realthog: (Default)

Make no mistake, I'm a great fan of the rationalist organization the Center for Inquiry (CFI), and I think the work they do pushing back against the forces of ignorance and superstition -- and outing the crooks who take advantage of other people's
ignorance and superstition -- is excellent.

But every now and then, almost reassuringly, the CFI does something so blitheringly stupid as to defy credence.
A few months ago they issued a -- hastily retracted and revised -- positional statement opposing the so-called Ground Zero Mosque (you know, the one that isn't a mosque and isn't at Ground Zero). And now they've sent out a fundraising appeal that you can tell from its opening few lines just isn't going to raise that many funds from the rank-and-file CFI supporters like me.

A Special Message from Eddie Tabash
CFI Board Member, Speaker, Debater, and Chair of CFI Los Angeles

Like most Americans, I have been experiencing difficult economic times in this most challenging year. Nonetheless, I have personally donated a total of $100,000 to CFI during 2010.

That's where I stopped reading, and I suspect it's where most other recipients will have stopped reading likewise.

Anyone who has $100,000's worth of spare cash lying around that they can give to the CFI -- or any other charity -- is not "experiencing difficult economic times". "Experiencing difficult economic times" is what people whose total annual earnings are less than half that $100,000 -- sometimes 'way less -- are doing.

realthog: (morans)

Could someone please hint to the writers at the New York Times's "Dining & Wine" section that there's an economic recession under way? Here's from the e-headlines today:

Great Meals for Two, Under $100 (It's Possible)
By FRANK BRUNI
Getting food of some distinction in full-service restaurants and staying below $99 isn't too easy, but it can be done.

Y'know, I've been lying awake at nights preoccupied with the difficulties of finding a decent restaurant meal for under a hundred bucks. Oh dearie, dearie me. Where to turn? And now at last, thanks to those doughty folks at the NYT, I've found a few pointers . . .

realthog: (corrupted science)

I've read occasional remarks to the effect that Sarah Palin's record on the environment is moderately OK, especially bearing in mind the record of the rest of her political party. I even checked out her New York Times op-ed, dating from January or February, in which she decried efforts to put polar bears onto the Endangered Species List; her argument, assuming the data she cited to support it were genuine, was not an unreasonable one, even though I disagreed with it. (I was, though, disturbed by her expressed attitude towards climate change in the op-ed, which seemed to be that this was a major and urgent problem about which we should, er, well, not do anything in too much of a hurry . . .)

Now I discover that all the stuff I'd read about her environmental good-thinking were just a matter of, as usual, our mainstream news media swallowing and regurgitating the drivel they're fed by (almost always Republican) politicians. Here's a press release, just issued, from the excellent charity Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 29, 2008

Shocking Choice by John McCain

WASHINGTON-- Senator John McCain just announced his choice for running mate:  Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska.  To follow is a statement by Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.

“Senator McCain’s choice for a running mate is beyond belief. By choosing Sarah Palin, McCain has clearly made a decision to continue the Bush legacy of destructive environmental policies.

“Sarah Palin, whose husband works for BP (formerly British Petroleum), has repeatedly put special interests first when it comes to the environment. In her scant two years as governor, she has lobbied aggressively to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, pushed for more drilling off of Alaska’s coasts, and put special interests above science. Ms. Palin has made it clear through her actions that she is unwilling to do even as much as the Bush administration to address the impacts of global warming. Her most recent effort has been to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the polar bear from the endangered species list, putting Big Oil before sound science. As unbelievable as this may sound, this actually puts her to the right of the Bush administration. 

“This is Senator McCain’s first significant choice in building his executive team and it’s a bad one. It has to raise serious doubts in the minds of voters about John McCain’s commitment to conservation, to addressing the impacts of global warming and to ensuring our country ends its dependency on oil.”

###

The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund (www.defendersactionfund.org) provides a powerful voice in Washington to Americans who value our conservation heritage. Through grassroots lobbying, issue advocacy and political campaigns, the Action Fund champions those laws and lawmakers that protect wildlife and wild places while working against those that do them harm.

So was it just sloppy journalism? Were the mainstream journalists perhaps getting her mixed up with Michael?

realthog: (leavingfortusa)


Thanks to Think Progress (which see for a fuller story) for this:

Rep. Bill Sali (R-ID), who is
participating in the GOP’s ongoing “Drill Now” energy stunt, has a unique idea about how to bring down gas prices: extracting oil from trees. In a meeting in his Capitol Hill office, Sali reportedly told a candidate for Idaho’s House of Representatives, Byron Yankey, that there “‘could be up to 40 barrels of oil‘ in a single tree.” Yankey wrote on his campaign blog:

Congressman Sali informed us that a solution to the high price of gasoline was to make petroleum from “all those trees in our forests.” … He continued by saying there “could be up to 40 barrels of oil” in a single tree.

Sali made a similar comment in 2006:

“Forty percent of the mass of every tree in the forest is crude oil,” he said. Going after that, he said, “could put Idaho in the oil business for the first time.”

There's further discussion on Obsidian Wings and The Stupid Shall be Punished (and, I imagine, lots of other places!).

why oh why

Aug. 14th, 2008 11:02 am
realthog: (new writings in the fantastic)

This morning I've spent some considerable while tussling with both the Virgin Atlantic and British Airways sites (for price comparison) in order to book tickets for Pam and myself to go to the UK for Fantasycon in Nottingham in September, staying en route with friends in Reading. I'm now sitting here with sweat pouring off me, and this is before I've even had time to tackle my morning mayhem on the famous Heart-Healthy Exercise Machine (Doris).

Many of the reasons for the complication of the process are perfectly reasonable ones, but one of them -- which I recognize applies to relatively few people, but still must turn up fairly often -- leads me to want to bang a few fatcat executive heads against the wall.

I live in the US. As a UK citizen, I retain a UK bank account for occasional use -- as when traveling to the UK, duh. It would suit me, on this occasion, to pay our plane fares out of that UK account, which recently received some juicy royalties.

Both Virgin and BA seem never to have conceived such possibility, and have rendered it impossible to effect a transaction like this.

Two or three trips ago I phoned up Virgin Atlantic in a similar situation, and discovered that, even when dealing with human beings rather than a website, nothing could be done to let me pay out of my UK account. I asked if this were a matter of law. The very helpful lady at Virgin was pretty certain it wasn't. So I asked if she had any idea why this effective prohibition existed. She said she was as baffled as I was, and that I was far from the first person to ask her.

This morning, I discovered that British Airways split their booking site into two, one for US and one for UK customers. A cunning lightbulb lit up my study! I got all the way through the booking to the end, where I discovered that the site refused to believe that my UK bank account could have anything other than a UK billing address for me. I had to start all over again with the US section, which of course refused to accept payment from a UK bank account . . .

My, was I cheerful by this time. Pam joined the cats cowering under the spare bed. Having bought the tickets I then had to arrange for a transfer of funds to my US account from my UK one. Another fiddly procedure. There was snarling, and even oathery.

Oh, well . . .

The big surprise was that British Airways proved cheaper than Virgin Atlantic -- even after I'd volunteered to pay an extra 82 bucks or so as a contribution to a UN agency dedicated to reducing carbon emissions. Usually it's the other way round, and by quite a wide margin. The saving wasn't huge -- about $150 -- but, looked at another way, that's approaching 10%. While Virgin's in-flight service and general efficiency isn't bad, BA's -- at least the last time I flew with them -- is even better, so it really wasn't hard to make a choice.
 

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