Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lion of the Senate passes

It is sad news that we now lose Edward Kennedy, senator of Massachusetts, advocate of the needy, and much needy voice for the left in Congress.

TPM has a good view of his life.

They also have President Obama's initial statement and that of Robert Reich.

It is the end of an era.

I have to agree with Crooks and Liars:

They have the video from the convention when he braved his illness to speak for Obama, and for the need for universal health care. It is a good legacy for all of us to fight for.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Riff Trax's Live

I should have mentioned this earlier, as it is almost time for it to occur. Thursday!

But as a HUGE fan of MST3K, and the later work of those involved in Film Crew, Cinematic Titanic, and Riff Trax, they have a national event going on Thursday, the 20th (must be my birthday.). The Riff Trax guys (Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and and Kevin Murphy) are going to be hosting an event that night at theaters all over the country, a new riffing of Plan 9 from Outer Space. It sounds like they will have some fun and also have shorts, which have always been a great staple of their works.

I am finally going to one of these events myself, as I am keen on it, and I like that they are taking advantage of the way theaters are set up these days. These days with the new tech they can allowing people to join in business events, opera, and symphanies from afar (I think they had some '08 camaign events viewable from theaters). So with a national event, even living in a not so big town in the midwest it is not too great a sojourn to join in myself.

So if you are a fan, you should check out the Riff Trax site and see if you can or wish to go.

G.I. Joe Blues

Here is a funny little diddy about the night life of the Joes.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

This week in Sundays

I was up this morning and caught some Sunday mornin' sermonin'. And what can one say about the show put's quite wacky!

On one show guy is doing almost a weird dance, without actually moving. He was whipping his hands around in the face of his congregant...cause he's got a secret. Apparently God doesn't just blather out all his plans and the ways he wants to help you...cause the devil might hear and just ruin things. Which would make the devil pretty damn powerful, tougher than God it seems. Plus he always foils things and pain in the back side. So he's like Principal Skinner always trying to ruin Bart Simpsons day, though God is more the Skinner type ain't he. But this guy is dancing and smugging it up, and the audience loves it. I swear it was like watching The Music Man.

Another channel had lady with a book to hawk. Did you know you aren't praying right? I mean obviously us atheist are, but most everyone else is to. So she wrote a big old book to teach you how to do it right...cause if we all's magic time. Really, would a holy person lie to you?

Another show has a guy showing another prayer to promote that apparently shunts God right into...kind of like a booty call, I guess.

How about the guy warning we need to follow God, and not follow those witches...riiiiiight.

How can this stuff be taken seriously? It is like watching a time share promotion. If you need anymore proof of this look at the stuff that leads into and follows this stuff: infomercials for real estate, alt meds, etc. They know their markets, and their marks.

Remote Area Medical

Have you heard of it? It is new trend in the U.S. free care for the uninsured and under insured.

But where is the media coverage? Why aren't we discussing the state of a nation using medical services usually sent in to save citizens of Third World nations? This is a tragedy. This is a travesty.

The Real Time series sent Dana Gould to look at this and the people screaming and going red faced at the town halls. In one place well off people enraged about changes to their health care for, hopefully, the better. The other place the poor and middle class, just being stoic and trying to get the help they desperately need. Their is pain here.

But what do we hear when some of these town hall folks hear about someone in need? Get a better job. Get a degree. Join the Army. By which they mean, get out of my way. That is sad.

At Hullabaloo, they looked more that this unremarked on disparity in America.

I like this point:


...from Fred, in the comments:

"Obama should be at this event, talking to people and forcing the media to cover it. He should even invite/dare the three health care CEOs who told Congress they would still use recission to cut costs."


This is the human face of this systems failure. Why are we not forcing coverage of this? Why isn't this being done by the White House.

Ezekiel Emanuel

Have you heard about how Obama and the Dems want to kill babies and grannies? Have you heard the blame pinned on the Chief of Staff's brother, Ezekiel Emanuel?

Meet Emanuel, at, and learn what he actually think when his work is not being cherry picked, quote mined, and just misquoted.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The White Houses voice in the Health Care fight.

So far we have had 2 town halls with him, which is good. But then there has been the hostility from people like Chief of Staff Rahm, complaining about Dems in the field laying criticism of Blue Dogs. I can;t fully fathom the point of this, as the quid pro quo back from Blue Dogs seems to be pretty slight.

Then on TPM a reader talks about what is missing as he canvases around Ohio. Noted is the lack of pointing out the hard work Dems on social issues, helping workers not hurting them. Also about who has been working to fix health care and who has not. Is there no fight to bring these points to the forefront.

And he notes this about the Obama outreach groups.

These are the conversations that I'm having with the people I canvass, and the only "propaganda" material I have from Organizing for America are glossy photos of Obama with precious little information of the kind I'm suggesting.


Where is the outreach? What is it being saved for?

More on the health care claims.

Orac has done some interesting blogging looking at the issues in the health care war.

Skeptic's Circle #117 - Talking about the chiropractor and the chiropractic

Another day, another skeptic's circle.

Skeptic's Circle #117 is come to town, and it wants your spine.

It's the chiropractor / chiropractic edition, and boy does that mean their is plenty to be skeptical about.

Welcome to the 117th iteration of the venerable Skeptics Circle! As all of you no doubt know, one of the hottest topics in skepticism in the last while has been Simon Singh's legal woes resulting from an entirely reasonable article of his that the British Chiropractic Association, absurdly, thought libelous. In the wake of the mass reposting of the said article and Simon's recent decision to soldier on, I figured making this edition chiropractic themed would be appropriate.

The host this month would like to press forward against attacks from chiropractic organizations.

... So I propose we Google Bomb those BCA bastards. Here's what to do: take the words "chiropractor" and "chiropractic" and link them to: (which should look like: chiropractor and chiropractic). ...
They go on to mention some other links you could set up.

Like using Chirobase, British Chiropractic Association, or English libel law.

The Supernatural

Dr. Shermer took some consideration of where the supernatural belonged.

Namely, the supernatural, at best, is an aspect of the natural not fully explained by science. That is the nature of the natural, it is explainable...eventually. It just takes times, research, analysis, and effort to determine why things work and are the way they are.

It has been a constant activity of humanity. The godly thunderbolt became the explainable roar of thunder and lightening discharge. The rumbling and fumes of the underworld coming from along the Italian coast became the thermal/magmatic pressure far better understood in this day.

For the most part people accept this. Except for the occasional denial of vaccinations, HIV, or general medicine, among the various aspects of life that get mocked.

But derived from this are the lot that like to become so pissed over not allowing and admitting to magic, from the hidden dragons, the power of constellations, or a sky being you can whisper to and get a response. The miraculous, many people demand it to be so.

People call it arrogant to not embrace the idea that some ideas and realms are beyond science. They act as if such claims and demands have not persisted for generations, and been tackled and resolved under the sciences. So to expect science to capitulate for the sake of potential sore feelings is ludicrous.

It is the point of being and atheist or a skeptic. To not just take things as being, until it is reasonably supported. UFO's could visit us, but fuzzy photos and suspect memories do not cut it. Bigfoots could be real, or ghosts, but the evidence for them is not enough to support a flourish of research, instead being tide over by faith, by hope, and by disregard for the direction of evidence. When the evidence shifts towards the positive, good. But it will be a path to a new understanding of the natural world. And I would welcome a new depth to nature.

At least we are making someone feel needed.

In the wake of the amazingly stupid argument claiming IF Dr. Stephen Hawkings lived in the U.K. he would be left to die (Hint: Guess where he was born and lived his entire life.). Hawkings has stepped up to defend and laud the NHS of the U.K.

Better yet it has motivated many Brits to speak out in pride of their universal coverage.

At least some good has come about.

Healthcare: The fear for the speakers

How about the state of things for those trying to meet with citizens and learn and also share information.

Kansas democrats are not moving ahead with town halls, due to threats.

Illinois's Rep. Biggert has struggled to meet needs and be safe, and many that want to go are scared of what could happen to them.

But for the Republicans it seems with the media focus almost exclusively on Dems have felt little need to have town halls or connect. Grassley had one, mostly to heap praise on himself. Vitter has to, with the audience carefully screened and the questions even more carefully screened.

Ann Coulter has placed Rahm Emanuel's brother, the doctors on her death list. The Right has tried to claim he wants to kill the ill, even as he has a long history of fighting for and defending patient rights.

Crooks and Liars looked at the ginning up of anger that is scaring so many of us, with video of Rachel Maddow.

The 'Tea Party' nexus: Mainstream conservatives empowering far-right extremists who want a new civil war (C&L)

Props to Ed Schultz for calling out the actions in this mob mentality at the meetings.

Healthcare: Our Friend

Let us see one of those good friends helping in this debate:

"Chuck" Grassley

Let's see he has been a key ally, part of the negations, acting all friendly, and trying to get the best results...until he started bragging this week in Iowa how he was key in stalling the debate, negotiations, and momentum. He also has embraced blatant terrifying lies about the bill he was working towards. And he brought his fav Glenn Beck book to meeting to share... And through this all he seems to have managed to kill support for funding to help people get medical advise on end of life issues. He then compounds this by calling on religious faith in explaining and justifying his position..and by default, his duplicity.

Sadly the efforts of Chuck, and also Palin and Gingrich, has tainted and retarded the ever important national discussion of how, as a society and individual, deal with the that tail end of life. After Schiavo we seemed to grow up a bit. That is over. This is plain tragic.

But don't worry the Senate Dems will forgive' Senatetown.

You really think this is it?

Because is you loathed the teabaggers...

if you are nautious from all these town hall zombies...

Get ready for the fall when the oil industry stirs people and fears over...

Climate Change...

This Fall it is only the end of the beginning of the dawn of the day of the panicked morons rule of the public forum.

Really, when are YOU going to start returning America back to the way it should be?


What the Health Care?

I have been slow to talk about the current health care debate as it is so overwhelming. The yelling. The screaming. The lying. The spinning. The numbers sucking it all up.

It is unnerving and flat out depressing.

Here is a taste, if you have missed it from TPMtv.

How is this the crap selling with the public. Are people really moved by deranged anger and panicky claims of doom? Is the worst about us true?

In the end is this us?

Can't we be better?

Meanwhile, the Right does epic work to stir the hatred, the fear, and the irrational view of the president. Beck, Hannity, and Limbaugh have done yeoman's work towards this end. People are going out armed. The far right hate groups are burgeoning again, using Pres. Obama as an excuse, and finding FOX and the RNC doing their best to support their fears.

Though I am happy to see Gov. Howard Dean on Countdown last night. He was calm and rational. He was hopeful that it could work out. I can only hope we can set things right and start helping people in this country.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A good Unscientific America reviewed

Jason Rosenhouse has a good review of the Mooney/Kirshenbaum Unscientific America.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

It is a nice read, digging into the serious problems of the book.
The science blogosphere has been buzzing about Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, the new book by former SciBlings Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum. For whatever reason everyone else seems to have received their review copies before I did, and I did not want to weigh in until I had read the book.


Short review: Mixed, but generally negative. Much of the book is very superficial and I don't think their proposed solutions are practical.


Some good lines:


In fact, education researchers have found that defusing the tension over science and religion facilitates learning about evolution. “I submit that anti-religious rehtoric is counter-productive. It actually hampers science education,” a biologist at Davis and Elkins College in West Virgina. In Stover's view, students who feel that evolution is a threat to their beliefs will not “want to learn,” and only reconiliatory discussion can open them up to evolution. (p. 183)
It is painful to read such things. Isn't it just groaningly obvious that the problem here is the attitude that places religious faith in a privileged position relative to science? M and K tell us that people value faith over science, and from this they conclude that Richard Dawkins is the problem? Stover tells us that students don't want to learn until you assure them that you will leave their religious beliefs unchallenged, and his advice is that we should not be criticizing religion?




Of course, the New Atheists aren't the origin of the cleft between religious and scientific culture in America -- they're more like a reaction to it. (p. 98) (Emphasis in original)
Exactly right. Surely, though, this shows that the idea of a rift between science and religion had no trouble propagating itself long before the New Atheists arrived on the scene. The rift exists becuase there really is a conflict between science and religion generally, and Christianity and evolution specifically. This simple fact is not contradicted by the existence of religious scientists or by the existence of forms of Christianity that have made their peace with evoluition. Saying there is a conflict between A and B does not mean that A and B are mutually exclusive. (In fairness, M and K acknowledge this on pages 101-102.)




I wonder if M and K would write such things if we were talking about ghosts instead of God. Are scientists helpless to argue against the existence of ghosts? Everything we know about human anatomy suggests that personality and whatnot are the products of physical phenomena in the brain; they die with the body. Countless claims of alleged hauntings have been investigated and perfectly natural explanations have been found. Are we being unreasonable in saying, based on such evidence, that it is unlikely that ghosts exist? If someone claimed that science has cast real doubt on the existence of ghosts, can we count on M and K to rush in and accuse them of making philosophical claims and of overstepping their proper bounds?

How do we use the methodological naturalism of science to say something about the possible existence of supernatural entities? The same way we use it to detect the existence of neutrinos, which also can not be perceived directly with our senses. We look for their effects on the natural world. We may not be able to control supernatural entities, but we can certainly search for their effects on the natural objects we do control (or at least understand). We can search for things in the natural world that can only be plausibly explained by recourse to supernatural entities. That we consistently fail to find them is surely relevant in assessing the likelihood of God's existence.


That one conspiracy

If you are anywhere on the left of the political spectrum there are many conspiracy theories. Of course it is rife with many of those medical ones (like those about vaccination).

But one consistent annoyance are the ones about 9/11. From loose change to free falling to the color of smoke, many people will not give it up. We get it, you don't like Bush or Cheney. None of us do. There is a distrust of government. Eternal vigilance is a must. But to embrace baseless, evidence free position is just stupid.

Cockburn at Counterpunch wrote a good piece looking at the lunacy and its impact on the lefties. The site also has some good articles looking at the science and facts disproving many theories about 9/11.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Those theories.

Conspiracy theories...

This is a funny little vid about the great conspiracies.

Is it true?

Often when "miracles" occur, UFO's are seen, or a bit of magic is seen, many feel reluctant about throwing out too much questioning.

Why would the lie? They seem so honest.

Dr. Novella was looking at a ghost photo and hit on some of the issues revolving claims.

First, yes people can and do lie. Not always, but it can happen. People sometimes like to be special, sometimes they want to show that their is magic and wonder in the world (regardless of the existence of plenty of wonder in our natural world), and so people just like to fuck with other people.

But there are other reasons (Arguably it is more common than the lie, but I have yet to see any numbers how it may break down.).

Sometimes people see something and just jump to and embrace a conclusion: ghost of a loved one, life among the stars showing itself to them, proof of a greater purpose to life and the universe. It could be true, but their perception bias leads them to see only one viable answer, the least likely one.

... The teenager, Kasey, says that she and the little girl, Penny, were the only ones home at the time. Perhaps, however, she was mistaken about this fact. Perhaps she simply did not notice the women who wandered into the room when she was focused on taking pictures of Penny.

There is such a thing as attentional blindness, which can be quite dramatic. Yes – people can simply not notice such things. I am sure you have seen pictures of people with items in the background appearing to come out of their heads. When looking at the picture it is obvious, but when the picture was taken the photographer was focused on the subject an not the entire frame of the picture.

There could also be something unusual going on – perhaps there was a picture of a person behind the girl, or it’s a reflection. Perhaps it is a purely photographic artifact.

What I always find interesting is when believers (just read the comments to this story) argue that an alternate explanation is unlikely, but then substitute the explanation that it is a ghost – as if that is not significantly more unlikely. See Occam’s Razor.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Now you'll watch it and never be able to unwatch it.

Well, I am feeling better now.

What? Is health care going forward? Are Republicans apologizing for being asses? Oh, no.

But Futurama is coming back. AND while there was a fear at first, it now looks like all of the voice actors will be back. Yes, after bringing this moneymaker back the studio wanted to stiff them...but it seems agreement has been found...

And Futurama is moving forward at full speed.

ETA 3010.