Sunday, July 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AFP: US 13-year-olds are fairly conservative

If anything is surprising in Time’s feature, it is how normal and conservative — in a day of provocative music videos, widespread Internet access, and lurid cable television shows — today’s 13 year olds are.

Nine out of ten of those polled on line by the magazine said their relationship with their parents is good or excellent, and only seven percent said their parents were too strict.

And 63 percent consider their religious faith at least somewhat important in their lives.

Interesting given that the prevailing view always seems to be that we are doomed as doomed can be because today’s youth ain’t what they used to be, or something like that.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via TrekToday: Berman Bothered By ‘These Are the Voyages…’ Criticism

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: ‘Stealth’ crashes on takeoff at U.S. box office.

I’ve seen the trailer twice and both times I was struck by the cliched plot, the certain predictability of the storyline and the unbelievable premise. First off we are supposed to believe that it is possible to create a robot fighter jet that is better than any human pilot by a quantum leap or two, and then that a lightning strike is able to reprogram the roboplane so that it uses its powers for evil instead of good? Yep, that’s original.

And, of course, there’s the vaunted man v. machine storyline wherein at the end we will learn that really, man is better than machine after all.

Yup–no shock at all that it isn’t making any coin.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Discovery May Need Unprecedented Repair.

Of course, OTB’s Rodney Dill makes a legitimate observation:

the real problem is that we are taking measurements and assessments now that were never taken, so we don’t know what really is a potential problem and what was there all along.

Of course, it does remain possible that this is a real problem. Ultimately the age of the vehicle is a major problem.

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By Steven L. Taylor

The NYT has a review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which I just finished last night (thumbs up and more on that later).

The reviewer hits this on the head, for sure:

Suffice it to say that this new volume culminates in a finish so scorchingly distressing that the reader closes the book quaking, knowing that out of these ashes, somehow, the phoenix of Rowling’s fiction will rise again – but worrying about how on earth Harry will cope until it does.

All I can say is drat Ms. Rowling for writing such a cliffhanger that waiting for the next book will be a misery.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: Oregon anti-meth law would require prescriptions

A bill passed by lawmakers on Saturday would make Oregon the first U.S. state to require a doctor’s prescription for cold medicines containing an ingredient that can be used to make the illegal drug methamphetamine.

“We hope this will reduce the supply” of meth, Democratic state Sen. Ginny Burdick told Reuters after the Senate passed the bill.

Oregon’s House of Representatives approved the measure earlier this month and Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski was expected to sign it.

The bill has widespread support, but critics say it would hurt people without medical insurance who cannot afford to go to a doctor for a cold or an allergy.

More than that: it will just drive up generic health costs. It is ridiculous that right now one has to go to the doctor to get a prescription for any number of allergy medications (does the public really need tight control on Zyrtec and Flonase?), now Oregon is going to make you go to the doctor for a stuffy nose? And probably the doctor will, at that point, write a scrip for a more expensive medication (heck, if I’m going to the doctor, might as well get the best stuff I can get, right?).

Further: if it would require a scrip for any medication simply containing pseudoephredrine, then a lot of stuff, like Claritin-D, that finally went to OTC and to cheaper generic versions, would become non-OTC again (not to mention things like Tylenol Cold or Nyquil).

This is asinine.

This is a typical overreaction to a drug problem–as if a few rules will be sufficient. I suspect that the net effect will be more crime related to stealing sudafed and/or an underground economy in products containing pseudoephedrine–which basically compounds the problem.

And while the following is annoying for the honest sinus pressure sufferer (not to mention the pharmacists), I can live with it:

The U.S. Congress is considering a bill that would move medicines containing pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed, NyQuil, and Tylenol Cold, behind pharmacy counters and limit how much one person can buy to 7.5 grams a month — the equivalent of roughly 250 30-milligram tablets.

Although I was out running errands after 8 pm the other, and one of the items on my list was decongestants as I often suffer from sinus headaches. I couldn’t buy any because both the pharmacy in Target and the one at the grocery store were already closed and pseudoephedrine is behind the counter, so I couldn’t get any.

I did notice yesterday at Sam’s that Sudafed now has a non-pseudoephedrine version. I am not sure how well it works, and, of course, there is no generic at this point.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Yes, it’s a twofer Sunday!

From the Mobile Register:

Wasting time a Goat Hill art form
Sunday, July 31, 2024
Special to the Register

On July 19, the Alabama Legislature went into a special session that lasted until last Tuesday, spending an estimated $108,000 to do so. The reason that they were called into special session was because they ran out of time in the regular session to get one of their most fundamental tasks finished: the completion of the state’s budget.

We do now have a completed budget (the Legislature having completed the General Fund budget in a little over a week) and a raise for the state’s non-education workers. Why it was impossible to complete this work in the regular session has not been adequately explained.

Indeed, in the special session, politicians reaffirmed the fact that they are careless with the people’s time and money. Consider the fact that the House passed a resolution, sponsored by Rep. Leslie Vance, D-Phenix City, calling on the citizens of Alabama to boycott Aruba because no conclusion has been reached in the Natalee Holloway case.

Clearly, the Legislature would rather spend time on nonsense than on the business of the state. (Remember 2024, when the Legislature had the time to name Conecuh Ridge Whiskey the state spirit, and had time to override the governor’s veto of that resolution, instead of dealing with the governor’s accountability proposals?)

By the logic of the Natalee Holloway resolution, no one should travel anywhere that a serious crime remains unsolved. Indeed, perhaps the citizens of Alabama should not travel at all; serious crimes remain unresolved around the globe.

My wife asked me if the Legislature was going to pass a resolution about which parts of Montgomery have unsolved crimes, so that we know not to travel there as well.

Not only are these thing vacuous wastes of time, but they are insulting and/or egotistical as well.

They are insulting because part of the reason that legislatures pass them is because the politicians think/hope that the public at large will interpret them as real action. Legislators want us to think that empty statements from legislatures actually matter.

For them to think that, they have to assume that the public isn’t too bright.

If the Legislature collectively thinks that its words requesting a boycott of Aruba will actually affect Aruban authorities, then legislators think rather highly of themselves. Resolutions such as this highlight that fact.

It should be noted that the resolution itself is simply a communication, and has no legal authority. Indeed, it can basically be considered grandstanding by the House.

I understand that there is often a need to “do something” in these cases, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that something should, in fact, be done.

If they have to hold special sessions to deal with their basic responsibilities, perhaps Alabama legislators should re-evaluate what they do in the regular session.

And here’s a suggestion: “Devolve” power over local issues to local government. If the Legislature didn’t have to spend time considering a slate of local bills each session, perhaps it could get the work of the state done in a timely manner.

For example, Montgomery County wanted to hold a referendum to raise property taxes for the school system, but had to ask the Legislature for permission.

Not only is the process an affront to democracy itself — why shouldn’t the voters in Montgomery have the chance to make decisions about their own affairs? — but it also underscores one of many problems with the Alabama Constitution of 1901: the need for the centralized state Legislature to have to deal with a plethora of local issues each term.

Clearly legislators do not have enough time to deal with everything on their plate as it stands, so why not give us power over the issues which directly affect us as citizens of cities and counties?

Is it really too much to ask them to use their time (i.e., our time) wisely? Or, at the very least, is it too much to ask that they not insult our intelligence when they are engaged in wasting our time?

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By Steven L. Taylor

From today’s Birmingham News:

High court rulings give Moore exposure
Sunday, July 31, 2024

As the Supreme Court finished this year’s session, it issued two rulings on a topic quite familiar to the politics of the state of Alabama: the public display of the Ten Commandments.

In two 5-4 decisions, the court ruled on the ability of state governments to have public displays of the Ten Commandments on public land. In Van Orden vs. Perry, the court ruled that a display on the grounds of the state capitol in Texas could remain, because it served a primarily historical/nonreligious function. In McCreary County vs. ACLU, the court ruled the displays in Kentucky were not constitutional because their primary purpose was the promotion of religion.

As such, the court maintained what has become an established, if somewhat muddy, standard: that the use of religious words and symbols by government is only permissible when such usages are largely devoid of religious meaning. Analysts of the opinions have noted that the court continues to fail to provide a consistent standard on these matters.

Among those analysts is former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who, not surprisingly, was asked to respond in print to the court’s rulings, including in an essay published in The News earlier this month. In that defense, Moore correctly noted that the justices didn’t exactly provide clarity on the question of when and where governmental units in the United States may display religious symbols and/or texts.

However, Moore’s views on this topic are not any surprise, especially to Alabamians. Of interest in the essay, aside from Moore’s re-statements of his view of the role of government in acknowledging God, are his more general views on the Supreme Court and his prescriptions for solving the problem of the courts and religion.

In the essay, Moore notes not only the issue of acknowledging God, but also abortion, the Schiavo case, and the ruling this session of eminent domain powers (which the court expanded in the Kelo vs. New London case).

He further argues for the usage by the Congress of its powers to dictate the jurisdiction of the federal court with the “Constitution Restoration Act of 2024,” a bill unlikely to pass the Congress.

Nonetheless, all of these topics together help give us at least a partial idea of a Moore candidacy for governor of Alabama, should he seek to run against Gov. Bob Riley for the GOP nomination. If Moore runs, at least two major prongs of attack will be government promotion of religion and actions of the courts. If Moore tosses in steadfast opposition to tax increases of any kind, he will have hit on a trifecta of Alabama politics: All three topics are quite popular with many voters.

That we are a religious state is certainly true, and that Moore has a gift for appealing to that religious nature is similarly uncontestable. Indeed, Moore engages in a particular brand of populism that attempts to combine seemingly complex legal arguments with common-sense appeals.

For example, Moore notes something he has asserted for some time in his arguments for display of the Ten Commandments: that the First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law establishing religion” and that a monument obviously isn’t a “law.” This is, of course, true, but misses the rather obvious point that many things that are produced by government aren’t laws, either, like aircraft carriers. However, just as any concrete manifestation of government goals, laws did have to be passed to have that aircraft carrier built. So, too, did some governmental agent somewhere have to decide that a Ten Commandments monument was to be erected.

Alabamians also have a great deal of distrust of the courts. Whether it was the removal of prayer from schools or the legalization of abortion, there are a number of issues which are of profound significance that the court has decided in a way that does not comport with the predominate views held in our state. There is further the fact that a couple of generations back, desegregation and busing orders given by federal courts were viewed as outside interference. Despite more enlightened view of race relations in the minds of most Alabamians today, there still is a vague recollection of interference by courts in the minds of many, even if they don’t fully recall why.

Certainly the idea that the courts in general are “out of control” is strong among many conservatives. As such, there is a well from which Moore can draw. Resentment well tapped can be a powerful tool for a gifted politician.

Precisely what Moore could actually do about these issues as governor is a wholly different question. Indeed, if he wants to affect the composition, and thereby, the behavior of the federal bench, he should run for the U.S. Senate or the presidency. Still, just because a politician can’t change something doesn’t mean that he can’t score political points by raising the issue.

At a minimum, the Supreme Court’s recent foray into the Ten Commandments issue allowed Moore to yet again obtain exposure which will help propel him to the next level should he decide to seek elective office once again.

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Saturday, July 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

To help stem the tide of too much catblogging, here’s a pic of Grace. Now, I have tried to capture the following several times, but normally she hears me and wakes up. She has taken to sleeping basically on her back with her hind legs kind of up in the air with one of her paws over her eyes. This picture is the best one I have gotten so far:

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By Steven L. Taylor

Inspired by this NYT piece, Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon hits the nail on the head as to why catblogging is more popular than dogblogging:

dogs aren’t as easy to photograph. The very thing that makes dogs great pets–they love you more than life itself–makes it really hard to catch them doing something cute or funny with the camera? Why? Because when you point your camera at the average dog, they get so excited that you’re looking at them, they quit doing whatever they are doing to come over to you to say hi.

This is quite true. There have been numerous times when I have tried to take a picture of Grace, our Golden Retriever, but when she see me, she comes right at me–hence, not picture. Tigger the cat, however, will stay still far more often.

And is it just me, or is the end of the NYT piece in question slamming both cats and bloggers?

There’s a deeper answer to be had at, where users post pictures of their cats gazing at pictures of other cats already posted on the Infinite Cat site. You see an infinite regress: pictures of cats looking at pictures of cats looking at pictures of cats.

Remind you of anything? Those cats are like so many bloggers sitting at home staring into their computer screens and watching other bloggers blog other bloggers. Cats, who live indoors and love to prowl, are the soul of the blogosphere. Dogs would never blog.

I suspect both Garfield and Bucky Cat would agree.

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