Monday, September 8, 2008

What world do these people live in?

I'm talking about supporters of ID over at Dumbski's blog, UncommonlyDense.

A recent poll showing McCain gaining in the elections is quoted over at UD as saying:
Obama is losing badly among Catholic voters - by double digits now according to the pollster’s findings. The significance is that Roman Catholics make up about 40% of the Pennsylvania vote, slightly less than that in Michigan and are strong percentages in other states of the old rust belt running from Michigan, down through the Great Lakes and up into Ohio.

Their reasoning for why Obama is losing the Catholic vote?

Someone (their site has Pharyngula Watch where they normally attribute authorship) claims that PZ Myers is to blame for his little stunt a few weeks ago:
Paul Myers has not been at all bashful about aligning the flagship website of Science Blogs with Barak Obama and bashing Sarah Palin at the same time. As many of you know Paul went far above and beyond the call of duty recently by publicly desecrating the Catholic Eucharist and thereby making himself the enemy of Catholics everywhere.

So thanks, Paul, for doing such a bang-up job associating Obama supporters and Palin bashers with enemies of the Catholic Church. With friends like you Obama doesn’t need enemies!

PZ Myers's blog is very popular and attracts a lot of readers (including those who hate him and his views), but even his blog -- which has --- hits daily, has that kind of influence on the polls. Sorry, too much preaching to the choir (as it were) to think that he could be changing the course of the election (not to mention that he's not sold on Obama, though he views the Dems as a lesser evil sort of vote in general).

Denyse O'Leary, she of several blog posts cross referenced on several blogs, notes that many IDiots are upset at Ben Stein for criticizing Sarah Palin as the VP nominee for the GOP. As if ID were the only issue.

Delusions of grandeur. You would think they would have learned something after the box office failure of Expelled. Then again, they haven't even learned Biology 101.
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Sick drivers

Here's a video from CNN about a guy on a bike getting run over by the driver of a minivan at a gas station.

As the video notes, the driver fled the scene and has not been identified, much less found.

Here's to catching the sick bastard and sending him to prison for a while -- as well as his accomplice who hasn't turned him in.

The guy could've died.
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Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Onion satirzes; UncommonlyDense misses joke

The well-noted satirical paper recently published a piece called, "Evolutionists Flock To Darwin-Shaped Wall Stain" on September 5. It includes the following graphic:

But does the article make fun of supporters of evolutionary theory? It reads:
A steady stream of devoted evolutionists continued to gather in this small Tennessee town today to witness what many believe is an image of Charles Darwin—author of The Origin Of Species and founder of the modern evolutionary movement—made manifest on a concrete wall in downtown Dayton.

"I brought my baby to touch the wall, so that the power of Darwin can purify her genetic makeup of undesirable inherited traits," said Darlene Freiberg, one among a growing crowd assembled here to see the mysterious stain, which appeared last Monday on one side of the Rhea County Courthouse. The building was also the location of the famed "Scopes Monkey Trial" and is widely considered one of Darwinism's holiest sites. "Forgive me, O Charles, for ever doubting your Divine Evolution. After seeing this miracle of limestone pigmentation with my own eyes, my faith in empirical reasoning will never again be tested.

Take a look at the language in the above passage as well as this one:
Since witnesses first reported the unexplained marking—which appears to resemble a 19th-century male figure with a high forehead and large beard—this normally quiet town has become a hotbed of biological zealotry. Thousands of pilgrims from as far away as Berkeley's paleoanthropology department have flocked to the site to lay wreaths of flowers, light devotional candles, read aloud from Darwin's works, and otherwise pay homage to the mysterious blue-green stain.

Everything is written as if it were the site of a religious image where its followers go (The Onion does this often; its previous article was "Bret Farve Getting that Retirement Itch Again").

Scientists don't (usually) act this way, but some religious people do.

And ID supporters criticize supporters of modern evolutionary theory (my term, the correct term is the modern evolutionary synthesis; in the US critics of the theory refer to it as Darwinism and its supporters as Darwinists -- calling the modern evolutionary synthesis is reductionist, as the theory has surpassed Darwin's original formulation) as being followers of a religion.

Hence the joke is lost on them: the article is presented on Uncommonly Dense as an example of Poe's Law, a law understood as such:
Without a blatant display of humour, it is impossible to tell the difference between religious Fundamentalism and a parody thereof.

Hence the suppositions that this one blog (run by an apparently mental ill fellow who's been banned from several blogs -- Panda's Thumb, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Pharyngula, and apparently other science blogs) is actually a parody. Another example, read Welcome to the PlainDrome -- a note on the side says it's a parody and is not Sarah Palin's official site.

Supporters of the modern evolutionary theory are not fundamentalists -- quite the opposite, in fact. They (we) know that the theory as surpassed Darwin's observations and that they do not depend on the opinions of one man (one reason given as why not to support or "believe in " evolution is that Darwin supposedly "converted" on his death bed, recanting his theory of evolution). And no one goes to see a stain of Darwin on the wall.
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Friday, September 5, 2008

Why discrimination will never end, unfortunately

I found this letter to the editor by a halfwit who lives in Wisconsin.

He writes,

Let us for the sake of argument say that homosexual behavior is a civil rights issue. If we pursue that argument, we will eventually run into the morality aspect, as which point it comes into conflict with biblical teaching. Already there are individuals who are trying to make any pronouncement against this behavior as a hate crime. Now we come to the point where the pastor, priest or rabbi becomes the lawbreaker when any condemnation is preached from the pulpit. This will result in a perverted judicial system because of a perverted philosophy.

The result of all this will be loss of tax benefits for churches and charitable institutions that hold at its core value that homosexual behavior is intrinsically wrong. At that point, we will continue to see a moral collapse in this country.

Wake up, America, and see the slippery slope.

Let's start off slowly. First he writes,
Let us for the sake of argument say that homosexual behavior is a civil rights issue.

It is. So?

we will eventually run into the morality aspect, as which point it comes into conflict with biblical teaching

So his problem is that his god tells him that gays are yucky. Too bad. Maybe his god shouldn't have made gay people or gay penguins or gay cats or gay.... lots of gay animals, too little time. Besides, what special authority does the bible have in American law? That's right, none. So we're back to: his god apparently thinks that gays are yucky. Well, I think bigots are yucky, but that's not a jailable offense.

Already there are individuals who are trying to make any pronouncement against this behavior as a hate crime

So? Behavior. Actions. Not words. Words in conjunction with action determines a hate crime. I tend to agree, but worry that it may be abused and have not studied the matter closely enough to say that hate crimes are definitely or even probably good laws.

Now we come to the point where the pastor, priest or rabbi becomes the lawbreaker when any condemnation is preached from the pulpit. This will result in a perverted judicial system because of a perverted philosophy.

No, no pastor, priest, or rabbi becomes a lawbreaker by preaching anti-gay hate. They may be despicable, but that's no crime. Even most hate laws that I'm aware of. Freedom of speech allows the bigots to spew their garbage. No hate laws change that, though some college campuses have tried to prohibit this kind of speech. I'm not aware if these statutes have survived legal challenges. I am pretty certain they wouldn't outside campuses.

So no, "This will" not "result in a perverted judicial system because of a perverted philosophy." The judicial system will not change because the first amendment guarantees freedom of speech. As much as I despise bigots and their bigotry, I'd prefer they espoused their ignorance openly so that I would know who they were. Maybe I could even do something. Maybe not. But at least I'd know who they were and could try to change their views.

The result of all this will be loss of tax benefits for churches and charitable institutions that hold at its core value that homosexual behavior is intrinsically wrong

Unfortunately not. I wish. They're allowed to espouse their ignorance just as this imbecile is allowed to do so. You can think it's wrong all you want. But they have every right to live their lives as they wish -- it's implied in the "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" phrase from the Declaration of Independence (even if it has no legal value whatsoever).

At that point, we will continue to see a moral collapse in this country.

Amazing, just being gay is a threat to biblical teachings and modern Christianity. I wish I were gay to be part of this. Instead, I have to settle for "straight but not narrow."

And not being a moron.
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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin helps Obama, again

While conservatives seem to be pretty happy about the choice of Sarah Palin, some (including me) have noticed that choosing her smacks of desperation and hurts McCain numerous ways -- she nullifies his criticism of Obama's lack of experience since she has little, to name but one example.

A pretty good influx of cash went into McCain's campaign after he nominated her for the vice-presidency (there is plenty of speculation that the GOP is going to drop her pretty soon; not sure that's going to happen), about $10 million worth.

But now the same amount has gone into Obama's coffers. Since her speech. About 24 hours ago as I write this:

Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is bringing in campaign cash for the Democrats as well as her own party.

Barack Obama, 47, reported raising at least $10 million from more than 130,000 donors today after Palin, the Alaska governor, addressed the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, and criticized the Democratic presidential nominee.

``Sarah Palin's attacks have rallied our supporters in ways we never expected,'' Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said. ``And we fully expect John McCain's attacks tonight to help us make our grassroots organization even stronger.''

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"Judge" Roy Moore on going back to school

Too bad he's not going back to school -- he still needs to learn a few things.

In a new post over at the WorldNutDaily, he writes:

Most of the public school students will return to a world without prayer or the Bible and where God is mentioned in some schools only in the Pledge of Allegiance (for now). For those of us who can remember, however, we know that it has not always been so.

He's wrong about the basic facts: kids can have a Bible in school (and even study from it). Kids can pray too. They just can't pray during class (unless they do so silently; unless teachers develop ESP or the student advertises the fact, I doubt anyone will know, not that it matters) or in a disruptive manner. In other words, if kids want to pray before eating lunch in the cafeteria, they can. If they want to pray in the hallway between classes, they probably can (maybe if they block the hallway or access to a room, they would have to move, but the problem wouldn't be the prayer itself, though some school officials may not know that).

So what is "Judge" Moore upset about? (As far as I can tell, he is not a judge anymore).

Part of it is his childhood:

In 1952, President Harry Truman declared a National Day of Prayer so that annually the people of the United States would turn to God. In 1954, when I was just 7 years old and in the second grade, Congress added the phrase "Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance so that "the children of our land, in the daily recitation of the Pledge in school, will be daily impressed with a true understanding of our way of life and its origins." By 1955, "In God We Trust" was placed on all our currency and coins because our government wanted to reflect "the spiritual basis of our way of life." By the time I was in the fourth grade, "In God We Trust" had become our National Motto by joint resolution of Congress.

Obviously, things were much different in schools in the 1950s. We began each day with a prayer and a Bible verse or two. Then we stood facing the flag and, with our hand over our heart, pledged our allegiance as "one nation under God." Nobody was ashamed or embarrassed to acknowledge a belief in God – and the ACLU was not lurking near every schoolhouse and courthouse to be offended and file suit at the slightest mention of God.

Because we were taught that we were created in the image of God and that He alone was the judge of our hearts and minds, we had respect for our teachers and they seemed to care about us. Of course, there were student fights, gossip and rivalry, but we never heard of students killing each other or their teachers.

Note that he remembers when "one nation under God" was added to a pledge written by a socialist (!). And when "In God we trust" was adopted.

That's right -- they weren't there before. If there weren't there, then how does that support Moore's contention that associates this "acknowledgment of God" with "hav[ing] respect for our teachers and the[ir] seem[ing] to care about us"? Did teachers suddenly care about students because an acknowledgment of God was added to the pledge? or because "In God we trust" was added to our coins?

And if these acknowledgments weren't present before the 1950s, wouldn't the US have suffered some dreadful consequences -- perhaps losing a war? Against a religious country -- like Mexico or Spain -- just to teach us a lesson. Hard to see then his slippery slope fallacy:
I am very concerned for our future and believe that unless we restore the foundations of faith, family, freedom and law, we will continue to suffer the consequences of turning from God.

If God governs all, then perhaps we're losing not because we're turning away from God (no evidence of this happening, unfortunately), but because we're not a Muslim nation. I wonder...

Anyway, he also has quite an idyllic vision of schools: "we never heard of students killing each other or their teachers." While kids coming to school and shooting several kids or teachers may be a recent phenomenon, Richard Rothstein notes in The Way We Were? that there were violent incidents with students rioting -- in the early 20th century!

My classrooms were always relatively tranquil too. At least no one was shot or physically attacked (well, not with weapons anyway). There were fights. Rumors. Gossip. Girls probably developed eating disorders. Boys got high. Some girls probably got high too. Hmmm. Maybe not very idyllic....

Anyway, Moore is dead wrong when he writes:
No one ever imagined that the courts or our government had any intention of banishing the acknowledgment of God from us

because "the acknowledgment of God" has not been "banished" "from us" or anyone. You are free to do what you want. What is forbidden is the imposition to acknowledge God from anyone in authority.

He wouldn't want to be forced to worship a different God. Why should Baptists be forced to pray Catholic prayers? Or Jews forced to pray Christian prayers? Or Muslims...? Why should non-religious people (even those who believe but don't pray or don't want to pray) be forced to be religious? Is that something in the "Christian" spirit of things?

Or is being Christian forcing your neighbors to be like you?

Especially if you're a hypocrite.
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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

WorldNutDaily's nutty advertizing

Here are some products that the wnd has on display:

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What diet or pills or other products will work the best for you?

Has location of lost Ark of Covenant been found?
New best-selling prophecy book claims resting place is Mt. Nebo

From what I gather, this is supposed to be a serious news site. Or at least it tries. With political commentary from Pat Boone and Chuck Norris, it usually misses.

With ads for products that are get-rich-quick schemes and snake oil products, it's hard to believe that anyone with an IQ above room temperature takes them seriously.

The last one was hardly an ad -- it was actually an article based on a stupid book that ties in a misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar (supposedly it ends in 2012) and biblical references to note where the ark of the covenant should be. Not surprisingly, the book references the Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. I think there's a good chance that the producer, writers, director, and actors all new it was fiction. Neither the wnd writer nor the author of the book figured that out.

These product placements are not the ads off to the side or at the top of the page -- I excluded them since they could be placed there by someone else and not subject to the approval of the wnd folks.
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Obsolete republicans

So says Jack Cafferty.

In a post on CNN, he writes:

Republican Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia said it best: "The Republican brand is in the trash can. If we were dog food, they would take us off the shelf."

It is so bad that more than 10 percent of the Republican members of the United States Senate aren't even bothering to attend their own party's convention. They recognize dog food when they see it.

Could this be "the beginning of the end of the Republican Party as we know it"?

And if so, why?

Some reasons:

It's more than symbolic that when a million Americans are losing their homes to foreclosure, the Republican candidate for president has lost track of his holdings.

That's the same problem the Republican Party has. It has lost track of what it used to stand for: small government, a disciplined fiscal policy, integrity.

In a way, the perfect storm of a rapidly changing population -- old white people aren't going to be in the majority very much longer (and isn't that who most of the Republicans are?) -- has combined with the total abdication of principles, Republican or otherwise, of arguably the worst president in the nation's history

And it almost doesn't matter who the next president is. We are witnessing the beginnings of a sea change in this country.

A wakeup call has sounded for young people who are suddenly interested enough in politics to make a difference. New voter registrations across the country are making a mockery of the old polling models.

Voter turnout in the primaries was staggering. Blacks and Hispanics feel they have a real stake in things -- and as their numbers continue to grow as a percentage of the population, their voice will only get louder. The march of the next generation is underway and the older generation has no choice but to eventually get out of the way.

Could this be a moment of significant change? The US has had a two party system for basically its entire existence (Washington was the only president elected as an independent, though he seemed to agree with the Federalist party). Curiously, many of the founding fathers were opposed to political parties, including Washington and Jefferson themselves (Jefferson supported the Democratic-Republican Party in an effort to counteract the potential influence of the Federalists, whose positions he opposed). The system has been transformed several times, giving us Republicans and Democrats in the 1850s. Reagan swept the country to the right in the 1980s after it was swept to the left in the 1960s. And if it does change, will the Republicans go away? Or will they refashion themselves? How? Their principles of small government and fiscal responsibility generally sound nice, though they haven't been practiced since...........
As I wrote earlier, the federal debt has grown astronomically under Republican administrations. The government may not have grown, but the scope of what the government can do seems to have done so. Its influence in the economy is still large, even if it's not directly involved in it (spending provided to contractors, etc.).

It'll be interesting to see if Cafferty is right. Maybe the US will even wind up with a true left wing party.

Another advantage: if the Republican brand disappears, so do Rush and Ann Coulter.
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Monday, September 1, 2008

Sarah Palin: has McCain given up?

As you should know by now unless you live outside the US or in a cave the Republican presidential candidate (it'll be official in a couple days) has selected the governor of Alaska, a young woman named Sarah Palin, to be his running mate. She's only been governor for about two years is a former beauty pageant contestant and mayor of a small town. She's pretty conservative on their key issues: abortion and, well, abortion.

She's younger than Obama, so it's hard to see how she helps him criticize Obama's lack of experience (though she is only running to be vice president, though if McCain were to win, he would be the oldest elected president in US history, at least the first time; not sure if Reagan was older for his re-election, though I don't think so).

Without going into any issue, I wonder if McCain is giving up. I wonder if he thinks he can really win this election. His choice of vice president makes me think he can't and that he knows it.

The polls have a virtual tie right now. With the Republican convention getting cut short and Gustav getting all the media attention, I'm not sure that the republicans will even get a boost in the polls after the convention has ended (as is normally the case).

She doesn't help lure undecideds (polls seem to indicate this), though that may be McCain's role. Her job may be to shore up the conservative vote, which is not too thrilled about McCain. Of course, I wonder how many of them want a woman one step from the presidency, a concern that could be pretty big given McCain's age. Of course, Thatcher had a pretty good run in the UK so maybe voters won't care.

The overall reaction seems to be negative except among conservatives, so it doesn't look like she helped. We'll see if that's the case.
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Nirvana's saddest song?

This song sucks. It's "Seasons in the Sun," first recorded in French, a huge hit for Terry Jacks. Nirvana covered the song, video below the fold. They even played it in concerts, at least once in Sao Paulo. This website describes one technique used in the song as a "truck driver's gear change." It's when the artist(s) repeat a verse or chorus in a different key, prolonging the song and usually the agony of its listeners. It frequently winds up with singers out of key and makes the mess of the song, as is the case with the performance in Sao Paulo. I think the only Nirvana song (by this, I mean a song they wrote) where this definitely happens is "Lounge Act" from Nevermind. I'll have to listen to "School" and "Negative Creep" to see if they used one of these truck driver's gear changes there; the songs are pretty repetitive so I wouldn't be surprised.

Any way, when I saw the video for the first time a few months ago the song evoked a strong sense of sadness. It is a sad song and perhaps Kurt Cobain, one of the saddest artists of all time (maybe that's a bit hyperbolic, we'll see), captures it beautifully in the home video version.

Here's the home video:

That's Kurt playing the drums (just in case you were in a hole fifteen years ago, he was the guitarist), David Grohl, normally the drummer, plays the bass, and Chris Novoselic, the bassist, plays the guitar here. Kurt still sings this version, though in Sao Paulo, they all sing and the song breaks down:

The only other Nirvana songs that could be quite this sad our Nevermind's "Something in the Way" or In Utero's "Milk It" (more depressing than sad; "Look on the bright side is suicide") or "Pennyroyal Tea" (pretty depressing too). Of course, Kurt wrote all the lyrics and was bipolar (that used to be called manic-depression), so the depression shouldn't be much of a surprise.
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