Monday, March 31, 2008

Religious Right continues to stumble over itself racing to suck up.

Here's a shocker, religious loudmouths going back on rhetoric after they feel the change in the direction of the power. In the 90's the Religious Right stood up and started to make demands. Is this the start of a move back to their old place, at the back of the RNC tent, silent and ignored, waiting to be told what to do by the politicians and campaigners?

Crooks and Liars:

Here’s what James Dobson said about John McCain early last month:

Should Sen. McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime. I certainly can’t vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama based on their virulently anti-family policy positions. If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life.
Now, Dobson’s changing his tune. Focus on the Family action just sent a “special alert” to its backers, with a subject line that retracts Dobson’s vow to stay home come Election Day: “Dr. Dobson: ‘I Will Certainly Vote’.” Here’s what the alert says:

Dr. James Dobson told Sean Hannity on Sunday night he is going to vote in the November election – ending weeks of speculation that he would sit on the sidelines over his policy disagreements with the two major parties’ candidates for the White House.
Weeks of speculation that he would sit on the sidelines? That wasn’t speculation. That’s what Dobson said.
Wait, you’re expecting him to stand by his words? *snort* Is it me, or is everything surrounding McCain just one giant set of flip flops?

McCain Diplomacy

Crooks and Liars:
A couple of months ago, Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, one of John McCain’s conservative Republican colleagues and a man who’s worked with McCain for years, raised serious doubts about McCain’s temperament. “The thought of him being president sends a cold chill down my spine,” Cochran said. “He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.”

The number of examples to bolster these concerns
keeps going up.

Not surprisingly, after the speech last week at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, McCain’s campaign could not talk enough about international cooperation—what McCain had called a “new compact.” “He has such a deep relationship with so many Europeans and those in other regions, including Asia and the Middle East,” said one adviser, Rich Williamson, who added that McCain has kept up his global profile by “going each year to the Munich Security Conference.”

It was all very reassuring. There’s just one problem: John McCain doesn’t always behave according to his own statesmanlike script. In fact, while attending that same Munich conference in 2006, the Arizona senator had another one of what have come to be known as McCain Moments. In a small meeting at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, McCain was conferring with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the foreign minister of Germany — one of America’s most important allies — when the others heard McCain erupt. He thought the German was being insufficiently tough on the brutal regime in Belarus. Raising his voice at Steinmeier — who’s known for speaking in unclear diplomatese — McCain “started shaking and rising out of his chair,” said one participant, a former senior diplomatic official who related the anecdote on condition of anonymity. “He said something like: ‘I haven’t come to Munich to hear this kind of crap’.”

McCain’s old pal Joe Lieberman jumped in. “Lieberman, who reads him very well, put his hand on McCain’s arm and said gently, ‘John, I think there’s been a problem in the translation.’ Of course Lieberman doesn’t speak German and there hadn’t been any problem in the translation … It was just John’s explosive temper.”
As Newsweek noted, this didn’t amount to an international incident, and “the Germans later said all was forgiven.” It was, however, just McCain being McCain. He’s an equal-opportunity hothead, berating Republicans, Democrats, the powerful, the powerless, and anyone who annoys him in this country or any other.

Just the kind of guy we want leading the most powerful military on the planet during a time of war, right?


Crooks and Liars:
On Friday, John McCain’s campaign unveiled its first general-election TV ad — the one that uses the word “American” one too many times — and the Democratic National Committee did what was expected: it responded by criticizing John McCain.

It wasn’t even an especially hard-hitting criticism. The DNC statement quoted Howard Dean calling McCain “another out of touch Bush Republican who promises four more years of the same failed leadership.” In light of the interrogation footage from Vietnam included in the ad, Dean added, “While we honor McCain’s military service, the fact is Americans want a real leader who offers real solutions, not a blatant opportunist who doesn’t understand the economy and is promising to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years.”

This seemed pretty routine, which is why I found the Republican National Committee’s overheated response rather odd.

Frank Donatelli, the deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), sought to drive a wedge between Dean and Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) over the comments.

“Howard Dean owes John McCain an immediate apology and both Senators Clinton and Obama should unequivocally denounce this disgraceful attack,” said Donatelli.
The RNC added that Dean’s remarks amounted to a “character smear.”

Really? The Republican National Committee, of all people, believes it’s beyond the pale to call someone a “blatant opportunist”? Especially when the person is a “blatant opportunist”?

The RNC may protest, but McCain is probably the most shameless “blatant opportunist” in American politics today. Have Republicans even seen McCain’s flip-flop list? Does it not occur to them that he abandoned his principles — including rejecting legislation that he’s personally co-sponsored — for partisan gain?

Iraqi success,,,


It was supposed to be, as President Bush called it, "a defining moment in the history of Iraq." And it might just be. But certainly not in the way that Bush meant it. Instead, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's offensive in Basra and Baghdad against Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's forces has confirmed his government's essential weakness.

Consider: with Maliki's campaign stalled, a parliamentary delegation from Maliki's own coalition went off to Iran to broker a deal with Sadr. And the terms of that deal, which involves the release of hundreds of detained Sadr followers and the return of his followers displaced by raids and violence, will surely strengthen Sadr's political position. That's assuming, of course, that the deal holds and the fighting actually stops. All of the papers report that fighting has not stopped in Baghdad and Basra. And while it's unclear whether the deal will actually last, it's crystal clear what the deal means for Maliki. The New York Times sees no upside.


A fighter from Sadr's Mahdi Army in Baghdad, speaking to The Washington Post, sees things similarly: "The fighting has proved they have learned a lesson. The government is dead from our point of view."
Maliki has conceded to Sadr and Iran, and his forces couldn't dislodge Sadr's people, even with US support. This is not a promising sign.

Eugenie charm

The latest, March 26th, podcast of the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe has a good interview with Dr. Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Eduction.

She talks about the trickery of the makers of the movie Expelled. Also the NCSE's work to educate and combat misinformation. A good listen.

She also wanted to remind people about the NCSE's new website, Expelled Exposed. It lays out the lies and inaccuracies in the new creationist/ID film. And she hopes it is linked to by many sites and blogs, and often. If it is, it may shove the movie friendly links out and have the actual evidence show up beside Expelled in online searches. So...Expelled Exposed, Expelled Exposed, Expelled Exposed, Expelled Exposed, Expelled Exposed, Expelled Exposed, Expelled Exposed. There. Also put it in my Top Sites section.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Let's not go to South Park.

I kind of liked this commentary of South Park. I have never been much of a fan of the show.

While I agree with the notion that some well-placed, demoralizing-our-enemies humor is just the thing liberals need to embrace, this essay is all wrong about “South Park”. When they get political for the libertarian-right on “South Park”, their entire sense of humor flies out the window. I watch every episode until some person—usually a child or a member of disempowered minority—starts to sentimentally parrot some bullshit libertarian concept that’s not been thought through on any level past the bumper sticker stage, and I shut it off. It’s the same trick that “Day by Day” pulls by putting evil conservative ideas in the mouth of a hip young black man. The problem with that show, and it’s appeal to right wing morons, is not that it’s irreverent. It’s that it’s reverent, and of the most asinine shit ever.

Other than that, though, the show is damn funny.
When the show goes into the libertarian spiel, they do become bores. It is like when Penn and Teller go into the same stuff on Bullshit and really loose all objectivity, using the types of arguments they mock creationists for using to attack Global Warming.

But, really, I don't care much for most of the show, even without the libertarian bent. I will be charitable and leave to being not for my sense of humor overall. It is and can be funny, but they loose me quickly when I turn it on. Like the mocking of Mel Gibson, I am all for that, then he pops up at the end and defecates in a kid's face...really? I am reminded of the point the show made of declaring that Family Guy relied on platypuses. And they admit they do use random joke drops in the show, and it has done them well. Fans, like me, love it. To my thinking, South Park makes whole episodes out of a platypus, with shows, no two episodes, about a George Clooney smug storm. That would be a 5 to 10 second bit on Family Guy, but these guys make it into an

Friday, March 28, 2008

Rice on race.

It is interesting to here Secretary Rice's thoughts on Obama's speech.

Pandagon looks at an interview in which she talks about her reaction. And despite her political and ideological allegiances, she feels what he said was, in fact, "important."

“Black Americans were a founding population,” she said. “Africans and Europeans came here and founded this country together — Europeans by choice and Africans in chains. That’s not a very pretty reality of our founding.”

As a result, Miss Rice told editors and reporters at The Washington Times, “descendants of slaves did not get much of a head start, and I think you continue to see some of the effects of that.”

“That particular birth defect makes it hard for us to confront it, hard for us to talk about it, and hard for us to realize that it has continuing relevance for who we are today,” she said.

And as Pandagon notes:

There are ties that bind, despite a gulf of political differences — when you see this issue of race relations raised by Barack Obama and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — people of conscience should take note that we should stop playing political football with this issue and start doing the hard work to heal this, rather than engage in a downward spiral of denial and no-so-veiled vitriol (you hear that, Pat Buchanan and Bill Kristol?).

McCain ad

The tag line for John McCain's first general election TV ad:

"John McCain: The American president Americans have been waiting for."

Late Update: TPM Reader SW feels the patriotism:

Is the Onion running McCain's slogan department?

There's not enough "America" in his ad. I'm not sure - is he running for prime minister of Canada?

So to be crystal clear, he needs to up the ante in the slogan:

John McCain, American: The American President of America that Americans have been waiting for. America!
And look at the ad. It is so perfect, you couldn't even parody it. It is comedy gold.

Comedy GOLD, I say.

Iraq not improving

As you've probably heard, our local boss in Iraq, Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki, sternly set forth a 72 hour deadline for members of the Mahdi Army to surrender their weapons or his government forces would take them by force, attack, whatever. Well, things haven't been going well and now he's extended the deadline until April 8th, according to this report from NPR. And to sweeten the deal, he's apparently added on what in this country we call a gun buy back program.

In other encouraging news, Iraqi police in Baghdad are apparently deserting en masse to the Mahdi Army, thus leaving city police checkpoints to be manned by Iraqi Army soldiers, who are conveniently available because the US military is getting pulled in to take over the fight with the Mahdi Army.

Economics: America in the World

I'd seen this article while I was Greece two weeks ago, and forgot to post it then. It's still relevant. The Republicans are destroying our international reputation. This is the dollar we're talking, not the peso. This kind of thing happens with developing country currencies experiencing hyperinflation, it doesn't happen with the US dollar. Until now. I really think this is an issue that Hillary, Obama and the Dems overall have dropped the ball on. It's frightfully embarrassing. And it so encapsulates what the Republicans have done to our country over the past 8 years. The almighty dollar is now no better than a third world currency you've never even heard of. From Reuters:

The U.S. dollar's value is dropping so fast against the euro that small currency outlets in Amsterdam are turning away tourists seeking to sell their dollars for local money while on vacation in the Netherlands....

That's because the smaller currency exchanges -- despite buy/sell spreads that make it easier for them to make money by exchanging small amounts of currency -- don't want to be caught holding dollars that could be worth less by the time they can sell them.
Imagine if Bill Clinton had done this. Imagine the Republican talking points. Come on, Democrats - think strategically. This is the kind of insult that regular Americans can appreciate.

Fighting in Iraq

Not looking good.


To hear the Bush administration tell it, the current flare-up in Iraq is a sign of the success of the surge. In theory at least there's a certain logic to this argument. What administration officials claim is that the surge has allowed the al Maliki government to consolidate its power sufficiently that it can take on Sadr's militia, the outlaw but until recenlty quiescent Mahdi Army.

Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, that does not seem to be what's happening.

The clearest analysis I've read is Fred Kaplan's short piece in Slate, which explains that this is not so much the Iraqi 'government' standing down an outlaw 'militia' as a face off between two militias, one of which happens to control the government. Labels aside, this seems to be al Maliki's attempt to break the Mahdi Army, possibly because Iraq is soon to hold regional elections and Maliki's supporters fear the Sadrists will do too well in the southern port city of Basra.

Fred doesn't say this, but I wonder myself if this isn't also an effort of Maliki (now allied with what used to be SCIRI) to crush the Sadrists while he still has the power of the US military behind him. Most accounts I've seen suggest that Sadr actually has more popular support than Maliki and his supporters, at least among the Shia population. It must not be lost on Maliki and his supporters that a Democrat may succeed President Bush and that that new president may be much less likely to prop up his government with American money and military might. So perhaps best to crush opponents now, with the help of the US military, in advance of that less certain future.

As an aside, President Bush is saying that Iran is, in the words of the Times, "arming, training and financing the militias fighting against the Iraqi forces." Perhaps that's true. But it's hard not to note that the Badr Organization (formerly the Badr Corps), which Maliki has allied himself with, is the outfit that was actually created in Iran under the tutelage and financing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. So this at least seems like a rather partial take on what's occurring.

In any case, whatever it is and whoever is behind it, the crackdown does not appear to be going well. The Times has a muted run-down of where things stand. The government forces do not seem to be making much headway in Basra and protests and violence has broken out in a number of Iraqi cities. Baghdad itself is now under a curfew until Sunday. A more breathless piece in the Times of London says that Maliki's "operation to crush militia strongholds in Basra [has] stalled, members of his own security forces defected and district after district of his own capital fell to Shia militia gunmen."

Finally, this piece in tomorrow's Post suggests that while this effort may have begun with the Iraqi forces in the lead, US forces are quickly being drawn in to the thick of the fighting while the Iraqi government troops are in at least some cases receding into the background.

... we are stepping up again? And in the middle of a power dispute?

Informed Comment:

People are asking me the significance of the fighting going on in Basra and elsewhere. My reading is that the US faced a dilemma in Iraq. It needed to have new provincial elections in an attempt to mollify the Sunni Arabs, especially in Sunni-majority provinces like Diyala, which has nevertheless been ruled by the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. But if they have provincial elections, their chief ally, the Islamic Supreme Council, might well lose southern provinces to the Sadr Movement. In turn, the Sadrists are demanding a timetable for US withdrawal, whereas ISCI wants US troops to remain. So the setting of October, 2008, as the date for provincial elections provoked this crisis. I think Cheney probably told ISCI and Prime Minister al-Maliki that the way to fix this problem and forestall the Sadrists oming to power in Iraq, was to destroy the Mahdi Army, the Sadrists' paramilitary. Without that coercive power, the Sadrists might not remain so important, is probably their thinking. I believe them to be wrong, and suspect that if the elections are fair, the Sadrists will sweep to power and may even get a sympathy vote. It is admittedly a big 'if.'

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki continues to refuse to negotiate with the Mahdi Army militiamen, and said, "They have no other choice but to surrender." He did extend the deadline for them to surrender heavy arms from 3 days to 10, and promised monetary rewards to those who complied. Al-Maliki said he was unconcerned with political parties, but that he could not abide armed gangs that interfered with the work of the government. He was referring to the Mahdi Army.

Clashes continued between government troops and the Mahdi Army on Thursday in Basra and other cities in the south for the third straight day. Some 45 are said to be dead in Kut, the capital of Wasit province, and US helicopter gunships are said to have killed 60 in Hilla south of Baghdad.

On Friday morning, there are reports of clashes in Nasiriya and Mahmudiya.


The LA Times says of the fighting in Basra on Thursday, when its downtown was a ghost town:

' Residents said food prices were soaring because it was difficult to get goods into the city, where clashes continued Thursday. In a Sadr stronghold in west Basra, hundreds of people led by tribal sheiks held a protest demanding that the government halt the military operation and restore electricity and water, which they said had been cut three days earlier. '

McClatchy reports that so far the 30,000 Iraqi government troops in Basra have proven unable to dislodge the Mahdi Army from its strongholds:

' In Basra, the Mahdi Army retained control of its four main strongholds of al Hayaniyah, al Qibla, al Timimiyah and Khamsa Mil. Al Timimiyah is in the center of the city, and the three other areas are on the main road from Baghdad to Basra.

'Water, electricity and medicine were said to be lacking for people in Basra.

BBC reports that on Friday morning, there was a lull in the fighting and people were coming out:

' "Today since early morning it's quiet. No shooting. And the people in Basra are going out of their houses for shopping. The buses have started working. And the cars are also working on the streets," the councillor said. '

In Baghdad, al-Hayat says, thousands of protesters came out to rally against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, demanding that he resign and threatening him with a trial worse than that of Saddam Hussein.

Clashes broke out between Mahdi Army militiamen and government security forces in 10 Baghdad districts, but appear to have subsided when a curfew was imposed, which forbids vehicles to circulate until Sunday.

The Green Zone, where the US embassy and other US facilities are, took more heavy mortar fire on Thursday. An American earlier wounded in that sort of bombardment later died.


Oh yes, we can recall many, "many previous statements of optimism about Iraq." Many. And, they've all been misleading, if not outright lies. If one wanted to challenge Bush's optimism, one could take note of the current working situation for U.S. embassy personnel in the Green Zone:

On Thursday, the State Department instructed all Embassy personnel not to leave reinforced structures. A memo sent to embassy staff and obtained by The Associated Press says employees are required to wear helmets and other protective gear if they must venture outside and strongly advises them to sleep in blast-resistant locations instead of trailers.


Dr. Novella:
Intelligent design (ID), according to the Discovery Institute, is defined as follows:

“Intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.”
The primary scientific criticism of ID is that it is not a legitimate scientific theory, but rather a transparent attempt at recasting religious faith (creationism) in scientific-sounding jargon. But ID lacks the minimal criteria to be considered science. ID proponents, of course, reject this argument because the entire purpose of ID is to masquerade creationism as a scientific theory.

Much of the discussion on this question focuses on the specific point of whether or not ID can be falsified - can it theoretically be proven false by scientific evidence. ID proponents say yes, scientists generally say no. While I agree that the answer is mostly no, the more precise answer is that it depends - it depends on exactly how ID is being formulated and practiced. I contend that in practice, ID proponents have rendered ID unfalsifiable while playing with semantics in order to pretend that it can be falsified.

In the most recent blog entry of the Discovery Institute, Jonathan Wells responds to Francis Collins on this very issue. Wells writes:

More surprising is the fact that Collins is here citing experimental evidence against a theory he maintains is unscientific because it is not open to experimental testing. In claiming that evidence from gene duplication disproves ID, Collins is demonstrating that ID can be tested with scientific evidence. Either ID is unscientific, in which case evidence is irrelevant; or evidence can be cited against it, in which case ID is scientific. Collins can’t have it both ways.
It is actually Wells who is trying to have it both ways - citing evidence against ID to demonstrate that it is falsifiable without acknowledging that it has been falsified. This is the game that they play. Pretending ID can be falsified, but then always keeping just out of reach of scientific evidence so that in practice it can never be falsified. There are actually several problems with ID that render it unscientific.


Thursday, March 27, 2008


If I don't believe Pres. Bush when he tells me that economic indicators in the US are looking good...Why would I take him at his word when he talks about Iraq?

Just wondering?

Looking at Most Haunted


The members of the BP forum were asked when they first realised Most Haunted was faked, here we take a look at the moments that convinced people their favourite show was indeed fake.


At the The Holly Bush pub, Watling Street, Elstree, on Saturday 7th May 2005, Yvette Fielding made the following on-air statement:

"There is no acting that goes on in this programme, none whatsoever.
This statement by Yvette Fielding was born of desperation. Desperation at the constant criticism surrounding the shows, and desperation that the Antix company was leakier than the proverbial sieve.

Elstree Most Haunted Live came only six weeks after the Bodmin Gaol episode had been aired, and heated discussions regarding Acorah's honesty versus faking possessions were still raging across the internet.

For many people Bodnin's Kreed Kafer (anagram of Derek faker), to be closely followed by Prideaux Place's Rick Eedles (anagram of Derek lies) was their Eureka! moment - that moment when they realised that they had been conned by a fraud.

For others the Eureka! moment came at different points, and what follows are three of those requested by viewers.


Jack the Ripper

Day one of the unproductive three-day 'search for Jack the Ripper' dawned with the revelation in the Mirror newspaper that Ciaran O'Keeffe was the creator of the 'Kreed Kafer' and 'Rik Eeedles' anagrams that had previously trapped Acorah!

In the Commercial Tavern, Spitalfields, London, Acorah became 'possessed' by a baddun - yet another 'spirit' strangely reluctant to answer Yvette's questions after going to all the bother of getting on television.

So what information did the 'spirit' provide?

His name was Jacob Hills

This rather unlikely name could, of course, be explained easily - according to those who worship at Acorah's feet. He must have been a slave who had been given an English name by his master!

FACT: Since 1772 it had been illegal for individuals to be enslaved in Britain. The Slave Trade Act become law on 25th March, 1807, nineteen years before Hills was born, and the Abolition of Slavery Act, which prohibited slavery throughout the British Empire came into effect in 1833.

He was born in 1826, and was stabbed to death aged 47 ... or 70...

Depending on which age you choose the date of death would be 1872-4... or 1895-7.

FACT: The only death recorded around the correct times was a 60-year-old Jacob Hills, in 1896, but that was at Tunbridge, Kent.

He was a Nigerian sailor

FACT: This is where Acorah made his fatal error!

Nigeria did not exist as a country until 1914, so no Nigerian sailors in the 19th Century.


"Academic Freedom" continues...

PZ Myers points to the fact that Academic Freedom has been voted through the state senate committee in Florida. The chair and vice chair didn't bother to show, and only one person voted against it, a democrat (Senator Ted Deutch (D)).

Florida did it: their ridiculous "academic freedom" bill that promoted creationism has been approved by their senate committee.


Call or write Sen. Ted Deutch and thank him: he's the only one who voted against the bill. Urge him to keep up the fight.

The chair and vice chair of this committee were absent and did not vote. Call them and cuss them out for abdicating their responsibilities. Tell them they screwed up, and that you do not support failure.

The rest…call or write and tell them that you won't be voting for them in the next election. Explain that as members of the education committee, they had a responsibility to support good science education.

I don't think all is lost just yet. This just means it moves out of committee and on to the rest of the senate (OK, maybe we are doomed). Whoever your representative is, call or write and tell them that this bill must be opposed, that it is a potential disaster for science education in the state, and that it is a lawsuit waiting to happen.
This is a serious worry. And it is important for the voters to get in there and be heard now. So be heard!

Are you registered to vote? You sure?

Crooks and Liars:
Even if you think you’re registered to vote, don’t take the chance. All Americans should double check their voter registration now. Vote caging is already being done this campaign cycle and it will continue all the way to November. Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans have already committed voter fraud during the primary season and they’ll stop at nothing to win. Even if you’ve already voted in your state’s primary, haven’t moved or changed parties, you are still at risk of losing your vote.

If you need more information on where to go in your area to register or to check your current voter status, the Democratic Party has resources to help you get where you need to go. Don’t stop there either. Double check your voter status in October or early November, just to make sure. Call your friends and relatives and urge them to do the same — there’s too much at stake in 2008 to let the Republicans steal your vote.


Rosenhouse, at EvolutionBlog, considers the calls to boycott Beijing's Olympics. I have to admit, I agree with him, boycotting is not the answers. Once you walk away, you surrender all ability to make change. It is the same logic that has the current government refusing to talk to various governments, leading to those governments not changing except to become more hostile to us and joining together.

Boycott? The Olympics? Nah.

Jason Rosenhouse:
The Olympics are coming, and with them a new opportunity for the holier than thou amongst us to urge boycotts in the service of political agendas. Anne Applebaum of Slate gets the party started with this essay. She doesn't actually call for a boycott, but she seems awfully sympathetic to those who are calling for one:

No wonder, then, that everyone who hates or fears China, whether in Burma, Darfur, Tibet, or Beijing, is calling for a boycott. And the Chinese government and the IOC are terrified that they will succeed. No one involved in the preparations for this year's Olympics really believes that this is “only about the athletes,” or that the Beijing Games will be an innocent display of sporting prowess, or that they bear no relation to Chinese politics. I don't see why the rest of us should believe it, either.

Now, I'm a bit biased here. Not because I have any fondness for the Chinese government, mind you. It's just that I really, really, really love the Olympics. For the two weeks that they are on, I can't get enough of them. Yes, the jingoistic coverage bothers me, as do the incessant melodramatic human-interest stories, the preening commentators, the bias towards events Americans are good at, and the constant hand-wringing about the medal count. But in the end, I can look past all that and just enjoy the sheer spectacle of watching people who are really good at really exotic things.

I like watching Greco-Roman Wrestling once every four years. Or Air Rifle. Or Weightlifting. Or Pole Vaulting. I like seeing athletes from all over the world, even from the tiny countries you don't usually think about, come together to compete in sporting events. At the risk of seeming mawkish, I find something inspiring about the whole affair.

So I want the Olympics to go on, and I get nervous when people start talking about boycotts. Participating in the games does not mean you are endorsing anything the host country has done or is doing, and it does not mean you can't go back to hating them when the Olympics are over. Besides, participating in the Olympics only when you approve of the host country rather defeats the purpose of them, wouldn't you say?

That said, I can imagine situations where I might support a boycott. In 1986 the World Chess Olympiad was held in the United Arab Emirates, and they would not allow the Israeli team to participate. Rather a lot of people called for a boycott, and a lot of chess players stayed home. The event went on nevertheless, but that is a boycott I would have supported. There is a difference, though, between that and the Beijing games. Barring a team from participating cuts directly to the heart of what these international competitions are supposed to be about. That is different from objecting to the internal politics of the host country.

It's not a simple issue, but in the end I think the international good will fostered by the games is more important than any short-term moral victory scored by boycotting. Go to the games and shame them into changing their behavior. That will do far more good than staying home and giving them an excuse for hardening their positions.

Guess who's coming to your borders?


Heath Shuler's immigration bill, the SAVE Act, is rearing its ugly head again later this week. David Neiwert will have more on it tomorrow, but in the mean time, have a look at Avi Lewis's Frontline USA piece on how the US/Mexico border is the new Iraq.

Now that Iraq is drying up as a cash cow for contractors, they're all shifting focus to the privatization of border security and high tech enforcement. When I read the bill over, almost more troubling than the lack of any kind of pathway to citizenship -- or the bounties it offered to government employees -- were the provisions giving the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense the authorization to work together to "shock doctrine" the border and provide massive boondoggles to private contractors.

You want to know what Blackwater is planning for an encore? See Avi's piece, and wonder no more.

,,,Yeah. Think cheery thoughts.

Happy Birthday

Just realized it is Dr. Richard Dawkins birthday today.


Healthcare in Europe

I've had this killer flu for three and a half weeks now, and it's still lingering as a persistent cough, so I figured I'd go see the doctor in Chris' building. She said, yep, you've got the flu that everyone else has, and you might have a chest infection. Her prescription? Get an X-Ray. Ugh. An X-Ray. Does my insurance cover it? If so, how much? So, I paid the whopping 22 Euro (33 bucks) bill to the doctor, in cash (she paid me my change out of her purse), and called Blue Cross to see if they cover me while I'm abroad. After a good 20 minute phone call, I found out that if my French X-Ray center isn't "in network" then I have to pay a $300 deductible and 70% of the cost. At this point, I figured I'd better find out how much this X-Ray is going to cost, since for $300, I'd rather just have the doc dope me up on antibiotics and screw the X-Ray. The doc warned me that X-Rays are much more expensive than doctor visits. So I just called the X-Ray people and asked how much a chest X-Ray costs. Are you ready? 45 Euros. That's 67 bucks or so (and it would be only 45 bucks if the exchange rate weren't so out of whack). I just looked online and found that chest X-Rays go for around 200 dollars in the states. Amazing. So I'm going to suck it up and pay my 67 dollars for the X-Ray out of my own pocket. Tell me again how European "socialized medicine" is so bad?

Okay, just got back from the doctor (the x-ray was fine). I scheduled my appointment a few hours in advance, it was for 3:30pm (or 15h30 as they say here), and they took me at 3:33pm. I was out of there in 15 minutes, and that included seeing a doctor afterwards to explain what the x-ray said (and I then promptly left my x-ray in the check out line at the grocery - someone's in for a surprise with their creme brule!) Bottom line: Still not seeing what's so bad with the health care system over here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

TPMtv - McCain's big flaw

100 years? 1,000 years? 10,000 years!?! Think what you want about who's being unfair, who should drop and the like in the primary race. The Democrats are missing a big opportunity to strike early at John McCain's Achilles heel -- his lockstep support for an extremely unpopular war. We lay out the key points in today's episode of TPMtv ...


Deconstruction of a joke

Josh Timonen at breaksdown Expelled and shows how sad and poorly constructed it is.

It is a good read to see the injustice to those interviewed about science, and to history and serious thought.

He also points to a new website from the National Center for Science Education, Expelled Exposed. It is a resource to better understand the flaws and innanity of Stein and Mathis's film.

Michael Shermer gave these thoughts about Mathis and Stein's interviewing of him for this film.
My take on Mathis is that he's an opportunist. He says and does whatever he thinks necessary to get his film made and now promoted. My guess on the latest flap about tossing PZ out of the screening but not Dawkins was PZ's original assumption that they just didn't notice Dawkins there, and only after the fact rationalizing the whole affair with plausible (and ever changing) reasons.

For my part, the moment I sat down with Stein (with Mathis there) and he asked me that question about firing people for expressing dissenting views a dozen times, I realized that I was being manipulated to give certain answers they were looking for me to give. I asked them both, several times, if they had anything else to ask me about evolutionary theory or Intelligent Design. In frustration I finally said something like "Do you have any other questions to ask me or do you keep asking me this question in hopes that I'll give a different answer?"

That's when Stein finally changed the subject and asked about social Darwinism. We got into a lengthy discussion about Adam Smith, which he seemed surprised to learn that I seemed to know more about the great economist than he did! For example, he didn't seem to even realize that Smith's first book was "The Theory of Moral Sentiments", and that Smith didn't trust businessmen any more than he trusted government bureaucrats, and that we need a mix of enlightened self-interest and strictly enforced rules of trade. But as I noted in my review of the film for Scientific American, Stein was especially displeased with my linkage of Smith and Darwin, that Darwin read Smith as an undergraduate at Edinburgh, etc. I also pointed out to him that Darwin has been used and abused by ideologues of all stripes, and that in any case that is all separate from whether the science is good or not. That seemed to tax his thinking too much, because shortly after he announced that he had to take a rest break and he just got up and went out to his car for about 20 minutes! Seriously, he just went out to the street next to our office and sat in the rent car they had! I couldn't believe it. We had only been going for about 30 minutes and he was tired? And this was in the late morning. I joked with Mathis that, this being Hollywood and all, I wondered if Stein was out doing a line of cocaine.... Mathis assured me that Stein doesn't do drugs, but I found the whole thing to be quite odd. Then Stein came back in and that's when we walked around the office with the handheld camera to get some B-Roll footage, and they showed him asking me about my books, and that's where I told him I thought ID was much closer to pseudoscience than science. Then he asked me AGAIN if I thought people should be fired....

The whole experience was a bit surreal, and I found Stein to be a somewhat disagreeable man. He tried to come off like he was a star and that I should have been star-struck, and when I wasn't that seemed to get under his skin a bit. For example, when he came back into the office from resting in his car, I said something like "gentlemen, I've got work to do so I'd like to wrap this thing up now," he looked at me like "hey, don't you realize who I am and that you should be grateful to be talking to me?" I let him off the hook a bit in my review about his questionable comment about blacks, but I suspect he has some racist tendencies.

Pat Buchanan want to remind you...

...that he is an ass.

Crooks and Liars:

Pat Buchanan wrote an op-ed that literally made me sick to my stomach.

What is wrong with Barack’s prognosis and Barack’s cure?

Only this. It is the same old con, the same old shakedown that black hustlers have been running since the Kerner Commission blamed the riots in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit and a hundred other cities on, as Nixon put it, “everybody but the rioters themselves.”[..]

Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.

Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.

This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.

Hopefully, you’ve been able to retain your lunch while reading. I’ve known that Pat Buchanan was a little nuts with his isolationist rhetoric, but I had no idea just how isolationist he actually was–he really doesn’t want anyone who doesn’t look like him in this country, does he?. This reads like something white supremist Sam Francis would write, and as it turns out, Francis was a mentor to Buchanan.

Pam’s House Blend has a response to Buchanan (and really, should he still be getting gigs on EVERY MSNBC show with this kind of open racist attitude?):

Thanks, Pat. We’ve gotten the old “lift up” message, all right. How could people like Buchanan listen to the same speech and walk away with this level of vitriol in their heart and purposeful ignorance of history? Our country suffers an incredible sickness when it comes to race relations. The point of Obama’s speech is that we all have work to do, and share responsibility in opening up an adult dialog. The above does nothing to advance understanding, and shows no desire to do so either.
Pandagon and Orcinus have more…


Here is another charmer. Michael Medved, conservative moralist loudmouth, and movie reviewer...who also has recently begun working for the Discovery Institute. Medved, Ben Stein, what classy sorts the ID'ers align with.


So Michael Medved, semi-famous movie reviewer and radio host, who has of late morphed into a weird “Hollywood vs. America” right-wing concern troll, has published an op-ed at Townhall that says that slavery in America just wasn’t as bad as all that. No, seriously

1. Slavery was an ancient and universal institution, not a distinctively American innovation.

2. Slavery existed only briefly, and in limited locales, in the history of the republic - involving only a tiny percentage of the ancestors of today’s Americans.

3. Though brutal, slavery wasn’t genocidal: live slaves were valuable but dead captives brought no profit.

4. It’s not true that the U.S. became a wealthy nation through the abuse of slave labor: the most prosperous states in the country were those that first freed their slaves.

5. While America deserves no unique blame for the existence of slavery, the United States merits special credit for its rapid abolition.

6. There is no reason to believe that today’s African Americans would be better off if their ancestors had remained behind in Africa.

FU Blitzer

I just had on CNN, and they are doing a piece on Chelsea Clinton and how she does not want to answer questions or discuss Monica Lewinsky.

And Wolf asks, "Is she shirking her duty?"

And the only answer to that question I could think of is...


Really? It is the duty of Chelsea Clinton to answer dumb ass questions about her father cheating on her mom? That is her duty? Really? Explain that one, hmm?

Cause, as I see it, when McCain is questioned about the start of the Iraq War it is history and irrelevant, or about his flipping parties it is not germane. But when it is a question about something her dad did, when she was a juvenile, that is personally embarrassing, it's all go, huh?

You are an ass, Wolf.

Trying to rewrite history, as they write the science text.

PZ Myers:
The producers of Expelled have spent a couple of days sweating over damage control, I guess. They've shut down or delayed all the pending screenings of their movie, and now they've issued a remarkably dishonest press release. The mendacity is astonishing in its scope; somebody tell me, is this "framing"?

The amount of profuse lying from the movie's producer is amazing. The spyglass that he views the world through must be one fucked up kaleidoscope.


The CNN video attached to the article is well worth watching because McCain is just terrible. His eyes stay glued to the teleprompter, proving yet again that when it comes to the economy he has no idea what he's talking about. His war-hero credentials are all fine and good if Iraq is the issue (though why he did a propaganda video is another question) how in the world does that show that he is the person to lead us out of what Goldman Sachs is now calling a $1.2 trillion credit crisis?

The best McCain can do is uncomfortably stumble through the teleprompter words and tell everyone what they already know. Speculative buyers and shady loans? You don't say! Gosh, what a story. The real whopper is when McCain calls for easing "regulatory, accounting and tax impediments to raising capital." Really? And here I was thinking that the lack of regulation has been critical to the runaway credit problem. The last thing we need is less regulation or more tax incentives for this group. Why would we ever make it easier for the industry that is dragging down the entire US (and probably global) economy? Don't journalists ask questions these days or will they just let McCain read scripts written by economists who created these problems?

Are they thinking?


This is too gross. An online game, Miss Bimbo, encourages girls (as in under 10 years old) to buy their avatars plastic surgery - face lifts, boob jobs, you name it - in order to be the "hottest, coolest, most famous bimbo in the whole world." Yeah.

Children are given a naked virtual character to look after. They compete against other players to earn "bimbo" dollars so they can dress her in sexy outfits and take her clubbing. They are given missions, including securing plastic surgery at the game's clinic to give their dolls bigger breasts, and they have to keep her at her target weight with diet pills.
Perhaps even worse than the sexist and dangerous messages being sent to young women, is the cavalier response of the Miss Bimbo creators (both men, btw).

[Chris Evans says,] "But there are lots of positive lessons that replicate messages in real life."

While feeding your bimbo too much chocolate has added virtual pounds to the animated girls' hips, feeding her fruits and vegetables will improve her health, Evans points out.
That and diet pills, apparently. Evans also claims that the game is just aiming to be realistic: "The breast operations are just one part of the game and we are not encouraging young girls to have them, just reflecting real life." You know, the kind of real life where nine year-olds get boob jobs. Charming.

Something about a man with a beard

Now this is an important discussion to be had.

PZ Myers:
What is it with this anti-beard sentiment? Here's an article that wonders why so many scientists have beards, with several amusing stories.

But anti-beard arguments also ran rife in pre-Victorian times: Beards trapped food and the stuff you spewed out when you sneezed. At a stretch, they could even go as far as to catch fire and trap vermin, some argued. This all came to a head in 1907, with a rather remarkable experiment. A French scientist took one bearded and one clean shaven man from the streets of Paris and asked each of them to kiss a woman, whose lips were previously swabbed with antiseptic. After each smooth, her lips were swabbed and the the cultures were smeared on agar. The hairy kiss, it turned out, was by far the more microbial-ly diverse.
That anecdote answers the question right there. Overgrown nerds experience very little risk of ever having to kiss French women on the streets of Paris, so there is very little selection against beard growth. Hey, if I had some likelihood of sweeping strange women into my arms, I might shave, too … and brush my teeth more than once a week, and take a shower more often than once a month, habits atypical of us hairy, dirty, microbe-rich men.

Beards are a fine thing, and an important resource to many thinkers.

Abstaining from funding

Crooks and Liars:
James Dobson’s Focus on the Family issued an alert to its membership yesterday with a banner headline: “Liberals Want Federal Abstinence Education Cut.” To which I thought, “It’s about time.”


I was especially struck by the notion that the timing of the CDC report was somehow helpful to the right’s efforts to promote abstinence-only funding. If anything, the opposite is true — as the rates of sexually-transmitted diseases go up, it’s all the more important to offer quality education on sexual health.

It’s quite simple: the evidence that abstinence-only is more effective doesn’t exist.


Thus far, it appears conservative groups have missed the memo. For that matter, as I understand it, House Republicans and Bush administration officials are prepared to fight to keep the funding for ineffective programs in place.

One wonders just how many more studies it will take.

Good quote.

This seems like an apt response to creationist and fundamentalist.

PZ Myers:
Mike the Mad Biologist wins a gold star for this quote that I'll be stealing:

The other thing we evolutionary biologists don't do enough of, and this stems from the previous point, is make an emotional and moral case for the study of evolution. Last night, I concluded my talk with a quote from Dover, PA creationist school board member William Cunningham, who declared, "Two thousand years ago someone died on a cross. Can't someone take a stand for him?"

My response was, "In the last two minutes, someone died from a bacterial infection. We take a stand for him."

Now that is good framing.

Faith = Abuse ?

Sad story. A young girl develops diabetes, but her parents choose to pray for it to end. It was treatable, she could have survived, but her parents prayed over her as she wasted away. And the mom seems to still think she can be resurrected.

But it gets worse, PZ Myers notes...
But wait! That isn't the punchline. Read this and weep.

The girl has three siblings, ranging in age from 13 to 16, the police chief said.

"They are still in the home," he said. "There is no reason to remove them. There is no abuse or signs of abuse that we can see."
Their sister is dead of stupidity and neglect; she died painfully with their dumb-as-rocks parents hovering over her, chanting to their sky fairy. And this brain dead cop sees no sign of abuse? What is it, does calling it religion make it invisible?

Bush's War

If you missed Frontline's two part documentary Bush's War, it is available to be streamed online now.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More trouble

Tonight they are showing the second part of Bush's War on Frontline on PBS.

And we are in the second day of blossoming of new trouble in Iraq.

Baghdad Green Zone hit by rockets
BAGHDAD (AFP) — Insurgents on Tuesday slammed at least four rockets into the heavily-fortified Baghdad Green Zone, the seat of the Iraqi government and the US embassy, Iraqi and US officials said.

Iraqi forces clashed with Shiite militiamen Tuesday in the southern oil port of Basra and rockets rained down on the U.S.-protected Green Zone in Baghdad as followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr expanded a nationwide backlash against government crackdowns.


McCain cred

Washington Monthly:

Via Steve Benen, MSNBC analyst Chuck Todd tells us why John McCain can get away with routine demonstrations of abject ignorance, like his recent proclamation that Iran is supporting al-Qaeda in Iraq:

Even if he gets dinged on the experience stuff, "Oh, he says he's Mr. Experience. Doesn't he know the difference between this stuff?" He's got enough of that in the bank, at least with the media, that he can get away with it. I mean, the irony to this is had either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama misspoke like that, it'd have been on a running loop, and it would become a, a big problem for a couple of days for them.
Italics mine. Let's recap. Foreign policy cred lets him get away with wild howlers on foreign policy. Fiscal integrity cred lets him get away with outlandishly irresponsible economic plans. Anti-lobbyist cred lets him get away with pandering to lobbyists. Campaign finance reform cred lets him get away with gaming the campaign finance system. Straight talking cred lets him get away with brutally slandering Mitt Romney in the closing days of the Republican primary. Maverick uprightness cred allows him to get away with begging for endorsements from extremist religious leaders like John Hagee. "Man of conviction" cred allows him to get away with transparent flip-flopping so egregious it would make any other politician a laughingstock. Anti-torture cred allows him to get away with supporting torture as long as only the CIA does it.


Let Others Be the Spokespeople for Science?

PZ Myers:
Matt Nisbet is currently running a photo of Dawkins and myself with this legend: Dawkins and Myers: It's Time to Let Others Be the Spokespeople for Science. Never mind the personal criticism, doesn't he even realize how wrong that statement is? No, it's worse than that; it's so bad it's not even wrong.

Who are the "spokespeople for science"? Is this a formal title conferred on specific individuals, is there a protocol for defining who gets the job, and most importantly, is there a salary? Nisbet doesn't seem to realize that there are no spokespeople for science — there are just people involved in science who speak out; I don't know of anyone who even declares themselves to be self-appointed spokespeople for science, especially not me, and not even more prominent representatives like Dawkins. Anyone who mistakes me for one of these mythical spokespeople for science, instead of a guy working within science who happens to have a blog, is too stupid to be taken seriously.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Laughing at death

PZ Myers looks at a funny story from India. Seems this magician fellow says he has magic that can kill. So an atheist in India challenged him to do it to him, on TV.

Suffice to say, at the midnight deadline, the magician is sweaty and frustrated, and the skeptical challenger was alive and chuckling.

I am not sure if it is more funny, but it is less violent then the guy who said he could beat any martial artist without touching them...then got his ass kicked.

Straining at the seams.

TPM is pointing to a McClatchy story about concerning fraying in the twine holding the peace together in Iraq.
  • Sadr is reasserting control in Baghdad.
  • Sadr's people are pushing in Basra.
We hold our breathes. Will things hold together.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ahhhhhh, shhhhhaddd uuupppp already!

Science advocate Matt Nisbet seems to continue to not like having the likes of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins around (he also likes to gripe about Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens). Its just anyone who is opinionated about religion and science.

PZ Myers:

You just knew Matt Nisbet was itching to voice his opinion, and we all knew exactly what he'd say.

As long as Dawkins and PZ continue to be the representative voices from the pro-science side in this debate, it is really bad for those of us who care about promoting public trust in science and science education. Dawkins and PZ need to lay low as Expelled hits theaters. Let others play the role of communicator, most importantly the National Center for Science Education, AAAS, the National Academies or scientists such as Francis Ayala or Ken Miller. When called up by reporters or asked to comment, Dawkins and PZ should refer journalists to these organizations and individuals.

If Dawkins and PZ really care about countering the message of The Expelled camp, they need to play the role of Samantha Power, Geraldine Ferraro and so many other political operatives who through misstatements and polarizing rhetoric have ended up being liabilities to the causes and campaigns that they support. Lay low and let others do the talking.

So Richard and PZ, when it comes to Expelled, it's time to let other people be the messengers for science. This is not about censoring your ideas and positions, but rather being smart, strategic, tactical, and ultimately effective in promoting science rather than your own personal ideology, books, or blog.
Fuck you very much, Matt. You know where you can stick your advice.

I'm much more impressed by the fact that the Expelled crew is in damage-control mode and is beating a hasty retreat than the pontifications of a mealy-mouthed hack.
I think that puts it well.

Then Nisbet decides to gripe about EXPELLED, cause he's the voice of reason and discourse.

Hmmm. I should have thought the powerful voices of communications experts shrieking at Richard Dawkins to hide under his bed would have had some effect, but no…he's gone ahead and written his review of Expelled. And lo, in the camp of the Framers, there was much wailing and weeping and grinding of teeth, and rending of garments, and epic despair, because surely this will cause the destruction of Science.
Jason Rosenhouse also expresses his thoughts on Nisbet's utterances.

I suspect that everyone reading this has heard the story of what happened when P.Z. Myers and Richard Dawkins tried to attend a screening of Expelled in Minneapolis last week. Short version: P.Z. got recognized and was not allowed in. Dawkins was not recognized and was allowed in. If you've been living in a cave for the last week you can check out P.Z.'s post here. Then scroll through the remainder of his recent posts to hear about the fallout.

There are many aspects of this worth discussing, but here I am interested in only one. Matt Nisbet, you see, is once more beating his favorite dead horse. That's the one where he protests that people like Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers (and Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett) are hurting the cause of promoting good science education. They make people think that science and atheism are intextricably linked, you see, which causes fence-sitting religious moderates to side with the forces of darkness and ignorance.

I've discussed this point before at this blog. I see the argument Nisbet (and others) are making, but in the end I do not agree with it. Frankly, I think we need hundreds more just like Dawkins and Myers. That, however, is not the issue I want to raise right now.


But this all goes along with the nasty comments shot at and the comments of those like Dawkins and Myers.

Is Richard Dawkins a Fundamentist?

Chris over at Mixing Memory argues, both in this post and in the subsequent comments, that he is. I think that claim is deeply silly and trivializes the term fundamentalist. I've been mixing it up with Chris and some of his readers in the comments to his post. Having spilled so many words on the issue, I figured I might as well get a blog post of my own out of it. So go have a look and let me know what you think!
New Atheist, Fundamentalist Atheist, it all gets placed on those at are more forthright in their opinions. Some don't want this and it is easier to just "frame" those that they disagree with as fringers or outsiders.

Now not everyone should or needs to be as outright as Richard Dawkins, but the drive to exclude and recategorize people like him is ridiculous. There is room for a variety of approaches. So to just try to silence or dismiss this debate is childish.

American Atheist Conference

The American Atheist Conference has just wrapped up up in the Twin Cities. Hence, the reason Dawkins and Myers were together this weekend. I was tempted to go, as I was going to be in the area, but plans didn't work out.

But for those that missed out, or are curious, PZ Myers has a rundown and some thoughts on the conference.

Dawkins on EXPELLED

Richard Dawkins:
The blogs are ringing with ridicule. Mark Mathis, duplicitous producer of the much hyped film Expelled, shot himself in the foot so spectacularly that the phrase might have been invented for him. Goals don't come more own than this. How is it possible that a man who makes his living from partisan propaganda could hand so stunning a propaganda coup to his opponents? Hand it to them on a plate, so ignominiously and so UNNECESSARILY.

In writing this for, I have assumed that our readers will already be familiar with the facts of the case, from Pharyngula and the more than 40 other blogs that have picked up the story and are listed at For the same reason, I shall not discuss the main message of the film -- that American creationist scientists are being victimized for their views -- except to say that it was very much NOT its main message when the film was called Crossroads, and when I, together with PZ Myers, Eugenie Scott and others, were conned into taking part.


More on being EXPELLED

Now, on the one hand this gives Stein and the film's producers more publicity. But the True Believers will be blind to all but their most fervent and base beliefs. And it is nice to talk and discuss and just see and show how much crap these guys are spouting. has a clip from a discussion where Expelled is discussed by PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins.

Here are some more views.
PZ Myers goes into the topic a little more, and covered his history with Mathis, and his vitriol towards Myers.
The New York Times has weighed in, and they contacted the producers of Expelled…and what do you know, they're still scrambling to find a credible story. They haven't succeeded yet.


Here is a clip from Expelled which apparently inflames the fans. I don't know why. Science over faith, religion as a minor piece of life. It's not as if he's advocating criminalization.

Oh,wait maybe not, (PZ Myers notes.) but the quote comes from people who think people walk on water, the world in 1000's of years old, and that the Flintstones should be on the History Channel.

This is terrible. I've kept her under the radar for so long, and now this recent incident has blown her cover.

Shocking information has reached us that PZ Meyers trophy wife (paid for by the tax payers of state of Minnesota) was taking names of the movie goers to, and I quote her words, "be put first in line for the gas chambers once we overthrow the Constitution". That is correct, this state funded mistress was making a list of local Christians for eventual extermination.
All that money invested in her ninja training, wasted.
Can you say, Coo Coo? Taking names and pointing, don't people know that the scientist implanted trackers when the masses were vaccinated and don't need to be so primitive as to point...WE KNOW ALREADY.

And they say TV rots the brain, that bible is a nastier than sugar on the teeth.

Historical reminder

What was that about those who refuse to learn from history...

Crooks and Liars:
The New York Times:

[W]hat we should be asking is: How did we get here?

The answer, at a fundamental level, is that we’re paying the price for willful amnesia. We chose to forget what happened in the 1930s — and having refused to learn from history, we’re repeating it.

Contrary to popular belief, the stock market crash of 1929 wasn’t the defining moment of the Great Depression. What turned an ordinary recession into a civilization-threatening slump was the wave of bank runs that swept across America in 1930 and 1931.

And I feel the need to remind you we are in the midst of an administration and a Republican candidate who have a disdain for history and it's discussion.

Heck they all like to write history on their own.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Expelled, who know how literal Stein could be?

Plenty of stories are going around about the movie Expelled. Outside the religiously sycophantically religious, it ain't purty. People are "sneaking" in, or reviewers are going who aren't RSR. Which means the films attempts historical and scientific accuracy are open to critique. Based on how bad the film is, and how desperately they are trying to keep people out (They do want to make money, right?), it seems they were hoping to avoid this. Heck they give free tickets to religious groups and they can't seem to bother to show up. Eek!

Well, PZ Myers decided to go to a showing, dragging along the beleaguered Richard Dawkins. Nah, seeing as they were both tricked and manipulated by the film makers, they were both curious to see what the film was like. Wouldn't you? So he signed in to go to the film, cause wouldn't you be scared to have your film seen...if it were this bad. Then the producers of the film saw him, and had him ejected. Nice. Again, they REALLY seem to be REAL professionals, don't they?
Phil Plait goes into this some more.
I was laughing off the whole PZ-expelled-from-Expelled thing, but I’m now seeing a particularly evil side of this, a distortion so horrid I cannot keep quiet about it.

On the official Expelled website is a post that consists of an email from someone who was at the movie when PZ was evicted, and describes the movie itself. Remember, this was posted on the official Expelled site, giving it their tacit approval.

Sitting down? I hope so. The post on the Expelled website says this:

The film can best be described as subtly clever and occasionally funny. Emotions are stirred up especially built around the movies overall theme*, and many scenes especially later in the movie might be difficult to watch based on one’s ethnic and religious background.
and the footnote therein says this:

*SPOILER!! […]Many scenes are centered around the Berlin Wall, and Ben Stein being Jewish actually visits many death camps and death showers. In fact, Nazi Germany is the thread that ties everything in the movie together. Evolution leads to atheism leads to eugenics leads to Holocaust and Nazi Germany.

Think on that for a moment. Nazism is what ties all this movie together, meaning it says that evolution leads to the cold and ruthless slaughter of millions of people.

Right from the start, this is an total and abhorrent lie. This false connection between the Holocaust and the teaching of evolution is a gross and profound twisting of reality. Creationist love to say that Hitler used evolution as an excuse for genocide, but actually he makes it clear that religion played a major role in his decisions. For example, in a 1922 speech Hitler said "My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter." Oddly, the creationists never seem to mention that.

Despite whatever reasons Hitler gave for his reasoning — and honestly, how much can we trust him? He was Hitler — that doesn’t mean that evolution leads to atheism leads to Nazis. Evolution, like all of reality, is a fact, and how we use it is independent of that reality itself. I can just as easily point out how many people have been slaughtered in the name of Jesus. Both arguments are grossly unfair when used in this manner. I can use a hammer to build a house, or to beat someone’s brains in. In what way is either the fault of the hammer?

It’s unfair to lay the blame of human faults on religion or the lack thereof. It’s how humans use or abuse these tools that’s important.

For the producers of this movie to continue this Big Lie tying evolution and Nazis together is an irony almost too big to comprehend, given that this is precisely how Nazi propaganda worked. In a rich field of creationist ironies, this may be the elephant in the room. They are projecting onto their enemies the very thing they are guilty of.

For Ben Stein to go to concentration camps and promote creationism is beyond the pale. It’s a lie, it’s ugly, and it should spark universal condemnation from every thinking human on the planet. This movie is founded on falsehoods, the producers lied to get interviews, they’ve used decidedly shady tactics to promote it, and the movie evidently has a huge lie as its very premise –a lie to which the producers themselves have admitted.

We must continue to discuss this, to air it out, to show these people for what they are. Like any noisome and foul thing you find under a rock, exposure to sunlight is the best cure.

Forward with Iran

Interest in McCain's

Crooks and Liars:
I know the two Democratic presidential candidates seem inclined to go after one another right now, but the more they criticize John McCain, the better it is for the party and our chances of winning in November.

At a news conference in Amman, McCain said Iran supported the Sunni group al Qaeda in Iraq, until he was corrected by a colleague. U.S. officials believe predominantly Shi’ite Iran has been backing Shi’ite extremists in Iraq, not al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni group.

It was the first stumble of note that McCain has made since clinching the Republican presidential nomination early this month, and Obama quickly pounced on it.

“Just yesterday, we heard Senator McCain confuse Sunni and Shi’ite, Iran and al Qaeda,” Obama said.

“Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no al Qaeda ties. Maybe that is why he completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America’s enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades,” the Illinois senator said.
When McCain gives them a golden opportunity — such as repeatedly screwing up the basics of Iraq, Iran, and al Qaeda — it’s important to take advantage.

Mark Kleiman added, “Given McCain’s buffoonish performance in Jordan, wouldn’t this be a good time for Hillary Clinton to say, ‘Gee, I thought he was ready to be Commander-in-Chief, but it sure doesn’t sound like it. The least we should expect from the President is some basic knowledge about who our enemies are.’”
But apparently the impossible is possible...just like it's been for the last 7 years.

NY Sun:

But while the McCain campaign is backing away from the specific claims about Iranian training of Al Qaeda, it is asserting that Iran collaborates with Osama bin Laden's organization.

Mr. McCain's national security adviser, Randy Scheunemann, told The New York Sun, "There is ample documentation that Iran has provided many different forms of support to Sunni extremists, including Al Qaeda as well as Shi'ia extremists in Iraq. It would require a willing suspension of disbelief to deny Iran supports Al Qaeda in Iraq."

Really? They are bringing al Qaeda in and out of Iran and funding them? The group that they fanatically oppose? Could we get some sound evidence?

An example.


A subsequent story, based on an interview with a Kurdish prisoner who went by the name Osman the Small, said Iran's revolutionary guard and domestic intelligence service had issued the Kurdish jihadist group political refugee cards, identifications that made it possible for them to cross back and forth into Iraq from Iran.

Oh good, some with a presumed name with an inside story. Am I the only one that remembers this stuff from...five years ago was it?

Josh Marshall has some added thoughts on McCain "thinking" on Iraq, and what it means for the US and the world.

Disturbing story on immigration.

This is going to ruin your afternoon. Just a warning. Isaac R. Baichu, 46, began calling a 22 year-old Colombian woman after receiving her cell phone number at a green card interview last year.

He hinted, she said, at his power to derail her life and deport her relatives, alluding to a brush she had with the law before her marriage. He summoned her to a private meeting. And at noon on Dec. 21, in a parked car on Queens Boulevard, he named his price — not realizing that she was recording everything on the cellphone in her purse.

“I want sex,” he said on the recording. “One or two times. That’s all. You get your green card. You won’t have to see me anymore.”
Before she left his car, he demanded oral sex to “know that you’re serious.” In other words, he raped her. (Though strangely, the NY Times article doesn't it call it rape. It just notes that "he got his way.") The rest of the story is just as horrible (trigger warning like a mofo), but I'm glad that it's at least getting some press.

Preying on undocumented immigrant women isn't exactly a new thing, and it's pretty amazing that this young woman came forward. Most women won't report sexual assaults by immigration officials for fear of retaliation or deportation.

For more information on immigrant women's issues, check out the National Network to End Violence Against Immigrant Women and Legal Momentum's Immigrant Women Program.