Thursday, February 25, 2010

Where's Martin Niemöller when we need him?

Three cheers and a Hart-y handclasp to the NCAA for showing some spine by refusing to run advertising from the Christianist hate group, Focus on the Family.  Happy to see at least college level folks know homophobia when they see it.
Who will FotF come after next?  That's their work in Uganda, by the way (the death penalty for gays.)  I wonder:  once they've exterminated the gays, who’s next?  Atheists?  Jews?  Muslims?  Catholics?
Gee, maybe they'll even come after... you?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dumbing Down, Part Deux

Debora MacKenzie, on the NewScientist web page, writes an article titled, Iran showing fastest scientific growth of any country.  As I was reading it, one sentence made my blood run cold:
"Only North American scientific output has grown "considerably slower" than the world as a whole."
There once again is more proof that cuts in education--technical education--as espoused by the Republican party as a whole is detrimental to the future viability of our nation.

Lady Duh Duh for 2012

Leonard Pitts Jr.'s Valentine's day column, Sarah Palin can do us a favor by running for president, really cracks me up.  In it, he makes a strong point--and an interesting observation about the word, "elite":
More to the point, something is wrong when we celebrate mental mediocrity like <Ms. Palin's> under the misapprehension that competence or, God forbid, "intelligence," makes a person one of those "elites" — that's a curse word now — lacking authenticity, compassion and common sense.
Has the Republican "dumbing-down" of America--which started with the Reagan administration's severe Department of Education budget cuts and continued through George W. Bush's insidious "No Child Left Behind Act"--turned us into a nation of fools, willing followers of a woman who believes in witchcraft and  demons, and is not above using her political office to resolve personal vendettas?

Contrary to the view expressed by Mr. Pitts, Sarah Palin on a ballot is not something I want to see happen in real life.  What if, on the million-to-one chance, she does get elected?  What if by some odd chance political posturing and partisan sniping get so out of hand that people say oh-what-the-hell and vote her in?  I don't want someone who believes in witchcraft, demons--and Armageddon--holding the launch codes.  Do you?

(h/t to Suzette B.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Christopher Maloney is a Quack

As requested by P.Z. Myers, biologist and noted author of Pharyngula, I've passed it on.  Passed what on, you ask?  See here.

When You Wish Upon a Star

I don't think there's a person in the U.S. who isn't a fan of the Star Trek Universe.  What would you give to be a crew member of the Starship Enterprise?  Would you be willing to give up, say, the planet Jupiter?  Lee Dye, in an interesting opinion piece in the technology section of the ABC News web page, posits just this in How to Travel at Warp Speed.  But don't pack your bags quite yet:
 "But there's a few more problems. Scientists are at odds with each other over whether string theory should even be considered science.
"Many maintain that the theory cannot be proved, or disproved, as far as is known, so it isn't science. Others hold out hope that some very expensive machines in the future may verify, or debunk, the theory.
"So the Starship Enterprise is coasting through very thin air, to say the least."
That's some point.  Is String Theory science's religion?  I'll be investigating that further shortly. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In Government We Trust, All Others Pay Cash

Matt Yglesias over at Think Progress makes an interesting point:
"I think there’s a huge tendency among journalists to underrate the extent to which macroeconomic conditions drive everything in politics. For example, John Sides reviews the data and concludes that public trust in government is basically just driven by economic statistics:"

The relationship is striking. The economy explains about 75% of the variance in trust. If you delete 1964, which looks like a potential outlier, the economy still explains 73% of the variance.
Of course the economy is not the only important factor. But it gets far less attention than it deserves when the hand-wringing begins. So, sure, perhaps we can and should tinker with the political process. Clip lobbyists’ wings. Get leaders to make nicey-nicey with the opposite party. But the process is less important than outcomes. More people will trust the government again when times are good, even if government ain’t.
I think this is a potential problem for Democrats.  The American voter has little time or memory for history.  Republicans, time and again, run this country into the ground and get voted out.  Then, when Democrats get things running again and people's pocketbooks begin to fatten, complacency sets in and the Republicans with their corporate sponsors are a shoe-in, since all it takes is a 10% swing in independent voters coupled with a non-voting 10-15% of Democrats who can't believe their vote would be needed to keep the party in power.  

Thursday, February 11, 2010

One of my secret little pleasures... taking time out from my day to read P.Z. Myers' blog, Pharyngula.  Always educational and often times hilarious, Myers is a call-em-like-he-sees-'em biologist and noted atheist whose essays and commentary are seasoned with equal parts science and rapier wit.  Also to be enjoyed is the comment section where Myers' minions do battle with the occasional Christian apologist who wanders far into enemy territory and is summarily taken to task.  Once in a while we're treated to such gems as P.Z. noting that returning from a lecture in Iowa, he spies a religious-themed billboard on I-35.  He then links to a "news item" taken from Pat Robertson's 700 Club related to I-35.  I know it is loathsome, but try and sit through the video:

Shudder. However, deep in the comment section there is an entry by a poster named "grinch" who writes:

"Oh yeah - I just found out about this great site called"

They just can't make these things up! By the way, James Stabile has apologized for his participation on the 700 Club propaganda show here.

A Convenient Truth

Digby, over at Hullabaloo, makes a great point about the record-breaking warm weather in Vancouver, and its effect on the global-warming denialists.

No matter which global-warming denialist you pick, if you look closely enough, you find they're closely allied to Big Oil, Big Coal or both.  One of the worst is Oklahoma's own senior senator, James Inhofe.  According to his own Senate Floor Statement, January 4, 2005, Inhofe states:

"What about sea level rise? Alarmists have claimed for years that sea level, because of anthropogenic warming, is rising, with ominous consequences. Based on modeling, the IPCC estimates that sea level will rise 1.8 millimeters annually, or about one-fourteenth of an inch.
[Chart #5] But in a study published this year in Global and Planetary Change, Dr. Nils-Axel Morner of Sweden found that sea level rise hysteria is overblown. In his study, which relied not only on observational records, but also on satellites, he concluded: "There is a total absence of any recent 'acceleration in sea level rise' as often claimed by IPCC and related groups." Yet we still hear of a future world overwhelmed by floods due to global warming. Such claims are completely out of touch with science. As Sweden's Morner puts it, "there is no fear of massive future flooding as claimed in most global warming scenarios."
But the government's own NOAA Satellite and Information Service shows the following:
Plot of global mean sea level from TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1

Even worse is the global sea level trends as of 01/01/2010:

Map of sea level from TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, and Jason-2

This reminds me of the time, back a few years, when the tobacco companies argued vehemently that cigarettes were not harmful to smokers.  This only goes to prove that Inhofe does not care about the citizens of Oklahoma, he takes his marching orders from the corporations who, by virtue of the latest Supreme Court decision, can now dump BILLIONS of dollars into financing political campaigns so that they can insure that the Senate and House of Representatives, President and Vice President, all are in the employ of The Corporation.  And you and I, mere citizens and one-vote voters, no longer have any say in the matter at all.

But I wouldn't worry, we'll all be drowned before they work us to death.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” -Upton Sinclair

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Speaking of Sarah Palin...

I've often wondered to myself, if she's as stupid as she seems to be, how can she manage to function politically and publicly?  Now we know her husband and "first dude" Scott Palin is at least one of her puppet masters:

While 1,200 separate e-mails were released this week, 243 others were withheld by the state under a claim that executive privilege extends to Todd Palin as an unpaid adviser to the government. Still, just the subject lines of those e-mails provide a glimpse of the ways the Palins divvied up their responsibilities when she became governor in December 2006, less than two years before Republican Sen. John McCain pulled her onto the national political stage by nominating her as his vice presidential candidate.
The 243 still-secret e-mails between Todd Palin and senior officials reach into countless areas of state government and politics: potential board appointees, constituent complaints, use of the state jet, oil and gas production,  marine regulation, gas pipeline bids, postsecondary education, wildfires, native Alaskan issues, the state effort to save the Matanuska Maid dairy, budget planning, potential budget vetoes, oil shale leasing, "strategy for responding to media allegations," staffing at the mansion, pier diem payments to the governor for travel, "strategy for responding to questions about pregnancy," potential cuts to the governor's staff, "confidentiality issues," Bureau of Land Management land transfers and trespass issues and requests to the U.S. transportation secretary.

I wonder how many of Ms. Palin's voters realize that she is under the influence of this Cagliostro-like figure?

A picture is worth a thousand words...

...taken at the Rick Perry-Sarah Palin rally last Sunday, February 7th (h/t Rachel Maddow):

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's not often...

...when one of my hobbies, magic, collides with the lyrics of one of my favorite bands, to wit:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Just when you think there's just no fun anymore...

This is something I'd like to see more of.  Viewing it invokes one of those "why didn't I think of something like this" moments.

The folks at Volkswagen are on to something here.

Krugman Writes a Winnah.

If you read only one op-ed a year, make it this one.  Paul Krugman, our ace economist and Nobel Laureate is one of the few cognoscenti who really seems to grok the U.S. Economy.  He also has 20/10 vision which he uses to pierce the fog of lies surrounding what goes for political discourse these days.

The piece is short, no formulae, and puts a heap of hurt on those who deserve it the most, that's right, the Repub-lie-can party and their propaganda arm, Faux News.   Take a peek and watch a master work.

Op-Ed Columnist - Fiscal Scare Tactics -

The Thrill of a Nation

In what was probably the best Superbowls I've seen, the New Orleans Saints overcame a 10-point deficit to defeat the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17.  The forward pass was the rule of the day as both teams filled the Miami skies with footballs.  Brees and Manning combined for a total of 63 out of 84 passes for 621 yards.  The Colts, favored by 5 points at game-time, took an early lead 10-0, behind the superb passing of Peyton Manning.  Then in the second quarter, the New Orleans' defense stiffened, while their offense added two field goals to cut the score, 10-6 at half-time.  The second half started with what has one of the most gutsy coaching calls ever, an onside kick--which, after an unbelievably long dog-pile and subsequent unpacking by the referees, worked, New Orleans taking possession of the ball.  From there, they marched down the field to score a touchdown and take the lead, 13-10.  Saints quarterback Drew Brees seemed on the verge of being sacked for much of the game, but managed to pull off a Houdini act and escape, usually with a completion.  The real star of the game, however, was the Saints defensive unit who held Manning and the Colts to only 7 points in the second-half, even adding seven points late in the final quarter--clinching the game--on a Tracey Porter interception and subsequent 74-yard return down the field for a touchdown.  Final score, New Orleans 31, Indianapolis 17.

I'm pleased the long-suffering Saints won the game, being the first NFL championship in the team's  history.  If polls are to be believed, most of the country was pulling alongside me for the Saints.  Whether it was related to hurricane Katrina and the rescue aftermath angst, or perhaps just good old rooting for the underdog, the approximately one-hundred and fifty million viewers around the globe were treated to one hell of a football game, American-style.

The country needed this game.  Superbowl XLIV comes at a time when deep recession is causing more Americans to do without, while two wars and the continuing threat of terrorism are eroding our national confidence.  At a time when our political system seems incapable of governance as vital legislation and much-needed reform are stalled by congressional bickering and partisan politicking, perhaps something as simple as a game of football will do for the country what a reboot will do for a hung computer program: get things moving again.  From Carrie Underwood's embarrassingly off-key rendition of our national anthem to the sentimental scene of Drew Brees holding his young son on the field at the game's conclusion, we had three hours of blissful amnesia.  During our time of immense national tribulation, we became transfixed by the pigskin spectacle of it all.

So maybe, just maybe, like a recovered onside kick, our pride, teamwork, and drive will be rekindled.

Perhaps this three hour escape, like a mini-minivacation, will allow us recover our national momentum and send us sprinting down the sidelines en route to a new beginning.  A beginning where peace, prosperity, and the good will of all mankind, is right around the corner.  The American spirit has created miracles when we all pull together.  Lets take these three hours and resolve to turn that corner, all of us together.