Archive for February, 2007|Monthly archive page

Hidden Message: BBC Being Run by Zombies…

I don’t even believe the picture and the caption below it…

Must eat brains

And yes as of right now (8:20 MET February 28, 2007), they still had the picture up.

(Must eat brains source Wonkette)

Must eat brains

The BBC has been taken over by Zombies… Film at 11:00

Intercontinental Ballistic Pigeons?

Sharon Weinberger, author and self admitted Pentagon Budget fan, has uncovered the latest Great Red Threat – Pigeons.

Scientists with the Robot Engineering Technology Research Center of east China’s Shandong University of Science and Technology say they implanted micro electrodes in the brain of a pigeon so they can command it to fly right or left or up or down.

The implants stimulated different areas of the pigeon’s brain according to signals sent by the scientists via computer, and forced the bird to comply with their commands.

[Noah Shachtman also dug up some really gross pictures. (Ick, Ick, Ick!)]

Great.

Next thing you know, the Chinese will be developing intercontinental ballistic pigeons, capable of attacking any car city in America.

Then the technology will slip from the control of the Chinese into far more dangerous hands, Iran, North Korea and al-Quaeda. Imagine Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust Denial pigeons, Kim Jong- Il with squadrons of attack pigeons; Bin Laden with world wide cells of jihadist, terrorist winged rats!

America will be force to retaliate with a space-based, anti-pigeon counter measures. This will be neither technologically realistic nor fit into any Pentagon budget, but it will be necessary. These programs will probably get great names like the Pigeon Outer-space Offensive Protection or the Space Housed Intercontinental Terrorist Shield. The Congress will make sure POOP and SHIT-Shield projects are well funded. The Senate must be informed immediately!

Michael Crichton should drop his current plans for his next techno-thriller and address the real Pigeon Threat. Tom Clancy should start work on The Hunt for the Red-Billed Pigeon!

Oh. The. Terror!

We definitely need a new ICBP treaty

Taking a Stake in Science

There is a review of Jennifer Ouellette’s book The Physics of the Buffyverse in Sunday’s New York Times.

Interestingly, for an agnosic, I read Jennifer’s blog Cocktail Party Physics more or less religiously.

So Congragulations Jennifer. I hope the book really takes off now. You deserve it.

(Hat Tip: Matthew C. Nisbet/Framing Science, and therefore you already knew about story because you read him more often then you read me. Right?! *ahem*)

SGWGDO

Since I have nothing of import and have expended my snark doing anti-anti-evolutionary commenting here, I just thought I’d point you to the Wonkette coverage about the Secret Global War on Garage Door Openers. (SGWGDO?!)

I had to think of Sharon Weinberger’s Washington Post cover story and the follow-up on her blog (don’t miss the comments) about Mind Control Targeted Individuals when I read the last quip.

The reason, as usual, is 9/11. After the terrorisms, the military took back a whole chunk of radio spectrum that had been used by garage-door-opener manufacturers. It’s happening across the country and even in Canada, where secret American spy facilities blast the hapless northerners with mind rays.

Obviously the reason all those people keep ‘hearing’ things in their head. It’s just a side effect of the SGWGDO.

Aside: Don’t forget my original post about tin-foil underpants because I have been following this story for like – forever!

Apple pie and power-law policies

It has often been said that one bad apple spoils the bunch.

In 2004, when the scandal surrounding the Abu Ghiraib prison scandal broke, the idea that the problem was not endemic, but merely a few soldiers who got out of control in an unfortunately understaffed and poorly supervised environment was not difficult for the public to believe.

During the 2006 elections, the implosion of Mark Foley’s career for inappropriate behaviour with congressional pages, was declaimed to be, not an official Republican party position, but rather a unfortunate exception; a case that had fallen through the cracks. Nevertheless, not even the bluest Democrat, while simultaneously sickened by the facts and amused by late night pundits, really thought that the entire Republican party had collapsed into a den of pederasts.

In both of these cases, the broader American public had no problem accepting the fact that not all American soldiers were abusing Iraqi prisoners and not all Republican congressmen were making passes at pages. But the public did demand a change in the system to avoid these kinds of cases in the future. Unfortunately in both these cases, the changes, while they might add a couple of jobs in an office of oversite or a new level of bureaucracy, it is doubtful that abuses will be permanently avoided.

But these two cases do have something in common. Both are examples, not of a global average behaviour, but of something completely off the scale. Humans usually think in terms of averages and bell curves, most people lie somewhere in the middle between two extremes. But in some cases, it is obvious that the curve doesn’t work that way.

These cases sometimes follow what is called a power law rule. Most of the data is absolutely normal. Only a few very few cases are exceptional. Sometimes, the fact that the curve isn’t bell shaped is far from obvious.

In an excellent article for the New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell describes one case where this problem is highlighted, homelessness. He describes the homeless problem based on research done by a graduate student in the 1990’s. His research changed the way people started to approach the issue of homeless.

In the nineteen-eighties, when homelessness first surfaced as a national issue, the assumption was that the problem fit a normal distribution: that the vast majority of the homeless were in the same state of semi-permanent distress. It was an assumption that bred despair: if there were so many homeless, with so many problems, what could be done to help them? Then, fifteen years ago, a young Boston College graduate student named Dennis Culhane lived in a shelter in Philadelphia for seven weeks as part of the research for his dissertation. A few months later he went back, and was surprised to discover that he couldn’t find any of the people he had recently spent so much time with. “It made me realize that most of these people were getting on with their own lives,” he said.

Culhane then put together a database—the first of its kind—to track who was coming in and out of the shelter system. What he discovered profoundly changed the way homelessness is understood. Homelessness doesn’t have a normal distribution, it turned out. It has a power-law distribution. “We found that eighty per cent of the homeless were in and out really quickly,” he said. “In Philadelphia, the most common length of time that someone is homeless is one day. And the second most common length is two days. And they never come back. Anyone who ever has to stay in a shelter involuntarily knows that all you think about is how to make sure you never come back.”

The next ten per cent were what Culhane calls episodic users. They would come for three weeks at a time, and return periodically, particularly in the winter. They were quite young, and they were often heavy drug users. It was the last ten per cent—the group at the farthest edge of the curve—that interested Culhane the most. They were the chronically homeless, who lived in the shelters, sometimes for years at a time. They were older. Many were mentally ill or physically disabled, and when we think about homelessness as a social problem—the people sleeping on the sidewalk, aggressively panhandling, lying drunk in doorways, huddled on subway grates and under bridges—it’s this group that we have in mind.

The article goes on to describe a project in Denver targeting not the general homeless population but the perceived problem of homelessness. This program targets what can be considered the classic ‘bum,’ the chronically homeless. But the idea is so strange, so anti-intuitive, that one could only imagine it coming from the pen of a radical socialist. But oddly one of the programs biggest proponents, not just in Denver, but nation wide, is George W. Bush.

The idea for solving the ‘problem’ of homelessness is simple. Give the homeless homes – for free, no strings attached. Apartments paid for by the government and supervised by a legion of social workers. Indeed, if chronically homeless drift off due to alcohol or drug excesses or they lose the apartment for some other reason; you give them another one, and another one. The Denver program is part of the nationwide effort, spearheaded by the administration, called the “Interagency Council on Homelessness

And at first blush, the idea sounds economically foolish. But here the data differs from the perception. The problem is that the chronically homeless, often mentally ill or physically disabled, create a disproportionate load on public support services, police, ambulance services or hospitals. The costs of incarceration, detoxification or medical care can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Increasingly, social workers, activists and politicians have targeted these individuals to achieve visible results in the ‘war against homelessness.’ As a matter of fact, in a recent report summing up the results of Denver’s “Housing first collaborative” show exactly how much money can be saved.

This program doesn’t apply to all homeless; it is focused only on the chronically homeless and the lists are long for people to enter the program.

And of course in a meritocracy, the idea that one gives the most care to those who are the worst and don’t seem capable of self improvement seems odd. Until now most programs had required that the person become clean or dry or even get a job as a prerequisite for help with housing. While well meaning, many of these programs failed simply because the barrier was too high.

But back to the idea of refusing help to those who cannot help themselves. Societies have given up the idea of killing deformed babies, literally throwing them to the wolves; we care and nurture these children and adults even if it is obvious that they will never develop into productive individuals. But it is an anathema that an otherwise undamaged individual might not be able to survive the complexities of modern society; perhaps more than willing to work hard but unable to accept success; an individual fleeing as much from self hate as from society and reality. But these people need to learn to heal themselves, to bootstrap themselves into a community that arguably usually would never accept who they are.

Finally there is another hidden threat in this kind of program. The goal of the program is twofold, reduce spending on homeless programs and reduce the amount of ‘visible’ homelessness.

While both of these goals are laudable, one of the largest segments in the homeless population are not the truly homeless, but what I call the ‘roofless,’ those persons without a roof over their heads for a day, or a week or a month. The cause for this kind of situation is simple – money. One only needs to read Barbara Ehrenbach’s book Nickel and Dimed to understand how close many people are to just losing their grip on what is considered one of the basest rights, a roof over their heads.

It would be nice to imagine a country that would channel any money saved on caring for the chronically homeless into projects protecting and preventing ‘rooflessness.’ Unfortunately, the hospitals will no longer need to book the losses and will improve profit margins; cities will be able to point to improved innercity living areas and mayors will be able to reduce or eliminate spending in sectors where the money is still necessary, especially if the problem becomes less visible.

And even effective programs like “Housing First”, such as the one in Denver, are being threatened by a loss of funding in several years. From the Denver Housing First Collalition report

The DHFC was initially funded through a unique collaboration of federal funding partners. These agencies committed three years of funding for services and five years funding for housing. However, the expectation was that continuation funding would be obtained at the local or state level. The project has had numerous discussions with potential funders. However, as of this date, full continuation funding has not been secured. It is critical that such funding be found in order to continue the important work of the collaborative and to help meet Denver’s goal of ending homelessness in ten years.

Thus, the idea that good ideas survive funding issues and political infighting is just pie in the sky.

But nevertheless, it would just be nice if, in the interests of patriotism, in the interests of Americans helping Americans, indeed, increasingly, in the interests of Americans helping Veterans, that the pie in the sky is made of apples.

(Updated) Spin Cycles and Chlorine

Weird.

Not only are the reports on the newest form of attacks in Iraq, those using chlorine gas, very worrying, the approach being taken by the various national news agencies is bizarrely different.

While the Washington Post runs the story (on page A12) with the headline “3 Killed, 25 Injured In Chlorine Attack,” the actual reporting on the event seems limited to the lead.

A tank truck carrying chlorine exploded in western Baghdad on Wednesday, killing three people and wounding at least 25 in the second such attack in as many days, according to a spokesman for Iraq’s Interior Ministry.

Brig. Gen. Sadoun Abdul Karim said that several people exposed to the fumes were taken to hospitals and that the explosion set vehicles and shops on fire.

The chlorine attacks appear to be among deadly tactics adopted by insurgents in recent weeks as the U.S. military and the Iraqi government launch a security plan that will include the deployment of thousands of soldiers to outposts in Baghdad. Insurgents have also displayed new prowess in shooting down U.S. helicopters.

After that the article moves on to discuss the very confusing case of a Sunni woman who is claiming to have been raped by (Shi’ite) Iraqi security forces. Due to number of claims vs. counter claims in a plethora of sectarian screeching, it is difficult to glean any amount of truth. (At the moment I would assume the claim is true because, in the Iraqi (Sunni) blog Baghdad Burning the point is clearly made that the woman was willing to use her name. This is in Islamic religious countries nothing short of amazing. Thus, I am leaning towards believing the victim right now.) But to be honest this looks like the Washington Post really burying the rape story and downplaying the chlorine story.

The German online news source Spiegel Online takes an entirely different tack. They headline with “Insurgents in Iraq target chemical transports.”

In week after the start of the US offensive in Baghdad, evidence is increasing that insurgents are changing strategies. On Wednesday, for the second time this week, a chorine gas transport has been attacked. In addition the rebels have shot down another US helicopter. On Thursday morning repeated explosions could be heard in Baghdad.

Insurgents blew up a truck loaded with cylinders filled with chlorine gas. According to police reports, at least 5 persons lost their lives; more than 55 people needed to be taken to hospital. One day earlier, in northwest Baghdad, a bomb attack was carried out on a tanker carrying a chlorine substance. [my translation]

The article then goes on to highlight Cheney sniping at the Democratic leadership while visiting Japan with the inevitable return snip by Pelosi. The rape allegations from Sabrine Al Janabi had already been reported on Tuesday, the first day they surfaced.

But the point is that Spiegel, while pointing out that chemicals have been involved in multiple attacks, isn’t highlighting the use as a bomb component, especially in Tuesdays attack/bomb.

Which brings me to the New York Times today; they headline the chlorine story and prominently covered the rape allegations on Tuesday. But the coverage of the chlorine attacks is much different.

A truck bomb that combined explosives with chlorine gas blew up in southern Baghdad on Wednesday, and officials said it might represent a new and deadly tactic by insurgents against Iraqi civilians.
[...]
Insurgents have shifted tactics to focus on helicopters, and on Wednesday one group forced down an American Black Hawk helicopter, the eighth such incident since Jan. 20. Roadside bombs have been adapted to punch through heavily armored Humvees. Attacks on Americans also now include coordinated assaults from multiple locations, with a mix of weapons and in at least one case, counterfeit American uniforms and vehicles.
[...]
The bombing involving chlorine gas on Wednesday followed an explosion on Tuesday north of Baghdad of a tanker filled with chlorine that had been rigged to explode, killing nine people and wounding 148, including 42 women and 52 children. At least one other attack with chlorine took place on Jan. 28, according to the American military’s statements. Sixteen people were killed in that attack, in the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, when a dump truck with explosives and a chlorine tank blew up in Ramadi.

This is much different, both in tone and substance from the information being produced by Spiegel Online. First, they are highlighting the bombs themselves. This is the top story on today’s front page. Second, Tuesday’s explosion is explicitly being made up to be, not an attack on a chemical transport, but a deliberate, premeditated bomb using a chemical tanker. I would argue, that makes an amazing difference in the feel of panic the story is trying to push.

I am having trouble trying to figure out who is spinning what. Both the WP and Spiegel playing the stories down while the NYT is decrying chaos and mayhem?

Maybe. But I find the difference amazing. Almost like reading about two different weeks.

But the dead and injured won’t get any better, no matter how this gets spun.

Update: Be sure not to miss the take over at Noah Schachtman’s new blog the Danger Room at Wired. Jason Sigger does an excellent job of putting this into perspective. Which is of course what I would have done were I as intelligent, well connected, eloquent (and perhaps, I don’t know, good looking?) Jason Sigger is.

Quicky: Creationist Bashing

Just a quick heads-up on this absolutely wonderful article by Bruno Maddox on the soon to be opened creation museum in the fine town of Hebron, Kentucky. The article, published in the latest issue of Discovery, begins thusly…

In the beginning, wrote God in His epic, loosely autobiographical best seller, The Bible, the Lord made the heavens and the Earth. Pondering from the vile comfort of the Marriott in Hebron, Kentucky, I assumed that this single statement represented the bulk, if not the entirety, of creationist ideology. Hence the name, I reckoned in a flash of insight. God created everything; if something exists, then God created it. Yes, that’s what they believe, those creationists.

A creationist group called Answers in Genesis, which believes in the literal, scientific truth of the Bible, has decided to spend $27 million building a creation museum only minutes away by cab from this unlovely spot. When it opens in May, the museum is going to try to dazzle people with the wonder, beauty, and sheer scientific cunning exhibited by God during that action-packed week when He willed everything that exists into being. Yet the museum’s founders have chosen to set it in one of the few spots on Earth that could plausibly have been designed by chimpanzees.

There is another great irony to the project, it occurs to me as I finish my coffee and rise to meet my driver: that of God almost certainly not existing.

… and simply gets better.

Two side stories here.

First, you might take note of one of the persons mentioned in the article, Ken Ham. He is a man of obviously high integrity,  and who has a reason for living in Kentucky and not Austrailia.

And second, don’t forget the wonderful idea from the SciBlogger and gray parrot lover, Shelley Batts about what to do when these museums start to open. Something about Annoy-a-trons

Darwinistic Redoubts

It is rare that I get viscerally upset. Usually I simply have a passing feeling of unease leading into a rather grumpy day.

But this post got me rather riled up despite its rather innocuous start,

What is the most significant year to remember in relatively modern history? Is it 1776? Is it 1941? Is it Sept 11 2001?

Some will argue that the answer is 1859, the year Darwin published his Origin of Species.

While I could quibble about the fact that Sept. 11 2001 isn’t a year but a date, I would prefer first to point out who is writing this. Vance Esler is an oncologist born, raised and working in Texas. Not only does he treat people with various types of cancer, he is actively and proudly involved in research, recruiting patients for clinical trials.

Thus the third paragraph in his post is a bit of a breath-taker…

This book has been credited with providing the foundation upon which secular progressives began to build concepts which have led to the steady removal of God from public thought and life. After all, if life is only the result of random events occurring in a random universe, and not the product of an intelligent design, then it becomes so much easier to marginalize religious thought and influence in society.

Uh Oh.

We all know where this will lead and yes indeed it does move on into a rant about the political incorrectness of challenging evolutionary science.

Dr Esler points to the infamous ‘challenge’ to the theory of evolution from the Discovery Institute (DI) and signed by 700 scientists! Those “who have reached the epitome of their fields” in “engineering, mathematics, computer science, biology, chemistry or one of the other natural sciences.“

He does ‘forget’ to mention that PhDs in things like physics and mechanical engineering rarely involve deep discussions of evolution but no matter – 700 is an impressive number. And, being involved in research and scrupulously fair, Dr Esler directly linked to the similar list of unequivocal evolution supporters at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE)

Wait – he didn’t!? Hmm.

As of this writing (Feb. 21, 2006), the NCSE list has 790 signatories.

There is a catch. In order to sign the exclusive Discovery Institute list one must be a PhD in something sciency.

For entry onto the NSCE list one must not only be a PhD in something sciency but also be named ‘Steve.’ (Well, “[n]ot just Steve, but also Stephens, Stevens, Stephanies, Stefans, and so forth. Etiennes and Estebans are welcome.” You get the idea.)

You see, even though most scientists understand that research isn’t directly conducted by opinion poll, the Steve list shows clearly that not only is there resounding support in the scientific community for evolution, but the sub-set of scientists named Steve supporting evolution is larger than the DI list.

Oh! And while there aren’t many biologists on the Discovery Institute’s list, about 2/3 of the Steve list are. (Perhaps closer to their field of expertise. No?)

The rest of Dr Esler’s post is taken almost verbatim from the WorldNetDaily website, but what really got me going was his personal summation.

There is a another site called DoctorsDoubtingDarwin.com for physicians who have similar concerns. As a hematologist/medical oncologist who deals with the disastrous results of mutations every day, I can readily attest to the fact that most mutations are fatal, and it stretches credulity to think one could actually result in the appearance of an entirely new species. Needless to say, I have added my name to that list. [my emphasis]

I won’t touch the fallacy “Argument from Personal Incredulity.” I’ll let Wikipedia do that. Or perhaps you might just want to Google it.

But that other thing – the “most mutations are fatal” quip? Is that a ‘fact’ ‘Dr’ Esler?

So this rather detailed discussion for lay-people about mutations not only not being fatal but not even harmful is just so much hemp haze?

Q: Doesn’t evolution depend on mutations and aren’t most mutations harmful?
A: No. Most mutations are neither harmful nor helpful.

That’s the short answer. The long answer is that mutations can be neutral (neither helpful nor harmful), strictly harmful, strictly helpful, or (and this is important) whether they are harmful or helpful depends on the environment. Most mutations are either neutral or their effect depends on the environment. [My emphasis]

Dr Esler, have you ever heard of people having six fingers? Are the mutations to the H5N1 virus lethal to the virus or good for the virus and potentially harmful to us?

To sum up I would like to quote Dr Esler again. This time from another one of his posts.

It is one thing to place one’s property in the hands of a repairman or craftsman. It is another to place one’s life at risk. Such relationships are historically based upon trust. So whom do you trust? Do you follow the advice of the tall, good-looking, affable young man who borders on cocky because everyone thinks he is so great? [Barack Obama] Or do you rely upon the quiet, thoughtful physician who listens to your complaints and says, “I need to think about this.” There is no easy answer. Trust can take time to grow.

So right now I remain skeptical about non-physicians trying to rank physicians based upon dubious criteria and poorly collected data. I also maintain a healthy skepticism of doctors who are always right, always know what to do, and who register highly on my BS Detector.

Sir, I don’t know whether you are a “quiet, thoughtful physician” but a skeptic you are not.

I do not put my trust of evolution in the hands of electrical engineers or oncologists but in the hands of evolutionary biologists. Something about my feeling about non-specialists trying to rank things based on “dubious criteria and poorly collected data.”

You sir, are not an expert in mutation. You sir are not an expert in evolution. You sir, are an expert on cancer. You sir, register rather highly on a detector of mine.

If you were a skeptic, then you might know that true sceptics realise that scientists understand the limitations of their own knowledge. Dr Esler, while your knowledge of cancer might be broad, it does not lead you to be able to make judgements about the validity of evolution.

But I am sure you are a religious person, full of integrity. I am sure that you are convinced your position is correct and intellectually honest.

Thus, I wonder if you would be willing to put up a sign in your practice along the lines of “I DOUBT DARWIN – EVOUTION IS DESTROYING TEXAS” or something along those lines. That way your patients would know what they are getting into. While you are at it why not take a picture of the sign including your partners and post it to your blog?

But somehow – I doubt you will.

And because I feel this doubt, I felt forced to man the redoubts – for Darwin.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Castro will be glad. Just like his own citizens, all those foreign terrorists the US imported into his country still don’t have any rights.

In what will obviously spawn a plethora of news stories, cable news program ‘analysis,’ pro and contra blog entries and late night pundit jokes (DailyShow – Just had to take this week off – huh?), the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the Military Commissions Act on Tuesday. Thus spoke Zarathushtra headlined the WP, NYT, The Guardian, … From the Washington Post,

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that hundreds of detainees in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, do not have the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal courts, a victory for the Bush administration that could lead to the Supreme Court again addressing the issue.

In its 2 to 1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld one of the central components of the Military Commissions Act, the law enacted last year by a then-Republican-controlled Congress that stripped Guantanamo detainees of their right to such habeas corpus petitions. Lawyers have filed the petitions on behalf of virtually all of the nearly 400 detainees still at Guantanamo, challenging President Bush’s right to hold them indefinitely without charges. Yesterday’s ruling effectively dismisses the cases.

Attorneys for the detainees vowed to quickly petition the Supreme Court to hear the case.

But, instead of looking forward at what this means. Whether this move is appropriate and understandable, I would prefer to look back briefly. I’d like to answer a question asked some time ago by one of my commenters Political Teen Blogger, FrecklesCassie. How do we know these guys are so bad that they need to be locked away on a tropical island somewhere?

The answer is patently simple: because someone says so; you can’t ask who of course, that’s classified.

At least that is the summary of a report put forth by the Seton hall law professor (and brother of one of the defending attorneys) Mark P. Denbeaux. In what can only be considered one of the best analysis of how the people in Guantanamo came to defined as ‘military combatants’ and thus to languish in an American torture camp, prison, detention center.

Professor Denbeaux and his students looked into the cases of 393 of the 558 Guantanamo detainees. More specifically, they looked into those cases where Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) were convened to limit the detainees ability to request habeas corpus, This is because per definition in the MCA, Military Combatants are excluded from habeas corpus rights. To the casual reader, this system seems fair. But a closer examination clearly shows more kangaroo court than clear cut justice.

In those cases where the government was willing forced to release the information about the CSRTs, Denbeaux’s report is damning.

The most important documents in this record were produced by the Government in response to orders by United States District Judges that the Department of Defense provide the entire record of the Combat Status Review Tribunal for review by counsel for at least 102 detainees. These are described as habeas-compelled “full CSRT returns.” Without these documents, it would only be possible to review the process promised. With the 102 “full CSRT returns,” this Report can also compare the process promised with the process provided.

The results of this review are startling. The process that was promised was modest at best. The process that was actually provided was far less than the written procedures appear to require.

The detainees were denied any right to counsel. Instead, they were assigned a “personal representative” who advised each detainee that the personal representative was neither his lawyer nor his advocate, and that anything that the detainee said could be used against him. In contrast to the absence of any legal representative for the detainee, the Tribunal was required to have at least one lawyer and the Recorder (Prosecutor) was recommended to be a lawyer. [my emphasis]

I can only urge anyone who simply wants to understand the process being used to deny people a fair chance to defend themselves in court to read and spread this report.

I won’t argue about the fact that many of the people might have been in Afghanistan; that many may have been fighting for the Taliban (who, as we might remember were the ligitimate government at the time.). I won’t argue about the fact that some of these people probably should justifiably be locked up and denied freedom. I won’t discuss the fact that the Afghan culture is seeped in traditions of revenge and score settling. I won’t even think of the number of scores that needed to be settled after almost 30 years of civil war.

But to assume that the American government is legitimately holding all of these people basically because some classified source says so? Um. Excuse me?

Let’s simply plug into another event in currently making headlines. (No, I mean neither Anna Nicole Smith nor Britney’s newfound talents in hair styling.) Let’s look at the wonderful job the intelligence agencies did leading up to the Iraq war; the job done so well that Scooter Libby is on trail for lying to cover up leaking information about it.

Now. Ask yourselves whether these same American intelligence organisations were better informed during those confusing times in Afghanistan during 2002 and 2003. Where those organisations any better than they were in developing Iraq information? Ask yourselves whether this administration is willing to own up to its mistakes. Ask yourselves why most of the evidence being presented is so ‘classified’ not even the defendants can see it.

If you do all that, I’m sure you’ll come to the same conclusion as I have as to why many of these people are in Guantanamo,

Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Welcome to Gitmo.

The Snapshots of Existence

Jason Steck at The Moderate Voice has an excellent post about his move from the conservative right into the moderate middle. He uses as his lede the similarities between his shift from the right towards the left to those presented in the new book Conservatize Me by John Moe, an NPR broadcaster.

Where Moe moves from the safe and comfortable liberal world of alternative music and health food to country and jerky, Steck outlines his move from being rabidly anti-gay to someone who would consider having a gay ‘comfort zone’ in his office.

In the end both adapt a more moderate viewpoint.

What amazes me is that both these obviously intelligent individuals felt it necessary to travel the distance. Perhaps it is Moe, the open minded liberal who surprises me most.

While a staunch belief in dogma is considered to be critical to conservative ideology, the suggestion ,or perhaps better phrased – the myth, of liberal open mindedness still lingers around most leftist positions.

For me, and what has always forced me into an uncomfortable position in almost any argument, is my inability to harbor the belief that the other side is completely dishonest. While there is enough disingenuous manoeuvring in all walks of life, I think most people argue from the knowledge and mindset they have. They rarely step outside the issue to look at both sides.

And excellent example is the current war in Iraq and the soon to be decided Libby perjury trial. Through all the political disinformation and attempted smear campaigns, one thing is absolutely clear. Even though the administration and specifically Dick Cheney publicly and perhaps privately (perhaps even internally) refuse to believe that the casus belli supporting the war in Iraq was erred, it was nevertheless felt that military action would not harm America. Had the current marginalisation of the American political agendas been seen, the difficulties in the “disablement” of North Korea, the increase of Iran’s influence in the Middle East, the setbacks in the ‘global war on terror,’ I doubt neither Cheney nor the administration would have preceded as we have seen.

Perhaps Cheney still refuses to see these ‘facts’ as reality. Perhaps he still manages to choose his information and his informers in a manner that reflects the world he wishes to rule live in. Perhaps Cheney does not realise that, by pandering to the extremes, an inevitable extremism is created. By choosing not to discuss homosexual issues, a hot button topic in his own party, he chooses to ignore the treat by unstable extremists to his own family.

On the other side of the coin are people like Noam Chomsky, Israel basher extraordinaire. By repeatedly and continually exclaiming that Israel is an American puppet is to enflame the issue for those who choose to look no farther. Thus he does not fight against American imperialism as much as he fights for American anti-Semitism. For Richard Dawkins to decry as child abuse the mere naming of a child to be a member of a religion does not advance the cause of atheism and dismisses the horrors of true child abuse.

Both positions manage to alienate those who might have had an open mind. Those people who might have been prepared to listen to the ideas being presented.

But by the very act of being extreme, the view of a ‘middle,’ the ablitily to see the other side is moved farther and farther from mainstream discussions.

And that is the cost of debate.

Instead of nurturing a society where solutions are sought, modern and most specifically post-modernist societies have deified debate. Discussion trumps solution. Reality is unimportant because there is only a marginal understanding of reality. My word against hers. And ultimately it is the rhetoric being debated, the realities long forgotten.

In Slate, Jonathan Alter points to a solution-based philanthropic effort. There is no debate, there is action. By highlighting the efforts of the New York based DonorsChoose, he shows that often the solution is not found through a single monolithic debate but by solving each mini-problem to bring about a wider answer.

Perhaps that is more important than the move from right to the middle or from the left to the middle. It is the ability to agree not on the proper course but on the very reality of the situation.

But not on the big picture, just the snapshots of existence.

Don’t Try This In Alabama

Some people just don’t understand America.

Some of those people are British.

And some work for the BBC.

In what can only be considered marginally more intelligent than strapping a rocket to your car shopping cart to make it go faster, the hosts of Top Gear, a BBC motor and car show, decided to have fun while on a trip through America.

It didn’t go very well.

The idea was simple. Buy 3 cars for $1000 or less and drive from Miami to New Orleans while having a spot of fun on the way. The joke was to have the hosts paint something on their opponents cars that would get them “either arrested or shot” while crossing Alabama. Unfortunately, the survival challenged BBC ‘journalists’ didn’t expect the residents to take them up on the offer.

While one would offend while driving a Firebird with the motto “Country and Western is Rubbish!” (how British) or a Cadillac proudly displaying “NASCAR Sucks” and “Hillary For President,” only the truly brain–dead would consider driving in the dead south in a white pickup proclaiming “MAN LOVE RULES OK” in large (proud) pink lettering.

Everything went well until they discovered that, in Alabama pride comes with prejudice; they own telephones; and your right to say something stops at the state border.

And people actually wonder how the British could loose the Revolution?

(Hat Tip: Kevin Barbeaux/TheHomelessGuy)

Bird Flu in Moscow – Terror at 11:00

Or something.

According to just about every single press agency, the Bird Flu has finally attacked the heart of Putin’s empire, Moscow. From the (very French, probably socialist and likely stylish) AFP,

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has been confirmed at one of three farms under investigation on the outskirts of Moscow, a veterinary source said in the first outbreak of the disease to threaten the Russian capital.

“We have just received the laboratory results” from the first of the farms, Russian veterinary authority spokesman Alexei Alexeyenko told AFP, “the precise subtype of the H5N1 virus (will be known) by Sunday evening.”

Now this would be bad enough. With spring coming and illegal immigrant migrant birds just crossing borders without passports, or papers or anything, it is clear that the bird flu will start to hit European farms and zoos in the coming weeks and months.

But what you might not have realised is that these illegal immigrant migrant are actually jihadist agents.

According to Interfax

Bio-terrorism must not be discarded as a cause of an outbreak of bird flu at Moscow’s poultry market, but this should be tackled by the Federal Security Service and other law enforcement services,” chief veterinary official of the Moscow region, Valery Sitnikov, told Interfax on Sunday.

The regional veterinary services have almost no doubts that the deadly illness came from Moscow’s poultry market, Sitnikov said.

“The birds that contracted the disease on the poultry market could have infected other fowl. Bird flu symptoms appear two-three days following infection, which can be seen from what is happening. The first decorative hen was bought on February 9. It died on February 11. In the second case, several hens, bought on February 11, died on February 13,” he said.

I wonder if Valery and Tony Snow talk. I mean they would probably get along fairly well.

I think Russia needs to start thinking about put’in up a protective wall, an impenetrable missle bird shield to protect and defend the Motherland. Just wait until the Russian version of Michel Malkin get’s hold of this.

Just wait until the REAL Michel Malkin get’s hold of this.

Bird Flu – Terror at 11:00 * sigh

Paine-ful Truths

As strange as it may seem, there are those people out there who are, even today, Thomas Paine fan-people. And not all of them live in Minnesota.

No apparently some live in Arkansas which was attempting to become the 10th state to create a ‘Thomas Paine’ day. But, Arkansas being Arkansas, just said no. (Allah Akbar!)

It seems that Mr Paine was obviously an un-American Islamic surrender monkey in – um – Founding Fathers clothing. Or at least that is what Rep. Sid Rosenbaum would like you to believe. You see Thomas Paine just didn’t get the memo on the Christian Nation talking points.

According to the AP feed as related through the Boston Herald, in a 46-20 vote, the proposal from Democratic Rep. Lindsley Smith to commemorate January 29 failed in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

”I think if Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were standing here today, they would give you the same presentation about Thomas Paine,” Smith said. ”He needs to be remembered and he’s not remembered.”

But Rep. Sid Rosenbaum, R-Little Rock, quizzed Smith about Paine and quoted passages from Paine’s book, ”The Age of Reason,” which Rosenbaum criticized as anti-religion.

”He did some good things for the nation, but the book that he wrote was anti-Christian and anti-Jewish,” Rosenbaum said. ”I don’t think we should be passing things out like this without at least debating it and letting people in the House know what we’re voting on.”

Remember. The newest scare tactic is to explain that America is a Christian Nation.

Just a couple of ‘facts’ about atheists…

  • The phrase “under God” was officially added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.”
  • In God We Trust,” after a long fight finally replaced “E plurbus unum” on the American one dollar bill in 1957.
  • A recent Supreme Court ruling against the Santa Fe, Texas, Independent School District in 2000 was brought not by atheists but by a Catholic and a Mormon family who felt the predominately Baptist school district was establishing religion by having prayers before school football games. A good summary here.
  • Although many of the plaintiffs in the recent Kitzmiller vs. The Dover School board were accused of being atheist. None were. Many were deeply religious. The case was about religion attacking science and not science attacking religion (but never mind).

So. Let’s just re-write history. Get rid of the Paine-ful truths, held by the founding fathers to be self evident. Let’s create not just one nation under god but one world under an American God.

To do anything else would be too Paine-ful.

(Hat Tip: James Randi/Swift)

Athiest Scum

I live in Germany, so when I watch CNN I get the nicely toned down, CNN-International version of the Cable ‘News’ Network.

Usually I ignore it unless something obviously newsy and obviously visible happens. That way I can avoid both the attempts of ‘news’ anchors attempting to make things like Bulgarian oil import levels interesting or international soccer fouls scandalous. I also have the benefit of avoiding Larry King and getting the urge to break something.

Thus when the first comments about the CNN atheist ‘coverage’ crossed into my radar, I simply thought it was pretty standard water-bong um water-cooler um blog conversation. Teresa convinced me that not everyone had heard of this. Thus my own memeage (and obsequious grovel in honor of Richard Dawkins).

It all started so innocuously, so “far and balanced.” On the exceptionally originally named program Now hosted by Paula Zahn, CNN broadcast a report on the discrimination of atheists in America.

Then came, in typical truthiness tradition, the discussion panel. Since the topic was atheism, the producers a CNN put together a panel of experts. Karen Hunter, journalism professor (Christian), Debbie Schlussel, attorney and columnist (Jewish) and Stephen A. Smith, ESPN analyst (Christian). A fine group of experts to discuss discrimination of atheists.


Transcript here.

Um. Wow!

Now this will probably surprise many, but CNN oddly got flack for this.

I mean really. A journalism ‘professor‘ telling us “What does an atheist believe? Nothing.“ Debbie Schlussel, ‘attorney,’ explaining “freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.“

The only person attempting to support the atheist side was Mr Smith, sports analyst. (And Sir I thank you.) Unfortunately he was ill prepared for the discussion (and how many people do you know, who have facts and figures on atheism on hand – um – in head?). On the other hand, Smith felt pressured enough to say, “We’re a Christian country. There’s no question about that. I love the Lord. So does Karen, so does everybody that I know.“

What is so off base here? *ahem*

Oh! And I won’t even touch the background banner slander comments questions.

Apparently, a few wackos wrote to CNN pointing out that it might have been a ‘good’ idea to have included an atheist on the panel. So, in standard, “We didn’t really do anything wrong but some ‘people’ are bitching” manner and in honor of Darwin Day (just to show how screwed up the discussion of evolution and religion really is), they did a second segment. This time they gave Richard Dawkins a (very short) chance to put forth a case for atheists. And they had a slightly more balanced panel. With an atheist! Yeah! (Full coverage at OneGoodMove)

Of course we couldn’t have this discussion either without those helpful ‘discuss among yourselves questions’ on the background banner. Questions like “Do Atheists Bring Intolerance On Themselves?” – Answer: I don’t know. Does CNN bring scorn and derision on itself?

Fortunately, and perhaps to help the beleaguered Mr Smith , a new and improved YouTube remix of the original appeared. With helpful answers and showing the repeated missteps.

I got the link from PZ Meyers who, unfortunately, had already concluded that the whole episode “convinced me of a couple of things. I apparently have not been militant enough, and am going to have to work harder at aggressively promoting godlessness. And I’m adding CNN to my list of news agencies to ignore, along with Fox.”

While I firmly support the last position but increased militancy will only play into the hands of the evil presented here. Increased understanding not increased militancy is the answer. Explaining that atheist is not Satanist and what the belief entails. Well. At least attempting to explain that before you get run out of town; tarred and feathered; or lynched.

One question on the February rebuttal show never got answered and I find it critical. Where do atheists get their morals? I would respond. Which is more important, where the American constitution came from or the ideals it represents? Most atheists have given morality and ethics a lot of thought. Indeed morality and ethics are almost as important to atheists as the question of the number of angels dancing on pins was to medieval theologians. But are the origins or the ideals more important. So, please, give me a step by step run down of the origins and precursors t0 the American constitution. When we finish that, I’ll feel obligated to you to discuss my ethics.

But I, thank God, do not live in a Christian nation. And am not forced to defend my rights to believe in –um – nothing?

(Hat Tip to BlondSense for my first contact on this. And to Trees/AnomalousData for showing me it was necessary to write it.)

Defogging

The 54th Skeptics Circle is up at Action Skeptics.

Symbolizing Nukes

It’s official!newradiationsymbol_300×200.gif

The IAEA released the new symbol for radiation.

With radiating waves, a skull and crossbones and a running person, a new ionizing radiation warning symbol is being introduced to supplement the traditional international symbol for radiation, the three cornered trefoil.

The new symbol is being launched today by the IAEA and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to help reduce needless deaths and serious injuries from accidental exposure to large radioactive sources. It will serve as a supplementary warning to the trefoil, which has no intuitive meaning and little recognition beyond those educated in its significance.

Apparently the old symbol was just too – wimpy? Well it’s no more Mr Nice Symbol. Now with rays and skulls and arrows.

I just have one question.

What if the exit is to the left?

The Walls Have – um – Holes

In addition to initiating the eminent downfall of American culture, using the Koran to get sworn into congress and probably, I don’t know, public breast feeding, Representative Keith Ellison has a new tick. For some reason he gets grumpy when the-just-to-the-far-right-of-Jesus Representative Tom Tancredo smokes a cigar next door.

From The Hill,

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) believes it is his right as a Muslim to be sworn into Congress with the Quran. But apparently, the freshman lawmaker doesn’t believe it’s Rep. Tom Tancredo’s (R-Colo.) right to smoke a cigar in his congressional office.

Ellison’s office called the Capitol Hill Police on Tancredo last Wednesday night as Tancredo was in his office smoking a cigar. The lawmakers have neighboring offices on the first floor of the Longworth House Office Building.

Tancredo was still stunned a day later. “It’s very bizarre,” said Tancredo, who has never met Ellison. “Seemed to me not a good way to say hello.”

Actually the whole issue wasn’t started by Mr. Ellison at all. It was his press slug secretary.

Ellison’s press secretary, Rick Jauert, made the call to the Superintendent’s office when he noticed the smoke. “I called because the smoke was coming through the walls,” Jauert said, adding that the Superintendent’s office referred him to the Capitol Police.

I know the US has a high deficit. I know there isn’t enough funding to get appropriate armor, body or Humvee, to Iran Iraq. I know the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly.

But one would think that the US Congress would have enough money to keep smoke from “coming through the walls.” Obviously the end of civilization as we know it.

And, the Republicans will be glad to hear, it’s all Keith Ellisons fault.

(Hat Tip: Wonkette)

Fight’n Words

Yesterday, in the hour long news conference at the White House, President George W. Bush fought the idea that his administration might spin information. Especially since that information seems to be pushing the casus belli, against Iran.

From the Washington Post,

The president spent much of the hour-long televised session in the East Room addressing skepticism about his government’s assertions regarding Iran and fears of a widening regional conflict. “The idea that somehow we’re manufacturing the idea that the Iranians are providing [explosives] is preposterous,” Bush said. Repeating a reporter’s question, he added: “Does this mean you’re trying to have a pretext for war? No. It means I’m trying to protect our troops.”

That seems to be the key talking point now. “Protect the troops.” But the questions now are first, is the current information is being invented, and second, whether the argument will protect the troops.

For me, the question of whether Iran is supplying arms to militias isn’t all that interesting.

First, from the images I have seen and the backgrounders I’ve read, the issue could flop either way. Iran has more than enough reasons to keep America busy in Iraq. And, arguably, most of the evidence does point to an Iranian connection to weapons and explosives being used.

On the other hand, the material I have seen, especially the improved explosives (EFPs) might not be that impressive. Building a computer operated mill really isn’t rocket science. (Oh, the Iraqies even have rocket scientists? Oh.) That means making parts to a fairly high tolerance might not be out of the reach of garage based militias. They only need the initial plans and the idea can spread like a (computer) virus.

Probably more worrying is the downing of several helicopters in recent weeks. That might point to much more sophisticated weaponry.

But the second question is whether American troops will be safer?

My unequivocal answer is no. Not unless Bush is willing to go to war with Iran.

How exactly can increasing diplomatic pressure on Iran, increasing troop presence, adding a new carrier to the contingent in the gulf possibly ease the situation?

Especially when the American military is already stretched to the breaking point. Iranian leaders aren’t blind. They know the only way the Bush administration can stop them aiding Iraqi militias is by attacking. That would require the reinstatement of the draft. (And even then I would argue it would take up to a year to get American forces ready for another ground war. Where would the necessary hardware come from?)

But I’m afraid the spin will start to rotate out of control. The increasingly shrill tone taken by the administration, even if the administration doesn’t want to go to war, may achieve exactly that. What does Iran have to lose right now?

How exactly can Iran tell the difference between the build up to war with Iraq and the current “Protect the Troops” rhetoric? How can American citizens tell the difference if something happens on the border? What happens if something really ‘unexpected’ happens, perhaps a carrier gets sunk by a mine?

It seems I am not alone in worrying about this kind of issue. From the NYT

Mr. Bush has said that he has no intention of invading Iran and that any suggestion that he was trying to provoke Iran “is just a wrong way to characterize the commander in chief’s decision to do what is necessary to protect our soldiers in harm’s way.” But experts say that the ratcheting up of accusations could provoke a confrontation. Gary Sick, an expert on Iran at Columbia University, said there was a “danger of accidental war.” He said, “If anything goes wrong, if something happens, there’s an unexplained explosion and we kidnap an Iranian, and the Iranians respond to that somehow, this could get out of control.”

But I found a refreshing and intelligent reason for the verbal escalation. From the far left, liberal rag Marine Corps Times,

Judith Yaphe, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University, said the Bush administration is raising these charges now to shore up political support for its decision to send an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq.

“They need to shift the public debate from the issue of the surge and spread the blame” for the spreading chaos, she said.

The article continues with the predictable response from the military.

[Maj. Gen. William] Caldwell[, the U.S. command’s top spokesman,] defended the timing of the briefing. The armor-piercing roadside bombs, called explosively formed penetrators, first surfaced in Iraq in 2004, but he said the problem became acute recently.

Of course, the timing of these kinds of press releases is always political. Does anyone remember what happened when ill-timed information comes out of the DoD? Something that doesn’t fit the administrations current talking points? (General Eric Shinseki, anyone?)

But I think the current spin is perhaps pointed, not at Iran, but at the Republican party and the American public. This leads to the comforting thought that the Bush administration is not trying to start a war.

Perhaps there are realists in the administration who realise starting yet another war would be catastrophic. This would mean that the government is, however, so disengaged from foreign policy to think domestic issues can be solved by verbally attacking Iran. And that is really worrying.

And maybe that is the war America needs to start fighting. The war against rhetoric.

And that’s just fight’n words.

(Hat Tip: David Hambling/DefenseTech for many of the links and the background for this post)

Updated Addendum: Be sure to read Laura Rozen’s take on this.

What?

There are times when The DailyShow just needs to admit they are a news organisation and start putting up transcripts.

I thought I’d burst a gasket watching Jon Stewart interview Polar-Bear-hating Christopher Horner.

My favorite exchange [my transcript, curse you DailyShow]…

Jon Stewart :Why is this argument so heated? Why is there so much not, pardon the pun, why is there so much volatility? Your book is…, you’re clearly a little worked up. You’re a little angry about it.

Christopher Horner: I’m still working through that, thank you for reading it. But I appreciate your helping me out there.

Jon Stewart: No please.

Christopher Horner: This has been an exercise.

It’s been a heated debate since the Titanic hit an iceberg; as you saw when you read the book. When the New York newspapers found experts, who, if they would have lived a little longer, would have would have made a fortune at Stanford University telling us about the end of the world, because they came out and said…

Jon: Global Cooling

Batshit Horner: …this is proof that the icebergs are attacking.

And then there was global warming because there was global warming, you remember the dustbowl and things like that.

And then there was global cooling.

And we had a lot of money; we became very rich. and so we put satellites up in the air, to measure the atmosphere. Because this isn’t about the surface temperature, it’s about the atmosphere. And then it stopped cooling and like five year olds playing soccer chasing a ball – they chased the thermometer the other direction. So now it’s global warming.

We know the answer. It’s this lassitude argument. I can’t understand it so it must be our fault. The Gods must be angry, man’s responsible. There is a strong desire to believe, as evidenced by the fact that there was a consensus in the 70’s about manmade global cooling. And now there’s a consensus about manmade global warming.

There is a strong desire to believe that it just makes sense because we’ve said that both times. And obviously it can’t just make sense both ways.

Jon
: What?!!

How often have I wanted to give exactly that reaction.

I won’t even touch all the things wrong in every single spun sentence that came out of Horners mouth. The only point I might agree with is that the Gods are getting a bit pissed off. Other than that…[queue Twilight Zone music]

But thank you Jon Stewart; you have spoken from my soul.

What?!!!

Books: A Helpdesk Story

(Hat Tip: Dale Light/Light Seeking Light and Ralph E. Luker/History News Network)

(Updated) An Unintelligent Venue?

Think Progress and Michael van der Galien at ModerateVoice freaked out about information about an upcoming event in Seattle on February 23. From Think Progress,

Today is Darwin Day, commemorating the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and of the publishing of On the Origin of Species. The National Academy of Sciences, “the nation’s most prestigious scientific organization,” declares evolution “one of the strongest and most useful scientific theories we have.” President Bush’s science adviser John Marburger calls it “the cornerstone of modern biology.”

Yet, on February 23, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will be the keynote speaker for the most prominent creationism advocacy group in the country. The Discovery Institute, a religious right think-tank, is well-known for its strong opposition to evolutionary biology and its advocacy for “intelligent design.” The institute’s main financial backer, savings and loan heir Howard Ahmanson, spent 20 years on the board of the Chalcedon Foundation, “a theocratic outfit that advocates the replacement of American civil law with biblical law.”

This time the TP people should have stopped progressing and thought a bit.

If one actually takes the time to read *ahem* the DI press release, the event isn’t being hosted by the Discovery Institute at all. It is being hosted by the World Affairs Council.

The World Affairs Council and CityClub are pleased to present a special luncheon with Senator John McCain.

Senator McCain will be speaking about his vision for the United States in the World. What is the role of the US in the global community? How should the US position itself over the next decade? What are the challenges, and how should they be addressed? What are the future global impacts on Washington State? United States Senator John McCain will address these topics of global relevance and their relation to the Puget Sound region.

And what totally anti-science company located in Seattle is sponsoring this event? No not Microsof! It’s that evil, all-knowledge-is-satanic, destroy-the-world-with-777’s company – Boeing.

Um. Oops.

While I agree, McCain’s rudder seems to be stuck in a permanent right turn and he isn’t drifting but forging full speed ahead into a conservative camp where only the SS fear to tread, I don’t think this event is one of those cases.

No matter what you think about (un-) Intelligent Design and the Discovery Institute (and anyone who reads my blog will be clear on where I stand on that point), this speech isn’t about that.

Shame on you Think Progress. Shame on you Michael. This just plays into the hands of people like Ann Coulter who will then screed off about some left-blogosphere plot to overthrow pandas or something.

But the venue? For John McCain. While conservative, it wasn’t quite as unintelligent as one might think.

Update:

In all fairness, as Michael points out at Moderate Voice, the Discovery Institute is a co-presenter of the speech.

But let’s look at the other co-presenters, shall we?

Discovery Institute
Initiative for Global Development
Leadership Eastside
Leadership Tomorrow
RESULTS Seattle
Seattle Works 
[especially dodgy bunch this]
Trade Development Alliance
University of Washington Jackson School of International Studies
Washington Policy Center

So, just as long as Michael is willing to include the University of Washington and the Seattle Works in his list of right-wing religious pandering organizations, I will humbly admit to the error of my ways.

But somehow looking at that list, I don’t think this is a speech where one needs to get too worked up or worried that DI is one of many.

I have to admit that I cannot possibly get worked up about this. It seems to me that it is quite logical for Republicans who have Presidential aspirations to talk with / to think-tanks like The Discovery Institute. Whether one likes it or not, the ‘Religious Right’ is an integral part of the Republican Party.

And You Thought Western Psychics Were Crazy

For some reason my web surfing has become mired in an amazing amount of anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist bile as well as the reactionary anti-anti-Semitic, anti-anti-Zionist propaganda lately. There is so much disinformation being thrown around right now, it is getting difficult to see the arboretum for the conifers.

But while trying to do research on Memri and the Palestinian Media Watch, I came across this gem.

Ick, Ick, Ick.

Even though I shouldn’t, I’ll just ignore the entire misogynic feeling in the clip. (Well not quite. The girl just had to be a virgin right? This needs to be really, really clear, right? The girl will grow up to do abominable things…hmmm. Then there was the male announcer interrupting the (admittedly very cute) female newsperson? And the fact that the hottie newsperson spent the entire clip trying desperately not to laugh out loud? And let’s be clear on this. She was hot but she also seemed to be the only intelligent, sane person in the room, OK?)

But the fact is, this isn’t all that much more silly than some of the things shown on western television. (Fox and alien autopsies anyone?) Sure different possessives – um – possessors for different folk. Islam has Djinns, Catholics – the devil, Ted Haggard – Homosexuality. All pretty much the same thing.

I’m just hoping one of Ted’s exorcists doesn’t start presenting the trophies he got in the last couple of months. Bleach.

Quicky: Dino Farts=Global Warming

Just to save the planet, the Republican Rep(rehensible) Dana Rohrbacher seems to be suggesting that we just need to make sure that the modern day dinosaurs don’t have digestive problems…

ROHRBACHER: So, whether or not how dramatic this change will be, or is, what it’s caused by, are things that honest people, I think, can disagree with, and I really personally, having been a journalist, the first thing I was always cautioned by when someone was claiming, well, everybody is on my side, or everybody says this, or there is a total consensus, almost always when people said that to me over my years as a journalist, it wasn’t true. It was that there were honest people who disagreed and significant disagreement on such issues. We don’t know what those other cycles were caused by in the past. Could be dinosaur flatulence, you know, or who knows? We do know the CO2 in the past had its time when it was greater as well. And what happened when the CO2 was greater since then and now? There have been many cycles of up and down warming. So with that said, I think that we’ve had a great discussion today. [my emphasis]

On the other hand anthropogenic methane, not due to dinosaur flautlance but livestock and bacteria in rice paddies, does make up a significant percentage of the greenhouse gas effect. (Nitrous oxides and methane produced are far ‘better’ greenhouse gases than CO2)

Just an idea, let’s start giving cattle not just antibiotics but Pepto-Bismol. Good for the climate, cows and Procter & Gamble stockholders. Or not?

(Hat Tip: Think Progress and Spiegel Online (German)

Have a Drink Kim

In what can only be considered a diplomatic coup, the Bush administration is announcing a major breakthrough in negotiations with North Korea. Headlined in both the New York Times and the Washington Post this looks like a real step forward. From the WP coverage,

Envoys from six nations reached a tentative agreement early Tuesday on the first steps toward North Korea’s nuclear disarmament, a potential breakthrough in talks that have faltered repeatedly since 2003.
[...]
The tentative agreement lays out the first concrete steps that would put into practice an accord reached in September 2005, in which the Pyongyang government pledged to dismantle its entire nuclear program. According to diplomats involved in five days of arduous talks here, the opening move would be for North Korea to close down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and readmit international nuclear inspectors in exchange for energy aid.

In that regard, Tuesday’s accord is expected to resemble an earlier bargain with North Korea, the Agreed Framework reached in 1994 during the Clinton administration but renounced eight years later during the Bush administration. Under that deal, North Korea pledged to freeze and eventually dismantle its reactor in return for 500,000 tons a year of heavy fuel oil.

Wait. It isn’t a breakthrough, more of a status quo ante? Like taking great steps backwards to President Surrender Monkey Bill Clinton? That’s what five years of Axis of Evil brought?

No you say? And what’s different Ms Smartypants?

North Korea was able to refine the material for several bombs from the reactor Clinton had managed to get padlocked? They have enough plutonium to make 8 to 10 bombs? And the US doesn’t have to build the light water reactors that Donald Rumsfeld’s former company was contracted to deliver but never actually built?

And Kim has been on cognac withdrawal for – like – months now?

Oh. Much Better.

But remember. The inks not dry on the treaty yet. I’m sure the Administration will find a way to accuse North Korea of invading Iraq or ties to al-Quaeda or the Contras or someone. (Maybe the canucks?)

So we almost have a deal. Maybe. If nothing goes wrong.

And Kim finally gets some cognac.

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