Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New teaser for the Skeptologists

Phil Plait points to a great new promo for the Skeptologists!

Props to TX

PZ Myers:
You have rarely seen me say this, but…Texas did a good thing. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has voted against, I repeat, against approving the application from the Institute for Creation "Research" to issue degrees in Texas. The ICR will not be handing out Master of Science degrees in Texas.

Good work, Texans!

What the hell?

Here's a new FOX news commercial, starring the former leader of the DNC and Hillary booster, Terry McAuliffe.


It was bad enough with the Clintons stepping right up to the bounds of common sense to take shots and critics and opponents. Hillary Clinton has been buddying up with the right wing media leaders she once was mocked by and called a murder. A now Terry McAuliffe is lauding the great and noble work of FOX news? They have to know that if she gets the nomination they will turn right around and slime her. Are they not worried at all about what their words and acts say? Or does the next small victory matter above all else?

What the hell?

Friday, April 18, 2008

It's different when you are a Republican, and John McCain

What if all of McCain's blemishes were on Obama instead? Looking at all the crud that McCain has mucked through picked up and carried through his career and even while running for the presidency, what democrat would be allowed all of it?

I remember Edwards getting tarred by the media for having bloggers on staff who were critical of the Catholic Church, what does McCain suffer for courting a nationally known pastor who rallies his followers against the Catholics?

Crooks and Liars:
Cogitamus asks the question that I’ve been pondering for a while.

Do you think if Barack Obama had left his seriously ill wife after having had multiple affairs, had been a member of the “Keating Five,” had had a relationship with a much younger lobbyist that his staff felt the need to try and block, had intervened on behalf of the client of said young lobbyist with a federal agency, had denounced then embraced Jerry Falwell, had denounced then embraced the Bush tax cuts, had confused Shiite with Sunni, had confused Al Qaeda in Iraq with the Mahdi Army, had actively sought the endorsement and appeared on stage with a man who denounced the Catholic Church as a whore, and stated that he knew next to nothing about economics — do you think it’s possible that Obama would have been treated differently by the media than John McCain has been? Possible?

And — this is fun to contemplate — if Michelle Obama had been an adulteress, drug addict thief with a penchant for plagiarism — do you think that she would be subject to slightly different treatment from the media than Cindypills McCain has been? Anyone?
Now I don't like picking on spouses of candidates. And I would have left it off here as irrelevant to the campaigning point...but how many times have I seen Cindy McCain praised and lauded? Even as she is being caught is lies, like her husband she is given an instant out. I know Michelle Obama has not been given remotely that kind of consideration.

It is different when you are a Republican. At least the media has embraced this. Republicans don't have to prove their love of country, or the state of their faith, or whether they care for the lives of our soldiers. Chris Matthews knows, their the good ones. You can rely on them. And when you can't...shrug. They throw a great cocktail party, and smooth things over.

And that is the sick little relationship the media has with politics.


Here is a funny and biting parody of Expelled.

Sexpelled: No Intercourse Allowed

Anticipating success with their feature film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Producers Mark Mathis, Logan Craft and Walt Ruloff have already leaked a teaser trailer for the film's sequel. Their "teach the controversy" slogan seemed to work well in getting the general public to believe that Intelligent Design is a viable alternative scientific theory to Evolution, so the team has moved on to promoting other theories that they feel are being suppressed by the scientific community.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

That braying ass

Seems a less than flattering view of Chris Matthews has come out in a recent article.

Crooks and Liars:

I’m honestly not trying to be unkind, but that is quite clearly the intent and thrust of this Sunday’s NY Times Magazine feature on Chris Matthews.

Cable political coverage has changed, however, and so has the sensibility that viewers — particularly young ones — expect from it. Matthews’s bombast is radically at odds with the wry, antipolitical style fashioned by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert or the cutting and finely tuned cynicism of Matthews’s MSNBC co-worker Keith Olbermann. These hosts betray none of the reverence for politics or the rituals of Washington that Matthews does. On the contrary, they appeal to the eye-rolling tendencies of a cooler, highly educated urban cohort of the electorate that mostly dismisses an exuberant political animal like Matthews as annoyingly antiquated, like the ranting uncle at the Thanksgiving table whom the kids have learned to tune out.
It is almost a cruel caricature: Matthews is prone to effusively repeating phrases in increasingly louder tones; the narcissistic yet self-conscious and uncool geek enthralled with Tim Russert and threatened by kewl kids Keith Olbermann and David Gregory. It’s not the NBC News Division, it’s high school all over again with grown men several decades past knowing better. Digby:

What really cracks me up in the article is the extent to which people who are just as bad as he is in their own ways try to distance themselves from him. Just as bad are those who go out on a limb to praise him — because he’s so good for them. He does have a TV show, after all, which makes him very important no matter how ridiculous he is:

But, I can be unfair. He can be reasonable and sensible, but the guy has just slid more and more into a caricature in the last few years.


I'm still digesting the NYT Magazine profile of Chris Matthews. It's remarkable that it even exists as whatever its merits it's rare for members of the media attack their own like this. More than that, profile pieces of any kind are rarely this vicious. As our stupid discourse focuses on elitism this week, it's worth staring at this paragraph until your eyes bleed.

“I don’t think people look at me as the establishment, do you?” Matthews asked me. “Am I part of the winner’s circle in American life? I don’t think so.”
Annual salary: $5 million.
Gosh, why would anyone think of him as part of the establishment? He goes to all the parties, hangs around and chit chats with the politicos, and lauds them, but he isn't one of them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Expelled Exposed

Be sure that you do get over to Expelled Exposed. They are putting out good material and media for you to enjoy and use.

PZ Myers:

One of the more effective parts is the truth behind Expelled, which goes one by one through the cases of "expelled" creationists, and shows that they weren't — the quality of a good persecution has gone down considerably since the days of Romans with lions, I guess.

Gah, talk about being driven to drink.

Well, I have been bludgeoned by the fifth Expelled commercial. And its on Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, and, I think, History Channel. Effectively Stein sits smugly and mocks a cranky teacher, who is daring to teach him. I guess this is all part of the rebel image for the film. It ends with the idea this movie is potent as he has been sent to the principle. I guess PZ Myers mere presence must be dynamite seeing as he gets sent for just going to a movie.

But if you want to know about Expelled, be sure to check out Expelled Exposed. They can set you straight.

And let the ass kissing being!!!

I was not going to bother to mention the pope's visit to the US. Who cares?...Well, do I care? No. I had a good laugh at the special banner and music MSNBC has created for the visit and coverage. Which does make me wonder, they usually make those things for war, disaster, or national elections, which relates to Mr. Pontiff?

But I turned on cable news this afternoon to see that papal plane had arrived, and the networks were giving live and continuous coverage of it sitting there.

But the networks will stare slack jaw at a standoff or car chase.

But the talk of the pundits...YEESCH! Really it is as if the pope was a once mythic creature, or some holy groundhog popping his head once every millennium.

And the words used to describe the trip, he is here to heal, to being faiths I thought for a moment it was some cardinal talking, but it was a biographer. Such stupid flowery over the top gibberish.

They say he wants to help, but he has been attacking secular society and dogma first.

And as was noted on One Good Move,

Two questions for the pope. - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine
So journalists and reporters who can manage to get off their knees might want to ask the pope if he is conducting his own foreign policy and, if so, in consultation with whom? Then there is another question, which also raises a matter of diplomatic propriety: Why is the Vatican continuing to shelter Cardinal Bernard Law?

The way the media was talking this afternoon, I bet his farts smell like potpourri.

Oh shoot, and we missed an "spontaneous" rendition of Happy Birthday...really.

Countering ID's anemic arguments

Dr. Novella continues to look at the ridiculous arguments that arise to defend and justify Intelligent Design.

The one utility of the Evolution News and Views blog of the Discovery Institute is that it frequently demonstrates that ID proponents do not understand science and logic (or they simply don’t care, or some combination of the two). Dr. Michael Egnor is especially adept at demonstrating this critical lack of understanding, and he’s done it again. His most recent post lays out a few of the classic ID misdirections and misconceptions.

In response to my post in which I pointed out that the question is not whether there is design in nature but whether or not their is top-down (intelligent) design or bottom-up (evolved) design. Egnor argues:

No. Design is always the result of intelligent agency — by definition. It’s always top-down. Design is a mental act. Complexity can arise without intelligent design, but complexity is not the same thing as design. All design arises by intelligent agency, because that’s how design is defined. Consider the definition of design:

He then pulls the classic desperation maneuver of someone who is relying upon a semantic misdirection as if it were a logical argument - quoting a dictionary definition; as if a colloquial definition is relevant to the science. Egnor is presenting the typical “design gambit” of the ID crowd. They start with the premise that there is “design” in nature - but they don’t define design operationally or scientifically. Then they use a colloquial definition of design - that it implies an intelligent agent - and conclude that by definition life was designed by an intelligent agent. By using this purely semantic argument they bypass the actual scientific question - is the end product of life on earth the result of purposeful intelligence or did it emerge through blind natural processes?


And the attempt to drag Hitler into arguments.

The scientific community has been working overtime exposing the lies, errors, and fallacies in the Intelligent Design (ID) propaganda film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, staring Ben Stein. It’s no wonder - it’s hard not to be offended by this film. It is a work of deception from beginning to end. As Eugenie Scott reveals on the March 26th episode of the Skeptics’ Guide podcast, the scientists in the film were deceived as to the nature, title, and production company of the film at the time of their interviews. Simply put - they were shamelessly sandbagged. The content of the film is crafted deception. And the rollout of the film has been tainted with blunders covered up by more lies.

But what raises the entire affair to the level of visceral disgust is the manner in which this film attempts to blame “Darwinism” (their favorite term for those who accept evolution as a well-established scientific theory) for Hitler’s holocaust. This bit of propagandistic nonsense (if an ideologue loses the scientific battle of logic and evidence they have no choice but to fight a propaganda war of lies and deception) has been thoroughly refuted by others, even before this film was made. But I want to focus on one logical contradiction that, to my knowledge, has been glossed over (my apologies to anyone who has pointed this out and escaped my notice). Evolution deniers refute evidence for evolution from breeding and cultivation because the human-imposed selection is not natural selection. At the same time they link evolution to Hitler’s program of genocide - even though the holocaust also did not involve natural selection, but rather imposed artificial selection through murder and sterilization.

Many critics have pointed out the latter - that the Nazi eugenics program was more of a breeding program and actually had nothing to do with natural selection. At best it was a twisted and misguided abuse of evolutionary theory. In fact the concept of ethnic cleansing predates Darwin, it does not derive from it. The Nazis simply grafted on a superficial and pseudoscientific justification for their social and political ideology and deeply rooted antisemitism. In short - blaming Darwin for Hitler is demonstrably absurd.

And Phil Plait on its use in the Expelled film.

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.

And as has been pointed out, the result of Darwin's work was to discover that species evolve, die out, etc due to NATURAL selection. Natural, meaning, not being taken aside and killed. Not being demagogued against and attacked and killed for centuries, then being slaughtered in unimaginable numbers for a sociopolitical end. That is not a natural occurrence.

Financing an election.

McCain is in an odd spot with the FEC, and Dems are trying to hold his feet to the fire.

Crooks and Liars:


Amazing. The DNC has to go to court to get McCain to abide by his word on public financing. The man who chalks up campaign finance reform as one of his accomplishments doesn’t want it to apply to him. FireDogLake has a petition to sign that will be delivered on Tuesday saying that McCain must abide by the law.
But what does the media chase down?

Crooks and Liars:

McCain’s Media back in action. Did Crowley take a John McCain press release and develop this segment based on their talking points? This clip is from last Friday.

John McCain is in violation of the FEC’s public financing laws because he has signed up for it, has received money from it, procured a loan to help his primary and then went over the limit. Read here for more details. Crowley could have told you that McCain wouldn’t have had the money to produce ads in New Hampshire to win that primary without the loan. We might be talking about the Mitt Romney nomination right now. And we need to look at the bank loan more closely. The DNC has filed a complaint about it to the FEC. Plus, Jane and the blogoshere have filed a complaint against McCain’s campaign as well with over 32,000 signatures being delivered already. Wouldn’t you think that we be part of her story? Nope. Instead she does a hit job on Obama who made no such commitment.


She makes sure to frame it as if Obama is waffling out of it when McCain has his hands dirty in every way.

Remember, Obama only checked a survey box, but Candy doesn’t tell her audience that. I’ll repeat this again. John McCain actually agreed to public financing when his campaign was in trouble, borrowed money to keep it going before he won the nomination and now has spent well beyond the guidelines for which he received a stern letter from the FEC’s David Mason. Obama doesn’t need to opt out because he never signed on. I’m sure McCain was giving his staff high fives over Crowley’s report. A job well done. Full transcript below the fold.

Yeah, continue that good work CNN. Keeping your eye on the ball. But it ain't just them.


Today, the editorial writers at the Washington Post are trying to bully Obama on the issue of campaign finance. They want Obama to cut a deal over public financing with John McCain. But as the Washington Post itself told us in February, McCain is already in serious trouble with the FEC over his efforts to scam the public financing system.

And, putting aside the legal niceties for a moment - John McCain has already announced that he's pulling out of the public finance system (albeit illegally) because he wants to raise more money, unhindered by those pesky campaign finance rules he used to promote. But now McCain is signaling that he might just go back into the system in the fall general election, mostly because he hasn't been able to raise a dime from the public as compared to Obama and Clinton. So, McCain opted in to the system when he thought he'd get more money that way, then opted out (illegally) when he "realized" he'd make more money on the outside, and now he may opt back in again because the public is refusing to give him the big bucks he expected. But Obama is the one who the Washington Post editorial board has a problem with. Right.

McCain's illegal actions should be the subject of repeated editorials from the Washington Post editorial board. But, they still live in the bizarro world where John McCain is a campaign finance champion. In reality, John McCain is a campaign finance criminal. Obama cannot trust McCain on campaign finance. Ever.

Running with caricatures

Maddow continues to challenging the caricatures and archetypes the media continues to try to sell and destroy, as opposed to digging into the issues and facts.

Crooks and Liars:

On Race To The White House with David Gregory Rachel Maddow takes the rest of the talking heads to task for deeming Barack Obama’s comments at a San Francisco fundraiser damaging without tackling the truth behind the substance of what he said.

To a certain extent, I think we’re really commenting on the caricature of his comments. If you look at what he said, what he said was not that these values of small town America, and rural America and working class white America are the product of economic hardships. He’s saying that those folks in America do not believe they’re going to get any economic help from Washington so they don’t’ vote their economic interests when they vote, they instead vote these other things. It’s actually…we’re not actually taking this on as a political issue and debating whether or not that’s right or wrong. We’re debating the damage of the caricature of his comments. It’s this…become this meta-narrative about how he’s been described rather than actually taking on the meat of what he argued.

Friday, April 11, 2008



When John McCain changes his position on relief for homeowners after two weeks, it's called 'refining' his plan.

Late Update: The Times does a bit better: "McCain Reverses Himself on Mortgage Position" Was that so hard?

Not flip flopping.


So I'm trying to make sense of McCain's "refined" plan. Two weeks ago, he wondered aloud how "4 million mortgages [could] cause this much trouble for us all," and suggested that if those borrowers just took fewer vacations and managed their budgets more effectively, they wouldn't be in trouble. Today, he promised to help "every deserving American family or homeowner." So how many American families are deserving? McCain's top economic policy adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, places the number between 200,000 and 400,000 households; just those families "who really need help."

Great. So to be clear, McCain thinks that millions of Americans are going to lose their homes, and all but a few hundred thousand are just getting what they deserve.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

84th Meeting of the Skeptic’s Circle

The 84th Meeting of the Skeptic’s Circle is being convened at Archaeoporn.

Unlike Jesus, the Skeptic’s Circle is back right on time.

The last two weeks the interweb has offered up some choice skeptical writings, and now the Skeptic’s circle is here to bring them all to you in one place.

Now, let’s embark on a look at everything having to do with pseudo-science, alternative medicine, theism, and the wrest of the woo.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Ghosts and the USAF

Tonight was a new episode of the show Ghost Hunters. In it they visit Wright-Patterson AFB.

Interesting bit in the news about the visit and show.

The visit had to be approved by the Pentagon; Derek Kaufman, a base spokesman, said military officials considered the amount of exposure it would bring the base.

"It did have a lot to do with our decision to invite them out," Kaufman said. "It's a great showcase of Wright-Patterson for a national audience we wouldn't otherwise reach."

The Air Force recently launched a new "national awareness campaign," Kaufman said. In Jaunuary he described the 'Ghost Hunters' as "rock stars" to the age group the Air Force is trying to recruit.

"The show is huge with the 17 to 24 year-old market we are trying to attract," he said.

Now to be fair, the armed forces have every right to promote themselves and spur what has been lackluster recruitment. And they do it all the time already with ads all over the airways. And it is not like this is the first time Ghost Hunters has used their viewership to get in to places and also promoted haunted inns, restaurants, and historic sites. If you watch them, notice who the people get to introduce their places and at the end the guys always rave about the place. Deal complete. And that is real life.

But I wonder what does bug we more? The air force giving legitimacy to this woo? This show acting as an hour long recruitment poster? I think I am more disappointed in the air force. Let us face it thee guys have promoted the stupid magic meters, and in essence acted as an infomercial, at the place of the most noted Charles Manson murders (I think, I haven't seen the episode in a while and may be misremembering.). But the armed forces...they do stick all the young recruits in Colorado Springs and surround them with evangelists, what should I expect. But it was bad enough when the military aid after Katrina was trying to exorcise haunted spots in the flooded city (No. Get the water out, power on, and get the living back in.).

McCain logic

I thought this was a nice reading of McCain's thinking.

To get a feel for what McCain was saying, about the best account I've seen is Rick Hertzberg's in The New Yorker. He was there at the townhall meeting and wrote up his account shortly thereafter.

Read the whole thing; but here's Rick's conclusion and response to those who even then were already saying McCain was being taken out of context ...

You have to hand it to McCain. It's impossible to imagine any of the other Republicans engaging in this kind of extended conversation with a citizen. There was more real debate in this exchange than in any of the so-called real debates.

But what the context shows, I think, is that yanking that sound bite out of context isn’t really all that unfair. McCain's wants to stay in Iraq until no more Americans are getting killed, no matter how long it takes and how many Americans get killed achieving that goal—that is, the goal of not getting any more Americans killed. And once that goal is achieved, we'll stay.
Bolding by me.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Crop Circle

Dr. Novella reran an interesting look at crop circles. I wanted to share it as it gives me an excuse to reminisce about a funny moment I saw in one of the many documentaries shown on cable lauding and claiming to examine the phenomenon.

In it a true believer, as he stood in the middle of one circle, with a film crew and other enthusiast, who were studying it, claimed the circle, like other circles, had amazing properties. Apparently, it disrupts electronic devices...Think about that scene. Beyond the others with equipment studying the circle, you have a film crew, with booms, cameras, etc. Yet they had no trouble whatsoever filming a long interview and shots of enthusiast looking around the circle. No camera going funny, no sound system going on the fritz. One would think they would have included that as damning proof, if it occurred. But no. I wonder how an experienced film crew, well versed in technical malfunctions reacted to the claim and its divergence from reality. They must have had to work hard to stifle laughter.

Dr. Novella:
Several years ago a “crop circle” (actually a crop square) appeared in Martha Bailey’s cornfield in New Milford, CT. Her field is surrounded by a 7-foot-tall fence of chicken wire and wood. Overnight, in the middle of the field, a “perfect” square of flattened down corn appeared. According to Martha, “Everything was secure, the gates were locked, [so] it had to be something that touched down and flattened it.”

By something, she probably meant an extraterrestrial landing ship. Rather than looking for simpler explanations—like, say, someone climbing a chickenwire fence—believers in crop circles often posit visits from aliens or other paranormal explanations. And, perhaps fueled by pop-culture references like the 1999 M. Night Shyamalan movie Signs , the ranks of believers are growing. For the last couple of decades, mainly in English-speaking nations, summer brings with it an increasing number of ever-more-elaborate pictures made in large fields of wheat and other crops. Crop circle season exactly coincides—amazingly—with the end of school and the beginning of summer vacation.


Continuing trouble with Sadr

Informed Comment:
I am always astounded at the combination of unrealistic optimism and foolish gullibility that marks political discourse on the Right in Washington. We were being told by Rich Lowry at the National Review that Sadr was on the ropes and on the verge of disbanding the Mahdi Army because the other political factions had turned on him, and that the others had had their militias join the regular security forces.

So let us get this straight. Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fought off thousands of regular Iraqi army troops in Basra and Baghdad, and perhaps thousands of those troops deserted rather than fight. So the Mahdi Army won big and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki lost. Also the US military trainers of the Iraqi troops lost face.

So the next thing we hear is that al-Maliki is talking big and demanding that the Mahdi Army be dissolved. Usually you get to talk big if you win the military battle, not if you lose.

The Sadrists have no intention of dissolving the Mahdi Army, according to this Arabic source, quoting Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi. They point out, pace that great Iraq expert Lowry, that there are 28 militias in Iraq. The Badr Corps of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) still exists as a stand alone organization. In fact it ran as a political party in the elections and holds both provincial and federal seats. It hasn't been complete merged into the state security forces as Lowry alleged. And anyway, painting a sign on a militia saying 'this one is legitimate because its party won the last election' is not going to convince any real Iraqis.

As it happens, the parliamentary representatives of Mosul demanded Monday that the Kurdish Peshmerga be dissolved. (Hint: Hell will freeze over first).
Then the US press went wild for this supposed report that Muqtada al-Sadr said he would dissolve his militia if Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani ordered it. Folks, he always says that when there is a controversy. (He said the same thing in spring, 2004). He says it because he knows it makes him look reasonable to the Shiite public. He says it because he knows that the grand ayatollahs are not going to touch the matter with a ten foot pole. They are not so foolish as to take responsibility for dissolving a militia that they had nothing to do with creating. And that is probably the real meaning of this CNN report that they 'refused' when asked. I doubt the grand ayatollahs in Najaf actively commanded Muqtada to keep his militia. They just declined to get drawn in.

So the idea that, having lost militarily, al-Maliki and his political allies (who are a minority in parliament now) could just a couple of days later jawbone Muqtada into giving up his paramilitary was always absurd.

As for the the threat that the Sadrists would not be allowed to run in the provincial elections in the fall unless the Mahdi Army was dissolved, it is either empty or very dangerous. First of all, not only Sadrists but also other observers have pointed out that excluding parties from running in elections is not the prerogative of the prime minister. It is a matter that would have to be passed by parliament. And since the parliamentarians who would be voting to dissolve all militias ahead of elections are all in parties that maintain militias, it would be political suicide for them to vote that way. Of course, they could just play the hypocrite card and declare, as Lowry did, that their militias are not militias, whereas the Mahdi Army is a militia.

But if the Sadrists are really excluded from civil politics, and they are the majority in the South, then you will have just pushed a majority of Iraqis out of the political process and potentially into civil violence. Isn't that the opposite of the goal here?


TPMtv - 100 years

John McCain won't stop trying to change the subject. And the RNC just won't stop lying on his behalf about his 100 years in Iraq remark. In today's episode we run through the record. That one townhall event wasn't the only time he said this. At other points he said 1000 years, 10,000 years, even a million years. In other words, he was saying this all the time. Now he wants to run away from it, change the subject, change what he meant and generally bully anybody who wants to bring it up.


Late Update: Here's a post at Redstate getting readers to Mau-Mau reporters into leavin McCain alone on the 100 years comment. And remember, 100 years was his short prediction. At other points he was good with 1000 or even 10,000 years.


TPM - More on the McCain Bamboozle

"Celebrities" and Ghost Hunting

Here is a funny video from a Brit show called, Harry Hill's TV Burp. It seems akin to The Soup on E!, mocking TV and pop culture.

In this clip, Harry digs into the latest reality show consisting of "celebrities". And as Harry says, "I use the term lightly." This show is called Ghost Hunting with I Am Celebrity. So you have the fun of ghosts, haunted houses, and D-list celebs. What a highly mockable mix.

The US has its share. A year or two back they had some Celebrity Paranormal Project, or something, shown at Halloween. It was silly, with people chasing shadows, and being plopped into clearly staged situations. Not to say the other paranormal shows in the US, are not laughable as well.

Now the clip.

First is a hilarious bit with a big nob. The guy is actually sitting alone in the dark with a flashlight and a camera, filming himself screaming and shitting himself over every groan of the house and every shadow he sees.

The Harry looks at the teams attempt at spirit writing. And the comedy look he gives the camera before showing the clip is priceless.

So you get a bit of celeb mocking and ridicule of the whole chasing shadows and thumps in creaky old places.

I have to try to check this show out some time.

Trying to be vague, to not look stupid

And failing.

Crooks and Liars:

During today’s hearing with Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) questioned Petraeus on what he called “the major threat” of al Qaeda in Iraq. In the wake of his recent confusion over the nature of al Qaeda, McCain today seemed to refer to al Qaeda as a “sect of Shi’ites”:

MCCAIN: Do you still view al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?

PETRAEUS: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was say 15 months ago.

MCCAIN: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shi’ites overall?


MCCAIN: Or Sunnis or anybody else.
It’s really embarrassing that the guy who has built his whole campaign over staying in Iraq doesn’t understand the players at all. Of course the media will never point this out, but it’s ridiculous that he has made the same gaffe over and over again and can still be considered credible on National Security. As the Democratic Party blog said:

ThinkProgress also has it, and they flag down this quote: “Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.”
You can watch McCain’s whole opening statement here.

The Skeptologists

Finally, some good TV is coming. Not just, new Doctor Who, but also...

A series produced in part by the fellow who bring us Skeptoid. The Skeptologists.

A team of skeptics go and look into dispelling the blight of pseudoscience and paranormal woo.

In the cast of thinkers:

Including Phil Plaitt, astronomer and the great Bad Astronomer.


Michael Shermer (top banana at The Skeptic Society),

Yau-Man Chan (Chief Technology Officer at UC Berkeley’s College of Chemistry and contestant on "Survivor: Fiji"),

Kirsten Sanford (neurophysiologist and host of This Week in Science),

Mark Edward (mentalist), and

Steven Novella (medical doctor, host of The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, and professional Rebecca-reigner-inner).


Top notch astronomer, one of the world's leading skeptics, and Dr. Novella, who also bring us Neurologica and Science-Based Medicine. And from what Novella has said in the SGU podcasts, the whole cast is great, fun, engaging, and eager to mesh and work together. And from what I saw on Survivor, Yau-Man Chan is pretty darn cool. Plus they have a mentalist, along with the learned Dr. Shermer, so between them they should be able to cut through a whole lot of wooey.

This should be great!

The pilot is done filing, so we will have to see where it goes from here.

And to note the show now has a facebook page.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Illinois joins Texas in barring atheist

Yeah, Texas. That is an example you want to follow. In Illinois's case, a state rep tried to run an atheist advocate giving testimony out of the building...for being an atheist...and EEEEVVVILLLLL...

PZ Myers:
The governor of Illinois has been playing some games with state money, shuffling a million dollars to benefit a Baptist church, and an atheist dared to testify to the legislature against this. The response from one legislator was unsurprising: she shrieked at the atheist to get out.

Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) interrupted atheist activist Rob Sherman during his testimony Wednesday afternoon before the House State Government Administration Committee in Springfield and told him, "What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous . . . it's dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!

"This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God," Davis said. "Get out of that seat . . . You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon."
Disbelief in religion means you have "no right" to speak to members of government? Wow. And note the "D" after her name — she's a member of the party most (but definitely not all!) American atheists lean towards.

There's more on this exchange: it looks like Sherman kept his cool, while Davis spewed her hate.

Chicago atheists, you know what to do: next election, campaign against Monique Davis. Get someone who is not a raving nutbag to run. Right now, her district needs to flood her mailbox with letters of protest. You can find her contact information online; let her know that you do not appreciate her efforts to disenfranchise and discriminate against you.
Again, a democrat? I have been willing to give those like Obama, Clinton, and Edwards leeway, knowing they are willing to not be driven by religion. This is an example of being driven by an extreme. Those that think differently than you must be barred, driven out, and cursed. This is someone it is clear you can not talk to, debate, or argue with.

This kind of bigot does need to be voted out.

McCain, you're up.

Well, some like FOX News, spent the weekend trying to pull out negativity from the Clinton tax returns. Dick Morris looked to have a hard on all weekend trying to parse through it for weapons to use.

But what about Johnny?

The DNC wants to know where McCain's tax returns are. So do we. Given McCain's utter contempt for campaign finance laws (he's breaking the law), we really need full disclosure.

Yesterday, CNN reported on McCain's access to lots of money from his second wife. Lots of money:

As heiress to her father's stake in Hensley & Co. of Phoenix, Cindy McCain is an executive whose worth may exceed $100 million. Her beer earnings have afforded the GOP presidential nominee a wealthy lifestyle with a private jet and vacation homes at his disposal, and her connections helped him launch his political career -- even if the millions remain in her name alone. Yet the arm's-length distance between McCain and his wife's assets also has helped shield him from conflict-of-interest problems.
Remember how the right wingers made Teresa Heinz Kerry (and her wealth) an issue in 2004? Remember that?
He has said he will release it by Tax Day. Why the delay? What ya hiding?

With all the hubbub over Mark Penn and his lobbying on the side, I had wanted to also mention this business in comparison. People like Matthews are just outraged at a lobbyiest working in the Clinton campaign...what about all the lobbyiest sitting beside McCain on his bus, doing lobbying, all while aiding his campaign. Any outrage for this Matthews? Any at all?

More digusting stories from Iraq

It's painful to even try to address a story like this, but it's one of those things that needs to be out in the open, recognized, and acted upon. The Nation has a gut-wrenching article about yet another rape perpetrated against a KBR employee in Iraq, and the subsequent (inevitable, horrifying) cover-up by KBR and neglect by our government. This is ugly, ugly stuff (trigger warning):

... [You can go to the link if you want to see the segment of the story discussing the brutality inflicted by a soldier and a fellow contractor.]

Did KBR jump to action? Did the US government take steps to address this horror? Of course not. KBR tried to cover it up, told her to keep quiet, tried to compel her to sign nondisclosure agreements, and spied on her. The US took no steps to prosecute.

And here where it gets a little bit technical: In terms of redress for harm, there are usually two routes a person can go -- criminal and civil. For criminal prosecution, contractors working in Iraq are currently immune from Iraqi law, and their legal status under US law is murky at best. In theory, according to the article, the Justice Department could bring criminal charges in federal court, but that's up to a prosecutor. Since a contractor in Iraq wouldn't have standing in any federal district court, I'm guessing -- though I'm not 100% sure and would welcome more informed commentary -- DOJ proper would have to bring criminal charges. Now, less than a month ago, SecDef Gates issued a directive allowing for UCMJ authority over civilian contractors, meaning that military police now have authority over contractors, at least in theory, though obviously MPs are not generally in the business of policing contractors.

Overall, though, in five years of war, with 180,000 civilian contractors working in Iraq, not a single criminal charge has been brought against any of them. You think among 180,000 people in the middle of a war zone some crimes are being committed? Maybe? But there are no police officers, no clear legal authority or system, and apparently no interest in or process for holding people accountable for their crimes committed overseas. A nonprofit recently set up to support contractors with incidents of sexual assault or harassment has 40 reports already; again, no criminal charges filed. Ever. In five years.

On the civil side, all sorts of torts were (allegedly) committed against the subject of the article (assault, battery, false imprisonment, and IIED, at the very least), which would ordinarily allow for a lawsuit, which could also shed some light on the larger problem (through discovery processes, publicity, etc). Enter, however, one of the more malicious legal developments of recent years: the binding arbitration clause. Natasha Chart has an excellent and comprehensive rundown, the short version of which is that a skyrocketing number of contracts include language barring civil court remedies in favor of closed, non-public, and unappealable arbitration. Initially used primarily in consumer contracts, binding arbitration clauses are increasingly snuck into employment contracts, and they often -- unconscionably, in my admittedly inexpert view -- cover intentional torts as well as negligence. It's really a horrible and horrifying situation, and it should offend any reasonable person's sense of justice.

Congress is looking into it -- at the behest of, in particular, Rep. Poe and Rep. Conyers -- and one can only hope they, y'know, do something to fix this, both on an individual level and as a matter of overall policy.
Boldfacing added by me.

So we have managed to set up a system where women, effectively, going to Iraq to serve or help rebuild are easy targets for rapes, brutality, and general cruelty. Is that part of Bush romantic vision? Is it part of McCain's Surge success?

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Victims

PZ Myers:

Did you know that it is assumed that if you are a Christian and a teacher, that you oppose the teaching of evolution and want to introduce creationism into the classroom?

Did you know that people purporting to represent you will be going before state legislatures and telling your representatives that creationism is the Christian perspective?

Did you know that people are collecting stories about getting slapped down for teaching nonsense in science class, and are telling politicians that it's because they are Christian?

You know, I think Christianity is awfully foolish anyway, but I'm a goddamned atheist. You don't care what I think. But I would think the concerted and largely successful effort in our culture to equate Christianity with the idiocy of belief in a 6000 year old world or a god who meddles in trivialities or denying the facts of a natural world would piss you off. Unless it's true, that is, that you don't mind having your religious beliefs associated with flaming anti-scientific lunacy.

Maybe you should try squawking a little louder. You could start by writing to David Bracklin and letting him know that stupidity isn't supposed to be a Christian sacrament.
This silliness goes all around. Behe was trying to sell creationism recently as science in another courtroom. And failed again.

And it follows in Scotland as well. Where when Richard Dawkins goes to speak, they protest and declare that Christians are not given equal time, the religious organization that has the largest membership, the one that has been around 2 millennia, and was forced as law for ages in Europe, and...oh that's right is the state religion of Great Britain. Yeah, not equal time...sure.

Better yet, are the ones that say there is an "unbalanced debate" between evolution and creationism. Sounds right one is science, one myth. Trouble is that too many think myth should outweigh reality.

But remember it is the promoters of the myths in science class that are the victims...

Autism troubles in law and blogs

PZ Myers:
The Sykes family has my sympathy — they have an autistic child, and that has to be difficult. My sympathy is limited, however, by the fact that are lashing out seeking to blame someone, have bought into the thimerosal hysteria, have hired a bottom-feeding shyster to sue various pharmaceutical companies, and said unethical ambulance-chaser is now using the power of the subpoena to harrass and intimidate bloggers who aren't at all involved in the case, but have simply written about the absence of a thimerosal-autism link.

They have subpoenaed Kathleen Seidel of the Neurodiversity blog for, well, just about anything they can think of. She isn't involved in the trial otherwise; she is a knowledgeable person with no special inside information on either the Sykes or the drug company, but has only written critically about the case as an outsider. For that, her reward is that a lawyer with a history of attempts to use bad science in legal cases wants to silence her.

There's more on the case at Pure Pedantry and Overlawyered.
It is an uncomfortable situation. You have grieving parents, angry and focused on what they believe is wrong. On Wednesday, CNN had on the actress Jenny McCarthy, who has an autistic child. She was angry and firm on stating that vaccine causes autism. A fact. That parents have seen it happen, and anecdotal stories are scientific evidence. Facts.

You have an upset parent, that is hard to deal with. For many telling them, "No, anecdotes are not evidence. They are flawed, actual research and measures need to be taken. And they have, and it counters those anecdotes." You are going to have your ass chewed for saying it. It is true, but it is not going to be appreciated.

But it has to be said, repeatedly. The real causes need to be found. Hopefully these parents can come to see this. For the sake of their and other kids.

More on treatment of women working in Iraq

Crooks and Liars points to this new story (in a long line):
The Nation

It was an early January morning in 2008 when 42-year-old Lisa Smith*, a paramedic for a defense contractor in southern Iraq, woke up to find her entire room shaking. The shipping container that served as her living quarters was reverberating from nearby rocket attacks, and she was jolted awake to discover an awful reality. “Right then my whole life was turned upside down,” she says. [..NSFW description of Smith’s rape]

Over the next few weeks Smith would be told to keep quiet about the incident by a KBR supervisor. The camp’s military liaison officer also told her not to speak about what had happened, she says. And she would follow these instructions. “Because then, all of a sudden, if you’ve done exactly what you’ve been instructed not to do–tell somebody–then you’re in danger,” Smith says.

As a brand-new arrival at Camp Harper, she had not yet forged many connections and was working in a red zone under regular rocket fire alongside the very men who had participated in the attack. (At one point, as the sole medical provider, she was even forced to treat one of her alleged assailants for a minor injury.) She waited two and a half weeks, until she returned to a much larger facility, to report the incident. “It’s very easy for bad things to happen down there and not have it be even slightly suspicious.”

Over the next month and a half, she says, she faced a series of hurdles. She would be discouraged from reporting the incident by several KBR employees, she says. She would be confused by the lack of any written medical protocol for sexual assault (as the only medical person on site, she treated herself with doxycycline). She would wander through a tangled maze of interviews with KBR and Army investigators about the incident without any clear explanation of her rights. She would be asked to sign several documents agreeing not to publicly discuss the incident, she says. She describes having her computer–which she saw as her lifeline, her main access to the outside world–confiscated by Army investigators as “evidence” within hours of receiving her first e-mail from a stateside lawyer she had reached out to for help.

And eventually she would find herself temporarily assigned to sleeping quarters between two Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) officials, who, she says, assured her that it was for her own safety, since her alleged assailants were at the same camp for questioning; they roamed freely. When she wanted to move about the camp to get meals etc., she was escorted.
Smith felt very alone. But she was not.

In fact, a growing number of women employees working for US defense contractors in the Middle East are coming forward with complaints of violence directed at them. As the Iraq War drags on, and as stories of US security contractors who seem to operate with impunity continue to emerge (like Blackwater and its deadly attack against Iraqi civilians on September 16, 2007), a rash of new sexual assault and sexual harassment complaints are being lodged against overseas contractors–by their own employees. Read on…
How is this not a major story for the news? Oh, wait, there is a barn fire AND a high speed car chase to cover right now.

For the regular folk

Crooks and Liars:

Man, I can’t wait for the PA primary. Now we’re stuck with endless debates between Obama and Hillary supporters 24/7 while John McCain goes around and around “Re-Branding” himself as a warrior of some kind. Anyway, Digby catches Tweety doing the usual hatchet job for McCain:

Sure enough, the bowling thing seems to have brought old Chris back to his “thesis:”

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about how he — how’s he connect with regular people? Does he? Or does he only appeal to people who come from the African-American community and from the people who have college or advanced degrees?…
Remember back in the dark days of 2004, when it was assumed that anyone who didn’t live in a small town in Nebraska or Alabama was automatically not a Real American? When we were all told to take our latte sipping, New York Times reading asses back to where we done come from? Yep, here we are again. (African Americans, of course, have never been considered “regular people” by conservatives. Nothing new there.)…read on
WTF is “regular people?” The media wants to pick our candidates for us plain and simple. They can’t stay out of the way and let the people vote. And we are voting at record numbers. Endless loops of footage that do not teach us anything. I talked to a network reporter who is covering the Dems and he/she said that they never knew McCain flip flopped on waterboarding. They were shocked. I was shocked too. This person is an honest broker of the facts so I realized that it’s up to the network heads to make sure they cover McCain. And obviously they are not.

While it might be used as a Letterman punch line for a second, why does it matter if Obama is a terrible bowler to the press? Yet, over and over again we see it. When has Matthews and the Village elites laced up their shoes and gone bowling when they haven’t hired the entire alley—all for themselves? Nuff said.
Nicholas Kristof has a good column in today's New York Times. Here's a taste:

From Singapore to Japan, politicians pretend to be smarter and better- educated than they actually are, because intellect is an asset at the polls. In the United States, almost alone among developed countries, politicians pretend to be less worldly and erudite than they are (Bill Clinton was masterful at hiding a brilliant mind behind folksy Arkansas sayings about pigs).

Alas, when a politician has the double disadvantage of obvious intelligence and an elite education and then on top of that tries to educate the public on a complex issue -- as Al Gore did about climate change -- then that candidate is derided as arrogant and out of touch.

The dumbing-down of discourse has been particularly striking since the 1970s. Think of the devolution of the emblematic conservative voice from William Buckley to Bill O'Reilly.
Well said!


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Psychics and Handwriting Analysis

Dr. Steven Novella:

At a recent medical conference, a pharmaceutical company was offering free handwriting analysis–for “entertainment” of course. Always game, I agreed to have the depths of my personality laid bare, betrayed by the sweep of my s and the boldness of my t . To my skeptical eye, the results were laughably mundane and predictable. The reader knew, of course, that I was a physician, so it was no surprise when he “read” in my handwriting that I like science and have a desire to care for people. Wow!

But others were impressed by the apparent accuracy of their readings. The results are not dissimilar to many friends and acquaintances who have visited a local psychic, tarot card reader, or astrologer, and the many more who have seen TV psychics like John Edward and Sylvia Browne. “How do you explain this?” people ask, very impressed, convinced that something paranormal must be going on.

But like any magic trick, the real answer is far simpler than you would imagine. Psychics will continue to shout “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” while they try to dazzle their marks with fire and smoke-but once you’ve seen the man behind the curtain, the show is over.

So let’s have a peek.


Michael Shermer also has gone into handwriting analysis: (2 Parts)

4th that important?

Always Read the Footnotes

The AP did:

For at least 16 months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, the Bush administration believed that the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures on U.S. soil didn't apply to its efforts to protect against terrorism.

That view was expressed in a secret Justice Department legal memo dated Oct. 23, 2001. The administration on Wednesday stressed that it now disavows that view.

The October 2001 memo was written at the request of the White House by John Yoo, then the deputy assistant attorney general, and addressed to Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time. The administration had asked the department for an opinion on the legality of potential responses to terrorist activity.

The 37-page memo is classified and has not been released. Its existence was disclosed Tuesday in a footnote of a separate secret memo, dated March 14, 2003, released by the Pentagon in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

''Our office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations,'' the footnote states, referring to a document titled ''Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States.''

Rep vs Reality

In this post The Atlantic Monthly's Marc Ambinder notes that top lobbyist Doug Davenport is joining the McCain campaign as one of its ten regional campaign managers. He also, as Ambinder notes, one of the founders and current chief lobbyist for the DCI Group. Now, as long time TPM readers know, DCI is the Republican outfit when it comes to 'astroturf' (i.e., phoney) grassroots campaigns and sundry campaign bamboozlment.

Separate from his affiliation with the key GOP slimesters, there's also the issue of Davenport's being another top tier lobbyist helping run McCain's campaign. And with reference to that, I found this line from Marc's post particularly revealing: "Davenport's new position is certain to precipitate complaints from rivals that McCain is packing his campaign with the lobbyists whose conduct he has denounced. McCain's advisers have said that McCain's credentials as a reformer are solid and can overcome any optics problem that comes along with hiring lobbyists."

To be clear, I think he is accurately conveying the McCain line here. But look what it's actually saying: that McCain's reputation as someone who won't truck with lobbyist is so strong that it can overcome the fact that he's staffing his campaign with top dollar lobbyists, i.e., my reputation trumps the evidence.

Jonah Goldberg...can he continue to get more wronger?

PZ Myers:
You never can tell with Jonah Goldberg — everything he writes tends to be so stupid you're left thinking that he must be joking. He's just finished watching that new propaganda movie, Fitna, which portrays some of the worst atrocities of Islam — beheadings and terrorism and rioting and fatwas, etc. — and what does this bring to his feeble mind? Those awful, evil, odious atheists who put Darwin fish on their cars. After all, chopping heads off people is exactly equivalent to putting a bumper sticker on your Volvo.


But basically, his whole argument is ridiculous. Having a statement that proclaims your acceptance of the scientific evidence over the bizarre revelations of an old, data-free book is not bigotry, and it is especially not comparable to religious fanatics murdering people. It is also ironic for a dogmatic conservative like Goldberg to be whining about the "agreed-on etiquette of identity politics" — I've never seen that coming from his side of the political fence. I grew up with "America: Love It or Leave It" bumper stickers yammering at me from the back of cars, and now we've got "Anti-War=Pro-Terrorism", and of course Goldberg's own book, Liberal Fascism. His "agreed-on etiquette" is nothing but a set of rules he applies only to his political opponents and never to his political allies.

As noted this is the guy that gave us Liberal Fascism, in which he wants people to believe that he has shown that liberals are fascist and...if you have ever heard him, Coulter, Malkin, etc, speak, you know what his bit is.

Behe amazes

PZ Myers:
Mike Dunford has a series of articles on a recent California court decision — in brief, Christian homeschoolers tried to sue California universities to force them to accept courses taught with Christianist literalist creationist textbooks as legitimate, college-level science credit, and they lost. They lost hard.

But the really funny part is that the creationists brought in Mike Behe as a friendly witness. Behe was asked to review the creationist textbooks that they used, bad books that anyone can see are misleading, unrepresentative, and ridiculous, and he approved them. The man has no standards and no credibility, and it's appalling that he is such a man-whore for creationism that he'd approve even young earth creationist, fundamentalist books as reasonable texts for a science class.

But that's not what the judge in this case ruled on; rather, Behe's defense of these books was that it was "abusive" to ask students to subscribe to an idea like evolution with which they disagree. Setting aside the obvious point that the whole point of education is to introduce students to a multitude of ideas with which they may or may not agree, the judge pointed out that the books which Behe approved flatly state that Christians must accept creationist conclusions—unlike our biology books, which don't demand any religious litmus test of their readers—and were therefore perfect examples of exactly the problem he was complaining about.


Rachel - 1 Joe - 0

Rachel Maddow refused to just let Joe Scarborough just laud McCain without looking at McCain's choice to flip flop all over the place in running for president. Joe wasn't a happy camper.

Positive imagery

The Hathor Legacy, is a good site for discussion of imagery in popular media, like TV and books. It gives interesting opinions on what is out there.

One good recent story is about the finale of the British series, Vicar of Dibley. It is a humorous series about a small village in central England, full of quirky characters, that gets a new vicar, a female one, back when that was still a major hubbub. Her character is a witty, sarcastic, passionate, opinionated, and occasionally goofy vicar. Played by comedian Dawn French, she is also not waifish. Nor has she been as far back as I have seen her career, but she does not make her weight the center of her comedy, she and this show have plenty of material to not have to rely on that as primary humor. Including dealing with small town politics, her attempts to update her services, the antics of her friends on the town council, etc. Did I mention her randy sense of humor.

As the series ends, she meets up with a fellow, who becomes smitten with her, so it looks like marriage is in the air.

Hathor Legacy:
He falls in love with her at first sight. Which addresses a concern several of us have voiced: there are so many stories of ordinary-looking men with wives who look like supermodels, so where are all the stories of ordinary-looking women with gorgeous men falling for them?

Well, this is one, and the whole story including subplots is really funny and adorable, so I recommend it for all sorts of reasons aside from the fact that it dares to show a non-super-modelly middle-aged woman as worthy of true love and a traditionally hot younger guy as capable of looking right at her and loving what he sees. Without attempts to rationalize or explain it or make excuses. It just is. It’s treated as no more or less remarkable than any meeting of two people who fall in love.

Also, Dawn French jumping into a puddle so deep she completely disappears. Trust me: when you see it, you’ll understand why you needed to.

Women in the military

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) has an op-ed in the LA Times where she reveals that "women serving in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq."

My jaw dropped when the doctors told me that 41% of female veterans seen at the clinic say they were victims of sexual assault while in the military, and 29% report being raped during their military service. They spoke of their continued terror, feelings of helplessness and the downward spirals many of their lives have since taken.

Numbers reported by the Department of Defense show a sickening pattern. In 2006, 2,947 sexual assaults were reported -- 73% more than in 2004.

Harman also writes that there's an "unwillingness to prosecute rapists in the ranks." Only 181 out of 2,212 people investigated for sexual assault in 2007 were referred to courts-martial (prosecution); many others were dealt with by "nonpunitive administrative action" or "nonjudicial punishment," the equivalent to a slap on the wrist. Just horrifying.

For a more information and resources on sexual assault in the military see the Veterans for America and their list of rape crisis centers near military bases; the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence also has a long list of resources for military women; and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center has statistics. For those who are looking for more theory-based info, check out just about anything by Cynthia Enloe.


Out of Basra


Within less than a week the Basra offensive has gone from "a defining moment" in Iraqi's history, in the President's words, to an operation conceived by Maliki that the U.S. didn't plan, had little warning of, and couldn't control.
Not good...but wait, McCain sees the good news.

Crooks and Liars:


(h/t Heather) For a man who predicates his whole candidacy on foreign policy and the Iraq war, he certainly doesn’t have a clue what the Iraqi government is doing even after he went to Iraq and spoke with Maliki right before the Basra assault took place. How embarrassing for him.

McCain was asked if the Basra campaign had backfired, he said: “Apparently it was Sadr who asked for the ceasefire, declared a ceasefire. It wasn’t Maliki. Very rarely do I see the winning side declare a ceasefire. So we’ll see.’’
Olbermann fills in St. McCain (or should we call him McGaffe) on his newest Iraq blunder via McClatchy:

Keith: that Sadr had only called for the ceasefire after members of Maliki’s government askedSadr to do so in a during a secret trip to meet with Sadr in Iran.—making McCain wrong about the facts on his signature issue, making Sadr not Maliki the victor in this conflict by McCain’s own reasoning. And making Iran and not McCain and not the US the mediator of choice for Iraq’s two top Shi’a factions. The Maliki government and the Sadrists.
And this is even worse news for Maliki’s government:

Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran’s Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations, members of the Iraqi parliament said.

The Qom discussions may or may not bring an end to the fighting but they almost certainly have undermined Maliki - who made repeated declarations that there would be no negotiations and that he would treat as outlaws those who did not turn in their weapons for cash. The blow to his own credibility was worsened by the fact that members of his own party had helped organize the Iran initiative…
Read the whole article so you’ll be more informed than McCain.
I am sure the news media will get right on this. Oh, yeah...

Crooks and Liars:
Yep, we’ll have a chance with them in November:

During an interview with Sen. Chuck Hagel, Charlie Rose falsely asserted that Sen. John McCain “early on call[ed] for the firing of Secretary Rumsfeld.” In fact, while McCain expressed “no confidence” in Rumsfeld in 2004, he did not call for him to be fired; he said the decision about whether Rumsfeld should leave was the president’s.

The media.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Why do they bring him on.

It is bad enough he is on their other channel, but why does CNN continue to bring Beck on to the mother channel to speak on all manner of subjects of which he has no clue, and just raves.

Crooks and Liars:

It’s bad enough he’s on Headline News, but why does Glenn Beck show up as a financial analyst on CNN to defend big oil as they face Congress?

“On April Fool’s Day, the biggest joke of all is being played on American families by big oil,” said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
We could be experiencing “the apocalypse” and he’d be saying that we’re just experiencing some unusual weather formations at the moment. “Stay in your homes, people. It’ll all be over soon!” Ali Velshi begins a segment about Big Oil being grilled by Congress today over their huge profits, tax breaks and how it’s affecting Americans. We really need a right wing oil apologist on the air to muddy the waters in a time when this country’s economy is falling apart and people can’t pay their bills. Of course we need Corporations making money, but at what cost to the people? And how much money should they be making and how are they making it? We need the CNN’s of the world to give us facts and information—not far right opinions. We almost slipped into a depression with the Bear Stearns fiasco. How’s your gas bill lately? He had a lot of nerve by praising Beck’s intelligence:

Velshi: The average American struggle at the pump, my next guest says—not so fast, a good deal of the American public whether they know it or not have a vested interest in big oil making big money. Headline News host and radio personality Glenn Beck joins me now. He makes a lot of sense a lot of the time, what are you talking about. Glenn. We have a vested interest in these guys making more money?

Beck: When are we going to pull Big Milk to Capitol hill. When are we going to pull up Big Egg on Capitol Hill.
You can write a transcript if you like. Yes, food is up too. Maybe the erosion of the US dollar has something to do with it? Not that I’m an economist, but again, he’s trying to fog up the issue. Here’s a few of the very serious and sensible things Glenn Beck has said on the air in the past that made CNN use him during their important economy show.

Glenn Beck: McCain’s buddy Hagee Reassures Beck That Obama Is NOT The Anti-Christ

Glenn Beck: if you’re an ugly woman, you’re probably a progressive as well

Glenn Beck on Why You’re Going to Learn to Love John McCain

CNN’s Beck on wildfire victims: On the October 22 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program, host Glenn Beck stated, “I think there is a handful of people who hate America.

Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today.

CNN’s Beck to first-ever Muslim congressman: “[W]hat I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies’ “


We've resisted the urge to foist fake news on you in honor of April Fool's Day. But today we've decided to bring you some of my own true moments of foolishness. You may think putting together TPMtv is just a walk in the park. But try keeping a straight face with Florida Rep. Bob Allen's claim that rather than soliciting the guy in the next bathroom stall for sex he was actually trying to offer his assistance in case his stall mate had been struck by lightning. Not an easy thing. So today, in honor of the one year anniversary of TPMtv we're bringing you some of our favorite moments from the cutting room floor ...

Something amazing

Terry Jones, writer and film maker, has discovered a new variety of penguin who do something not to be believed.

Go watch the video, and believe.