarming and being locked out of online straw polls, but this may be the first time they've shut down a poll in the meatspace. The pandemonium that ensured, captured on video below, looks like a scene from a Democratic tea party in 1969:

Though Paul supporters may not always be polite (or racially sensitive), they're clearly shaking up the GOP with the kind of energy bordering on fanaticism that is normally associated with the acolytes of left-wing revolutionarios. Among their latest exploits: a Ron-Paul-branded version of Google (RonPoogle), a Bands4RonPaul Myspace page devoted to Paul fight songs (there are 16), and efforts to conscript 40,000 donors to build a nuclear version of the Ron Paul Money Bomb by agreeing to generate $1,000,000 a week. Wonkette calls them Paultards, but I prefer the term embraced by the Weekly Standard: Ronulans.

Huckabee: God Responsible for My Rise in Polls

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 12:59 PM EST

There is so much about Christian evangelicals that coastal liberals don't understand. Like how a man of obvious intelligence can attribute his rise in the polls to mass prayer and God's will.

Huckabee backtracked slightly after this appearance, adding, "I'm saying that when people pray, things happen.... I'm not saying that God wants me to be elected."

Huckabee, who is taking first and second in national polls of the Republican race nowadays, told GQ recently that it isn't fair that he gets so much scrutiny for his faith while the other candidates don't. He can't make those complaints with a straight face if he's going to go around saying stuff like this.

America needs to decide if they are ready for a president who literally sees God in the details. Doesn't the idea of getting God to do what you want through prayer contradict the very idea of being a governor or president? Because you wouldn't need to pass and sign laws to get things done if God can really create new realities if you ask for them.

And speaking of, I'm willing to be bet an awful lot of people (more than those who are praying for Huckabee's rise) have been praying for Roe v. Wade to be overturned. Weird how that hasn't happened.

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California AG Petitions EPA to Curb Airplane Emissions

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 12:32 PM EST

According to the EPA, airplanes contribute 12 percent of transportation greenhouse gases, but they disproportionately harm the atmosphere by leaving heat-trapping contrails and cirrus clouds. So California Attorney General Jerry Brown deserves kudos today for petitioning the EPA to start imposing tough limits on plane emissions within six months. Lighter, more fuel efficient jumbo jets are already on the market, and there's no reason why the government shouldn't encourage their use by setting standards.

The move is another green feather in the cap for Brown, who has already sued the Bush Administration to allow the state to regulate tailpipe emissions, the auto industry over damages caused by global warming, and California counties to force them to reduce suburban sprawl and greenhouse gas emissions--using state laws already on the books. In recent polls Brown has topped all other Democrats as the most popular candidate for Governor in 2010. It's harder to think of a bigger public endorsement for backing up green rhetoric with action.

Bank Execs Try to Explain Gotcha Credit-Card Rate Hikes

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 11:59 AM EST
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Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) chaired an investigations subcommittee hearing on credit cards and the mysteries of how banks determine cardholders' interest rates—and raise them dramatically without warning. In particular, the hearing focused on banks' use of "universal default," by which your card's interest rate gets hiked up because you missed a payment to another creditor—not the card's issuer. Or, as the consumer-rights blog The Consumerist puts it, "the most evil and hated practice where a credit card company boosts your rates because you didn't pay a late fee owed to the library." Oh, and those new rates apply retroactively to all existing items on your bill. This is one of dozens of sneaky credit-card tricks banks spring on plastic-carrying customers. Levin called three unhappy cardholders to testify, followed by three bank executives. The Consumerist liveblogged all three hours of the fun. A couple of choice moments:

"Everyday Math," Every Child a Loser

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 11:55 AM EST

Who says American education isn't working? Via Slate, I just learned that our children are being taught something called Everyday Math that is going to make every day of their adult lives quite math illiterate. This is so stupid, it's hard to believe it's actually going on right now in class rooms across America. What the f*&^ is our problem? You know things are bad when you have to go to that nutball Michelle Malkin for ammunition (see below) that just adds up all too dismally. From Slate:

The [Everyday Math] authors also firmly believe that children are capable of learning a great deal more than previously expected."

Especially if they use a calculator. Or take a simple multiplication problem and turn it into a "cluster" of five other, simpler problems. Or make a pretty "lattice" box and input numbers. Apparently, like Barbie once said, "Math is hard!" and we have to dumb it down for everyone rather than figure out ways to let the smartest kids excel and provide help to those who need it. This video that Malkin posts is long but well worth watching. The woman in the video--who went back to school to facilitate a midlife career switch and was startled to see the youngsters in her class struggling--shows how bizarre and convoluted this "new new" math is.

As critics are pointing out, kids are not learning better with these techniques. Children aren't learning multiplication in third grade, since they are repeating the addition and subtraction they should have learned in first grade. And check out this sample question from a fifth-grade text:

A. If math were a color, it would be --, because --.

God help me, I put on a gas mask and forced myself to Malkin's site to watch one of the most disturbing videos I've ever had to endure. No wonder people home school; EveryDay Math in action must be seen to be believed. I've saved you the horror of visiting Malkin's site, so click the link above (it's You Tube), then call your child's school and make sure that Everyday Math is not on your child's curriculum unless you want to spend your dotage helping them figure out how to cut a recipe in half or balance their checkbooks.

Sad but Necessary and Inevitable? Cataloguing the Decline of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

| Wed Dec. 5, 2007 11:27 AM EST

Ever heard of Wiley College? Me neither. But we all will when the great and powerful Denzel Washington's new movie hits on Christmas. From the New York Times:

When the light at University Avenue is green, drivers can pass Wiley College without a glance. There was a time, however, when this small black liberal arts college here caught the attention of a nation: in the 1930s, Wiley's polished team of debaters amassed a series of victories over white competitors that stunned the Jim Crow South....
On Dec. 25, "The Great Debaters" will appear in theaters with Denzel Washington as its director and star, and Oprah Winfrey as producer. The film depicts Wiley's most glorious chapter: 1935, when the black poet and professor Melvin B. Tolson coached his debating team to a national championship.

What a tragedy that this bastion of black excellence fighting the good fight in the depths of Jim Crow so neared extinction that it's faculty has had to accept unpaid furloughs and seen its student body dwindle to only 400. What a cruel irony that the very civil rights victory it helped bring about now spells it's own doom as black students opt for newly integrated educational opportunities. Read the Times article for a gloomy update on the slow death of the historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) which produced the greatest black American minds to date. Integration is here to stay, but at what cost? Perhaps the relevance of even trying to maintain the HBCU system is today's great debate.