Friday, October 31, 2008

How Far Out Is Fox? Way, Way Out

All one needs to do to see how far out Fox and its viewers have gone, is watch and listen. They've spent their entire day on tangential issues: Joe the Plumber, arcane tax figures, Jeremiah Wright, Dick Morris rambling about how no one has paid attention to the election until now, and of course, the three newspapers kicked off Barack Obama's plane. If all that in a serious race with numerous substantive issues they could have spent that time focused on isn't Jerry Springer enough for you, consider what some of the people booted off the plane supposedly said. One asked Obama or his people if he was a communist. Another wrote a column saying Obama didn't care if we won or lost in Iraq.

This is tinfoil hat country folks. Why not ask him if he believes we really landed on the moon while they are at it? No wonder they were kicked off the plane. Political fairness doesn't extend to lunacy. If these right wing nuts want to be treated like serious journalists, they need to act like them.

Sarah Palin's Bizarre Definition of "Terrorist"

Sarah Palin shows yet again how she uniquely redefines the English language to conveniently get the political results she wants. The latest example concerns the term "terrorism". To review, a terrorist is someone who attempts to effect political change through the use of violence and/or threats of violence. Contrary to recent popular usage, the term does not imply any particular political ideology or religion. There are terrorists all across the political spectrum, from the right (the IRA, Timothy McVeigh, abortion clinic bombers), left (PETA, William Ayers of 40 years ago), and of course Al Qaeda.

But as Brian Williams revealed, Sarah Palin will have none of that. Only those that disagree with her are terrorists:

Brian Williams: Back to the notion of terrorists and terrorism, this word has come up in relation to Mr. Ayers -- hanging out with terrorist – domestic terrorists. It is said that it gives it a vaguely post uh 9-11 hint, using that word, that we don’t normally associate with domestic crimes. Are we changing the definition? Are the people who set fire to American cities during the ‘60’s terrorists, under this definition? Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist under the definition?

Sarah Palin: There is no question that Bill Ayers via his own admittance was um one who sought to destroy our US Capitol and our Pentagon -- that is a domestic terrorist. There’s no question there. Now others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or um facilities, that uh, it would be unacceptable -- I don’t know if you could use the word terrorist, but its unacceptable and it would not be condoned of course on our watch. I don’t know if what you are asking is if I regret referring to Bill Ayers as an unrepentant domestic terrorist. I don’t regret characterizing him as that.

Brian Williams: I’m just asking what other categories you would put in there. Abortion clinic bombers? Protesters in cities where fires were started, Molotov cocktails, were thrown? People died.

Sarah Palin: I would put in that category of Bill Ayers anyone else who would seek to destroy our United States Capitol and our Pentagon and would seek to destroy innocent Americans.

The out of course is that those involved with abortion aren't considered "innocent" in Palin's side of the world. They are killing babies you see. Isn't it cute how she just redefines words to suit her warped views?

But why would she do this? Well, because while those who would actually bomb an abortion clinic are (thankfully) rare, those with similar predispositions who would cheer such an act, even if they'd never commit it themselves, are far more numerous. They go by another name: Sarah Palin's base.

Joe Stands John Up, Palin Booed in Erie: Is this the Worst Campaign Ever?

First Joe the Plumber stands up John McCain, then Sarah Palin gets booed trying to score cheap points talking up the Phillies in Erie (Erie fans are loyal to the Pirates, rivals of the Phllies), showing that there is no end to the topics on which Palin is ignorant. But even if she is that ignorant, surely someone in the McCain campaign isn't and should have headed off that disaster. Will this go down as the worst campaign ever?

Early Voting Results

Per the Rachel Maddow show, early voting results show "off the charts" voting among blacks (or "the black" for you Palin fans), the youth vote is coming in low, as usual, and absentee ballots favor the GOP 3:2. None of this particularly surprises me. The youth vote always makes a lot of noise and then falls flat. The first legitimate black candidate in Barack Obama was bound to energize that base, and absentee ballots contain a lot of military ballots which, at least historically, have favored the Republicans.

In conclusion, so far it all looks as it was expected to. McCain's chances continue to get slimmer, and time is running out.

Edward Sisson Needs a Logic Course

The Expelled DVD is coming out, and as is appropriate, the Discovery crew promotes that stinker of illogic with some grand illogic of their own, courtesy of Edward Sisson:

Hmmm — a video comes out saying that if you question Darwinism, you get trashed and denounced. And the mass response is to trash and denounce the video.

Don't the denouncers realize their own conduct proves the video is true? Do the denouncers not realize the irony of their own behavior?

Or are they really taking the position that those who doubt Darwinism are typically free of being denounced?

I reminds me of my C-SPAN experience with Barry Lynn — he denounced my doubting of Darwin, but then when I said that as a general rule people who doubt Darwin get denounced, he denounced that statement as well. But Barry — you just did it to me!

Ah, I get it. So if I say that people are unfairly denounced who criticize Edward Sisson for being an irrational, lying sack of bovine excrement who eats babies and tortures kittens, and Sr. Sisson denounces me for saying that, he's proving my point! What a novel way of deflecting criticism of your position: just make it part of your position that you are criticized unfairly!

Let me spell it out clearly for you guys, so even the Edward Sissons of the world can understand it. Questioning aspects of evolution, generally speaking, does not get you denounced. It happens all the time in science with evolution and other theories; that's how progress is made. Question, hypothesize, test by gathering evidence, revise accordingly. However, attempting to play semantic games with science by renaming it with a religious-sounding label (Darwinism), rehashing long-discredited creationist arguments by dressing them up in sciency-sounding language (Intelligent Design), and making a propaganda film intent on slandering science with political poison in the complete absence of evidence (linking Darwin to the Nazis) will indeed get you denounced, and rightly so.

Oh, and people who express that view are unfairly denounced, so you can't denounce me.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jon Stewart Tells Sarah Palin What We'd All Like to Tell Her

Leave it to Jon Stewart to tell her like it is:

Speaking to a college audience in Boston, Mass. Friday, "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart used his stand-up routine to respond to Sarah Palin's comments about "pro-America" parts of the country, shedding the profanity restrictions that govern his Comedy Central show.

"She said that small towns, that's the part of the country she really likes going to because that's the pro-America part of the country. You know, I just want to say to her, just very quickly: fuck you," Stewart said to raucous applause.

"He (McCain) made an interesting vice presidential choice.
I like the woods...I just don't know if I would pull my vice president out of the woods randomly. She came out again today. She was talking to a small town, she said that small towns, that's the part of the country she really likes going to because that's the pro-America part of the country.

I've never seen someone with a greater disparity between how cute they sound when they're saying something and how terrible what they're saying is.

"Don't ya know, Obama, by golly, he just is a terrorist? What? Oh, you know, he just, gosh, kills babies, you know."

I'm so over the idea that only small-town America is the heart and soul. Small-town America is fine, but it's the same as cities. Cities are just a lot of towns piled on top of each other in one place.

They have this whole thing that somehow we can write off entire swaths of the country, that we are somehow...I get it. You know, New York City wasn't good enough for [expletive] Osama bin Laden, it better be good enough for you.

I can't take it anymore. After eight years of this divisiveness, we're back to this idea that only small-town America is the real America. I get it. I'm from New York. We have a lot of gay people. But homosexuals don't have sodomy on Russian flags.

That's pretty much what I think every time I hear someone talk about "real America" and "real Americans": Fuck you. We are all Americans, equally, regardless of our political opinions. The Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves at the notion that political dissent disqualifies one as a real American, especially the notion that small town America is real America, since the founders were from the big cities of their time!

America is ABOUT freedom to dissent, always has been, that's why they made that the first amendment. If you are against that, well, you do the math.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hawkins' Strategy for McCain: The Definition of Crazy

One definition of crazy is "doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result". So what in the world is John Hawkins doing repeating the same failed strategy to John McCain? The GOP is showing itself to be a one trick pony, like a football team with no passing game that, even if it isn't working, have no choice but to run the ball up the middle on every play. They are starting to remind me of the people in B-monster movies who, after emptying their clip of bullets into the charging monster, and to complete lack of effect, decide the best thing to do at that point is reload and fire away.

You know, we forget that there was a time when John McCain looked like he could lead a move for the GOP away from the loony right, into a more centrist and sensible party, pro-science, reasonable on abortion, truly fiscally responsible. Instead, we got the Palin madness, and the attack-at-all-costs political strategy. A commenter on a post by Linda Chavez summed up well why we need a sensible conservative party:

"We need conservative leaders to put the brakes on liberal over reaching. When conservatives are in power, the nation needs liberal leaders to put the brakes on conservatives. That's a scenario that serves America. The main problem, and it shows up in almost every poll today and every scan of voter attitude, is that Americans simply can't stomach any more conservative BS.

No more BS that small town America is the 'real' America, and that I am not a 'real' America because I live in a city. No more BS that Congress needs to be investigated for 'anti-Americanism.' No more BS that your opponent, whomever he is, is a Communist or a Socialist. No more BS that your next door neighbor hates America because his political views are to the left of yours. No more BS that science and evidence don't matter, as long as ideological purity is upheld. No more BS about being privy to the Truth because you are a Christian.

That is the Conservatism that is being rejected. You do not need to believe or agree. But if you don't see that reality then you are divorced from the reality of this election. As long as your standard bearers are Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter, you will lose."

The George Will, William F. Buckley, Bary Goldwater faction of the GOP needs to rise up and take it back from the "kooks".

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Palin, Paris, and Fruit Flies

In what is starting to become almost tedious, Sarah Palin yet again revealed her ignorance by mocking fruit fly research, and showed her blatant political dogwhistling by mentioning it in the same sentence with "Paris", another term her Mongolian hoards hate. I'm surprised she didn't work "terrorists" in there somehow.

For the uninitiated, some of the most powerful genetic research is done with fruit flies. Of course, to someone who denies the theory of evolution, this might seem mockable, but to those of us in the real world, it is very important science. But then, as the McCain campaign has made clear with their disparaging remarks about astronomical tools and attempts to keep bears from going extinct, they care little for science that doesn't involve killing something or extracting petroleum products from the ground.

We are a society that has enjoyed the fruits of being scientifically and technologically superior to the rest of the world for so long that apparently some of us have forgotten that such a position is not a birthright, but the result of an emphasis on science in our culture. The Chinese and the Middle East both held that position in human history once as well, and both fell behind after adopting xenophobic and religiously closed-minded positions on science and research. Sarah Palin and John McCain would send us down that same path. It won't have a huge impact on us or our children, but would be felt generations from now. But I guess when you are just waiting for the rapture, such things fall from your understanding of "the public good".,

Webster Cook Vindicated

Webster Cook, the poor schmuck who caught so much hell from the Catholic Church for removing a Eucharist from a mass, has been vindicated. I guess slow justice is better than no justice.

Monday, October 27, 2008

In Case You Still Think Obama Has Never Done Anything...

...what rock have you been hiding under? Anyway, watch this. It is a abdication of your social duty to be so ill-informed.

Why the Saturday Night Live Appearance Hurt Palin

Sarah Palin had a great chance to improve her image by appearing on Saturday Night Live, and confronting her critics as well as her satirists head on. But she forgot a major aspect of appearing on the show: the ability to laugh at yourself.

Years ago Jesse Jackson, who I wouldn't micterate on were he aflame, appeared on SNL, and shocked many of us by appearing in a skit making fun of affirmative action, a Jesse Jackson mainstay. During his monologue, and while complimenting the show on being so willing to hire minorities, the sound system fouled up, sending a curious Jesse to the sound booth. Switch to a shot of the booth, filled with middle aged white guys, as a door opens and someone frantically says "he's coming!". The white guys are shuffled out, and a bunch of black guys who clearly have no idea what they are doing, are sent in to deal with a happy but confused Jackson who doesn't understand why the sound engineers don't know what feedback is. It was hilarious, and showed us a side of Jackson most of us didn't know existed. He was willing to laugh at himself.

Palin flunked this basic test. Oh, she was more than happy to participate in the skit where she and Lorn Michaels get a laugh at Alec Baldwin's expense, as he confuses the fake Palin played by Tina Fey, with the real one. But when her Jesse Jackson moment came to sing the silly rap song they wrote for her on the news, she refused, and sat there like an idiot bobbing back and forth as someone else sang her song.

So we had no Jesse Jackson moment, no hair down, no peek inside the real person who, while she may take her positions on the issues seriously as we all do, could take a step back and laugh at herself. Instead, we got what all her critics expected, someone too closed minded, too shallow, too downright arrogant, to appreciate the humor, and consider that maybe, just maybe, there is something there worth laughing at. It won't budge her poll numbers, and just cemented the opinion her critics have.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

UD Backs Another Loser, Bails Out Early

William Dembski, staying true to form, has called off any more posting on the election just a week before the inevitable defeat of his candidate, John McCain. I guess the paranoid, credulous rantings in favor of McCain fell below even UD's low standards. This is also reminiscent of Dembski's bailout in the Dover ID/evolution trial, once defeat was imminent. I wonder if we can expect a post-election Vice Strategy as well? It is so remarkable how consistent evolution deniers can be with their epistemological errors: making predictions after the fact, coming up with supposedly unbeatable strategies after the game is over, and pretending people like Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin have intellectual muster.

Sam Harris on Sarah Palin

Sam Harris sums up American anti-intellectualism pretty well.

"Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority. No one wants an average neurosurgeon or even an average carpenter, but when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves. President Bush kept his edge on the "Who would you like to have a beer with?" poll question in 2004, and won reelection.

This is one of the many points at which narcissism becomes indistinguishable from masochism. Let me put it plainly: If you want someone just like you to be president of the United States, or even vice president, you deserve whatever dysfunctional society you get. You deserve to be poor, to see the environment despoiled, to watch your children receive a fourth-rate education and to suffer as this country wages -- and loses -- both necessary and unnecessary wars.

McCain has so little respect for the presidency of the United States that he is willing to put the girl next door (soon, too, to be a grandma) into office beside him. He has so little respect for the average American voter that he thinks this reckless and cynical ploy will work."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

McCain's Willie Hortonesque ATM Attack a Hoax

The McCain campaign worker who claimed she was attacked by a "big black man" at an ATM and had a backwards "B" carved into her face now admits she made it all up. Now if we can only get the rest of the McCain campaign to admit all the shit it made up.

Thunderfoot on Palin

Here is a nice summary of the mess that is Sarah Palin, and from what sounds like a nonyank. Check out the whole series on creationists, it is worth a watch.

Friday, October 24, 2008

McCain's Campaign in Summary, and What it Means Going Forward for the GOP

McCain won the GOP nomination by inertia, by hanging around long enough for the bottom feeders around him to expose themselves as the weakest Republican field in many memories. Fred Thompson thought we were still fighting the cold war, Mike Huckabee thinks the earth is 6,000 years old, and Mitt Romney's political gyrating makes McCain's positions on the issues look absolutely static by comparison. McCain became the winner by default - he got the "I guess vote", as in "Who do you support?", "I guess McCain". He was the only one not clearly an idiot, a loony, or politically unprincipled.

Once he got the nomination, he had to get the support of those factions to have any hope of winning, so he become politically unprincipled, and choose a loony idiot as a running mate. The real message of this election is that the Republican Party is going to have to revamp itself, and/or its political strategies, to have any hope of being competitive on the national scale again.

Funny Laugh

No matter how many times I watch this old man laugh, it is still funny. It's a great video if you need a laugh.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Another Goof Blames the Financial Crisis on Atheists

It remains a remarkable piece of intellectual compartmentalization that anyone commenting on the United States, a culture dominated by Christians, who hold nearly 100% of positions of power in our government, and who dominate our prisons as well, could blame all our ills on atheists. It would be like someone in pre-war Iraq, with its Sunni dominated government and Shia dominated populace, blaming all their problems on the Kurds.

Yet here comes Melanie Phillips to tell us exactly that:

"I see this financial breakdown, moreover, as being not merely a moral crisis but the monetary expression of the broader degradation of our values – the erosion of duty and responsibility to others in favour of instant gratification, unlimited demands repackaged as ‘rights’ and the loss of self-discipline. And the root cause of that erosion is ‘militant atheism’ which, in junking religion, has destroyed our sense of anything beyond our material selves and the here and now and, through such hyper-individualism, paved the way for the onslaught on bedrock moral values expressed through such things as family breakdown and mass fatherlessness, educational collapse, widespread incivility, unprecedented levels of near psychopathic violent crime, epidemic drunkenness and drug abuse, the repudiation of all authority, the moral inversion of victim culture, the destruction of truth and objectivity and a corresponding rise in credulousness in the face of lies and propaganda -- and intimidation and bullying to drive this agenda into public policy.

The financial crisis was brought about essentially by a public which threw away all notions of prudence and committed itself to spending today what it could never afford to pay back tomorrow, and a banking, regulatory and political sector which ruthlessly and cynically exploited and encouraged such catastrophic irresponsibility with a criminal disregard of the ruinous consequences for the poor. The financial crisis and our social meltdown are thus combining to form a perfect cultural storm.

The link between all that and the US presidential election is – as Oliver himself acknowledges – the figure of Sarah Palin. It seems to me that the reason she has sparked such an unprecedented campaign of lies, smears, abuse and dangerously unhinged hatred (if you think that’s an exaggeration, just look at the readers’ posts on this very site) is because, as I wrote in the Mail on Monday, she stands against the tide of secular nihilism in the culture wars. Oliver and I dare say Hitchens (although I have not discussed this with him) may be shoulder to shoulder with me on foreign policy but they stand on the other side from me in the culture wars – what I see as nihilism, I suspect they view as progressive -- and it is no coincidence that they both stand also for militant (or in Oliver’s case, rather less militant) atheism which they assume (falsely, in my view) is synonymous with rationality. Palin’s evangelical Christianity, and the moral and social positions that flow from that faith, would therefore strike them as beyond appalling. That’s why Oliver sees her as embodying anti-intellectualism, insularity, social intolerance and anti-rationalism...

I don’t much care whether Palin believes in a hundred ridiculous things before breakfast -- because what she stands for is a defence of bedrock western moral values against the nihilistic onslaught. Although like many others I do not like the way she has used her family on public platforms, the fact remains that the reason the image of her cradling her Down’s Syndrome baby Trig was so electrifying was that she was making the most explicit statement possible that, in a society which has so lost its respect for human life that it believes it is actually a progressive act to destroy unborn lives 'on demand' (and Obama actually opposed anti-infanticide legislation in the Illinois state senate) she stands for a culture of life against our culture of death, which sees no innate value in human life and will destroy it with increasing abandon if it is not deemed to be ‘useful’ enough.

The moral relativists -- most viciously embedded on the left but represented in conservative circles too under the ambiguous banner of libertarianism which prevents such circles from grasping the threat being posed to real liberty -- understand very well indeed that, as the first culture warrior from the opposing camp to stand on the threshold of power, Palin poses a threat to the established amoral order which must be resisted with all the ferocity they can summon. That is why she has been the target of this astonishing campaign of lies and smears -- most of which have been uncritically accepted by large numbers of people who play no role in the culture wars at all, but believe that if the media say something is so with one voice, then it must indeed be so."

What planet does this woman live on? Fortunately, she has an astute group of commentors, and they fisk her well:

"It would be interesting to see what percentage of people who took out subprime mortgages are atheists. I suspect that number would be quite low, in which case your analysis of the causes of the present crisis seems unfounded, at best.

Also, as has been said before, you can start talking about 'militant atheism' when atheists blow up St. Paul's Cathedral. Until then the militancy is all on the side of the Judeo-Christian tradition (of which Islam is part)."

" I take exception to your assertion that moral good can only come from a religious background."

"let's face it, imams and ayatollahs are religious, Osama bin Laden is religious.
I and many other humanists defend 'bedrock western moral values'. We support Israel, we understand the power of the Enlightenment."

"We really must find out where these militant atheists hold their meetings, find out who is in charge and in the name of God put a stop to them!"

"Unfortunately Sarah Palin wouldn't understand a word of what Melanie has written, and having read it twice, I'm still having difficulty in getting a handle on it.

What is all this stuff about Obama being a 'candidate of this cultural Marxist onslaught against western values'. The closest he gets to being a so-called Marxist is his belief in 'spreading the wealth around'........does that make Gordon Brown a Marxist?

And what 'western values'could Melanie be talking about? The values that have brought poverty, wars and the degradation of the natural environment to this planet?

Perhaps Obama is on the right side of lead the 'onslaught' on these values."

"If, as Melanie says, the current financial breakdown is a moral crisis, which she then attributes to 'militant atheism', how is it that there is a financial crisis in the USA, which is still a deeply religious country? How come their bedrock Christian values didn't save them from this malaise? Or is the problem entirely due to atheist bankers?

And while she is answering that, perhaps she can give us a proper definition of 'militant atheism'. In fact, Melanie implies atheism is the same as nihilism, and lazily yolks together atheism with moral relativism and political correctness. Does she really think people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are moral relativists and nihilists? Of course not. The truth is more complex. What riles many religious people is the fact that it is possible to be an atheist and a decent, moral human being. For some reason, they find that thought uncomfortable and threatening."

"Atheists make up a tiny percentage of Americans, perhaps 5%. There are virtually no atheists in prisons. We caused all these problems? Get a life."

"Can you really be serious? Morality is so obviously improved by atheism, as Norway and other predominantly atheistic nations demonstrate. The places with problems are those who cling to superstition. Morality is impaired by religion, not the other way around (Palin is a great example of this)."

I can't improve much on that. There is a de facto religious litmus test for American politics, and atheists flunk it. Believers control the government, and yet we are to believe atheists are to blame for all of this? Atheist Democrats of course. It is amazing how consistently the party of personal responsibility attempts to blame those absent from positions of power for all our ills.

Poll Shows Palin a Major Drag...on McCain's Campaign

I am shocked, shocked I say, that an ABC News poll confirms my claim that the choice of Sarah Palin is what is killing McCain:

"On the vice presidential candidates, 52 percent of likely voters say McCain's pick of Palin has made them less confident in the kind of decisions he'd make as president; that's up 13 points since just after the selection, as doubts about Palin's qualifications (also voiced by Powell on Sunday) have grown. Just 38 percent say it makes them more confident in McCain's judgment, down 12 points.

Those numbers are more than reversed on Obama's pick of Joe Biden: 56 percent of likely voters say it makes them more confident in Obama's decision-making, 31 percent less so."

So let's say it out loud: Biden was a better pick than Palin. As I keep reminding everyone, the order of events was:

Obama leads
Palin nomination: McCain takes the lead
Palin does Gibson interview: McCain loses lead
Palin does Couric interview: Obama increases lead
Stock market crashes: Obama increases lead

It was when Sarah Palin opened her big mouth and revealed her empty head that the polls reversed their pro-GOP trend and started to lean towards Obama. The more she talked, the bigger Obama's lead got. When the stock market crashed and McCain raced to Washington to support/oppose the bailout measure (I haven't checked today to see where he is on the issue), the Palin effect had already given Obama a solid lead.

Those who insist on blaming McCain's loss on the economic meltdown (which in turn they laughingly blame on Democrats) are just the latest partisans finding another way to deny the reality that the majority of voters just don't like their message. They keep repeating the same Ayers, ACORN, Muslim, Marxist (make up your mind) mantra like a magic spell that will work if they just repeat it enough. I suspect their reaction to defeat will not be a good one.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More Salt for the Palin Wound out of Florida

Here is more evidence that it is Sarah Palin, not the economy, that has sunk the straight talk express. It is a (sadly small) group of undecided voters who were primarily leaning towards McCain two months ago, but now have almost completely switched their allegiance to Obama. The reason?

"Widespread antagonism toward Obama in mid August gave way in September to overwhelming horror over McCain picking Palin as his vice presidential nominee. At the last session last week, most were scoffing at McCain's constant talk of Joe the Plumber, still calling Palin unqualified, divisive and grating, and acknowledging that Obama has grown on them."

Is this the mass repudiation of simpleminded social conservatism we have waited for? Time will tell.

Religulous Outperforms Expelled

The figures are in, and Bill Maher's Religulous has outperformed Ben Stein's Expelled in its opening weekend, despite appearing in half the theatres, not having giveaways or bus-ins, nor the massive media blitz. Of course, some people who are determined to paint any atheist PR victory as a defeat will try to twist this somehow into a victory for Expelled, but the facts say otherwise. What is it with these self-loathing atheists who object to seemingly any attempt by the rest of us to counter the standard pro-religion view of everything? Methinks they have a lot of soul searching to do. In the meantime, they should just shut up until they can get a least a little objectivity on the issue. For someone to claim Expelled was a success, then turn around and predict the Religulous team will be "disappointed with the returns" requires a considerable disconnect from reality, however they try to frame it.

Real America? Read Between the Lines, it's All There in Black and White

Just when you thought the political discourse couldn't sink any lower, now we have the idiotic notion of "real America", which is just the latest word the Republicans have redefined (along with gaffe, liberal, socialist, activist, celebrity, and elitist) to mean little more than agrees/disagrees with me. Well, OK, perhaps this time it means a little bit more.

We have the idiot Michelle Bachman claiming there are congressmen who are, like Barack Obama supposedly is, "anti-American", but when pressed by Chris Matthews to name one, hid like a surrendering coward behind empty scare words.

Then there is Nancy Pfotenhauer claiming that "the Democrats have just come in from D.C. and moved into Northern Virginia", but that's not "real Virginia", which she takes to be the part of the state that is more southern. Funny, you could easily substitute another, much more inflammatory word in there for "Democrats" couldn't you? Naw, that can't be what she is getting at?

Of course where inflammatory stupidity is concerned, no one compares to the VP in waiting, Ms. Palin, who claims "real America" is in small towns where they are very "pro-America". Gee, small towns, ie, not big cities. Hmmm, what demographic group disproportionately occupies the big cities? Perhaps it will be clearer to think of them as the "inner cities". Got it now? Well, if you don't, perhaps some of Palin's supporters can explain it to you. You can be forgiven for thinking this is 1968 instead of 2008, or Alabama instead of Ohio.

"If he wins, the black [sic] will take over. He's not a Christian! This is a Christian nation!"

"When you got a nigra running for president, you need a first stringer, and he's definitely a second stringer."

"Obama and his wife, Im concerned that they could be anti-white, that he might hide that."

"I don't the fact that he thinks us white people are trash."

They aren't even hiding it any more. There stands Palin in a barn, literally surrounded by hay bales and hayseeds spewing this "real America" crap. All that's missing is the sheets. McCain says he's all about straight talk, so here's some straight talk: "Real America" is code for "White America", and you're reading this from one of the most ardent anti-affirmative action, anti-reparations, anti-anything-Jesse Jackson-is-for people there is. But let's call a spade a spade here: John McCain's campaign is playing the nigger card, plain and simple. "The black[s] will take over". They will move into your neighborhood and take over. That's the message the bullshit express is sending.

I never bought the line that the GOP played to racism, but this is so blatant one can't ignore it. They aren't even hiding it any more in many cases, and in others, the try to hide it but do a piss poor job of it. Watch the women at about :56 of this clip ramble and fumble for why she doesn't like Obama, and sounding downright Palinesque in the process:

"Just the whole Muslim thing and everything, I mean everyone is still kind of, a lot of people forgot about 9/11, but I don't know, it's just kind of unnerving"

Forgot about 9/11? Are you shitting me? And this is supposed to be real America? What's unnerving lady? Come on, you can say it: it's unnerving to think of a black man as president. That's all, that's what you know enough to be ashamed of, but not enough to let it go. It's so 1960.

And yeah I know, Obama has some ignorant voters too. However, once again comparing the two is like comparing Biden's ~5 year mistake to Palin's near century one. General ignorance is something we can all get behind changing. This sort of racism, however, is not only denied by some, but supported and fueled by some. Palin is not doing this accidentally. Do you think the barn surprised her?

The GOP has sunk so low it is willing to display it's racism blatantly rather than lose this election with some class. They could learn a lot from Al Gore, and let's hope they get a chance to show half the class in defeat that he did. I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Video: Ants Devour a Ghecko

Here's a timelapse film of ants eating a dead gecko. It is interesting to me to watch the movements of the various gecko pieces. Sometimes a bone will bounce around randomly for quite some time before the little buggers get coordinated enough to cart it off.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Preview of Palin as President

This is hilarious. Be sure to click the door multiple times. And watch out for the red phone!

David Brooks Nails the Modern Conservative Shift

I'm not alone. David Brooks has a great article summarizing the recent movement of the GOP towards the Palinist anti-intellectual movement it has become. Some high points:

"Ronald Reagan was no intellectual, but he had an earnest faith in ideas and he spent decades working through them...

But over the past few decades, the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts. This expulsion has had many causes. But the big one is this: Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare...The nation is divided between the wholesome Joe Sixpacks in the heartland and the oversophisticated, overeducated, oversecularized denizens of the coasts.

What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole. The liberals had coastal condescension, so the conservatives developed their own anti-elitism, with mirror-image categories and mirror-image resentments, but with the same corrosive effect.

Republicans developed their own leadership style. If Democratic leaders prized deliberation and self-examination, then Republicans would govern from the gut...

The political effects of this trend have been obvious. Republicans have alienated the highly educated regions — Silicon Valley, northern Virginia, the suburbs outside of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham. The West Coast and the Northeast are mostly gone.

The Republicans have alienated whole professions. Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4-to-1 rates. With doctors, it’s 2-to-1. With tech executives, it’s 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it’s 2-to-1. It took talent for Republicans to lose the banking community.

Conservatives are as rare in elite universities and the mainstream media as they were 30 years ago. The smartest young Americans are now educated in an overwhelmingly liberal environment.

This year could have changed things. The G.O.P. had three urbane presidential candidates. But the class-warfare clich├ęs took control. Rudy Giuliani disdained cosmopolitans at the Republican convention. Mitt Romney gave a speech attacking “eastern elites.” (Mitt Romney!) John McCain picked Sarah Palin.

Palin is smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable. Her convention and debate performances were impressive. But no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin. Nobody so relentlessly divides the world between the “normal Joe Sixpack American” and the coastal elite.

She is another step in the Republican change of personality. Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking. Now those attributes bow down before the common touch.

And so, politically, the G.O.P. is squeezed at both ends. The party is losing the working class by sins of omission — because it has not developed policies to address economic anxiety. It has lost the educated class by sins of commission — by telling members of that class to go away."

Indeed, they told me to go away. GHW Bush said I couldn't be a good citizen. The consistent depiction of anyone with nuanced positions as a "flip flopper", of anyone understanding the limitations of markets as a "socialist", and anyone acknowledging the crimes of the rare few bad apples in our military as "unamerican", says loud and clear: unless you are an ignorant jingoist, we don't want you. Fine, you got it, now let's see you win elections without us.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Beautiful Birds: Rimatara Lories

McCain Bests Obama in Charity Roast

I wish we could see this sort of humor and just general normalcy in a way that doesn't insult our intelligence. Both guys were pretty funny, but McCain had the better material, and the better delivery. Again, I feel like I'm looking at a rerun of Bob Dole, who had an awesome sense of humor we never saw until after the election was over. Had we seen this John McCain in the debates, instead of the searingly angry, downright scary version we got, this election could be very different.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Francis Collins Endorses Obama

Francis Collins, scientist, Christian, and director of the National Human Genome Research Institute has endorsed Barack Obama for president. This is highly unusual for Collins, who is typical apolitical. He states:

"As I've examined the positions taken by the current presidential candidates on these critical issues, I regret to say that I have found little comfort in Sen. John McCain's plan. While he makes some vague general statements about support of science and technology, and promises to make the research and development tax credit permanent (as does Barack Obama), the absence of specifics is disturbing.

A particularly troubling detail is McCain's promise to freeze all research funding in his first year in office, dealing a potentially devastating blow to young scientists who are already running on fumes.

Sen. Obama, on the other hand, has provided a detailed plan for his science, technology and innovation agenda, which lays out how advances in science can provide solutions to many of the problems that face us. He provides a bold approach to stimulating our economy, restoring the integrity of scientific advice to our nation's leaders, and regaining U.S. leadership in science."

The whole article is worth a read, particularly Collins' note that Obama has been active on the science front in the past, introducing the Genomics and Personalized Medicine Act. Once again, the facts put the lie to the claims that Obama has done nothing with his time in the senate and is an empty suit. Empty is what describes the GOP's blind, ignorant criticisms, and scientists like Collins can see that. Luckily, it looks like most of the voters can too.

Why Don't You Want to Teach ID in the Classroom?

The latest versions of the Big Lie over at Evolution News and Views have Robert Crowther and Casey Luskin shocked, shocked I say that not only are the media not treating legitimate science authors with the same skepticism they treat the DI hacks, and Anika Smith dumbfounded that they aren't buying the DI talking points:

"Immediately after Dr. Seelke said that he unequivocally does not want to teach ID in the classroom, the news reporter frames his position as something else entirely, that students should look at 'all theories on how life came about and not just evolution.' Did reporter Joe Robuck even listen to Seelke when he interviewed him?"

Yes, and he's also no doubt researched the DI's evasive and disingenuous tactics and was prepared for that bit of flubdubbery. To illustrate how implausible that line is, just ask yourself this: if ID is indeed scientific, and causing a revolution in science, a and a better fit to the evidence than is MET, they why don't they want to teach it in schools. After all, that is the mainstream scientific position: evolution is science, ID isn't, so we should teach evolution in the schools. How does it make sense to say "ID is science, but we shouldn't teach it in science class".

Answer: it doesn't. It's a lie. They most certainly do want to teach ID in the classroom, they just know they have to pretend they don't to get the pseudoscience camel's nose in the classroom tent. ID is, after all, nothing more than classic creationist criticisms of evolution dressed up in sciency garb. Teaching "the scientific evidence for and against" evolution IS Intelligent Design. That's the genie that has been let out of the bottle, and the DI can't put it back in. Once the crowd learns the magician's tricks, no one is going to be fooled again [cue the Who].

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nothing Sums up the McCain Campaign like USA! USA!

As this surreal election comes to a close, I think the one aspect of this campaign that sums it all up most succinctly is what I just saw watching a McCain stump speech. Rather, it is what I heard: the chant of "USA! USA!" in the McCain crowd.

This is truly mindboggling. Here is an election between two Americans, and one side chants "USA!" as if it distinguishes them from their opponent. Imagine a football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins wherein Redskins fans chanted "USA!". Would we not wonder about their sanity?

Yet the McCain crowd keeps doing this, and no one says anything about it. It shows how isolated from reality so many in that camp have become. They are so convinced that Obama is a Manchurian, socialist, Muslim that they actually think he isn't as American as they are. This is what the Republicans have been reduced to: pretending Democrats aren't real Americans.

It will be interesting to see how these people react when their candidate loses. Will they show the world the democratic spirit and accept Obama as their president, rightfully elected? Or will they show the worst traits of those they so revile, dictators and zealots, who only like democracy when they win?

WASP-12b: Hottest Planet Known

Scientists have discovered the hottest planet yet (4000 degrees F), a Jupiter-like near sun that also has the fastest revolution (about 1 earth day), and is closer to its sun (2 million miles) than any planet known.

"WASP-12b is incredibly interesting, because we're at a stage in the study of exoplanets where we're finding new examples all the time," said Don Pollacco of Queen's University in Northern Ireland, who is a project scientist for the SuperWASP (Super Wide Angle Search for Planets) project that discovered WASp-12b. "It was exciting because it was the shortest period and the hottest planet, but I suspect there are even shorter period planets, and hotter planets to come."

WASP-12b is a gaseous planet, about 1.5 times the mass of Jupiter, and almost twice the size.

The planet, which orbits a star 870 light years from Earth, is especially notable because it pushes the bounds of how close planets can ever come to their stars without being destroyed.

"There is a limit because as a planet gets closer to its star, the radiation field gets more and more intense, and at some point that whole planet will be evaporated by its star," Pollacco told "Before, some people thought it was impossible to find planets that had 1-day periods. I think it's so early in the whole subject, and it takes a number of objects before you can start setting limits.

The planet is also so hot that its temperature matches that of some stars. This planet, however, is definitely not a star because its mass isn't nearly large enough for the internal thermonuclear reactions that define stars...

All the information scientists have so far about WASP-12b indicates that this fiery ball cozily circling its star is an odd case. Yet discoveries like this raise the question, are planets like this in fact more common in the universe than planets like Earth?

"Is our solar system the freak, or are these other solar systems the freaks?" Pollacco said. "Who knows? I suspect that for life to evolve as we know it, you have to have a special set of circumstances come together to produce very specific conditions."

It is truly fascinating as we learn about these other planets to note different they are from ours. Most of us just assumed our solar system was typical, a few small rocky planets closer to the sun, gas giants further out, and a few asteroid belts along the way. Now we find planets twice the size of Jupiter wizzing around their sun at a speed that makes Mercury look like it is just poking along. What other mysterious worlds are out there just waiting to be found?

McCain Pisses Off Scientists

John McCain seems determined to piss off scientists. First it was his frequent and flawed references to the study of grizzly bear DNA:

"I don't know if it was a paternity issue or criminal, but it was a waste of money," McCain railed last month during a campaign stop in Clawson, Mich. Scientists, however, are not amused: They insist that the study is not only worth every penny but that the $3-million price tag cited in the ad is, in a word, wrong.

In fact, Congress over the past five years has forked over a total of $4.8 million to study the genetic material of Montana's grizzly bears, according to Katherine Kendall, a research biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Kendall heads the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project, which is aimed at obtaining the first accurate population estimate of grizzlies living in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem—eight million acres of land in northwestern Montana that encompasses Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex."

Now it's an inaccurate and frequent reference to the 'Sky Theater' projector at the Adler Planetarium as a mere overhead projector:

"[Obama] voted for nearly a billion dollars in pork barrel earmark projects, including, by the way, $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?"

Scientists, as expected, were not amused

"For McCain to use this as a political zinger is insulting..." (Bad Astronomy)

-"Planetariums are Bridges to the Future, and America would be a much better place if all the congressional earmarks went to projects like them." (The Perfect Silence)

-"The logo for Senator John McCain's campaign has a star in the middle. I wonder what his guide star is? It can't be the same one that ten million children have seen at the Adler Planetarium. Why should anyone want their star to dim?"

If you are curious, you can see what the sky projector looks like here. As I have mentioned before, those who think the kooky anti-science religious wing of the Republican party are just an isolated group that isn't influencing the entire party, should reconsider. How is it that so many of McCain's examples of pork are scientific projects, and why does he always reveal a complete lack of understanding or interest in them? Whence came this anti-science attitude now so prevalent among Republicans?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Let the Texas Creationist War Begin

The war has officially begun:

The Texas Freedom Network has learned that evolution opponents on the state board are trying to pack a formal curriculum review panel with supporters of teaching “intelligent design”/creationism. The panel was supposed to include science experts, yet three of the six appointed by the state board are strident evolution critics. In fact, two are authors of an anti-evolution textbook, Explore Evolution, that the state board could consider approving for Texas public schools in 2011...

“It’s simply stunning that any state board members would even consider appointing authors of an anti-evolution textbook to a panel of scientists,” [Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller] said. “Are they coming here to help write good science standards or to drum up a market for their lousy textbook?”

We've got to make noise on this one. Write your newspapers, sign the petition, call your representatives. This is absurd on two levels: that promoters of pseudoscience would be put on a board, and that a book written by those same pseudoscientists could come before the panel on which they sit. This blatant conflict of interest is unethical.

Samples from the Loony Right

If you think the cries of 'kill him!' and 'traitor!' at recent Sarah Palin rallies were anomalies, check out some of the looniness I've found. I didn't have to go far, or in some dark corner. Right there in the open, Townhall provides. Be sure to read the comments. Here are some of my favorites:

"Every true patriot should now prepare his own personal weapon and select his own target individual for destruction. When the socialist government begins to implement its true agenda, then each patriot should eliminate his pre-selected target with extreme prejudice. Thomas Jefferson, Sam Adams and George Washington already provided us the example. It is the only way we can preserve our freedom."

"I think these socialists have at the least gotton into minds of people like Barney,Nancy and others in congress. Our universities are pushing socialism hard. Evidence clearly shows Obama was tutored in socialism & is hell bent on destroying us within. I've said this before, if you have guns, hide them well--if you don't have guns, get them."

"It's Showtime. They are ready to take to the streets. Only massive organised armed resistance will save this country."

"Even Obama has the sense to know we cling to our guns. Others like Jayhawk don't quite get that yet. I truly pray they don't learn the hard way but if it comes down to it, I will set my Bible down for a moment to take aim. "

"Over 80 million of us locked and loaded and ready to take back our country by any means necessary. The Civil War wasn't an aberration nor was it the last. Our nation is going through a hostile takeover, having been destroyed from within financially by the traitorous leftists Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Frank, Dodd, et al, your day is coming! To the supporters of the Muslim plant, us gun hugging, bible toting bitter Americans know who you are!"

I noted recently that the static, geographically concentrated nature of the election map the last few cycles was prime set up for a civil war. Now we are getting the language of one too, and from the group more likely to do it. Say what you will about tree-huggin hippies, they are far less likely to take up arms against the government than the militias. McCain, Palin, and the rest of the venomous Republican politicos might have lit a fire they can't put out.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hitchens on Palin: Another Intellectually Honest Republican Tells it Like it Is

When he is on, no one can skewer with a phrase like Hitchens. The man who quipped "if you gave Jerry Falwell an enima, you could bury him in a matchbox" now turns his ire on the most deserving Sarah Palin, and the only slightly less deserving John McCain:

"A candidate may well change his or her position on, say, universal health care or Bosnia. But he or she cannot change the fact—if it happens to be a fact—that he or she is a pathological liar, or a dimwit, or a proud ignoramus. And even in the short run, this must and will tell.

... Last week's so-called town-hall event showed Sen. John McCain to be someone suffering from an increasingly obvious and embarrassing deficit, both cognitive and physical. And the only public events that have so far featured his absurd choice of running mate have shown her to be a deceiving and unscrupulous woman utterly unversed in any of the needful political discourses but easily trained to utter preposterous lies and to appeal to the basest element of her audience...

The most insulting thing that a politician can do is to compel you to ask yourself: "What does he take me for?" Precisely this question is provoked by the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin. I wrote not long ago that it was not right to condescend to her just because of her provincial roots or her piety, let alone her slight flirtatiousness, but really her conduct since then has been a national disgrace. It turns out that none of her early claims to political courage was founded in fact, and it further turns out that some of the untested rumors about her—her vindictiveness in local quarrels, her bizarre religious and political affiliations—were very well-founded, indeed. Moreover, given the nasty and lowly task of stirring up the whack-job fringe of the party's right wing and of recycling patent falsehoods about Obama's position on Afghanistan, she has drawn upon the only talent that she apparently possesses.

It therefore seems to me that the Republican Party has invited not just defeat but discredit this year, and that both its nominees for the highest offices in the land should be decisively repudiated, along with any senators, congressmen, and governors who endorse them...

One only wishes that the election could be over now and a proper and dignified verdict rendered, so as to spare democracy and civility the degradation to which they look like being subjected in the remaining days of a low, dishonest campaign."

Amen. Let those Republicans without the balls to condemn the dangerous foolishness that has become the McPalin campaign suffer the same fate, and the same condemnation of history. Kudos to Republicans like Kathleen Parker and Christopher Buckley for being real. This goes beyond politics. This is about putting America first.

Elizabeth Dole: Anti-Atheist Bigot

There's really not much to say about this, except to say that Elizabeth Dole's bigoted rant against atheists shows how absurd the claims of discrimination against Christians is. Nothing close to this exists against Christians in our society. Dole criticizes atheists for daring to want to hold office (like Christians do), have the Pledge of Allegiance be neutral to religions or lack thereof, and to have the Boy Scouts and other groups that receive government funding live up to the same nondiscrimination standards that Christians like Dole would be screaming their hypocritical heads off about were they denied to Christians.

Luckily, the forces of good are winning this battle: Hagan - 45, Dole - 42. If you live in North Carolina, go vote for Kay Hagan, and send a message about anti-atheist bigotry. Atheists are good citizens (contra GHW Bush) and vote, and its high time we demonstrated this to bigots like Dole.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Follow the Leader Fossil

Check out PZ's article on the above fossil, which is a chain of shrimp like creatures from the Cambrian period. It makes the past come alive to think of these little critters strung together for some yet unknown purpose.

Republican Proposes Using Polygraph in Debate, Democrat Gives Poor Response

You've gotta love the spirit of this story.

"Ninth District Republican Party Chairman Larry Shickles on Wednesday proposed the political polygraphs for Democratic Rep. Baron Hill, Republican challenger Mike Sodrel and Libertarian candidate Eric Schansberg. The three are scheduled to debate Oct. 21, but an official with a debate co-sponsor said lie detectors won't be included.

Shickles, in a letter sent Tuesday to 9th District Democratic Chairman Mike Jones, suggested that the candidates be hooked up to lie detecting machines at the Oct. 21 event or a separate debate.

"While this format may be unusual, I feel strongly that voters need to be able to make a clear decision without all the usual spin," Shickles wrote.

Now that's more like it from the Republicans. Sadly, lie detectors are scientifically dubious, so their anti-intellectualism may have gotten the better of their instincts for no BS fairness, but its still nice to see some of what I remember being common among Republicans.

What I remember from the Democrats in those days was a lot of mealy-mouthed nonsense, and the Democrat in this scenario doesn't disappoint:

Jones said having a lie detector debate "just seems pretty bizarre."

"Polygraphs have their use in law enforcement, but I don't see them fitting in a political debate," Jones said. "There are plenty of avenues for finding out each candidate's true position. The votes of both Baron Hill and Mike Sodrel are on record with Congress."

Wrong, wrong. You say polygraphs are unscientific, which means that there would inevitably be moments where the machine claims a candidate is lying when he isn't, or give him the halo of truth when he is lying through his teeth. Giving the voters a false impression of knowledge we don't have is worse than leaving them to their own judgements.

Instead we got the BS above. Why is truth seeking more important in law enforcement than it is in politics? So because the candidates' positions are on the net, we shouldn't concern ourselves with whether they tell the truth in the debates? Jones makes it sound like he thinks its bizarre we should want to be sure he isn't lying.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Exchange with a Townhall Wingnut

Here is an exchange I had with a typical know-nothing, MSU wingnut on Townhall posting by "Ken", who chose the unenviable task of trying to defend Sarah Palin. You can't parody these people, and it is amazing what cult like qualities they are starting to exhibit:


My opening statement:

You people are hilarious. It's as if you are all suffering from some sort of mass delusion. Answered the questions adequately? She didn't answer them at all! "All of them" is not an answer. Rambling about Putin is not an answer. Yammering about generalities when the question was to actually name a court case is not an answer. Ignoring debate questions and reading from cue cards is not an answer. The only way Palin's answers could have been less adequate would have been for her to say "de do do do, de da da da" each time.

Any objective intelligent person can see that Palin doesn't know her arse from arugula, is faking it, and is uniformly unqualified for the position she seeks. That so many of you, along with columnists like Tyrrell, are selling out your integrity supporting this fraud shows just how much stock we should put in all this "values voters" and "putting America first" nonsense. The only value you people seem to have is "support the Republicans, no matter how badly we have to lie to do it, and no matter how incompetent the candidate". And this is coming from a person who has voted straight Republican/libertarian for 20 years.

Luckily for America, most of the voters are seeing the light, and the Republicans are headed for the landslide loss this incompetent candidate, and my once proud party that has sunk to supporting her, so richly deserves.

Ken's retort:

"I'll bet Sarah Palin knows that FDR wasn't president in 1929, and that national television didn't exist at that time. That's more than Joe Biden knows. I can't expect you to understand that, though, since you're neither objective nor intelligent.

Your 'once proud party' does not support Palin, since you are obviously a Democrat. You liberal hacks need to find yourselves some new material."

Thanks Ken for proving my point: when you don't like reality, make stuff up. I am in fact a 20 year Republican voter (Reagan, GHW Bush^2, Dole, W^2), as are many who are moving away from that party as a result of its increasingly anti-intellectual attitudes. Nominating Palin was the last straw for most of us. You can't accept that reality, and must pretend that we are all "liberal hacks" and/or Democrats. You sound just like the creationist nuts that think anyone who accepts evolution must be an atheist, despite the overwhelming data to the contrary. But to heck with reality when it conflicts with your ideals. That's the new Republican party in a nutshell.

Your comparison of Palin's complete lack of knowledge to Biden's misplacement of FDR's depression commentary to the nation by a few years proves my point further. The two aren't even remotely similar. It's as if they were sitting in Kentucky, were asked where they were, and Biden said "Kansas" while Palin said "The Kremlin", and you're comparing the two.

And once again, we see that you guys can't deal with facts, and must speculate and pretend you have facts instead. We don't know what Palin knows about FDR or television, you simply made that up. But we do know she thought the founding fathers wrote the pledge of allegiance, which again dwarfs any mistake anyone else (including McCain) has made. It also makes it highly unlikely your speculation is correct.

Keep burying your heads in the sand, and ignoring reality. Your time screwing up the country ends Nov. 4th with a FDR-like rout.

"You're only proving my point. That [making shit up] seems to be the modus operandi for most of you liberals. Why do you have to pretend you're a Republican when you're obviously a lifelong Democrat? Yeah, that's what they all say.

Your denial of any similarity proves my point further. You have a double standard, as do most liberals. The fact is, Joe Biden is a liar, a plagiarist and an idiot. Why can't you face that fact?

If Obama wins, he'll have more in common with Carter than FDR. Carter won in '76, but his honeymoon was short-lived. I predict Obama's honeymoon will be even shorter."

You have no evidence that I'm a lifelong Democrat, you simply make that up because you can't fathom a lifelong Republican seeing Palin for the fake she is. That's how cults think Ken. And get used to it, there are a lot of us. I'm also for gun rights, flat taxes, small government, the death penalty, and against affirmative action. You gonna deny that too?

What who all say? What are you making up now? You're saying all the people who think Palin is a twit claim they were once lifelong Republicans? Do you think about this stuff at all?

I just recognize the difference between someone making a small, insignificant error (ie Biden, and Quayle as well FWIW), and someone making errors that reveal a gross lack of understanding of the subject, a la Palin.

There's more, check out the link. Granted, it's sort of like tormenting the monkeys at the zoo, but the Republicans have been so mean spirited, so downright dishonest, and at the same time so smug this election, I just can't help myself.

Racism and Obama

How about a little fire and brimstone from Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Joe Klein on What a Desperate Empty Embarrassment the McCain campaign has Become

I can't improve much on this:

"Their strategy is simple: you throw crap against a wall and then giggle as the media try to analyze the putresence in a way that conveys a sense of balance: 'Well, it is bull-pucky, but the splatter pattern is interesting...' which, of course, only serves to get your perverse message out. I really don't want to be a part of that. But...every so often, we journalists have a duty to remind readers just how dingy the McCain campaign, and its right-wing acolytes in the media (I'm looking at you, Sean Hannity) have become--especially in their efforts to divert public attention from the economic crisis we're facing...

It is appropriate that the prime vessel for this assault is Sarah Palin, whose very presence on a national ticket is an insult to your intelligence. She now has 'credibility,' we are told, because she managed to read talking points off notecards in the debate last week with unwitting enthusiasm."

It goes through the idiocy that is the attack on Obama based on him knowing Bill Ayers, and the rest of the loony tinfoil hat theories the wingnuts are tossing about. The entire thing is worth a read.

Palin Booed at Hockey Game

It's not exactly a scientific poll, but it's encouraging. She got some cheers, but the boos were more sustained. I don't think Pennsylvania is going Republican any time soon.

So You Want to Debate Evolution and Get No Takers?

From this discussion: to understand the reaction you are getting, allow me an analogy. I used to be very involved on an internet site for people who play a game called Axis and Allies. I won't bore you with too much detail except to say it is sort of the chess or bridge of dice-driven war games (or was, this was some time ago), and has one very pertinent trait.

In the game (I'm talking about the original version), one side plays the Axis powers, the other the Allied powers (simulating WWII). With beginner players, the Axis tends to win, because it is simpler to play. But with experienced players, the Allies, requiring the coordination of an more expert player, is dominant. This was beyond dispute: league devised bidding processes to give the Axis a helping hand.

But invariably, some new players, having bested their little brother and his friends, and fancying themselves far more skilled than they were, would join the club and announce that they would show us how the game was played, and demolish us as the Axis.

It used to be the running joke among some top players as to who's turn it was to deal with these guys. Some of the newbies wanted to debate it too, at great length. As you might imagine, that got boring in a hurry. Most of us completely lost interest in their arguments after a few months on the club. Been there, done that, 1,000 times.

This is a very analogous situation. People come on sites like this raring to debate scientists about evolution all the time. It's not news. What would be news is one that didn't use the same old nonsense arguments we've all seen, investigated and found woefully wanting, over and over again. What you got? 747's in junkyards? Moon dust? Irreducible Perplexity? Flaws in carbon 14 dating? No transitional fossils? Probability arguments (ooops, sorry, must show your work). Bible-babble? See, we have seen all this before.

Just like Axis and Allies, there's really no need for debate. Just play the game, and the answer becomes very clear very quickly. In the science game, the currency is publication and references in the peer-reviewed literature. And the scoreboard there shows thousands of articles and references a year for evolution, and diddly squat for creationism. Don't bore me with your conspiracy theories: The refs cheated! The dice are rigged! The judges are biased! It's all the same sore loser whine to me.

So that's why no one wants to debate you Scott. It's a boring game, you want to play it on the wrong field, and it's been decided for years anyway.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

More Republican anti-Intellectualism: Proper Pronunciation is "Annoying" and "Exotic"

Apparently, the Republican party has sunk so low that now properly pronouncing words is considered 'exotic' and 'annoying'. I wonder if they were annoyed that he can pronounce "nuclear" as well?

Buckley, Goldwater, and Lincoln are turning over in their graves at what has happened to their once proud party.

It Was Just a Matter of Time: Atheists to Blame for Financial Mess

You knew it was just a matter of time before some good Christian blamed the evil atheists for the mess on Wall Street. Well sure enough, here comes Ken Conner"

'For decades, secularists in America scoffed at religion and her offspring, morality and ethics. They removed religion from the realm of "truth" and reduced it to mere "opinion." Truth was limited to that which could be objectified, quantified, and verified. Since that could not be accomplished with religion (at least on this side of eternity), "religious truth" was deemed an oxymoron. Absolutes were out, relativism was in. Morals became "relative" and ethics became "situational." Virtue was rejected as an antiquated notion. Results were all that mattered.'

Sorry Ken, but it wasn't secularists that removed religion from the realm of truth and reduced it to mere opinion. It was all of you religious people who, despite your claims, have been fighting and killing each other for centuries over just what that "truth" is. You remind me of the creationists who claim all hominid fossils are either 100% ape or 100% human, and yet disagree with each other over which is which. You all claim to have The Truth (tm), but all your truths are different. We have a word for that: opinion.

Morals didn't "become" relative, nor ethics situational. They simply were, as evidenced by our travels all over the world contacting many civilizations which had very different ideas of what was moral and ethical, and yet functioned just fine. Contrast this with math or science, where 7 is considered prime all over the world, which is considered roughly spherical by everyone with the slightest ability to gather evidence about it.

Humanity's explosion in knowledge happened when we restricted our inquiries to that which can be objectified, quantified, and verified. In other words, science. No longer could someone make a claim based solely on supposed revelation from supposed dieties and be given credibility. THAT would be relative.

Those of us with a scientific point of view don't reject the concepts of morals, ethics and virtue. Were that the case, our prisons would be filled with atheists instead of believers. We simply recognize their arbitrary, subjective nature, which reduces our desire to force them on others. This is in stark contrast to those who treat their subjective views as The Truth (tm), who history shows have been more than willing to force their views on others, even to the point of becoming terrorists and flying airplanes into buildings. If that doesn't make "religious truth" an oxymoron, I don't know what would.

McCain Rally, Obama an Arab? Insights into the Republican Base and Strategy

For Exhibit A of why many of us who actually value an education, and whose morals have developed a little bit from what they were 50 years ago, have left the Republican party, watch this clip of a recent McCain rally. In it we see McCain addressed by some complete racist ignoramuses dying to say "I don't trust that nigger", but having to dress their comments up in safer terms, like "Arab". This is the modern Republican Party. Isn't it pretty? Look at the people in that video. It looks and sounds like a Klan meeting.

And yet there is McCain denying and discouraging the very same ideas that his running mate and campaign are working so hard to place in people's minds. Is this a sign of extreme disorganization, or some sort of good-cop bad-cop routine to make McCain look noble while firing up the Dixie South? If the latter, McCain has to know he can't win that way. America has made a lot of progress in the arena of racism, whatever work remains. There just aren't enough racists left for McCain to win with them.

I'll give McCain the benefit of the doubt and take his comments in the clip above as sincere. Good for you John, glad to see some integrity again for a change. Perhaps the pride of the soldier in you has finally said "enough" to this mudslinging dishonest campaign. But that won't be plausible if you allow Sarah "never learnin" Palin to keep spewing and inciting venom and violence. That would expose you as a charlatan, only feigning integrity for political expediency.

Make us believe you love America once again John McCain: make Palin stop all this ridiculous talk suggesting Obama is in league with terrorists. There is still time to lose with dignity.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bible Warning Stickers

Finally, someone who wants to protect the children.

Projection: Thy Name is Cindy McCain

Cindy McCain, apparently not happy with being upstaged by Sarah Palin in the category of Most Deluded McCain Sidekick, uncorked this whopper today:

"Cindy McCain said today that she expects her husband to clear the record at tonight's debate and let America know where he truly stands.

McCain, who stopped to visit a half-dozen children at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt today, said the presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has "waged the dirtiest campaign in American history," and her husband Sen. John McCain will use tonight's debate to correct the distortions."

Yeah, its about time they called Obama on insinuating that McCain pals around with terrorists, that his only legislative accomplish was to teach sex ed to kindergartners, that he cancelled a visit with wounded troops because cameras weren't allowed, is going to raise everyone's taxes, wants a government-run health care system, and opposes offshore drilling and nuclear power.

No wait, that was McCain, waging the dirtiest campaign in history against Obama. I guess Cindy thinks we are going to forget about all that.

And let's be clear: if Obama was going to run a dirty campaign against McCain, he'd talk about his trophy wife hunting, his affair, how his imprisonment and torture probably made him mentally unbalanced and crazy, his senility, his age, and his cancer. THAT is what a dirty campaign from Obama would look like, and it doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to what has happened.

So Cindy McCain, welcome to the Liars for McCain Club. I'm sure you'll fit right in.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Why Republicans, Why?

Indeed Republicans, why? David from CA puts it well:

"When did our standards for real statesmanship sink so low?
Why haven't good Republicans risen up in mass revolt against this foolish lowering of expectations for our national leaders? Where is the knowledge, wisdom and greatness in Palin? She displays no genuine shade of it.

That's not good enough for my family. Why is it good enough for you, fellow citizen?


Palin offers nothing of the hugeness of mind, heart and soul we should seek in the men and women we place in high office.
I demand better, and I resent being asked to sign off on a counterfeit, just to win at any cost. No more for my family. We won't be voting for Palin."

Indeed, neither should anyone who puts country before party.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Intelligence, Ideology, and acceptance of Evolution

Razib has a very interesting analysis of the relationship of intelligence, ideology, and acceptance of evolution. Take a look at the graphs which plot skepticism of evolution against intelligence, particularly the 4th one which plots groups based on religiosity. There he gets the surprising result that, among fundamentalists, their skepticism of evolution actually goes up as their intelligence increases. He sums up the findings this way:

"And this last point is one I think which is worth keeping in mind. If you are a person who is liberal in orientation and you interact mainly with other liberals, then you will naturally see a strong relationship between intelligence and acceptance of evolution. If, on the other hand you are very conservative, that relationship will be harder to discern. Finally, if you are a fundamentalist Christian you won't see that relationship in your day to day life. Daniel Dennett's universal acid of Darwinism might not be so universal at all; among liberals it is rather acidic, especially as one goes up the ladder of intelligence and education. Among religious conservatives, far less so."

The whole article is worth a read.

Presidential Debate II, and why the Slanders Won't Work

The second presidential debate has come and gone, and aside from the candidates mostly repeating the same stump speeches there really wasn't much to comment on on substance. Boring might be too strong a description, but not far off. Still there were some notable moments.

McCain's disdain for Obama couldn't have been more clear than when he pointed to him and said "that one". That one what John? That uppity one perhaps? And what was it with McCain roaming around while Obama was talking. With McCain's posture this seemed poor strategy: he looked like a little troll wandering around, especially at the end when he walked right in front of the camera as Tom Brokaw was signing off.

It was notable that McCain kept everything above the belt: no talk about Ayers, or Obama being a terrorist, or any of the other things that McCain's pit bull running mate has been spewing of late. Their strategy seems clear: have Palin attack Obama mercilessly with any slander she can find, while keeping her away from the press, who might ask troublesome questions, and have McCain play good cop. Palin has become just another McCain 527.

But it won't matter, and we got our indication of that during the debate if you were watching CNN as I was. There they had a running vote of undecided Ohio voters giving a positive or negative rating on a sliding scale based on what the candidate was saying. It was not surprising that Obama was getting the better of the average ratings, often going to the top of the positive, whereas McCain spent a lot of time around zero, or even negative. But what stood out was the difference in the way those undecided voters reacted when the candidates attacked each other.

When Obama attacked, it was a mixed bag: sometimes the rating would increase, others it would stay the same or drop a little. McCain's attacks, on the other hand, consistently caused his rating to drop considerably. This is all about credibility. When the voters heard the criticisms, they reacted based on who they believed, and it was never John McCain. All the lying, and subterfuge regarding Sarah Palin, has apparently caught up to the McCain campaign. They have no credibility any more. It doesn't matter what they accuse Obama of, no one will believe them. McCain gave up the one thing he wanted to be known for: straight talk. Now it's all crooked talk, and the voters have caught on. Only Obama can beat Obama now.

Palin on Global Warming

Here's Sarah Palin trying to answer a question from Katie Couric on global warming:

"You know there are - there are man's activities that can be contributed to the issues that we're dealing with now, these impacts. I'm not going to solely blame all of man's activities on changes in climate. Because the world's weather patterns are cyclical. And over history we have seen change there. But kind of doesn't matter at this point, as we debate what caused it. The point is: it's real; we need to do something about it."

It is simply astonishing how much ignorance this woman can cram into one paragraph. One could be forgiven for thinking she was speaking her second language the way she reverses her objects and subjects. The issue is blaming climate change on man's activities, not blaming man's activities on climate change. Second, I'm tired of these AGW deniers saying "weather patterns are cyclical". That says nothing about what causes the cycles, how extreme they are, and how long they last.

As for her last statement, this seems another stock argument from Republicans these days. We see that exact phase when talking about how we got mired in Iraq, or how our financial system got so screwed up. It doesn't matter what caused it? How are you going to "do something about it" if you don't know what caused it? We can't reverse the causes if we don't know what they are.

Ah, but looking into what caused these problems would result in some serious scrutiny, and possible rejection, of Republican dogmas about man's activities and the free market, as well as our entire outlook on the War on Terror (tm), and we can't have that now can we. It's akin to a fat guy wanting to lose weight, but having no interest in examining his diet for how he got that way in the first place. The person to blame never wants to look at who is to blame.

Now who is to blame for Sarah Palin's shoddy education, and why has our system allowed this imbecile to be one step from the White House? Those responsible should pay.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Townhall Censors Comments

Wow. I've become a victim of the Republican control machine. is censoring my comments. I commented here, and here, and yet my comments are nowhere to be found. There is proof I was there: in the Hawkins article, replies #55, #56, and #61 mention my post.

What was I doing that warranted this censorship? Simply calling the Republican BS for what it was, from the POV of a former Republican calling my mates to the way of reason. The Knight article I've given the full treatment. In the Hawkins article, I simply reminded them that common sense and Republican talking points are not synonymous, and asked them about the common sense that:

1) Borrowing and spending (what the last 3 Republican presidents did) is worse than taxing and spending.

2) Scientists know more science (ie evolution and global warming)than Joe Shiiteforbrains Dittohead does.

3) You can't control both houses of the government and the presidency for 6-8 years and blame the bad things that happen on your watch on the minority party.

Ironically, it is exactly this sort of behavior that I was ranting about in the censored comments. How far my once proud Republican party has fallen.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Robert Knight - All Mistakes are Not Created Equal

In an effort to rationalize Sarah Palin's embarrassing lack of knowledge of, well, anything, those still willing to publicly support McCain/Palin are playing a subtle game of equivocation with the terms "mistake" and "gaffe". Robert Knight demonstrates:

"When a liberal misspeaks, it’s a slip of the tongue. We all make mistakes. If you are a conservative, however, you commit an unforgivable sin that must be revisited a thousand times until you are out of Purgatory – or office, whichever comes first."

The assumption that all mistakes are equal, and should be treated identically, is never stated. Yet it is the backbone of the argument, and it is, on its face preposterous. This shouldn't need explaining, but saying "Kansas" when you meant "Kentucky" isn't nearly the mistake saying "the Kremlin" would be. Some mistakes are just worse than others. The things politicians say always must be interpreted in context as well, especially those things that sound troublesome. Was it an off-the-cuff comment the candidate himself regrets, or does he defend it? Was it a simple slip of the tongue that was actually the opposite of what the candidate believes, or did it reveal a shoddy association with the facts? Does it indicate a lack of understanding of important issues, or just a momentary lapse?

These are all crucial issues to evaluating what politicians say, and yet when these comparisons are made, they are almost always absent. Over and over when someone says something like Knight above, what will invariably follow is a comparison of quotes from the two candidates, and the different reactions to them, resulting in an (to the speaker) inarguable case that there is an unfair bias.

The problem is that the mistakes compared are rarely identical, and often are not comparable in any sane way. This election is a primary example of it, as the Palin supporters scramble to try to find some way to excuse the idiocy that she vomits forth daily. They tend to answer their own questions, if they paid attention at all to the implications of what they say. Again, Knight does not disappoint:

"Good Morning America, like NBC’s Today Show and CBS’ The Early Show, played clips of Tina Fey doing her mocking impersonation of Palin on Saturday Night Live. When did comic impersonations become news?"

I'll tell you when Mr. Knight. It became news when it used actual quotes from the candidate. It became news when the GOP decided to insult the intelligence of the American electorate and nominated a completely unqualified, ignorant person who holds borderline insane beliefs about the history of the earth, to the 2nd highest office in the land. You made the joke, you have no business complaining that comedians noticed, and that we all see the similarities.

Let's review. Sarah Palin couldn't name a Supreme Court decision that she disagreed with other than Roe v. Wade, she couldn't name a periodical she reads, couldn't give an answer to the relevance of the proximity of Russia and Alaska to her foreign policy experience, thought the founding fathers wrote the pledge of allegiance, and thought health care was a major issue in the recent financial meltdown.

So what Joe Biden mistakes does Knight want to compare to this?

"Last week, Biden said in a speech that, “When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television” to calm the nation. The stock market crashed in 1929, before TV and before Roosevelt was president.

No problem. The liberal media have Joe’s back and won’t make a big deal of it. Palin made no notable errors last week, yet she was still the one to be savaged. It’s a pity Saturday Night Live can’t remove their ideological blinders. What a great skit Biden might have inspired! Imagine Bill Murray coming back to portray Biden: “It’s just like when George Washington climbed up on a tank to rally the troops at Gettysburg…” "

Where to begin? How about with what kind of mistake Biden made. No, FDR did not get on TV to talk to the nation when the market crashed in 1929. FDR was not president until 1933, and television did not appear until 1939. What Roosevelt did do was become president in the middle of the depression, and he had his famous "fireside chats" on the radio. So boiled down to the essentials, Biden misplaced Roosevelt's talks with the nation during the depression by a few years, and got the medium wrong.

So what? This is Knight's idea of a major error? In what way? Does it reveal any underlying ignorance of major events? No. Does it reveal a lack of conceptual understanding of any issues? It does not. The man made mistakes on matters of trivia. The spirit of what he said was true: FDR did soothe the nation during troubled financial times.

Yet Knight and many of the McCain people want us and the media to treat this as the same sort of mistake as thinking Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were public institutions, or yammering about Russian air strikes into Alaska? Talk about a lack of perspective and scale. It shows in Knight's hypothetical SNL skit above, where he compares Biden's mistake of a few years, and one level of technology, in the proper historical event, with a mistake of almost a century that used the wrong historical event and technology dramatically different from the reality! (For any Palin supporters reading this, Gettysburg was a battle in the Civil War, and Washington fought in the American Revolutionary War, nearly 100 years earlier).

Knight's second example is just as bad:

"Another suitable moment for carving into a media bat came after John McCain showed his metal bracelet worn in memory of Cpl. Matthew Stanley, who was killed in Iraq. Obama noted that he, too, wore a bracelet for a fallen soldier. Then he forgot the name of Sgt. Ryan David Jopek and had to look down and read it.

It’s not awful, and could happen to anyone, but can anyone honestly imagine that the media would have ignored this had McCain been the forgetful one?"

Notice the use, as seems an epidemic among conservatives these days, of a hypothetical speculation in place of a fact at the end. Knight presents no evidence that the media would have treated this differently had McCain done it. He simply speculates about it and pretends it is evidence. It's not. To prove it, I'll illustrate what such evidence would look like, and why his original point is wrong. Take this quote from Sarah Palin's Couric interview, where she is talking about the relevance of Russia and Canada:

"Well, it certainly does because our-- our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the state that I am the executive of."

Palin said that Russia and Canada were IN Alaska. Not near it, in it. It's a clear mistake, and yet the horrible anti-Palin media said nothing. Now why would that be? Simple. It was not a substantive mistake. Her tongue slipped, it happens to everyone from time to time, and it is simply not worth focusing on. THAT would be Gotcha Politics. Yet that is not what we see.

The same argument can be made about Obama reading the soldier's name. So what? Do we expect every politician to remember every name that crosses their path? Do we even know he looked because he forgot? Maybe it was an act of respect, trying not to mangle a difficult name. However, even if he forgot the name, do the Republicans really want to compare this to McCain forgetting, on three separate occasions, that Czechoslovakia no longer exists? They aren't the same thing at all, and they shouldn't be treated the same.

Knight likes football analogies, but he misses the easy one. He wants us to treat the Democratic incomplete passes with Republican interceptions.