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A society without religion
is like a crazed psychopath
without a loaded .45.


History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose. — Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Baron von Humboldt, 1813; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus NJ: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 370

TypePad is a major registration system for online commenters, a buggy pile of crap that works badly for the blog masters, and not at all for me.
It is contended by many that ours is a Christian government, founded upon the Bible, and that all who look upon that book as false or foolish are destroying the foundation of our country. The truth is, our government is not founded upon the rights of gods, but upon the rights of men. Our Constitution was framed, not to declare and uphold the deity of Christ, but the sacredness of humanity. Ours is the first government made by the people for the people. It is the only nation with which the gods have nothing to do. And yet there are some judges dishonest and cowardly enough to solemnly decide that this is a Christian country, and that our free institutions are based upon the infamous laws of Jehovah. - Robert G. Ingersoll
28 Dec 2009
Apparent news:  A Nigerian, Islamic terrorist tried to set off a bomb on an American airliner, but was thwarted by  a combination of his own incompetence and a Dutch passenger.  The man's father warned the US State Dept. about him a month ago, which forwarded the info to the Dept of Reich Security, which did nothing.
Predictably, the Rethuglicans are wetting their pants, blaming Obama and dreaming of torture. The terrorist apparently claims to be working with Al Qaeda, and to have trained in Yemen. So Lieberman wants to attack Yemen, although it has weak government that has been cooperating with the US. The usual whores and whackjobs say this is good idea. Proposed new restrictions on passengers are insane, and TSA has been threatening bloggers for publishing rules it sent to ten thousand "security officials" and airlines around the world.
Meanwhile:
Republican senator DeMint holds up nomination for TSA chief
Washington Post, by Margaret Talev
Tuesday, December 29, 2009; A13
    An alleged attempt to blow up a transatlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas would be all-consuming for the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration -- if there were one.
    Instead, the post remains vacant because Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has held up [and continues to hold up] President Obama's nominee in an effort to prevent TSA workers from joining a labor union. [continues]

looking for uramium
just because
The librarianThe librarian
- banned books   
Does anyone in their right mind listen credulously to the drug-addled reich-wing whores of  talk radio and Faux News? No, but there are apparently millions of other people. fox viewers

19 Dec 2009, CrooksAndLiars 
if you're not outraged ... If any of your loved ones are serving abroad, you might be interested to know the Obama administration, by virtue of SCOTUS's refusal of the case, just got the Supreme Court's blessing to torture. Obviously, other countries will follow our lead:
    In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal Monday to review a lower court’s dismissal of a case brought by four British former Guantanamo prisoners against former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the detainees’ lawyers charged Tuesday that the country’s highest court evidently believes that "torture and religious humiliation are permissible tools for a government to use."
    The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., had ruled that government officials were immune from suit because at that time it was unclear whether abusing prisoners at Guantanamo was illegal.
    Channeling their predecessors in the George W. Bush administration, Obama Justice Department lawyers argued in this case that there is no constitutional right not to be tortured or otherwise abused in a U.S. prison abroad. [continues]
American character is stable over 200 years
I have been reading A Diary in America, with remarks on its Institutions, by Capt. Frederick Marryat. He was a British naval officer, best selling author, inventor, and strong Tory. He toured the Unitied States in 1837-38. (The page numbers are from the 1962 Knopf edition, editied by Sydney Jackman.)
On Washington, DC:."Here are assembled from every state in the Union what ought to be the collected talent, intelligence, and high principle of a free and enlightened nation. Of talent and intelligence there is a very fair supply, but principle is not so much in demand; and in everything, and everywhere, by the demand the supply is always regulated." (p. 153)

And yet the Americans are continually dinning into my ears—Captain Marryat, we are a very moral people! Again, I repeat, the Americans are the happiest people in the world in their own delusions. If they wish to be a moral people, the government must show them some better example than that of paying those honours to vice and immorality which are only due to honour and to virtue. (p. 162)

In a country where every man is a politican, and flatters himself that he is assisting to govern the country, political animosities must of course be carried to the greatest lengths, and the press is the vehicle for party violence; ...
    But let me add the authority of Americans. Mr. Webster, in his celebrated speech on the public lands, observes in that powerful and nervous language for which he is so celebrated:
It is one of the thousand calumnies with which the press teemed, during an excited political canvass. It was a charge, of which there was not only no proof or probability, but which was, in itself, wholly impossible to be true. No man of common information ever believed asyllable of it. Yet it was of that class of falsehoods, which by continued repetition, through all the organs of detraction and abuse, are capable of misleading those who are already far misled, and of farther fanning passion, already kindled into flame. Doubtless, it served in its day, and, in greater or less degree, the end designed by it. Having done that, it has sunk into the general mass of stale and loathed calumnies. It is the very cast-off slough of a polluted and shameless press. (p. 411) [Beck, Bachmann and Palin are traditionalists! Who knew?]
Defamation is the greatest curse in the United States,..
    Defamation exists all over the world, but it is incredible to what an extent this vice is carried in America. It is a disease which pervades the land; which renders every man suspicious and cautious of his neighbour, creates eye-service and hypocrisy, fosters the bitterest and most malignant passions, and unceasingly irritates the morbid sensibility, so remarkable among all classes of the American people ...
    Indeed, from the prevalence of this vice, society in America appears to be in a state of constant warfare—Indian warfare, as everyone is crouched, concealed, watching for an opportunity to scalp the reputation of his neighbour! They exist in fear and trembling, afraid to speak, afraid to act, or follow their own will, for in America there is no free will. When I have asked why they do not this or that, the reply has invariably been, that they dare not. In fact, to keep their station in society, they must be slaves—not merely slaves, for we are all so far slaves that if we do that which is not right, we must be expelled from it; but abject and cowardly slaves, who dare not do that which is innocent, lest they should be misrepresented. This is the cause why there is such an attention to the outward forms, of religion in the United States, and which has induced some travellers to suppose them a religious people, as if it were possible that any real religion could exist where morality is at so low an ebb. (p. 412-4)

Chapter XLVII . Patriotism
    It is because it is more egotistical that the patriotism of the American is more easily roused and more easily affronted. He has been educated to despise all other countries and to look upon his own as the first in the world; he has been taught that all other nations are slaves to despots and that the American citizen only is free, and this is never contradicted. For although thousands may in their own hearts feel the falsehood of their assertions, there is not one who will venture to express his opinion. The government sets the example, the press follows it, and the people receive the incense of flattery, which in other countries is offered to the court alone, and if it were not for the occasional compunctions and doubts, which his real good sense will sometimes visit him with, the more enlightened American would be happy in his own delusions, as the majority most certainly may be said to be. . . . (p. 442-3)
11 Dec 2009 The United States hires goons for its border guards. The story below is a strong example, but my daughter has been harrassed by them also, for absolutely no reason. And many friends and aquaintences have been harrassed by their bureaucratic counterparts.
From BoingBoing, and other sites: Sf writer David Nickle writes,
    Hugo-award-nominated science fiction author Dr. Peter Watts is in serious legal trouble after he was beaten, pepper-sprayed and imprisoned by American border guards at a Canada U.S. border crossing December 8. This is a call to friends, fans and colleagues to help.
    Peter, a Canadian citizen, was on his way back to Canada after helping a friend move house to Nebraska over the weekend. He was stopped at the border crossing at Port Huron, Michigan by U.S. border police for a search of his rental vehicle. When Peter got out of the car and questioned the nature of the search, the gang of border guards subjected him to a beating, restrained him and pepper sprayed him. At the end of it, local police laid a felony charge of assault against a federal officer against Peter. On Wednesday, he posted bond and walked across the border to Canada in shirtsleeves (he was released by Port Huron officials with his car and possessions locked in impound, into a winter storm that evening). He's home safe. For now. But he has to go back to Michigan to face the charge brought against him.
    The charge is spurious. But it's also very serious. It could mean two years in prison in the United States, and a ban on travel in that country for the rest of Peter's life. Peter is mounting a vigorous defense, but it's going to be expensive - he's effectively going up against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and he needs the best legal help that he can get.
Rackjite:
what GOVERNMENT means to Republicans
let me say it again.
The GOVERNMENT IS EVIL because it steals my money to give to those less white than I.

9 Dec 2009    More Americans believe in angels than humans’ role in global warming --RawStory
the stupid, it burnsBy John Byrne
More Americans believe in guardian angels than humans' role in global warming, according to recent polls. A Pew poll released late last month found that just 36 percent of Americans believe humans are responsible for accelerating global climate change, which scientists say mushroomed after the industrial revolution due to humans' dependence on carbon-based fuels.
    Carbon dioxide, which is produced by the combustion of oil, coal and other fuels, was ruled a "dangerous" threat to public health by the Environmental Protection Agency Monday. It increases the propensity of the earth's atmosphere to retain heat.
    But a near-consensus from scientists doesn't have Americans convinced. The Pew poll found that while 57 percent believe that the earth's climate is changing, just 36 percent believe that humans are responsible. 77 percent believed that global warming existed in Pew's poll conducted in 2007.
    The 36 percent who believe in human-caused climate change is fewer than the number of Americans who apparently believe they're protected by guardian angels, some 55 percent, according to a poll published in 2008. "Half of all Americans believe they are protected by guardian angels, one-fifth say they've heard God speak to them, one-quarter say they have witnessed miraculous healings, 16 percent say they've received one and 8 percent say they pray in tongues, according to a survey" conducted by Baylor University published in September of 2008.
...
    That's not all. A blog at the website of Foreign Policy notes that more Americans believe in UFOs and ghosts than do anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. 34 percent of Americans said they believed in UFOs and ghosts in a Halloween 2007 survey conducted by Ipsos for the Associated Press.
    Just 39 percent of Americans said in a February poll that they believe in evolution.

2 Dec 2009 The disillusionment of a conservative, Andrew Sullivan
Here goes:
    I cannot support a movement that claims to believe in limited government but backed an unlimited domestic and foreign policy presidency that assumed illegal, extra-constitutional dictatorial powers until forced by the system to return to the rule of law.
    I cannot support a movement that exploded spending and borrowing and blames its successor for the debt.
    I cannot support a movement that so abandoned government's minimal and vital role to police markets and address natural disasters that it gave us Katrina and the financial meltdown of 2008.
    I cannot support a movement that holds torture as a core value.
    I cannot support a movement that holds that purely religious doctrine should govern civil political decisions and that uses the sacredness of religious faith for the pursuit of worldly power.
    I cannot support a movement that is deeply homophobic, cynically deploys fear of homosexuals to win votes, and gives off such a racist vibe that its share of the minority vote remains pitiful.
    I cannot support a movement which has no real respect for the institutions of government and is prepared to use any tactic and any means to fight political warfare rather than conduct a political conversation.
    I cannot support a movement that sees permanent war as compatible with liberal democratic norms and limited government.
    I cannot support a movement that criminalizes private behavior in the war on drugs.
    I cannot support a movement that would back a vice-presidential candidate manifestly unqualified and duplicitous because of identity politics and electoral cynicism.
    I cannot support a movement that regards gay people as threats to their own families.
    I cannot support a movement that does not accept evolution as a fact.
    I cannot support a movement that sees climate change as a hoax and offers domestic oil exploration as the core plank of an energy policy.
    I cannot support a movement that refuses ever to raise taxes, while proposing no meaningful reductions in government spending.
    I cannot support a movement that refuses to distance itself from a demagogue like Rush Limbaugh or a nutjob like Glenn Beck.
    I cannot support a movement that believes that the United States should be the sole global power, should sustain a permanent war machine to police the entire planet, and sees violence as the core tool for international relations.
    Does this make me a "radical leftist" as Michelle Malkin would say? Emphatically not. But it sure disqualifies me from the current American right.
    To paraphrase Reagan, I didn't leave the conservative movement. It left me.

sleazeball Hugh McGeeSurprise, surprise! There are intelligent teachers in Texas!
2 Dec 2009 Barclays banker Hugh McGee wants son's teacher fired for 'sleazeball' comment
Hugh "Skip" McGee, one of Wall Street's best-paid bankers, has launched an extraordinary attack on staff at his son's exclusive private school after a teacher allegedly claimed that all investment bankers are dishonest "sleazeballs".
 By James Quinn, US Business Editor, UK Telegraph

Mr Mcgee, who is Barclays Capital's global head of investment banking, penned a rambling five-page letter to the board of trustees of Houston's Kinkaid School, asking that the teacher and two other staff members be fired.
    In the letter, Mr McGee, who is alleged to have an eight-figure salary, claims that history teacher Leslie Lovett has a "leftist invective" which "is neither accurate nor part of the approved curriculum".
    The banker, who was global head of investment banking at Lehman Brothers until its collapse last year, goes on to claim that the teacher told his son John Edward's 11th-grade class "that somehow both Lehman and Barclays made a bunch of money on the Lehman bankruptcy, and that all investment bankers were 'sleazeballs' and dishonest".


Empire apples are wonderful.
I recommend picking them at Tougas Farm, Northboro, Mass.
empire apple

25 Nov 2009  Matt Taibbi — Yes, Sarah, There is a Media Conspiracy...
    Your average political reporter is a spineless dweeb who went to all the best schools and made it to that privileged seat inside the campaign-trail ropeline by being keenly sensitive to the editorial wishes of his social and professional superiors.
    When their bosses were for the war, they were for the war, and they battered any candidate who was “weak on foreign policy.” When the political winds shifted four years later and the consensus inside the Beltway suddenly was that Iraq had been a hideous mistake, the campaign-trail reporters mysteriously started sounding like Sixties peaceniks on the plane[. ....]
    The press corps that is bashing [Palin's] skull in right now is the same one that hyped that WMD horseshit for like four solid years and pom-pommed America to war with Iraq over the screeching objections of the entire planet. It’s the same press corps that rolled out the red carpet for someone very nearly as abjectly stupid as Sarah Palin to win not one but two terms in the White House. ...
24 Nov 2009 Rawstory: Study: CEOs cashed in before Wall Street meltdown
By David Edwards and Daniel Tencer
Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 — 10:20 am

    The CEOs of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, the two investment banks that collapsed during last year's financial meltdown, walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation even as the company's shareholders lost everything, says a new report from Harvard Law School.
    The top five executives at Bear Stearns made a total of $1.4 billion from bonuses and equity sales between 2000 and 2008, while the top five executives at Lehman Brothers made around $1 billion during that same period — the period during which the companies ran up the bad investments that would see them collapse in 2008, according to "The Wages of Failure" (PDF), a report from Harvard Law School's Program on Corporate Governance. [continues]
18 Nov 2009 The SERPENT Project — see the picture gallery
"The oceans of the world are a vast, alien landscape, covering more than half the Earth's surface. It is the last great frontier on our planet and the SERPENT project is exploring this mysterious and exciting undersea environment in a deep sea adventure like no other.

With the generous help of offshore oil and gas companies and their highly skilled Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) teams, SERPENT has been given unique access to the rigs and drilling vessels from which we are able to carry out this vital work."
16 Nov 2009, CrooksandLiars
The Republicans' shameless cynicism was perfectly captured by Vice President Dick Cheney, who in 2002 proclaimed, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter."

Not, that is, if a Republican is in the White House. But when Barack Obama stepped into the Oval Office and the $1.2 trillion deficit George W. Bush left for him there, the GOP quickly changed its tune. While the national debt tripled under Ronald Reagan and doubled again under President Bush, House Minority Leader John Boehner in February decried the $787 billion emergency economic recovery spending as "one big down payment on a new American socialist experiment."  [continues]
Nov 2009 - My service providers do a good job of filtering spam, in that I only see a couple per day. There are logs of spam caught, and the numbers have been soaring this month, to perhaps 5 times the messages passed. Why? and as always, why don't the ISPs and government stop it?

2 Nov 2009
Orrin Hatch and John Kerry included Christian Science into the "Health Reform" bill as reimbursible treatment! That is just so stupid that anyone running against Kerry next time will have to be as brain-dead as Glen Beck for me to not vote for him/her.

27 Oct 2009 Looking at my site stats: This is my best month ever for page hits. The 10 most commonly hit pages for the past year are: home, maps, short book reviews, quotes on superstition and reason, quotes on politics, Fowle & Fitz's 1845 Mass. gazetteer, a page of Namibia links, this page, a set of verse and lyrics, and Nason's 1890 Mass. gazetteer.
_________________________________

"Give the church a place in the Constitution, let her touch once more the sword of power, and the priceless fruit of all ages will turn to ashes on the lips of men."  Ingersoll's Works, Vol. 1:203
_______________________________

27 Oct 2009 One good set of internet comment rules. The comments are good, too.

Oct 2009 - I just learned about Tricky Pixie, and love their version of Tam Lin. Tricky Pixie Mythcreants

just because they amuse me:
duct tape silence
siwoti
Haeckel siphorophorae 7
Ernst Haeckel - siphonophores
northwest tree octopus

It's good to see the Obama administration and the Dems finally, though probably temporarily, taking on the right wing noise machine. Rep. Alan Grayson is my political hero of the month.

24 Oct 2009  The Worcester Telegram ran a puff piece on the treasonous wing-nuts who call themselves Oath Keepers. brown shirts
_____________________________________

"Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will be [America's] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. . . . She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit."  — John Quincy Adams
        [This appears with minor variations in punctuation elsewhere.]     

Astrophotography, an amazing set of photos posted by Thierry Legault. cocoon nebula
great auks Audubon's complete  Birds of America, at University of Pittsburgh

pictured are great auks, Pinguinus impennis, extinct since the mid-1800s

Worm 6:9 Our father who are'nt in heaven, Hollow be thy name. Thy kingdom dead, thy will be read. On earth as if there were a heaven. Give us this day our daily dream and deliver us from reality. for thine is the falsehood, the corruption and the Horror forever. Hy-men
             Christian D. Seaver, "The Book of Worm"

We do not ask to be born; and we do not ask to die. But born we are and die we must. We come into existence and we pass out of existence. And in neither case does high-handed fate await our ratification of its decree. — Corliss Lamont (1902-1995) "The Illusion of Immortality"
______________________
"Most conspiracy theorists don’t understand this. But if there really were a C.I.A. plot, no documents would exist." — Gerald Posner, author of an anti-conspiracy account of the Kennedy assassination, on efforts to obtain C.I.A. documents relating to the assassin.
______________________
The world is divided into people who think they are right
______________________
Briefly touching on his time spent as a soldier stationed in Alaska, he called the state "the place where all the crooks in America went to hide" and a "frozen hell" that ultimately produced Sarah Palin, "the latest idol in America's long cult of stupidity." — interview with Gore Vidal, 2009
__________________________
Some people are like Slinkies — not really good for anything, but they bring a smile to your face when you push them down the stairs.
_____________________
22 Oct 2009    China's Hackers Boost Attacks on U.S.
Cyberspies based in or working through China filched loads of sensitive data from dozens of employees' computers at a U.S. company, according to a report released Thursday by a bipartisan congressional advisory panel. The "carefully orchestrated campaign" against the company, which the panel kept anonymous, culminated in a 2007 cyberattack, the Wall Street Journal reports. In addition to a case study of the attack, the panel, which is "made up largely of former U.S. government officials in the national security field," also found that China has been expanding its cyberspying operations in the United States and even has assembled a "number of cyberwarfare militia units, which draw on civilians in the telecommunications and technology sectors, as well as academia," according to the WSJ.
Via Slate. Original story in The Wall Street Journal | Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009
20 Oct 2009    Prudent Savers Are Losing Big in Recession
 As the government continues to spend trillions of dollars to keep interest rates low, savers' incomes are taking a big hit. "It's a direct wealth transfer from savers and retirees to overly indebted borrowers," one analyst said. Yields on the safe investments that retirees have traditionally favored are plummeting as interest rates continue to decline. Meanwhile, Wall Street is enjoying all this free money and awarding employees bonuses. Eventually, interest rates will have to increase, but until then, it clearly doesn't pay off to be a prudent saver.
Via Slate; original story in The Washington Post | Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” — Jay Gould
I/O cables and power cords for electronic devices should have easily legible tags specifying their parameters, connection type, and intended device. And the device directions should specify what kind to use. We have drawers full of obscure cables.

September 26, 2009    China’s Threat Revives Race for Rare Minerals
By Keith Bradsher - NYT

HONG KONG — A Chinese threat to halt exports of rare minerals — vital for high-performance electric motors in wind turbines, hybrid cars and missiles — appears to have backfired. With control of more than 99 percent of the world’s production of these minerals, China could try to use a ban to force other countries to buy the crucial motors for these high-tech end products, instead of just the minerals, directly from China. But other governments and businesses reacted quickly as word of the proposed ban spread late this summer.

The Chinese threat has touched off a frenzied international effort to develop alternative mines, much as the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo’s repeated increases in oil prices prompted a global hunt for oil reserves. In Washington, the House and Senate amended their defense budget authorization bills to require the Defense Department to review the military’s almost complete dependence on Chinese supplies of rare-earth minerals. In Australia, the government blocked a Chinese state-owned company on Thursday from acquiring a majority stake in a large mine being developed for these minerals, also called rare earths.

Meanwhile, Wall Street is financing exploration as the share prices of rare-earths mining companies soar — as much as sevenfold since March.
14 Sep 2009, from driftglass, via Crooks and Liars
Clinton, 9/11, and the Republicans' Born-Again "Virginity" Problem
By driftglass
    Once upon a time, there was a President named Bill Clinton, who was, by most historical standards, a typical Centrist Republican, although by a fluke of geography and circumstances he ran for public office with a "(D)" after his name.
    Under his Administration, many Conservative ideas which had long gathered dust on the shelf — ideas such as welfare reform, a balanced budget, debt reduction, a strict “Pay as You Go” fiscal regime, a boom in technology jobs, budget surpluses, NAFTA, GATT, official bans on gay marriage, etc. — were finally realized.
    And for all of his good work on behalf of their ideology, Conservatives spent eight, long years treating Bill Clinton — a Southern, White, Christian man — as if he were a case of flesh eating nuclear syphilis.
    Because he did not run for office with an "(R)" after his name.
    And because he did not run for office with an "(R)" after his name, according to the leading voices in the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement, Bill Clinton was, in no particular order, Hitler, a Socialist, a rapist, a warmonger, a serial murderer, and a drug dealer, whose Presidency was somehow vaguely illegitimate.
    And counterpointing the 24/7 slime campaign, there were those endless, endless hearings. Whitewater. Travel office. Christmas Card lists. Lincoln bedroom. Etc ad nauseum.
    Or don’t you remember?
[continues]
Palin_aid6 Sep 2009
  The DailyBeast has excerpts from a book about Sarah Palin. She is scary, conniving and insane, with many fellow travelers. The book is Republican Gomorrah, by Max Blumenthal.

"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation."  Oscar Wilde

2 Sep 2009 Crooks and Liars
I don't want war! All I want is peace...peace...peace...!
A little piece of Poland,
A little piece of France,
A little piece of Austria
And Hungary, perchance!
A little slice of Turkey
And all that that entails,
And then a bit of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales!"
 Mel Brooks, To Be Or Not To Be
I guess the news peg for this is the anniversary of the start of WWII in September 1939, but Pat Buchanan has gone ahead and apologized for Hitler, claiming he sought no empire or wider war with Europe, and had merely benign interests of German unification at heart:
    Indeed, why would he want war when, by 1939, he was surrounded by allied, friendly or neutral neighbors, save France. And he had written off Alsace, because reconquering Alsace meant war with France, and that meant war with Britain, whose empire he admired and whom he had always sought as an ally.
    As of March 1939, Hitler did not even have a border with Russia. How then could he invade Russia?
Aug 2009
There have been many stories about the US military being hijacked by the Christian far right.
Example
Here's our problem
    I know, you can't use reason to talk someone out of a position they didn't use reason to arrive at, anyway. But this result at least tells us the depth of the problem.
    When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll.
    I've talked to a lot of people who think that way, and the really mind-boggling part of this is that they consider this attitude to be a virtue. That's where early education in critical thinking is important: children shouldn't grow up believing that stubbornly clinging to an idea despite all the evidence against it doesn't make them look heroic. It makes them look stupid.  PZ Myers at Pharyngula:

The Word Of God, conveniently for those of us who hate,
Will always back our hatred with religion's holy weight.
The good may credit God, of course; sing praises to his name—
The bad, as well, cite scripture, which they loudly will proclaim!
The Word Of God is leather-bound, and sits upon your shelf,
And lets you blame a deity for things you do yourself.
You're good, or bad, or neither; you are moral or you're not;
You think that God contributed? He did precisely squat.
It's you who takes the credit, and it's you who takes the blame;
No God controlled your hatred, so don't try to spread the blame.
So go ahead; pretend that you are acting on God's word;
Both you and we know better; you're a coward and a turd.
    Posted by: Cuttlefish, OM | August 23, 2009 at Pharyngula
That the fundie mindset is characterized by having been steeped since infancy in the deliberate distrust of facts and intellect. No amount of factual or logical argument will dent them, because they've internalized the notion that facts and logic are Satan's work. - Bill Dauphin, comment on Pharyngula, 17 Sep 2009

August 7, 2009
GM gets to dump its polluted sites
by Tim Higgins, Detroit Free Press

    When General Motors Co. emerged from bankruptcy, it was freed of obligations for polluted properties at discarded plant sites that will require millions of dollars to clean up. GM’s unusual, government-engineered bankruptcy allowed the Detroit automaker to emerge as a new company — and to shed billions in liabilities, including claims that governments had against GM for polluting.
    Environmental liabilities estimated at $530 million were left with the old GM, which has only $1.2 billion to wind down. Administrative fees and other claims will soak up that money, and state and local officials told the Free Press they fear the cleanups will be shortchanged.

don't touch my medicare19 Aug 2009 at ThinkProgress.org:
New poll finds that 39 percent of Americans want government to ‘stay out of Medicare.’

    As ThinkProgress has noted before, conservatives have frequently obscured the fact that Medicare is a government-run single-payer program. Constituents appearing at health care town halls have even demanded that their members of Congress keep their “government hands off of Medicare.” Now, a new Public Policy Polling poll finds that millions of Americans do not realize that the federal government runs Medicare:
    One poll question indicative of how difficult it is to gain public understanding on a complicated issue asked if respondents thought the government should ‘stay out of Medicare,’ something inherently impossible. 39% said yes.
    The poll also shows that an additional 15% of respondents were “not sure” if the government should be involved in Medicare. Only 46% of respondents disagreed with the proposition that the government should stay out of the government-run program.
    The poll also finds that only 62 percent of respondents believe that President Obama was born in America. Of the 38 percent who either don't believe or are unsure, some think he was born in Indonesia, Kenya, the Philippines, or France. Six percent of the total poll respondents also don't think Hawaii is a U.S. state [and 4% are unsure].
Aug 2009. The Rubber Room, The battle over New York City’s worst teachers. by Steven Brill, in The New Yorker
    This is a look at the horrifying situation in NYC schools, where hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually to pay teachers not working, accused of incompetence or abuse. They show up every day, to sit in guarded rooms, waiting month after month for hearings, and then appeals, getting outrageous salaries meanwhile. "One school principal has said that Randi Weingarten, of the teachers’ union,'would protect a dead body in the classroom.'

  I answered a phone poll from Pew about computer use, security and social networking sites. I don't think I'm typical — although I use a computer every day, and have a web site, I don't use a cell phone for anything other than (rarely) talking, I don't have a social network page, or ever view them. Yet most of my personal details are easy to find online, since I'm looking for work. Do I use the web to look up people? Yes, I'm a genealogist; it's what I do,but most of them have been dead for a hundred years or more.

Whatever happened to Porche as the status car brand?
Whatever happened to al-Sistani, the reclusive Iraqi ayatollah the Bushies were wooing?
Whatever happened to the flag-burning amendment? Did Bush made burning it  respectable?

A classic Twain quote, about as true now as a hundred years ago:
It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.

Sport is a seductive metaphor (life as a game in which we gain victory through hard work, discipline, and visualizing success). but the older metaphor of farming (life as hard labor that is subject to weather and quirks of blind fate and may return no reward whatsoever and don't be surprised) is still in our blood. - Garrison Keillor, National Geographic, Jul 2009

When enough people share a delusion, it loses its status as a psychosis and gets a religious tax exemption instead. - Ronald de Sousa, Why Think? Evolution and the Rational Mind, Oxford University Press
Jul 2009
I'm looking for more work, but every place I try wants someone less educated. (I see no openings for which my education is valued.) I get email from bottom-feeding recruiters who obviously haven't even glanced at my resume, asking me to apply for positions through them, then won't talk to me.
    As I've probably mentioned before, the idea that the country is desperate for science and math teachers is a myth. There are plenty of people who know math and science; it's just that school systems won't pay to hire them.
"In our secular age, [Margaret MacMillan writes], history has also displaced religion as a means of “setting moral standards and transmitting values.” So we now expect the “judgment of history” to be not merely objective and fair — the professional historian’s usual criteria — but identity-affirming, nation-making, virtue-inculcating and generation-binding as well. Small wonder that history has become such a hotly contested battleground, or that otherwise unbellicose professors are so often pressed into front-line service in the culture wars." - David M. Kennedy review of Margaret MacMillan's Dangerous Games, NYT 16 Jul 2009
Actually, I don't see this as a new trend at all, but as the way history writing has usually worked.
Frederick Clarkson’s 4 part article: Christian Reconstructionism: Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence, at publiceye.org.

From that article:
Unsurprisingly, Reconstructionists seek to abolish public schools, which they see as a critical component in the promotion of a secular world view. It is this secular world view with which they declare themselves to be at war. "Until the vast majority of Christians pull their children out of the public schools," writes Gary North, "there will be no possibility of creating a theocratic republic." Among the top Reconstructionists in education politics is Robert Thoburn of Fairfax Christian School in Fairfax, Virginia. Thoburn advocates that Christians run for school board, while keeping their own children out of public schools. "Your goal" (once on the board), he declares, "must be to sink the ship." While not every conservative Christian who runs for school board shares this goal, those who do will, as Thoburn advises, probably keep it to themselves. Thoburn's book, The Children Trap, is a widely used sourcebook for Christian Right attacks on public education.

The birthers are just racists. They didn't question McCain's American citizenship, although it is obviously more disputable than Obama's.

Bastille Day
Bastille

14 Jul 2009
Sadly No! contrasts the People's Republic of Massachusetts to the Christian Hegemony of Georgia.

14 Jul 2009
 The massacre of Taliban prisoners in 2001 was reported at the time as involving a US supported warlord. Why is it a scandal only now?
Bush/Cheney had the CIA set up an assassination program for al Qaeda leaders. My problem is not that it existed but that they failed, and hid the project from Congress. Or was it hidden?
"All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries," the former president said. "And many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: They are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies." - Bush, 2003 State the Union address

Predator
an interesting tool

29 Jun 2009
I was saddened to read that Orrie Friedman died on 29 Jun. It was not a surprise, since he was 94, but it's always sad when such remarkable people go. I had the honor of working for him at GrenPharma for 3 years, researching a potential treatment for Alzheimer disease. He was already 90, still dabbling in business and research, still driving his Jaguar.
GrenPharma puff story, 2007 (company name misspelled by Boston Globe)
Brandeis University obit note

27 Jun 2009
    "At the end of the day, aside from the dereliction of duty and malfeasance, this, for me, would be a private matter. That is if it were not for the appalling hypocrisy of yet another social conservative saying one thing while doing another.
    There are Democratic sex scandals to be sure, but Democrats didn’t build a franchise on holier-than-thou moral rectitude. The Republicans did. They used sexual morality as a weapon and now it’s shooting them in the foot.
    Sanford voted to impeach Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky saga. According to The Post and Courier of Charleston, Sanford called Clinton’s behavior “reprehensible” and said, “I think it would be much better for the country and for him personally” to resign. “I come from the business side. ... If you had a chairman or president in the business world facing these allegations, he’d be gone.” Remember that Mr. Sanford?" — Charles M. Blow, NYT
10 Jun 2009
The "Discovery Institute" is among the groups of lying creationists trying to poison our minds, and espcially our children's minds with superstitious drivel. Recently they have taken to illegally censoring videos critical of them. DonExodus2 Youtube video mirror video here
DPRJones Youtube channel 
evolving creationists creation science
fighting dinos
  

Perpetual question: "Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier-boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of the wily agitator who induces him to desert?" — Abraham Lincoln

8 Jun 2009
  The shallow whores of the California Legislature replaced a hero in the US Capitol's Hall of Statues with the original pig_wearing_lipstick.
Starr King
pig with lipstick
Rev. Thomas Starr King
wiki  UUA



9 Jun 2009
My thin, crappy daily fishwrap is the Worcester Telegram and Gazette. It prints  a strange selection of letters-to-the-editor, including a forced-birth screed on most days. Some are even worse. Ideas on why they publish these: the editor is nuts too (possible); she has a sick sense of humor (possible); it sells newspapers (hard to believe); no one else writes letters (this?). Sometimes it is possible to comment on them, sometimes not (not today). There is a small group of frequent commenters, and me from time to time.

  I didn't notice being bitten by a deer tick in late May, but had an inflamed tender spot at my belt line, which spread and faded, with the bulls-eye at one stage. There was fever, and lethargy, and joint pain and I finally realized it all fit the symptoms for Lyme disease. The UMass physician agreed, and ordered two weeks of doxycyclin. In 2 days I was feeling enormously better.
deer tick

9 Jun 2009
*A depressing story of a huge, long-term, environmental crime.*
Re-telling the Soviet harpoon race, from the BBC blog of Richard Black
"... Many [what-if questions] surround the whaling moratorium - called for in 1972, voted through in 1982 and implemented in 1986.
    One of the key arguments mustered for the moratorium was that whale numbers did not appear to be recovering, even on species and in regions where protection measures had been put in place.
    By the 1960s, hunting for blue whales and humpbacks, for example, was banned in large expanses of the oceans.
    But time after time in records of IWC meetings from that period you come across phrases such as "it seemed that there was some rebuilding of humpback stocks in the North-west Atlantic but there was nothing to suggest any substantial increase elsewhere in the North Atlantic", followed by a recommendation to extend the existing protection for a further three or five years and see what happened.
    The sense of heads being scratched is almost palpable.
    After the demise of the Soviet Union, the reason why these protection measures weren't working became startlingly clear. The Soviet fleets, which included the biggest factory ships ever built, had been working to a radically different plan - to kill just about every whale they encountered, irrespective of size, species or rarity, and lie about it.
    Since Alexey Yablokov first spilled the beans in 1993, the story has been told and re-told, the real catch records (kept secret and not submitted to the IWC, ironically chaired by a Soviet, MN Sukhoruchenko, during some of the years when the apparent ineffectiveness of protection regimes was being discussed) have been dissected and analysed.
    But rarely has it been told as well as it has this week, in an article [pdf link] by Phil Clapham and Yulia Ivashchenko in Marine Fisheries Review, the US journal. If you're not familiar with the story, reading their article will be 15 minutes of your time well spent; if you are familiar with it, well, it's worth a read anyway. ..."

baby humpback whale
baby humpback whale off Provincetown, 2008

May 2009.
  Herring Cove Beach, Provincetown. We watched the final stages of dissection of a fin whale. A ranger said it had died about 2 days previously, yet the odor of rotting whale was already gagging even from outside the yellow-tape perimeter. I can't imagine what it was like for the dozen people in rubber boots and coveralls who were actually doing the work. Then extrapolate to a whale longer dead, or fermenting under a summer sun. And to our ancestors, harvesting the blubber, working without protective clothing and without a hot shower later. And to seaside towns where thousands of pilot whales have come ashore at once, before there was machinery to drag them away or bury them. Speed was essential, to get the goods before your neighbors or decay did, before the smell got too bad. (A twentieth-century anecdote from the outer Cape, perhaps from the 1930s, had a small pod come ashore; the old-timers and poor gathered equipment to process them; the result was a small quantity of low-grade oil after stinking up the town.)

blackfish at Wellfleet 1884

[Whale oil is edible - was it used in food by our ancestors often, seldom, never? (Sailors on whale-ships fried donuts in the boiling blubber for a treat.) How well do various kinds keep? Did they eat the meat from the pilot whales (black fish), since it was fresh - often, seldom, never? These people were not picky eaters — Thoreau had an anecdote about catching gulls for food, in which a piece of blubber was tethered to the top of a blind as bait for the birds, and when one grabbed hold the boy/man below would drag it in and wring its neck Whale-ships used the tried-out blubber as fuel to contniue the process with the next batch - did this also happen on shore? When was it discovered? Did the poor use it as fuel? I have Bragington-Smith and Oliver's 2004 Cape Cod Shore Whaling. America's first whalemen - been meaning to read it]


Mystic: a person who is puzzled before the obvious, but who understands the non-existent. — Elbert Hubbard

religion is crap

Somewhere in the world there is an epigram for every dilemma. — Hendrik Willem Van Loon (1882-1944)

Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum. — Terry Pratchett, Small Gods
How many libertarians does it take to change a lightbulb? No need for change. The market will make it work.
I hate your politics:
The classic rant from John Scalzi (March 2002)
 No, I don’t know what they are. And no, I probably don’t know who you are, either. Really, those two points are immaterial (no offense). As it turns out about 46% of you are liberal, 46% of you are conservative, and the rest of you just want your guns, drugs and brothels (here in the US, we call them folks “libertarians”). Each of you carries baggage from your political affiliation, and all of that baggage has a punky smell to it, like one of your larger species of rodent crawled in and expired in your folded underwear… It’s not so much that politics brings out the worst in people than it is that the worst in people goes looking for something to do, and that usually ends up being politics. It’s either that or setting fires in trashcans…  John Scalzi: Whatever

"Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will [America's] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. . . . She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit." — John Quincy Adams, in John Quincy Adams and American Continental Empire, ed. Walter LaFeber, p. 45 (1965). This appears with minor variations in punctuation and with italics in the phrase "change from liberty to force,"

2 May 2009
    Not only has the G.O.P. spent years trying to fool everybody in sight with its phony-baloney, dime-store philosophies, it’s now trapped in the patently pathetic phase of fooling itself.
    The economy has imploded, the auto industry is in danger of being vaporized and more than half of all working Americans are worried that they may lose their jobs in the next year. So what’s the Republican response? To build a wall of obstruction in front of efforts to get the economy moving again, and then to stand in front of that wall chanting gibberish about smaller government, lower taxes, spending cuts and Ronald Reagan. — Bob Herbert, NYT
typical Republican
Republican middle class

1 May 2009
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new analysis.
    More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
    White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified — more than 6 in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only 4 in 10 of them did.
    The analysis is based on a Pew Research Center survey of 742 American adults conducted April 14-21. It did not include analysis of groups other than white evangelicals, white non-Hispanic Catholics, white mainline Protestants, and the religiously unaffiliated, because the sample size was too small.
Another Pew poll demonstrated that Republicans and Southerners are the most disloyal Americans. It all fits.
Texas sucks
24 Apr 2009
How much ink and space is wasted with repeated disclaimers such as "law enforcement official who requested anonymity because the source is not authorized to speak publicly about the case"? And reminders that Indonesians (especially) often have only one name?

23 Apr 2009
Does it make for a wobbly message to have the entire GOP program based around support for the government doing something which they simultaneously insist the government has never done? — Josh Marshall, TPM
Last week, conservatives were complaining Obama was establishing a socialistic fascist dictatorship.
This week, conservatives are complaining Obama does not want to torture his opponents. — TPM comment
torture is Republican
I posted this last year: Steven Miles' 2006 Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror (pp. 13-18):
THE CASE AGAINST INTERROGATIONAL TORTURE
Torture Harms Intelligence Collection and Analysis

12 Apr 2009
Mjǫllnir
3 Apr 2009,
So much has happened in the world since last posting in Dec., and I'll just have to ignore most of it. [I filled in some with notes I've continued taking.]

March 26, 2009
The New York Times leads with word that operatives from a secretive wing of Pakistan's military intelligence agency is providing direct support—including money, supplies, and strategic planning—to the Taliban as well as other militant groups in Afghanistan. - Slate

Mar 2009, The Scientist, p 28
The Economic Stimulus and Science, Alistair J.J. Wood of Symphony Capital
The current system of funding results in boom and bust cycles that sap confidence and continuity. The doubling of the NIH budget from 1998-2003 increased the number of funded grants but these came up for renewal when the budget was not keeping up with inflation, resulting in loss of jobs, confidence and commitment. The average age of R01 funded investigators is now over 50, while the average age of first time R01 funded awardess is almost 43, and even higher for MD investigators. This is unsustainable. What intelligent young person will commit to a career in which the first measure of independent funding does not occur until their mid-forties?

21 Feb 2009, Crooks and Liars
The party of "individual liberties" will take away your privacy, but hands off their guns!:
Republican politicians on Thursday called for a sweeping new federal law that would require all Internet providers and operators of millions of Wi-Fi access points, even hotels, local coffee shops, and home users, to keep records about users for two years to aid police investigations.
    The legislation, which echoes a measure proposed by one of their Democratic colleagues three years ago, would impose unprecedented data retention requirements on a broad swath of Internet access providers and is certain to draw fire from businesses and privacy advocates.
    "While the Internet has generated many positive changes in the way we communicate and do business, its limitless nature offers anonymity that has opened the door to criminals looking to harm innocent children," U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said at a press conference on Thursday. "Keeping our children safe requires cooperation on the local, state, federal, and family level."
    Joining Cornyn was Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who said such a measure would let "law enforcement stay ahead of the criminals."

1-20-09

6 Jan 2009, Cape Cod Times
NOAA to investigate rarity of wolffish
    wolffish speciesThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced yesterday it will independently investigate declaring the Atlantic wolffish an endangered species. The Conservation Law Foundation of Boston originally filed the petition with the federal agency asking for the review.
    "Unless the federal government takes action quickly, the Atlantic wolffish could face extinction," CLF vice president Peter Shelley wrote yesterday.
    Sometimes known as ocean catfish, the wolffish more closely resembles an eel, with a long snakelike body and large mouth full of teeth. Commercial fishery landings dropped by 95 percent between 1983 and 2007, and they haven't been seen recently in biennial scientific research trawls by NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole.
    An independent team of scientists will review biological, scientific and commercial fisheries data. That is expected to take nine months to complete before any announcement on whether Atlantic wolffish will be declared an endangered species.— DOUG FRASER
Once a ruler becomes religious, it [becomes] impossible for you to debate with him. Once someone rules in the name of religion, your lives become hell. — Colonel Moammar Qaddafi, at the General People's Congress in Tripoli in October, 1989

Children are naive—they trust everyone. School is bad enough, but, if you put a child anywhere in the vicinity of a church, you're asking for trouble. — Frank Zappa

22 Dec 2008, comment on Pharyngula
Other people are really different. They're not just defective versions of yourself.

13 Dec 2008
"Yes, at first I was happy to be learning how to read. It seemed exciting and magical. But, then, I read this: Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. I read every last word of this garbage, and because of this piece of (expletive deleted), I will never read again!" — Officer Barbrady, Comedy Channel's South Park (the "Chicken Lover" episode) South Park on Ayn Rand

Who Started the War on Christmas? by Max Blumenthal
Answer: racist journalist Peter Brimelow, with his hate group VDare, channeled by Fox News personalities Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson, then the National Review.

from Reuters, via Crooks and Liars:
Jim Rogers: Bank Bailout is 'Horrible Economics'
By Susie Madrak Friday Dec 12, 2008

Jim Rogers, who cofounded the Quantum Fund with George Soros, attacks the bank bailout as "wrongheaded" and says most of the major banks are already bankrupt:
"Without giving specific names, most of the significant American banks, the larger banks, are bankrupt, totally bankrupt," said Rogers, who is now a private investor.

"What is outrageous economically and is outrageous morally is that normally in times like this, people who are competent and who saw it coming and who kept their powder dry go and take over the assets from the incompetent," he said. "What's happening this time is that the government is taking the assets from the competent people and giving them to the incompetent people and saying, now you can compete with the competent people. It is horrible economics."

[...] Goldman Sachs & Co analysts this week estimated that banks worldwide have suffered $850 billion of credit-related losses and writedowns since the global credit crisis began last year.

But Rogers said sound U.S. lenders remain. He said these could include banks that don't make or hold subprime mortgages, or which have high ratios of deposits to equity, "all the classic old ratios that most banks in America forgot or started ignoring because they were too old-fashioned."

Dec 2008
Congress  and the Bush regime are negotiating about whether and how to bailout the auto industry, and at the moment talks have broken down because the Rethuglicans are annoyed at the UAW's refusal to accept immediate pay cuts. Overall, I'm unsure of the best plan. The industry brought it on itself with its SUV obsession, and 30 years of refusing to improve gas mileage. And UAW wages are far higher than the non-Detroit, foreign-owned US manufacturers. Yet there is the potential problem of the ripple or domino effect on the rest of the economy.

Barnard Road car
The ice storm of Dec 2008. Just up the street from us.
from T&G

Dealing with car salesman: they need mute buttons. They just don't know when to shut up.
And student excuses: The first thing to do when in a hole is stop digging, but they use their tongues to dig deeper.
Loser costume that I mistakenly thought was passé: unbelted baggies and a sweatshirt worn only on neck and one arm. But overall the baggies that need to be hitched up every third step seem less popular (at my school.)
Some high school students can't tell time with a standard clock!

8 Dec 2008
 It has occurred to me several times over the past few years that the mortgage and credit industry is run by thieves. Not criminals per se, because what they do is apparently legal, but thieves nonetheless. In what sense? When I send a check to the electric or phone company, it usually clears in 2 or 3 days. The utilities don't charge interest, so they process payments quickly. When I send a check to the credit card or mortgage company, it takes more than a week. That means they get to charge me (and tens of millions of others) several extra days of interest every month.  sent to Rep George McGovern, Sens Kennedy and Kerry. McGovern sent a partially relevant reply, with nothing, as usual, from K&K.

  "The meaning of religious freedom, I fear, is sometimes greatly misapprehended. It is taken to be a sort of immunity, not merely from governmental control but also from public opinion. A dunderhead gets himself a long-tailed coat, rises behind the sacred desk, and emits such bilge as would gag a Hottentot. Is it to pass unchallenged? If so, then what we have is not religious freedom at all, but the most intolerable and outrageous variety of religious despotism. Any fool, once he is admitted to holy orders, becomes infallible. Any half-wit, by the simple device of ascribing his delusions to revelation, takes on an authority that is denied to all the rest of us." - HL Mencken

traditioanl cranberry picking Nov 2008 - A fun activity this fall was picking wild cranberries on the shore of Wachusett Reservoir in Boylston. Half an hour to gather a gallon. I'd forgotten how extensive the old roads are through the surrounding lands, too. The woods were beautiful, and there were few people.
    Would a pick-your-own cranberry farm work? Maybe not. People don't use them in the large quantities of apples, and it doesn't have the broad tradition behind it any more, and there isn't the fun of eating them as you pick. On the other hand, people pick their own relatively small quantities of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. And in the 19th century it was a communal activity.
There are 10 kinds of people: those whose understand binary, and those who don't.

Those who forget the pasta are doomed to reheat it.

"Professional Creationists are slugs oozing and trolling about the internet looking for students to attack, cause they sure as hell can't handle their own balls when confronted with professional scientists." - ERV
 
 "Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand" - Kurt Vonnegut
 
 "I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it." – Jack Handey

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theatre.”- Frank Zappa, circa 1977

"The constitution of the United States says we're all — you know, it doesn't say that. It doesn't speak to the equality of America." — George W. Bush
Pharyngula comment by Emmet Caulfield, 7 Dec 2008:
The general population seems to think that science works like some kind of committee, where people sit around a table, have a meeting where different ideas are discussed, and whoever persuades the others "wins" and his/her pet theory is then "true". This is the impression that I get from the tactics of the ID/Creationist crowd, who "argue their case" in an entirely fact-free fashion, without fulfilling even the more rudimentary requirements of a scientific theory, and expect it to be taken seriously. They appear to have no conception whatsoever of how science works in principle or in practice: they seem to believe that science is conducted like some kind of debate. I think the misunderstanding of the meaning of "theory" is a symptom of this, they think "you have your theory, I have mine, we have a debate, and we decide which is right", and are utterly bewildered by this (to them) bizarre notion that a theory has to be falsifiable, have predictive power, be tested by experiment, and be consistent with all of the available empirical evidence. To them, it seems like we're "making up rules" to exclude their "theory".
15 Aug 2007, comment at Pharyngula by Keith Sadler
Debating with creationists is like playing chess with a pigeon, no matter how well you set up the rules the creationist will fly in, knock over all the pieces, cluck a great deal, crap all over the board, and fly off claiming victory.

5 Dec 2008, from TalkingPointsMemo:
CNN says missile defense test today was a big failure. Reuters says it was a smashing success.

Just because: Shakespearean Insult Generator

Leonard Nimoy and Bilbo Baggins, .mov version
12 Days of Redneck Christmas
Grandma Got Runover by A Reindeer
I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

goliard: The Goliards were a group of clergy who wrote bibulous, satirical Latin poetry in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. They were mainly clerical students at the universities of France, Germany, Italy, and England who protested the growing contradictions within the Church, such as the failure of the Crusades and financial abuses, expressing themselves through song, poetry and performance. Wiki

from CrooksAndLiars, 22 Nov 2008:
The United States is projected to spend more on defense in FY 2009 than the next 45 highest spending countries combined, yet a push by conservatives and the military, backed by arms companies, is trying to lock the defense budget at 4% of GDP.

The unholy triumvirate of Pentagon deskwarriors, arms manufacturers and conservative fans of defense pork are ramping up a pressure campaign right now designed to inflate the military's budget requirements and thus provide a cushion for what they believe will be an Obama administration's pullback from record defense spending levels under Bush. By January, that campaign will be in high gear, with lobbyists and pundits enlisted to push for money to fund everything from missile defense plans against non-existant threats to stealth jets as counter-terrorism platforms against small groups of men with improvised bombs.

The centerpiece of their pressure plan is “Four Percent for Freedom” - a notion that defense spending should be pegged at a baseline of four percent of national GDP, forever amen. It's a dishonest and misleading slogan invented by the neoconservative Heritage Foundation but pushed by Dubya, John McCain, Republican lawmakers, CJCS Admiral Mullen and SecDef Bob Gates - one which if turned into policy will hamstring Obama's budget options, perpetuate a massive world of pork and undermine civilian control of the military. In this quarter's Parameters, the journal of the Army War College, Travis Sharp of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation lays out the reasons why Obama and the nation should say "No" to the triumvirate's lobbying.
When a dog barks at the moon, then it is religion; but when he barks at strangers, it is patriotism! — David Starr Jordan, Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion

The bible contains equal amounts of history, fact and pizza. — Penn Jillette
Gravity is a lie sent by Satan to fool us. If gravity was real, then you would see tiny rocks moving all the time towards bigger rocks, right? Right? But I've never seen that! I bet if gravity was real, there'd be all kinds of rocks stuck to George Washington's face on Mt. Rushmore, but you know what? There's not! HA! President George is no boulderface!
 
 That's crazy talk! Gravity is the tinfoil that Satan puts over your head to ignore the truth!
 
 The Bible says Man is of the Earth, and from the Earth. Therefore Man is unable to get away from the Earth, because that's what the Bible says!
 
 Sheesh! Why are you gravitionists so stupid! Do some research!
 
      Posted by: Dave | December 04, 2007 @ blogs.tampabay.com

from Ebonmuse at Daylight Atheism:
stork    The problem with "teaching all sides" is that it can give fringe ideas a credibility they have not earned. Excessive concern for "balance" leads to presenting the speculations of cranks and crackpots as if they were on equal footing with the positions defended by vast majorities of qualified experts. (The media has a [sic] similar problem.) And this is very useful to advocates of pseudoscience, who often do not need to win the rhetorical battle outright; they can triumph merely by muddying the waters and preventing a consensus from forming around the truth.
    But with all that said, the idea of teaching the controversy isn't an intrinsically bad one. There are plenty of subjects that have legitimate controversies where this commendable call for fairness could be better applied.
    For example, how about sex ed? A great many religious conservatives - many of the same ones who call for teaching the controversy on evolution, I don't doubt - change their tune when it comes to public-school health classes, demanding that students be taught an "abstinence-only" program that omits contraception, or mentions it only to discuss its failure rates. How strange. Whatever happened to fairness? Whatever happened to learning about all sides? Why can students make up their own minds about evolution, but not about how to protect themselves from STDs?
7 Dec 2008
"Charles Darwin died 19 Apt 1882, but  he arose on the third day and ascended into heaven on a beagle! I reserve the right to burn at the stake anyone who denies it! " — Voice 0'Reason,  at Pharyngula

"It is not the slavish remnant of a religious worldview to admit that the person who has gone and looked is more of an authority than one who has not. It is not just convention which dictates that years of surveying, or years in the archive or laboratory give you a better title to be listened to on your subject than years spent ignoring the issue." — Simon Blackburn

Our lager
Which art in barrels
Hallowed be thy drink
Thy will be drunk, (I will be drunk)
At home as it is in the tavern
Give us this day our foamy head
And forgive us our spillage
As we forgive those who spill against us
And lead us not into incarceration
But deliver us from hangovers
For thine is the beer, the bitter, and the lager
Barmen
from Pharyngula, 7 Dec 2008
Wachusett
Harpoon IPA
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
     — A. E. Houseman
"Common ancestry of all living things is the whole of Evolution. The rest is commentary. It is detail - fascinating, lively, awe-inspiring, and myriad, but detail. There are disputes over some details. So what? Go study.
    There are no weaknesses in this explanation for the diversity of life. None. There is no contrary evidence that can stand scrutiny. There are no competing theories. There is nothing in nature that contradicts it, and all observations confirm it. All living things are descended, with modification, from one or at most a few self-replicating molecules, a process that took something like four billion years. That’s it.
At the edge of knowledge - which is where any good scientist would wish to be found - there are of course arguments. But there is no controversy over the central fact of evolution." — David Luckett on Panda's Thumb, 30 Nov 2008

18 Nov 2008 There was a coup attempt or warning in Conakry, Guinea. Shots were fired at/in the Presidential Palace, but apparently no one was hit. Americans, at least, were ordered by the US Embassy to observe a curfew. This did not make the international news at all, although a similar event in Guinea-Bissau did.
Three Guineas - all desperately poor dictatorships where aging despots steal most of the income, and all at risk of becoming narco-states.
23 Oct 2008
The only funny cartoon Hitch has ever published in the Worcester Telegram:
Hitch Asian long-horned beetle number 1
Usually his cartoons are like the smug, unfunny, strawman lies of Mallard Fillmore.
So many cartoons, so much craziness.
cadidates as trains, from Fark

11 Oct 2008
Thinking about the windmill controversies, where a major complaint is about the unsightliness of the windmills: for a hundred years we have lived with utility lines and poles fouling our highways and towns. Now they are a nearly invisible part of the scenery, invisible because they are just taken for granted. We'd scream, justifiably, if this was something new. Windmills will be a minor visual distraction to nearly everyone, insignificant compared to the utility lines we live with all the time. I don't know whether the economics of the Nantucket Sound windfarm make sense, but I don't object on "visual pollution" grounds.

Spam - Verizon catches most of my spam. Today it caught 85, and passed 2. As always, I wonder how and why the government and ISPs allow it to exist, or seem to only block it rather tham prevent it and jail the criminals.

23 Sep 2008
"Now, despite promises otherwise, the U.S. Treasury and the taxpayers will be in the position of bailing out speculators in the event that their risky plays in the securities business threaten the solvency of the soon-to-be-formed mega-banks."
— Nancy Watzman and Micah L. Sifry, in an October 1999 PublicCampaign.org post following effective repeal of Glass-Steagal Act, which "for six decades has kept the banking, securities and insurance businesses separate from each other" via DownWithTyranny

22 Sep 2008
Lameduck Bush handouts to the greedheads - millions of acres opened in West to the usual slimeballs, without environmental, social or archeological evaluation Mother Jones

21 Sep 2008
I haven't added anything in months, but I make some notes until I get around to it. Meanwhile, I added some thousands of names to the genealogy database (now about 41K people), and it's Barack Obama and Joe Biden vs. Geezer and Flake.

Incontinence, Incompetence

My web host has this annoying habit of resetting the site stats whenever it feels like it, without notice,  recently resetting them to start Jan 2008. It has the small advantage that I can see which of my files are hot this year, and the data are surprising:
The most popular file by far is an image of Carl Sagan (54K requests), and that's not new. But next is my page on Namibia (16K requests!), leftover from Abigail's teaching experience there in 2007. A page of map links is also near 16K, the home page has 15K, Fowle &Fitz's 1845 children's atlas of Massachusetts.is nearing 14K, the old leader, Nason & Varney's 1890 Massachusetts gazetteer, is at 11K (but there are about 350 subfiles, separately tallied, 200-1400 each), and the last html page over 10K is the political quotes. The Joseph C. Lincoln page has 3400, and the 28 sections of Deyo's 1890 Barnstable County history have 600-4300. There are 6219 files (of all kinds) that have been requested 20 or more times, with only 1700 requested more than 100 times, but the median is only 72 (these are mostly genealogy files),.

20 Jul 2008
wingnutsThe wingers are still lying about global warming:
The right’s misguided frenzy over the American Physical Society
By: Steve Benen at CrookAndLiars
Daily Tech had an item that caused a bit of a stir in conservative circles.
The American Physical Society, an organization representing nearly 50,000 physicists, has reversed its stance on climate change and is now proclaiming that many of its members disbelieve in human-induced global warming. The APS is also sponsoring public debate on the validity of global warming science. The leadership of the society had previously called the evidence for global warming “incontrovertible.”
This, coming the same day as Al Gore’s speech, was apparently quite exciting to those on the right who prefer to deny global warming and/or its causes.
    Jonah Goldberg initially said, “The same day that Al Gore does his man-to-the-moon spiel on global warming, the American Physical Society — the second largest professional association of physicists — rescinds its total support for the global warming. I await the usual chorus to sing us a tune about how the APS is ‘anti-science.’”
    Red State told readers, “The headline at The Drudge Report website, ‘Group Repping 50,000 Physicists Opens Global Warming Debate…’ [linked to dailytech.com] says it all.”

Except, in this case, it didn’t say it all. Climate Progress explains the story very well, including all the reasons the right is wrong about this.

18 Jul 2008
GOP cyber-security expert suggests Diebold tampered with 2002 election
07/18/2008
Filed by Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane
A leading cyber-security expert and former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says he has fresh evidence regarding election fraud on Diebold electronic voting machines during the 2002 Georgia gubernatorial and senatorial elections.
    Stephen Spoonamore is the founder and until recently the CEO of Cybrinth LLC, an information technology policy and security firm that serves Fortune 100 companies. At a little noticed press conference in Columbus, Ohio Thursday, he discussed his investigation of a computer patch that was applied to Diebold Election Systems voting machines in Georgia right before that state's November 2002 election.
    Spoonamore received the Diebold patch from a whistleblower close to the office of Cathy Cox, Georgia’s then-Secretary of State. In discussions with RAW STORY, the whistleblower — who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation — said that he became suspicious of Diebold's actions in Georgia for two reasons. The first red flag went up when the computer patch was installed in person by Diebold CEO Bob Urosevich, who flew in from Texas and applied it in just two counties, DeKalb and Fulton, both Democratic strongholds. The source states that Cox was not privy to these changes until after the election and that she became particularly concerned over the patch being installed in just those two counties.
    The whistleblower said another flag went up when it became apparent that the patch installed by Urosevich had failed to fix a problem with the computer clock, which employees from Diebold and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office had been told the patch was designed specifically to address. [continues at Rawstory]
A propos of not much: Whatever happened to "Flash mobs"? Was the phenomenon itself just a flash in the pan?
ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports from Capitol Hill: The McCain campaign criticism of Sen. Barack Obama’s hearing record on Capitol Hill led us to put the shoe on the other foot.
    It turns out that presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, has attended even fewer Afghanistan-related Senate hearings over the past two years than Obama’s one. Which is a nice way of saying, McCain, R-Ariz., the top Republican on the Senate Armed Service Committee, has attended zero of his committee’s six hearings on Afghanistan over the last two years.
Crooksandliars comment: By the McCain campaign’s logic, Barack Obama is unserious and untrustworthy when it comes to Iraq because he hasn’t yet visited the country. Leave aside for a moment the question of whether or not actually visiting the country somehow qualifies him better to make the right decisions — was FDR ever at the front in France during WWII? ...
17 Jul 2008
White House sends highest ranking envoy to meet Iranians in the last 30 years. Good thing the Bush never considers talking to the Axis of Evil. Like North Korea.

McCain soft on rape
from DownWithTyranny
It isn't just crooked lobbyists and Abramoff retreads who McCain has taken onto the Double Talk Express; he's also working with the same old Republican sexual predators who have made many Americans see that the Party of Hatred, Bigotry and Greed is also the Party of Hypocrisy. Today's Washington Post reports that many Catholics are outraged that McCain has hired on, as "a faith advisor," Deal Hudson, a far right psycho who even the Bush-Cheney camp booted out of their 2004 campaign after he was caught preying on college students.
    Hudson, a member of the Catholics for McCain National Steering Committee, has always used his position as a teacher to push his bizarre and extremist partisan agenda, was forced to resign as a Fordham University instructor and as publisher of the far right GOP-Catholic propaganda sheet Crisis after he got an 18 year old student drunk and then raped her. (He apologized and says he feels "guilt and regret.") Apparently that's good enough for McCain whose campaign has no intention of firing Hudson unless he is shown to also be raping boys.
    Fooling around with boys on the McCain campaign is a definite no-no, as his Alabama campaign chair, Attorney General Troy Hudson, just found out. Every mention of Hudson has been "disappeared" from the McCain website after he was caught by his wife Paige, in bed with a younger man— believe it or not, the homecoming king of Troy College. Troy King no longer exists— in fact, never existed— as far as the McCain campaign is concerned. ...
15 July 2008
Samuel Adams, Biggest American Brewer
by J at brookstonbeerbulletin.com
Jim Koch    Once the takeover of Anheuser-Busch by InBev is completed, a curious thing will happen to the landscape of American brewing. It’s certainly something I never expected to be writing in my lifetime, but it’s true. The Boston Beer Co., who brew the Samuel Adams line of beers, will be the biggest brewer in America.
    Once the merger of the two companies is finalized, Anheuser-Busch InBev, will be a Belgian company. MillerCoors consists of MolsonCoors, managed from Canada, and SABMiller, which is either a South African or London-based company, depending on your point of view. That leaves Pabst, the fourth largest beermaker by volume, but they do not own a brewery, instead contracting to have all their beer made at Miller’s breweries. So in terms of actual brewers (that is companies that own and operate a brewery) and who are U.S. owned, the biggest one remaining will be Boston Beer, making Samuel Adams as the undisputed biggest American brewer. Way to go, Jim. It also means Yuengling, America’s oldest brewery, becomes number two and Sierra Nevada comes in third. Amazing, simply amazing!

13 July 2008
web site profile of CapeCodHistory.us from Quantcast.com:
rank 269,791. This site reaches approximately 3,527 U.S. monthly people. The site is popular among a 50+ audience.
Audience composition 86% passers-by, 14% regulars (how does this compare to similar sites?)
Share of visits: 67% by passers-by, 33% by regulars
If I'm reading the charts correctly, my readers are likely to be over 50 (genealogy, I suppose), but I also have more than my share in the 12-17 group (school history projects). Income largely skewed to under $30K/year (fixed income retirees and kids) , but somewhat skewed to $60-100K/year, with few rich readers. Ethnicity "other" is over-represented. Education of head of household: fewer than expected who went to grad-school.

from CrooksAndLiars
McSame
A 61-year old librarian named Carol Kreck was removed from a McCain campaign event for holding a sign that read Bush=McCain. At the time, the local officer who asked Kreck to leave said he was doing so because the Secret Service had asked him to. Well, it turns out that it was the McCain campaign who personally wanted her booted.
support the troops
impeach Bush
I'm pleased to see that Robert Wexler and Dennis Kucinich are getting somewhere with their call for impeaching the mosters in the White House.
Bush & Cheney:
terrorist recruiters
jino cliches

13 July 2008 Criminals covering their tracks
NYT editorial
... We fear we may never find out all that has gone missing in this administration, although we urge Congressional investigators to keep trying. What we do know is that the Bush gaps of missing e-mails run into hundreds of thousands during some of the most sensitive political moments. Key gaps coincide with the lead-up to the Iraq war — and the White House’s manipulation of intelligence — as well as the destruction of videotapes of C.I.A. interrogations and the outing of the C.I.A. operative Valerie Plame Wilson.
    Missing e-mails include entire blank days at the offices of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Also mysteriously wiped from the record are e-mails from Karl Rove, the president’s political guru, and dozens of other White House workers who improperly conducted government business on Republican Party e-mail accounts. The White House now claims that nothing has been lost, though officials previously acknowledged large-scale purging, claiming they were accidental.

4 July 2008
Turd Blossom - Karl Rove Paul Krugman, NYT columnist
Rove's Third Term
    Al Gore never claimed that he invented the Internet. Howard Dean didn’t scream. Hillary Clinton didn’t say she was staying in the race because Barack Obama might be assassinated. And Wesley Clark didn’t impugn John McCain’s military service.
    The latest fake scandal fit the usual pattern as an awkwardly phrased remark, lifted out of context and willfully misinterpreted, exploded across the airwaves.
    What General Clark actually said was that Mr. McCain’s war service, though heroic, didn’t necessarily constitute a qualification for the presidency. It was a blunt but truthful remark, and not at all outrageous — especially given the fact that General Clark is himself a bona fide war hero.
    Yet the Clark affair did reveal something important — not about General Clark, but about Mr. McCain. Now we know what a McCain administration would represent: namely, a third term for Karl Rove. [continues]  

Diveroli, incompetent merchant of deathslimeball Diveroli
[story]


2 July 2008
"Wes Clarke told the world that McGrandpa’s POW record does not necessarily make him qualified to be a good President." -comment on CrooksAndLiars.com

Posted by SC at Pharyngula as a comment on Christopher Hitchen's allowing himself to be waterboarded:
here are some snippets from Steven Miles' 2006 Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror (pp. 13-18):
THE CASE AGAINST INTERROGATIONAL TORTURE
Torture Harms Intelligence Collection and Analysis

The CIA's 'Human Resources Exploitation Manual' of 1983 came to the same conclusion [as the declassified CIA 'Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual' resulting from the findings of MK-ULTRA]: 'Use of force is a poor technique...However, the use of force is not to be confused with psychological ploys, verbal trickery, or other nonviolent and non-coercive ruses'. The 'Army Interrogation Field Manual" of 1987 reiterated these same conclusions.
The governments of Nazi Germany, China, North Vietnam, Great Britain, and Israel also found pain to be an unreliable interrogation technique. As prisoners disintegrate, harden, or dissociate under pain, they tend to give inaccurate, useless, or misleading information. Although American POWs subjected to psychiatric stress by Korean, Chinese, or Soviet captors seemed to be more willing to make anti-American statements while in captivity than those who were tortured with pain, there is no evidence that psychological torture improved the ability to get the truth from a prisoner.
Advisors to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld informed him of the research showing the inefficacy of harsh interrogation. The secretary then authorized the same harsh techniques that had been discredited by the research and experience of the United States.
...
False information elicited by pain floods the limited analytic capacity of intelligence agencies...In this way, harsh interrogation can make it more, no less, difficult for analysts to find the 'ticking time bombs'. Torture seeks and tends to elicit information that exaggerates the size and nature of the threat. Such false information can lead to misguided government policies...
...
Torture alienates persons who might otherwise be recruited as informants. As the CIA's 1983 'Human Resource Exploitation Manual' put it, 'Use of force...may damage subsequent collection efforts'. Many FBI reports of interrogations with prisoners in the war on terror tell of prisoners who refused to cooperate with interrogators because of harsh, abusive, or degrading treatment meted out to fellow prisoners or themselves. Some prisoners even experience torture as validating their sense of importance, the rightness of their cause, or, conversely, the evil of their torturer. For example, some Palestinian prisoners tortured by Israelis experienced torture as a rite of passage that bonded them to their cause, confirmed the evil of Israel, and proved their trustworthiness to comrades.
Abusive interrogation fosters an 'arms race' between interrogators and prisoners. As targeted groups learn the techniques that will be used against their members, they prepare their colleagues for what to expect. They take measures to limit the amount of damaging information any individual can disclose...
Effective interrogation seeks to build rapport, articulate common interests, exploit a subject's jealousy of comrades, or offer, in exchange for information, something that the prisoner sees as being in his or her interest. Torture destroys the possibility of this kind of interview. The abuse hardens the prisoner's political commitment and perception of the interrogating authority. an interrogator who abuses a prisoner forfeits the emotional self-control that is necessary for effective interrogational interviewing.
Torture Is Strategically Counterproductive
Coercive interrogation is especially ineffective in asymmetrical warfare between a regular army and guerrillas living among an indigenous population of sympathizers who are familiar with the insurgents' factions and social organizations. Terrorist profiling cannot identify the key persons in such communities. Hundreds of citizens have mere bits of knowledge. Dragnets for coercive interrogation are expensive and ineffective. Military Intelligence personnel estimate that from 70 percent to 90 percent of the tens of thousands of Iraqi prisoners were either innocent or ignorant. Proponents of interrogational torture cite the occasional tactical success of French soldiers who used torture to learn of terrorist attacks during Algeria's war for independence from France. However, those same abuses alienated the Algerian population and fueled the resistance. France lost the war.
A similar pattern is unfolding in Iraq. The revelations of abuses in U.S. prisons are followed by a dramatic decline in international respect for the United States and a sharp increase in anti-American sentiment, especially in the international Muslim community. U.S. government polls found that Iraqi support for U.S. forces fell from 63 percent to 9 percent upon the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs. It seems probable that interrogational torture in Iraq boosted insurgency recruitment and resulted in far more attacks than it could have prevented.
Torture Harms the Society That Employs Itimpeach bush, torture cheney
Torturing societies harm their courts, their militias, and the officials who torture on their behalf...
Torture psychologically traumatizes the soldiers who perform it. soldiers who passively witness atrocities, as well as those who commit them, suffer more severe post-traumatic stress disorder than those who kill during combat. Abu Ghraib medics were providing Prozac and starting Alcoholics Anonymous groups for soldiers in the abusive units. Those wounds will burden their lives, their families, our neighbors, our society, and the Veterans Administration for years to come.

Bush's Third Term
WSJ p A12
We're beginning to understand why Barack Obama keeps protesting so vigorously against the prospect of "George Bush's third term." Maybe he's worried that someone will notice that he's the candidate who's running for it.
    Most Presidential candidates adapt their message after they win their party nomination, but Mr. Obama isn't merely "running to the center." He's fleeing from many of his primary positions so markedly and so rapidly that he's embracing a sizable chunk of President Bush's policy. Who would have thought that a Democrat would rehabilitate the much-maligned Bush agenda?
    Take the surveillance of foreign terrorists. Last October, while running with the Democratic pack, the Illinois Senator vowed to "support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies" that assisted in such eavesdropping after 9/11. As recently as February, still running as the liberal favorite against Hillary Clinton, he was one of 29 Democrats who voted against allowing a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee reform of surveillance rules even to come to the floor.
    Two weeks ago, however, the House passed a bill that is essentially the same as that Senate version, and Mr. Obama now says he supports it. [usual WSJ editorial wankery follows]

Given "The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with Barack Obama vowing to expand the Bush administration program that gives federal money to religious charities. Everyone sees it as Obama's latest effort to move to the center on certain issues to gain Republican-leaning voters," my belief that Obama will be better than McSame still holds, but the differences seem smaller and smaller.

1 July 2008
And Americans wonder why the rest of the world sees us as racist, violent & reckless:

Grand Jury Clears Texan in the Killing of 2 Burglars
By Adam B. Ellick, NYT

HOUSTON — A grand jury on Monday refused to indict a 62-year-old man who fatally shot two burglars last November as they fled his neighbor’s house.
    In a case that raised questions of ethnic bias, self-defense and property rights, the jury rejected charges against the man, Joe Horn, who is white. Both victims were illegal immigrants from Colombia.
...
    Mr. Horn, a retired computer manager who testified before the grand jury, called 911 on Nov. 14, saying two men were burglarizing his neighbor’s house in Pasadena, a Houston suburb. He described the men as black.
    “I’m not going to let them get away with it,” he told the emergency operator. “I’m going to shoot.” He added, “I’m going to kill them.”
    The operator repeatedly told Mr. Horn not to shoot, and the police had just arrived at the scene when Mr. Horn fired three blasts of 00 buckshot from his 12-gauge, striking the men in their backs.
    The men — Hernando Riascos Torres, 38, and Diego Ortiz, 30 — ran short distances before collapsing and dying, leaving behind a tire iron used to break a window and a pillowcase holding jewelry and about $2,000 from the neighbors.
    Many questions went unanswered, including the events that transpired before Mr. Horn told the operator, “I had no choice,” adding, “Man, they came running in my yard.” [more]

TrafalgarCarnival of the Elitist Bastards
"What It's About
    You can help raise the level of our public discourse from the subgutter of stupidity in which it currently resides. All you have to do is celebrate your own intelligence.
    You don’t have to be erudite or loquacious. You don’t have to be particularly learned or expert. Just say what you think. What do you think about the dumbing down of the media? Education? Politics? Why do you suppose our cultures celebrate jocks, but not genius?
    Write about what delights you. Do you read science tomes for pleasure? Avoid Survivor in favor of Nova? What do you do that causes the folks around you to roll their eyes and say, 'You know too much!' ”

30 June 2008
Pentagon Fights EPA On Pollution Cleanup
By Lyndsey Layton, Washington Post, page A01

The Defense Department, the nation's biggest polluter, is resisting orders from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up Fort Meade and two other military bases where the EPA says dumped chemicals pose "imminent and substantial" dangers to public health and the environment. [continues]

28 June 2008
  anthrax bacteriaSeven years later, and the Bush clowns still haven't determined which of its supporters spread anthrax around Washington. The man they tried to lynch for it has won some money, though not regained his reputation. Since it has been known from the start that this was an inside job, and they still failed to solve the supposed mystery, how can anyone believe these buffoons can protect us from unknown threats? Remember color-coded "threat levels", tweeked weekly to suit Cheney's needs?

Scientist Is Paid Millions by U.S. in Anthrax Suit
By SCOTT SHANE and ERIC LICHTBLAU, NYT

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced Friday that it would pay $4.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army biodefense researcher intensively investigated as a “person of interest” in the deadly anthrax letters of 2001.
    The settlement, consisting of $2.825 million in cash and an annuity paying Dr. Hatfill $150,000 a year for 20 years, brings to an end a five-year legal battle that had recently threatened a reporter with large fines for declining to name sources she said she did not recall.
    Dr. Hatfill, who worked at the Army’s laboratory at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., in the late 1990s, was the subject of a flood of news media coverage beginning in mid-2002, after television cameras showed Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in biohazard suits searching his apartment near the Army base. He was later named a “person of interest” in the case by then Attorney General John Ashcroft, speaking on national television.
    In a news conference in August 2002, Dr. Hatfill tearfully denied that he had anything to do with the anthrax letters and said irresponsible news media coverage based on government leaks had destroyed his reputation.
    Dr. Hatfill’s lawsuit, filed in 2003, accused F.B.I. agents and Justice Department officials involved in the criminal investigation of the anthrax mailings of leaking information about him to the news media in violation of the Privacy Act. In order to prove their case, his lawyers took depositions from key F.B.I. investigators, senior officials and a number of reporters who had covered the investigation.         [more]

27 June 2008
Just for fun: An honest boss.
A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider godfearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side. — Aristotle, Politics

 It is religion that recruits their squadrons. Tens of millions of Americans, who neither know nor understand the actual arguments for or even against evolution, march in the army of the night with their Bibles held high. And they are a strong and frightening force, impervious to, and immunized against, the feeble lance of mere reason. - Isaac Asimov,  "The Threat of Creationism":

On sale at the Texas Republican Convention:
Obama's White House

24 June 2008
WOW!
June 25, 2008 NYT
Florida to Buy Sugar Maker in Bid to Restore Everglades
By DAMIEN CAVE

Everglades hydrologyLOXAHATCHEE, Fla. — The dream of a restored Everglades, with water flowing from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay, moved a giant step closer to reality on Tuesday when the nation’s largest sugarcane producer agreed to sell all of its assets to the state and go out of business.
    Under the proposed deal, Florida will pay $1.75 billion for United States Sugar, which would have six years to continue farming before turning over 187,000 acres north of Everglades National Park, along with two sugar refineries, 200 miles of railroad and other assets.
    It would be Florida’s biggest land acquisition ever, and the magnitude and location of the purchase left environmentalists and state officials giddy.
    Even before Gov. Charlie Crist arrived to make the announcement against a backdrop of water, grass and birds here, dozens of advocates gathered in small groups, gasping with awe, as if at a wedding for a couple they never thought would fall in love. After years of battling with United States Sugar over water and pollution, many of them said that the prospect of a partnership came as a shock. [continues ... years of haggling probably lie ahead]
    Everglades Explorer

23 Jun 2008
Bad Obama: Obama Camp Closely Linked With Ethanol NYT story
    Making fuel ethanol from corn is stupid in several ways. Just possibly, however, it will refocus the feeble US search for new energy sources on valid biofuels. But I won't hold my breath.
    And Obama plans to vote for Bush's domestic spying bill, too.

    Another NYT article is about InfoSpace.com, formerly a major search engine, now a niche one, among whose specialties was phone listings. The difficulty of finding relevant online phone listings has long been a peeve of mine, I would much rather have had the whole phone books put online, to browse through, than to get the narrow listings full of ads from distant companies.

    Preparations for the 2010 census are a shambles. NYT editorial
Congress is abdicating its duty, and the Bushies have bungled and trashed the Commerce Dept, mostly for partisan reasons.

"The power of the Executive to cast a man in prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government, whether Nazi or Communist. " -Winston Churchill, in a telegram to Herbert Morrison November 21, 1943

21 Jun 2008
We appreciate the help!
Our van broke down on the highway last night as we returned from vacation. Fortunately, we were nearly home, it was a warm and dry night, and we had wonderful assistance. It would have been a disaster if it had happened far away, stranding us and ruining the vacation. The engine was losing power for a couple of miles, lunging, then there was a burning smell that we hoped was from the truck ahead, and then passing cars were honking at us. I pulled over, the engine was smoking, and we quickly got out and away. Two cars pulled over to help. One man said, "Do you know your car is on fire?" "No!" There was a small puddle of flame under the engine. Neither helper had a fire extinguisher, but one decided that the sensible thing to do was for him to roll the van forward and leave the fire behind. Worked nicely, and then he just stepped on the fire to put it out. It was "clearly" engine oil, and there was general agreement among our helpers that the oil pan had cracked. We had called AAA as soon as we were away from the van (how can any sane driver not have AAA?!) Our volunteer helpers left when a Mass. state trooper came up. I'm not a big fan of them, in general, but this young man was great. He kept us informed, he called the Shrewsbury Fire Dept, he was polite and friendly. He even took Susan and Julie home, in what I hope will be their last ever ride in a State Police cruiser. The firemen put sand on the oil spill, and checked the engine — we hope they are right, that there seems to be sufficient lubricant left that the engine is not toast. The AAA tow truck took a while to find the van, but then quickly worked to take the van, and me, home.
[Update — the transmission is the problem, a common problem with Windstars, we are told. What seemed at night to be motor oil was transmission fluid. I didn't know transmission fluid was oil, and was flammable!]

[Bush Justice - Indonesian immigrant story]

Separation of church and state - an excellent synopsis by a Constitutional lawyer. The source is a comment on a Café Philos article on the firing of fundie wackaloon teacher John Freshwater. More background.
Ed Darrell // June 21, 2008

Separation of church and state: It’s in the Constitution. I don’t play a constitutional lawyer on television, I am one*, but it seems to me anyone can read the Constitution and see. Especially if one understands that the Constitution sets up a limited government, that is as Madison described, one that can do only what is delegated to it. The Constitution is a short document.
    First, in the Preamble, it is made clear that the document is a compact between citizens: “We the people . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution . . .” The usual role of God ordaining (in some western nations) is altered, intentionally. It is not God who establishes this government, but you and I, together. From teh first words of the Constitution, there is separation of church and state.
    Second, in Article 1, the legislative branch is given no role in religion; neither is any religion given any role in the legislature. In Article 2, the executive branch gets no role in religion, and religion gets no role in the executive branch. In Article 3, the judicial branch gets no role in religion, and religion gets no role in the judicial branch. In Article 4, the people get a guarantee of a republican form of government in the states, but the states get no role in religion, and religion gets no role in state government. This is, by design, a perfect separation of church and state.
    Third, in Article VI, the hard and fast rule that no religious test can be used for any office in government, federal, state or local, means that no official will have a formal, governmental role in religion, and no religion can insist on a role in any official’s duties.
    Fourth, Amendment 1 closes the door to weasling around it: Congress is prohibited from even considering any legislation that might grant a new bureaucracy or a new power to get around the other bans on state and church marriage, plus the peoples’ rights in religion are enumerated.
    Fifth: In 1801 the Baptists (!) in Danbury, Connecticut, grew concerned that Connecticut would act to infringe on their church services, or teachings, or right to exist. So they wrote to President Jefferson. Jefferson responded with an official declaration of government policy on what the First Amendment and Constitution mean in such cases. Jefferson carefully constructed the form of the device as well as the content with his Attorney General, Levi Lincoln, to be sure that it would state what the law was. This “letter” is the proclamation. It’s an official statement of the U.S. government, collected in the president’s official papers and not in his personal papers. Make no mistake: Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists was an official act, an official statement of the law of the United States. Jefferson intended it to assuage the Baptists in Danbury, to inform and warn the Connecticut legislatures, and to be a touchstone to which future Americans could turn for information. It was only fitting and proper for the Supreme Court to use the letter in this capacity as it has done several times.
    Sixth: The phrase, “separation of church and state” dates back another 100 years and more, to the founding of Rhode Island. It is the religion/state facet of the idea of government by consent of the governed without interference from religious entities, expressed so well in the Mayflower Compact, in the first paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence, and carried through in the Constitution (see especially the Preamble, above).
    No, the phrase “separation of church and state” never appears in the Constitution. The principles are part of the warp and woof, and history, of the document, however. The law is clear, was clear, and denying the Constitution says what it says won’t change it or make it go away.
    Consequently, John Freshwater, an agent of the government, had no right, duty, privilege, instruction, nor any other legal foundation for his actions. Speaking as a Christian, I would say he has no Biblical foundation, either. Whether there is any other moral foundation, I doubt.
    It’s sad to see a teacher licensed to teach who doesn’t understand the legal duties of the job, who acts insubordinately to place his employer in legal jeopardy, and who shirks the duties he signed an oath to perform. It’s sad to see a teacher so completely unfamiliar with the content of what he is supposed to teach.
    Darwin saw the appearance of design in nature, too. He studied nature to see what causes that appearance of design, and discovered evolution. Evolution is one of the best documented, most thoroughly understood of the chief theories of science. Additionally, evolution is one of the outstanding ideas of western civilization, leading to scientific advances in medicine and agriculture that allow us to have a human population so large as this planet has now. Students need to understand the great ideas of western civilization, both scientifically and culturally.
    I cannot think of a good religious reason to teach garbage to children and shock them with a device that warns it should never be used in contact with humans. By most international law, that would be deemed torture.
    When I got my teaching license, torture was not one of the prescribed methods of teaching.
    Reading assignments: The Constitution of the United States of America (try Findlaw.com, NARA.gov, there are lots of sites); Darwin, On the Origin of Species and chapter 5 (development of morality) of Descent of Man (both available online at several sources); The Boy Scout Law (here’s a good source:); Ohio’s science standards (hope this fits):
    * I’m also a licensed, certified teacher — of history, government, and other social studies, if you’re curious.
from DemocracyNow
VINCENT BUGLIOSI: Well, in my book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, I set forth an airtight legal case against George Bush that proves beyond all reasonable doubt that George Bush took this nation to war under false pretenses, on a lie, in Iraq, and therefore, under the law, he is guilty of murder for the deaths of over 4,000 young American soldiers in Iraq fighting his war, not your war or my war or America’s war, but his war.
    Interestingly enough, there have been billions of very harsh critical words written and said about George Bush, none of which he could possibly care less about. So the words are absolutely meaningless. But up until now, other than words, no one has done anything at all to George Bush. No impeachment, no investigation of him.
    But this book here, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, in it, I put together a case against George Bush that could result—it absolutely could result in his being prosecuted for first-degree murder in an American courtroom. I set forth the legal architecture against him, the overwhelming evidence of his guilt and the jurisdiction to prosecute him. And I say that if justice means anything at all in America, and if we’re not going to forget about these 4,000 young American soldiers who are in their cold graves right now as I am talking to you and who came back from George Bush’s war in a box or a jar of ashes, I say we have no choice but to bring murder charges against the son of privilege from Crawford, Texas.

20 Jun 2008
Bush Gives Dems STDs
Marty Kaplan, HuffingtonPost
The least popular, most lawless president in American history took to the Rose Garden today to thank congressional Democrats for having unprotected political sex with him. For caving — not compromising, but totally capitulating — on war funding and and telecom immunity, Nancy Pelosi, Stenny Hoyer and the blue dogs they lie down with have been rewarded with the same herpetic embrace that is turning John McCain into a Republican cootie incubator. continues

The Daily Doubter: "We have a president with extremely low popularity levels. He is arguably the worst president in American history. His party suffered an historic defeat in the last election. He has broken law after law, promise after promise, told lie after lie. His presidency is a disaster and a disgrace. As he approaches the lameduck stage of his presidency, it can honestly be said that the world is a worse place as a consequence of his presidency. And yet a Democratic majority Congress - a Congress which was voted in because the public was sick of the inability of Republicans loyalists to do anything other than defer to the will of their Leader - is about to give this President (and future presidents) more of our liberty. They are about to set into precedent that lawbreaking deserves immunity if the president ordered it - a principle rejected by the United States at Nuremberg. They are about to give the president telecom amnesty even though he could not get that from a Republican Congress two years ago ... and the Democratic candidate for president who has campaigned on a promise to restore our Constitutional order is going to vote for it!"

"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account." - Army Major General Antonio Taguba

    On 22 May 2008 there was a major fire aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, CVN-73, off the coast of Peru. The military press release minimized its significance, but the fire took 16 hours to put out, and nearly sank the ship, according to a crew member. Commercial news media just repeated that press release. Despite the press release, the GW suffered such heavy damage that it is unfit for its scheduled relief of USS Kitty Hawk, which must extend its tour "as the forward deployed aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific this summer."

7 Jun 2008
  John McCain says, "The Constitution established America as a Christian nation," in a Sept 2007 interview at Beliefnet: Youtube.  What a scary, ignorant asshole!   Atheist Media, DailyKos and Talk2Action have good comments. Even one of Beliefnet's bloggers, David Kuo, thought this was unsupportable: "It appears that Sen. McCain has gone over the religious edge. In [the] inteview with Beliefnet, McCain reveals ... a remarkably sectarian view of America."
"I don't understand why republicans are suddenly so concerned about experience. They put Bush in office twice. The only business experience had was experience in failing. Then he was the governor of that great liberal, progressive state...Oh wait, no, it was Texas. No legislative experience. Bad business experience. Bad executive experience." - wrpd @ Pharyngula
John McCain wrote the foreward to an edition of David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest, 2001:
It was a shameful thing to ask men to suffer and die, to persevere through god-awful afflictions and heartache, to endure the dehumanizing experiences that are unavoidable in combat, for a cause that the country wouldn’t support over time and that our leaders so wrongly believed could be achieved at a smaller cost than our enemy was prepared to make us pay. No other national endeavor requires as much unshakable resolve as war. If the nation and the government lack that resolve, it is criminal to expect men in the field to carry it alone. (via Digby and CrooksandLiars)
McCain is cited by some as being directly responsible for a fire aboard USS Forrestal in 1967 that killed 132 sailors and wounded many more. True or false? Sources are highly suspect (far right-wing and conspiracy sites).

June 6, 2008
Proof positive that Hate + religious dogma makes you stupid

The Deputy Minister of Religious Endowment for Hamas thinks that "Darwinism" (I'm assuming he means evolutionary theory) is really part of the Jewish plot for world domination which was outlined in The Protocols of Zion. The Daily Doubter

  Bush Overstated Evidence on Iraq, Senators [Finally] Report
By MARK MAZZETTI and SCOTT SHANE, NYT

WASHINGTON — A long-delayed Senate committee report endorsed by Democrats and some Republicans concluded that President Bush and his aides built the public case for war against Iraq by exaggerating available intelligence and by ignoring disagreements among spy agencies about Iraq’s weapons programs and Saddam Hussein’s links to Al Qaeda.
   ...
    That some [most] Bush administration claims about the Iraqi threat turned out to be false is hardly new. But the report, based on a detailed review of public statements by Mr. Bush and other officials, was the most comprehensive effort to date to assess whether policy makers systematically painted a more dire picture about Iraq than was justified by the available intelligence.
    The 170-page report accuses Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top officials of repeatedly overstating the Iraqi threat in the emotional aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Its findings were endorsed by all eight committee Democrats and two Republicans, Senators Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
    In a statement accompanying the report, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the intelligence panel, said, “The president and his advisers undertook a relentless public campaign in the aftermath of the attacks to use the war against Al Qaeda as a justification for overthrowing Saddam Hussein.” [continues]

June 6, 2008
  Editorial, NYT
The Truth About the War

It took just a few months after the United States’ invasion of Iraq for the world to find out that Saddam Hussein had long abandoned his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs. He was not training terrorists or colluding with Al Qaeda. The only real threat he posed was to his own countrymen.
    It has taken five years to finally come to a reckoning over how much the Bush administration knowingly twisted and hyped intelligence to justify that invasion. On Thursday — after years of Republican stonewalling — a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee gave us as good a set of answers as we’re likely to get.
    The report shows clearly that President Bush should have known that important claims he made about Iraq did not conform with intelligence reports. [continues]

June 6, 2008
  Justice Dept. Investigating Deportation to Syria
By SCOTT SHANE, NYT

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s ethics office is reviewing a decision in 2002 by department officials to send a Canadian citizen to Syria, where he was tortured, American officials said Thursday.
    A Justice Department spokesman, Peter A. Carr, said that its inquiry, by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, was begun in March 2007 and was examining the role of department lawyers in expelling Maher Arar to Syria, which has long been identified by the State Department as habitually using torture on prisoners.
     Richard L. Skinner, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, ... told two House subcommittees that the Arar case involved “very questionable” actions by United States government officials and that he “could not rule out” that Mr. Arar was sent to Syria with the intention of having him questioned under torture about possible connections to terrorists. [you think?]
    The testimony, along with a heavily redacted report of a separate investigation by Mr. Skinner, was the fullest accounting to date from the government on the case, which has become a symbol of American excesses in the campaign against terrorism. Mr. Skinner also said his office had recently reopened its four-year inquiry into the Arar matter after receiving new information. He said that the new information was classified and that he could not discuss it.
    Mr. Arar, a telecommunications engineer who had immigrated to Canada from his native Syria as a teenager, was detained in September 2002 as he tried to change planes at Kennedy International Airport. He had been flying back to Canada from Switzerland. [continues]

June 6, 2008
  Adviser Says McCain Backs Bush Wiretaps
By CHARLIE SAVAGE, NYT

WASHINGTON — A top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team.
    In a letter posted online by National Review this week, the adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said Mr. McCain believed that the Constitution gave Mr. Bush the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and e-mail without warrants, despite a 1978 federal statute that required court oversight of surveillance. [continues]

recycled Bush
22 May 2008
Evolution: worse than atheism
 by Josh Rosenau, at Thought from Kansas

Coral Ridge Ministries asked their members a question:
How dangerous are the following to the spiritual health of America?

Very Somewhat Not very
The ACLU and similar groups 96
3
1
Pro-homosexual indoctrination 95
4
1
Abortion 93
6
1
Islamic terrorism 91
8
1
Hollywood 89
10
1
News Media 87
12
1
Darwinism/evolution 85
14
1
Cults and false religion 82
16
2
Atheism 82
16
2
Courts 81
18
1
Apathetic/uninformed Christians 79
20
1
Colleges and Universities 78
21
1
Public education (K-12) 69
29
2
Congress 63
35
2
   
C'mon atheists, get on the stick! You haven't even overtaken cults, let alone the evils of Darwinism (whatever that is). Heck, the Coral Ridge gang dislikes their fellow Christians about as much as they dislike you.

A comment by John McKay:
They could have simplified the list into:
What Do We Fear Most
Education
Democracy
People Who Don't Think Exactly the Same As We Do
May 2008 (ongoing idiocy)
  A ridiculous piece of PC idiocy: The Nauset School Committee wants to change the school logo.
    I graduated from Nauset Regional High School, North Eastham, Mass., many years ago. Nauset was the original name for the town in 1646, and named for the native tribe. The natives always got along with the English settlers reasonably well, but gradually died off, assimilated or moved. The logo for the school, since its establishment in 1959, has been the head of a Nauset warror, and Nauset Warriors is the name for the sports teams. It has never been a cartoon or disrespectful caricature. In fact, the latest version is based on the profile of Frank James, who spent his career as a music teacher in the Nauset system, and on his own time was a major figure in Wampanoag tribal affairs. He was an original organizer of the annual Plymouth protests by Indians at Thanksgiving. We remember his Corvette, with the "Custer had it coming" bumper-sticker.

[I'm looking for a digital image of the Nauset logo. Does anyone have one? I have permission from the school to use it on this web site.]

9 May 2008
  Received a response from my congressman, Rep. Jim McGovern, to my note a few weeks ago advocating the impeachment of Cheney. He agrees that Cheney is a delusional criminal (my interpretation), but notes that the Smirking Chimp would still be president, still pursuing his disastous, deceitful war. McGovern would prefer to work on ending the war. I see his point, but think impeachment of both Bush and Cheney would help end their war and restore some US credibility.

    "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." — George Orwell

Starbucks logo"Whenever xians complain about filth, I point them to Judges 19 and ask them to explain why it is ok to read the bible when there are stories about women being gang raped to death" - comment at MotherJones.com, about nutters boycotting Starbucks example1 example 2


7 May 2008
Ornithorhynchus anatinusPlatypus genome decoded
  (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)
AFP, Sciencedaily
Arguably the oddest beast in Nature's menagerie, the platypus looks as if were assembled from spare parts left over after the animal kingdom was otherwise complete.
    Now scientists know why. According to a study released Wednesday, the egg-laying critter is a genetic potpourri — part bird, part reptile and part lactating mammal.
    The task of laying bare the platypus genome of 2.2 billion base pairs spread across 18,500 genes has taken several years, but will do far more than satisfy the curiosity of just biologists, say the researchers.
    The animal has 52 chromosomes, including an unusual number of sex chromosomes: 10. The platypus X chromosome bears resemblance to the sex chromosome of a bird, known as Z.
    Sequencing and assembling the platypus genome proved far more daunting than sequencing any other mammalian genome to date. About 50 percent of the genome is composed of repetitive elements of DNA, which makes it a challenge to assemble properly.
    The platypus is classified as a mammal because it produces milk and is covered in coat of thick fur, once prized by hunters. Lacking teats, the female nurses pups through the skin covering its abdomen.
    But there are reptile-like attributes too: females lay eggs, and males can stab aggressors with a snake-like venom that flows from a spur tucked under its hind feet. When they analyzed the genetic sequences responsible for venom production in the male platypus, they found it arose from duplications in a group of genes that evolved from ancestral reptile genomes.
    The animal also possesses a feature unique to monotremes — an order including a handful of egg-laying mammals — called electroreception.
    With their eyes, ears and nostrils closed, platypuses rely on sensitive electrosensory receptors tucked inside their bills to track prey underwater, detecting electrical fields generated by muscular contraction.
scientific publication: Warren WC, Mardis ER, Wilson RK, et al. Genome analysis of the platypus reveals unique signatures of evolution. Nature. May 8, 2008.

6 May 2008
Geoffrey R. Stone, HuffingtonPost
McCain's Justice
John McCain's May 6 statement on the role of judges in our constitutional system might very well qualify as one of the most ignorant statements ever made by a presidential candidate on this most important subject.

At one point, McCain complained that sitting judges and justices systematically "abuse" the federal judicial power by issuing "rulings and opinions on policy questions that should be decided democratically." McCain is apparently blissfully unaware that the vast majority of current federal judges were appointed by Republican presidents and that seven of the nine sitting Supreme Court Justices and twelve of the last fourteen Supreme Court Justices were appointed by Republicans. As Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." ...
30 Apr 2008
Technology Review 111(2) Mar/Apr 2008
pp. 42-49 "Vizualization, Between Friends," Erica Naone — social interactions can be graphed, and the examples used are interesting: blogs, Myspace, Twitter, viral marketing. The blogosphere has 2 major foci, politics and technology, with the political blogs being much more reciprocal.
52-3 Cellulolytic enzymes for biofuels
56-7 Connectomics. - brain research using cells that randomly express different fluorescent colors
64-5 nanotube radios
65-66 probabalistic chips - to save energy when extreme accuracy is not important
76-80 Photosynth - Microsoft's new toy - fascinating concept
90-92 "The Mess of Mandated Markets," David Rothman. The US govt continues to screw up alternative energy, wasting zillions - focus on ethanol fiasco.
96-98 "Ethanol from garbage and old tires," Kevin Bulllis. Coskata, of Warrenville, IL, is a startup with an innovative way of turning syngas into ethanol. The process uses bacteria (Clostridium, so far) to make the ethanol, and vapor permeation to purify the ethanol from water.
TPM
The latest contribution to good government from Vice President Dick Cheney: preventing the implementation of rules to protect the endangered right whale. The Vice President's office has been quietly doing its own research on ship collisions with whales in the North Atlantic in an effort to overrule government scientists seeking to restrict the speed of ships near American ports.
Mental asylum allowed to advertise for inmates
April 30, 2008 Cape Cod Times

The proposed bell tower at the Community of Jesus can increase 25 feet in height to 100 feet, a Cape Cod Commission subcommittee recommended unanimously last night.
...
    Increasing the height of the proposed freestanding bell tower requires commission review as a change in a 1993 court settlement on the religious group's new church and related buildings at Rock Harbor. At the time of the court settlement, the commission wanted to reduce the project's visibility from public places by keeping buildings below the tree line, commission planner Sarah Korjeff said. ...
29 Apr 2008
  Once in a while I check my Verizon spam folder. It's working fairly well, for now, sequestering about 40 spam/day for penis enlargement, Nigerian scams, phishing for banks and credit cards, watches, porn, drugs, illegal software, loans, stock tips (fewer of those lately), and the odd ones of nonsense phrases. Yet, still, several spam/day get through. I also get spam that purports to be annoucements of scientific/medical conferences, from fake companies — why? Is someone selling fake link traffic?

  Rethuglican myths debunked: example: "Jimmy Carter cut the military budget." Actually, he increased the military budget beyond the rate of inflation. This followed several years of post-Vietnam budget cuts in the Nixon and Ford administrations. Reagan just accelerated what Carter already started.
David Kurtz at TalkingPointsMemo:
Snake Oil
We go through the same routine every few years when oil prices rise. Republicans and their big oil benefactors assure us that opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas production will cure whatever ails us: dependence on foreign oil, high oil prices, soaring gasoline prices.

The drumbeat has started again as gasoline prices have pushed toward $4 per gallon. Here's the President in his Rose Garden press conference this morning, where he made ANWR the centerpiece of his political and policy arguments for our energy dilemma: [video clip] So in the interest of once again knocking down this bamboozlement, here's a decent Reuters rundown on why, independent of any environmental protection considerations, the President's arguments don't add up.

from Reuters' article:
    The Energy Information Administration, which is the Energy Department's independent analytical arm, estimated that if Congress had cleared Bush's ANWR drilling plan the oil would have been available to refiners in 2011, but only at a small volume of 40,000 barrels a day — a drop in the bucket compared with the 20.6 million barrels the U.S. consumes daily.
    At peak production, ANWR could have potentially added 780,000 barrels a day to U.S. crude oil output by 2020, according to the EIA.
    The extra supplies would have cut dependence on foreign oil, but only slightly. With ANWR crude, imports would have met 60 percent of U.S. oil demand in 2020, down from 62 percent without the refuge's supplies.
    All three leading presidential candidates, Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain, are against oil drilling in the refuge.
...
    Opening ANWR could have made current prices worse because Saudi Arabia may have delayed increasing its oil production capacity, making world supplies tighter and prices higher.
27 Apr 2008, from Humbug! Online
I only believe it is cromulent to accept a new word in the English language if there is no equivalent word that expresses the same meaning as well. New words such as beclown embiggen our language. From the Urban Dictionary, beclown means:
To make a complete idiot of oneself in public. To behave or speak in such a way, or to make a comment or express an opinion that is so profoundly witless, senseless and obtuse, that you have forever after defined yourself as a person of comical value only. Never to be taken seriously again. Of worth only as an object of ridicule and derision.
Just as to befoul yourself is to make yourself foul, to beclown yourself is to turn yourself into a clown. Beclown is therefore perfectly cromulent. One example given by the Urban Dictionary:
Former Reagan staffer Doug Bandow has also beclowned himself by claiming that the Bali terrorist bombing was in response to Australia's Iraq involvement. Even though the Bali bombing was before the Iraq war.
[continues]
26 Apr 2008
Polar bears    I've been wondering for years about how undesirable animals get from from one place to another, and suspect they have human help. Examples: possums and coyotes on Cape Cod. Possums are too weak, stupid and slow to cross the Canal, because it is 600 feet wide, cold and with strong currents, and the idea of a pair (or pregnant one) crossing on their own via the bridges seems ridiculous. Coyotes on the bridges are somewhat more plausible. But I think it just amused some jerks to bring them in.
    On the other hand, I've been thinking about endangered animals, and about the niches left by extinct ones. Polar bears are at risk from global warming, but not threatened with extinction, according to a Canadian report today. But if they were endangered, what would be the result of moving some to Antarctica, as an emergency measure? They usually eat seals, waiting for them to come to holes in the ice to breathe, but are opportunistic scavengers. Do seals have the same habits in the Antarctic? Would the bears learn to eat penguin? Probably. What would it do to penguin populations?
    And the flip side: Great Auks (Pinguinus impennis, the original penguin) were widely hunted on the North Atlantic shore, the last ones killed in Iceland in 1844.. Would some Antarctic or sub-Antactic penguins fill the same niche? "Their main food was fish, usually between 12 and 20 cm, but occasionally up to half the bird's own length; based on remains associated with Great Auk bones on Funk Island and ecological and morphological considerations, it seems that Atlantic menhaden and capelin were favored prey items "
    The Atlantic sea mink, Neovison macrodon, has been extinct since c 1860. Could the Pacific sea otter take its niche? Probably not - otters eat shellfish, minks eat vertebrates.
    Also the North-West Atlantic population of Atlantic walrus (formerly ranging from Cape Cod to Labrador) is extirpated, though there are several other populations. I'd love to see them in action.

23 Apr 2008
Artist Cleared After 4 Years Waiting, Victim of Bush's amateur Gestapo

Posted by Alla Katsnelson at The Scientist

An artist who was charged with mail and wire fraud for receiving postal packages of [harmless] bacteria to be used in his artwork has been cleared.

A federal judge on Monday (April 21) dismissed the case against Steven Kurtz, an art professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, saying that the government indictment against him "is insufficient on its face," The Buffalo News reported.

Richard Ebright, a microbiologist at Rutgers University, wrote in an E-mail to The Scientist: "Dismissal was the correct action. The case had no substance. None."

Kurtz was indicted in 2004 along with University of Pittsburgh geneticist Robert Ferrell, who had purchased the bacterial cultures for Kurtz and sent them to him. That charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison under the Patriot Act, and both Kurtz and Ferrell originally pled not guilty. ...
  24 April 2008
Israelis Claim Secret Agreement With U.S.
Americans Insist No Deal Made on Settlement Growth

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 24, 2008; A14

  A letter that President Bush personally delivered to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon four years ago has emerged as a significant obstacle to the president's efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians during his last year in office.

Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush's letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush's peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank. In an interview this week, Sharon's chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed this understanding in a secret agreement reached between Israel and the United States in the spring of 2005, just before Israel withdrew from Gaza.

U.S. officials say no such agreement exists, and in recent months Rice has publicly criticized even settlement expansion on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which Israel does not officially count as settlements. But as peace negotiations have stepped up in recent months, so has the pace of settlement construction, infuriating Palestinian officials, and Washington has taken no punitive action against Israel for its settlement efforts. [continues]
Politics is like driving. To go backward, put it in R. To go forward, put it in D. — via DailyKos

"They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time. [...] That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary." — Margaret Atwood, Handmaid's Tale

The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are dupes of pretended patriots. — Elbridge Gerry
 "When they kick down your front door
 How you gonna come?
 With you hands on your head
 Or on the trigger of your gun"
The Guns of Brixton, The Clash

22 Apr 2008
  I'm job hunting, and trying to use Monster.com, because the Worcester Telegram and Boston Globe are too __ to do it themselves anymore. What an awful site to use! There seems to be no way to just take my already-filed criteria and do a search! Apparently I'm supposed to wait for it's emailed matches, which miss all sorts of stuff.
"It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever," he said. "Have you thought of going into teaching? — Terry Pratchett, Mort
from Bob Herbert, NYT
...  An American kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds. That’s more than a million every year, a sign of big trouble for these largely clueless youngsters in an era in which a college education is crucial to maintaining a middle-class quality of life — and for the country as a whole in a world that is becoming more hotly competitive every day.

Ignorance in the United States is not just bliss, it’s widespread. A recent survey of teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900. [True?]

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, offered a brutal critique of the nation’s high schools a few years ago, describing them as “obsolete” and saying, “When I compare our high schools with what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow.”

Said Mr. Gates: “By obsolete, I don’t just mean that they are broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools — even when they’re working as designed — cannot teach all our students what they need to know today.”...
21 Apr 2008
 David Corn at Mother Jones
McBain Campaigning in New Hampshire on the night of the Iowa primary, while most of the campaign press pack was in Iowa, John McCain told a gathering of 200 people in Derry, New Hampshire, that it "would be fine with me" if American troops stayed in Iraq for "a hundred years." Mother Jones' David Corn was there to record McCain's remarks that cold January evening, and in his MoJoBlog item that appeared online just minutes after the event, here's how David described what happened next:
 After the event ended, I asked McCain about his "hundred years" comment, and he reaffirmed the remark, excitedly declaring that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for "a thousand years" or "a million years," as far as he was concerned... [A] reporter sitting next to me quipped, "There's the general election campaign ad."
 He meant the Democratic ad: "John McCain thinks it would be okay if U.S. troops stayed in Iraq for another hundred years..."
 The next day David's post on McCain's comments went viral all over the Internet, and now everyone knows what McCain said.
“When enough people share a delusion, it loses its status as a psychosis and gets a religious tax exemption instead.” — Ronald de Sousa, Why Think? Evolution and the Rational Mind
McCain-Falwell
sucking up to the walrus
 
18 Apr 2008
The Westell modem that we bought from Bell-Atlantic died, at about 9 years old. It's replacement,  a 4-port/wireless Zoom ASDL modem, cost $100. It was fairly easy to set up, but we still can't figure out how to let the 4 connected PCs see each others' files, or, more importantly, the 2 printers. That is, the printers are only visible to their directly-connected PCs. I had a fantasy that a new wireless modem might provide a better signal than the previous system, where the Westell connected to a Dell wireless modem, but no.

16 Apr 2008
Mother Jones
The Bush administration wants to open 5.6 million acres in the Bering Sea off Alaska to oil and gas leasing, including an area north of the Aleutian Islands near Bristol Bay designated critical habitat for the North Pacific right whale. The proposal was published in Tuesday's Federal Register by the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS), as reported by the Center for Biological Diversity. North Pacific right whales once ranged from California to Alaska and across the North Pacific to Russia and Japan. They were decimated by commercial whaling and remain the most endangered large whale in the world. Fewer than 50 individuals remain in the Bering Sea population.

"Drilling in Bristol Bay would be drilling through the heart of the most important habitat of the most endangered whale on the planet," said Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity. “If the North Pacific right whale is to have any chance of survival, we must protect its critical habitat, not auction it off to oil companies."  ...

15 Apr 2008
My atheist overlords have issued a command concerning the IDiot wankfest Expelled.

CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE EVOLUTIONARY APPARATUS DIRECTIVE
• I OBEY • I OBEY • I OBEY • I OBEY • I OBEY • I OBEY • I OBEY • I OBEY • I OBEY • I OBEY • I OBEY •

Jeebus and dino [D]ishonestly, Stein employs the common dodge of enumerating all the admittedly unanswered questions in evolutionary theory and using this to refute the whole idea. But all scientific knowledge is built this way. A fishnet is made up of a lot more holes than strings, but you can’t therefore argue that the net doesn’t exist. Just ask the fish. — at Panda's Thumb, about the wankfest

FSM"There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not real, he becomes furious when they are disputed." — Bertrand Russell, Human Society in Ethics and Politics


13 Apr 2008
Could lead to goose-stepping
Posted by Avram Grumer at  Making Light
whiff of fascism "Radley Balko reports that a group of his friends — young libertarians from the Washington DC area — met at the Jefferson Memorial last night to silently (wearing iPods) dance for a few minutes at midnight in celebration of Jefferson’s birthday. The Park Police showed up and ordered the dancers to disperse. When one young woman asked them why, they shoved her up against a pillar, handcuffed her, and arrested her. (Update: Here’s video.)

We probably couldn’t ask for a purer example of the principle that the primary mission of authority is to preserve authority. Even today, knowing that almost anyone could be holding a video camera and their actions could wind up on YouTube, cops will still bully and assault people for refusing to instantly defer to arbitrary authority. (That first video is a classic of the genre. The cop is a tubby man in a ridiculous uniform, riding around in a tiny vehicle that may as well be a clown car. His life as a cop isn’t turning out like it does in the movie and on TV, and he’s taking it out on anyone he can push around.)

Megan McArdle, another DC libertarian, picks up the story, and her comments section quickly fills with forelock-tuggers and knee-benders justifying the actions of the Park Police, even if they have to make up facts to do it. It’s practically a catalog of dishonest argumentation and propaganda. ..."
9 Apr 2008
We’re spending $3 trillion as our own economy goes off a cliff so that Iran can have a dysfunctional little friend. — Maureen Dowd, NYT
Never lose sight of the connection between supermarket tabloids, professional wrestling, evangelism and supply side economics. —   Rack Jite

6 Apr 2008
By David Barboza, NYT
  SHANGHAI, China — A year ago, investors like Guan Ling were ebullient. Chinese share prices had climbed over 500 percent in the span of two years, setting off a nationwide stock buying frenzy.
 
 When experts periodically warned about the possibility of a bubble, prices would dip temporarily then soar even higher, breaking records and inciting another mad dash to snap up equities.
 
 "The market was going wild," says Guan, 49, who a few years ago closed his real estate company to invest in stocks full time. "Everybody was talking about how much they had earned, how much more they would invest, and which stocks had jumped 20 times, or even 30 times."
 
 That was last year. The Shanghai composite index has plunged 45 percent from its high, reached last October. The first quarter of this year, which ended on Monday with a huge sell-off, was the worst ever for the market.
 
 Suddenly, millions of small investors who were crowding into brokerage houses, spending the entire day there playing cards, trading stocks, eating noodles and cheering on the markets with other day traders and retirees, are feeling depressed and angry. ...
4 Apr 2008, via Making Light
April 4, 1967
WTF ... The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy—and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us—not their fellow Vietnamese—the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go—primarily women and children and the aged.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one “Vietcong”-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them—mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

impeach bush and cheneyWhat do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only non-Communist revolutionary political force—the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Now there is little left to build on—save bitterness. ... — Martin Luther King, Jr, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned, at Riverside Church in New York City


1 Apr 2008 Long Past Time
 U.S. to Require States to Use a Single School Dropout Formula
 By Sam Dillon, NYT
 Moving to sweep away the tangle of inaccurate state data that has obscured the severity of the nation’s high school dropout crisis, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings will require all states to use one federal formula to calculate graduation and dropout rates, Bush administration officials said on Monday.
 
 The requirement would be one of the most far-reaching regulatory actions taken by any education secretary, experts said, because it would affect the official statistics issued by all 50 states and each of the nation’s 14,000 public high schools.
 
 Ms. Spellings will announce her action at a so-called dropout prevention summit in Washington on Tuesday, the officials said. The summit is organized by a group beginning a national campaign intended to reduce dropout rates.
 
 “In the coming weeks, I will take administrative steps to ensure that all states use the same formula to calculate how many students graduate from high school on time — and how many drop out,” Ms. Spellings said in remarks prepared for delivery on Tuesday and made available to The New York Times.
 
 Ms. Spellings’s statements underline the rising urgency among policymakers and corporate leaders to address the nation’s dropout epidemic, as well as the administration’s growing sense that efforts in Congress to rewrite the law this year may not succeed.
 
 The adoption of a federal graduation formula would correct one of the most glaring weaknesses of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Although the law requires states and high schools to report their graduation rates to the federal government, it allows states to set their own formulas for calculating them. As a result, most states have used formulas that understate the number of dropouts, and official graduation rates are not comparable from state to state. The No Child law establishes no national school completion goal.
 
 Michael Cohen, who was an assistant secretary of education under President Clinton, said the proposed measure would be considerably more important than most Department of Education regulations.
 
 “This is a huge deal, in terms of its impact, because it will basically affect every high school in the country,” Mr. Cohen said.
 
 Senior Education Department officials said Ms. Spellings would publish the proposed graduation formula requirement in the Federal Register, opening a period of public comment that often lasts several months, before issuing the final regulation later this year.
 
 On Tuesday, Ms. Spellings is not expected to outline the specific graduation rate formula that she intends to require states to adopt.
 28 Feb 2008
How Dangerous Is the Internet for Children?
By David Pogue, NYT

A few years ago, a parenting magazine asked me to write an article about the dangers that children face when they go online. As it turns out, I was the wrong author for the article they had in mind.

The editor was deeply disappointed by my initial draft. Its chief message was this: “Sure, there are dangers. But they’re hugely overhyped by the media. The tales of pedophiles luring children out of their homes are like plane crashes: they happen extremely rarely, but when they do, they make headlines everywhere. The Internet is just another facet of socialization for the new generation; as always, common sense and a level head are the best safeguards.”

My editor, however, was looking for something more sensational. He asked, for example, if I could dig up an opening anecdote about, say, an eight-year-old getting killed by a chat-room stalker. But after days of research—and yes, I actually looked at the Google results past the first page—I could not find a single example of a preteen getting abducted and murdered by an Internet predator. continues

28 Feb 2008
Driving today, I saw a car with one of those corkscrew antennas that were ubiquitous on upscale cars 10 years ago. I hadn't noticed them fading away. And I got to remininisce to my youngest about the weird old days of CB radios, half a generation earlier.
25 Feb 2008
By TOM MEERSMAN, Star Tribune

A pair of agriculture groups has temporarily suspended about $1.5 million in grants to the University of Minnesota to protest a controversial study by U scientists earlier this month about biofuels and global warming.

The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council decided to stop paying additional research money until they meet with Allen Levine, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and other officials.

"The university hurt the farmers' feelings, OK? That's probably the best way to say it," said Jim Palmer, executive director of the two groups.

University officials said the meeting will occur soon, and that they have a long history of positive relationships with soybean farmers.

"The funding is still in place and we will work this out," said Bev Durgan, dean of University Extension and director of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station.

The study, by University of Minnesota ecologist David Tilman and others, said that dedicating huge amounts of land to grow corn, soybeans, sugarcane and other food crops for fuel could drastically change the landscape and worsen global warming. Farmers in the U.S., Brazil, Indonesia and other countries will need to clear forests, grasslands and peat lands on a massive scale to grow more of those crops, according to the research, unleashing far more carbon dioxide from natural vegetation than is saved by the lower emissions of the biofuels.
Ethanol industry officials criticized the study as a simplistic analysis that doesn't include the economic benefits for those who grow biofuel crops or the environmental cost of continuing to rely on petroleum.
Don't want a whitewash of stupid ideas? Don't hire competent scientists.

missile launch USS Lake Erie20 Feb 2008
The Bushies plan to shoot down a failed spy satellite, and have flooded the media with a campaign raft of stupidity to justify it. The rest of the world, more reasonably, sees this as testing a satellite shoot-down project, like the one the US screamed about when the Chinese did it last year. A danger from a thousand pounds of hydrazine fuel? Bullshit. How many tons of more deadly fuel has the military and NASA dumped into the ground, water and air every week for the past 60 years? Can't they ever be honest, about anything?
    A day later — it apparently worked. And Raytheon has been crowing about it.

Feb 2008
I've been looking for tutoring/teaching work, a frustrating experience. Offers on Craigslist get 1 email response/week, with no followup. "Axia College of the University of Phoenix," an online school, had me go through a long application without ever indicating what they were looking for or how their program works, then turned me down. Tutor.com, an online tutoring business, also had me fill out a long application, only to say they have plenty of tutors in all fields anyway.
experience? fuck that           sub warrior

has anyone seen my civil rights?US Constitution swirls lower into the toilet:
February 13, 2008
Senate Votes to Expand Spy Powers
By ERIC LICHTBLAU, NYT

WASHINGTON — After more than a year of wrangling, the Senate handed the White House a major victory on Tuesday by voting to broaden the government’s spy powers and to give legal protection to phone companies that cooperated in President Bush’s program of eavesdropping without warrants.
    One by one, the Senate rejected amendments that would have imposed greater civil liberties checks on the government’s surveillance powers. Finally, the Senate voted 68 to 29 to approve legislation that the White House had been pushing for months. Mr. Bush hailed the vote and urged the House to move quickly in following the Senate’s lead.
    The outcome in the Senate amounted, in effect, to a broader proxy vote in support of Mr. Bush’s wiretapping program...

10 Feb 2008
    Computer problems that have been bugging me for years: downloadable update files that give no clue what they are for, and update lists that are generic, so most of the files are irrelevant (that's the Dell model),  leading to installed files and folders that give no clue what they are for, repair and restoration programs that do nothing, ...
I have thousands of image and music files that froze up at some point, perhaps all at once, a couple of years ago (the files cannot be opened, moved, renamed or deleted.) No one has been able to successfully advise how to fix that - several downloaded applications said to be useful did nothing - Microsoft of course is the monolith that doesn't deign to be useful to typical users.

9 Feb 2008
WAMWinterthur logoA bit of the DuPont's Winterthur Museum collection is on exhibit at the Worcester Art Museum, reminding me that the real museum should have a high position on my life list. There is a range of material - furniture, ceramics, paintings, metalware and fabrics -  from the late 17th to late 19th centuries. Some is monstrous, over decorated, elite furniture and metalware; some is nicely made upper middle class furniture; some interestingly decorated Penn Dutch things; some very modern looking splatter-ware ceramics; some excellent Indian and English fabrics. There are portraits by Sargent, Copley, Peale and others - including some famous ones, such as the American members of the peace treaty delegation in 1783 (where the Brits wouldn't sit for it) - but not enough background on the subjects. There is an expensive ($35) catalog that gives more details.
8 Feb 2008
BBC
Polaroid snaps out of making film
    Polaroid, the company behind the instant camera, is to stop making the film used in its iconic technology.
    The firm is to close factories in Massachusetts in the US, Mexico and the Netherlands after the digital age left almost no market for the film.
    Polaroid stopped making the instant cameras themselves about a year ago.
    It now focuses on other ventures which include a portable printer for mobile phone images, and Polaroid-branded digital cameras.
    "We're trying to reinvent Polaroid so it lives on for the next 30 to 40 years," the firm's president, Tom Beaudoin, told the Associated Press.
    The firm was founded in 1937, making polarised lenses for the science world, introducing its first instant camera in 1948.
    Polaroid's peaked in popularity in 1991 when its sales - mainly instant cameras and film - hit close to $3bn. [Continues]

February 8th, 2008
Bush: Peace and Prosperity at Stake
Bush & McCain handjobBy Robert Borosage

    President Bush addressed the Conservative Political Action Committee gathering in Washington today, and, according to the White House, he told the group that our "peace and prosperity" are at stake in the upcoming election.
    Eerily Orwellian, Mr. President.
    For a country at war and in a recession, "peace and prosperity" aren't at stake; they have already been squandered. Even Bush isn't so delusional as to see Iraq as "mission accomplished," and the economy as "strong."
    But with McCain promising to sustain Bush's war and his economic policies, perhaps the president is right.         Peace and prosperity is at stake. Not the peace and prosperity Bush destroyed, but the peace and prosperity we won't get back if we stay on the same course.


Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice — unknown

wing nutsFebruary 7, 2008
 Speakers at Academy Said to Make False Claims
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR, NYT

The Air Force Academy was criticized by Muslim and religious freedom organizations for playing host on Wednesday to three speakers who critics say are evangelical Christians falsely claiming to be former Muslim terrorists.  continues

5 Feb 2008
I voted for Obama in the primary, but I could live with Clinton as President, because she'd have to be better than the corrupt and insane competition.

2 Feb 2008
Strongylocentrotus purpuratus I finally recycled nearly all of the background papers for my PhD thesis, a shopping bag full of photocopied articles. Getting the data published has been one of those nagging little things on my List, but after 24 years and no actual effort, it's time to let go of the idea of a "real" publication. I haven't kept up with the literature on cell-cell binding on sea urchins (or any other animals) for at least 20 years. I haven't spoken to my so-called thesis advisor and supposed co-author since 1983. Yet, I still have the thesis graphs, photos and copies of the data. So, just because I spent years working on it, putting the data online is still on the List:
Sea Urchin Embryo Epithelial and Mesenchymal Differentiation, 1984, Wesleyan University.

Dimwitted censorship in Boston:

NOV.09.2007 ," NOOSE ON SALE", IN FRONT OF "BANK OF AMERICA"
(Opposing the balcony where The Declaration of Independence was red in 1776),
BOSTON, USA, "TREMOR" FESTIVAL

Nooses for SaleIn the past several days the Down Jones point have significantly dropped on NY stock exchange which can be a symptom of a coming crisis of capitalistic economy. This loss was initiated by the faulty and extremely greedy American mortgage bank industry. Standing in front of the main branch of "Bank of America" in Boston, I offered a sale on nooses. This sale reflects the cynicism of the banking market which is willing to sell everything for the sake of profit include human life and suicide. As a practical illustration of the contemporary US "police state" it took only 3 minutes for the first policeman to appear on the scene and start to interrogate me. He was followed by another two policeman in a patrol car two minutes later. I was asked what country I was from and what language I spoke. I replied that I was from The USA and as they could hear spoke English. I followed by asking them if they were "racially profiling" me. The policeman answered "YES". The nooses and a sign were confiscated as material evidence and I was told I would receive a court summons for breaking a law for not having a peddler's license. Witness of the piece was overheard on his cell phone saying:" You should come down here and see this! There is a guy selling nooses. I think he wants to kill Americans" Link to Tremor festival

THE LATEST DEVELOPMENT OF THE PERFORMANCE (TWO MONTHS LATER): I received a notice requiring me to attend a hearing related to an application for criminal complaint. It was scheduled on January 16,2008. At that time, I reported to the criminal clerk's office at the courthouse in Boston accompanied by my lawyer. The criminal clerk was to decide whether or not I would be sued for the criminal offense of being a "Transient Vendor, Unlicensed c101:008." [continues]

27 Jan 2008
  The minor annoyances of democracy: several phone calls today for the primary election. No, so far I'm not voting for Hillary, because I think she panders as much as her husband did.
    Procrastination pays off - Richardson and Kucinich are out of the running before I have to decide (and I just don't like Edwards +/or his populism.)
    This actually reminds of a problem with primary elections scattered over several months - voters in the later ones have  limited choices, or even none.

11 Jan 2008
    Ron Paul is a hideous cross between white power authoritarianism, fundamentalist dominionism, libertarian deregulation fantasies and survivalist gold standard gibbering.
      That this monstrous amalgamation of fear and hatred has come to the same conclusion about the Iraq occupation as us Dirty Fucking Hippies says volumes about the sheer and utter wrongness of invading Iraq in the first place. Posted by: stogoe at Pharyngula

10 Jan 2008
Our rather crappy daily paper, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, apparently invites right-wing nutters to rant on its pages. Today, Roderick P. Murphy, chair of Problem Pregnancy of Worcester, had the nerve to invoke James Madison as he whined about the modest buffer zone around abortion clinics.

This Modern World

Dec 2007
All of the presidential candidates I'm aware of are proudly superstitious, and actively pandering to the 80-90 % of the voters who are superstitious. The Rethuglicans, of course, pander to the most ignorant and and bigoted of the lot. Or maybe they mean it, which is worse.
All the Rethuglicans except Ron Paul basically support Bush's war (and Paul is batshit crazy, and supported by neo-Confederate, racist and militia groups.) Hillary rolled over, too. Others?
Bush gutting civil liberties? The thugs go along. Any real noise from Democrats? Obama's ideas on the war and erosion of civil rights? I should know more about these things.

I was surprised to see hundreds of page hits coming from Freerepublic, a ranting post for a dim-witted group of Rethuglicans, a "tireless bastion of right-wing paranoia and fascist fantasy". (If there's anything between their ears, it's shit.) Turns out the links were to an image I had posted sarcastically, but they take seriously. It was fun to change some file names, so this:
Hillary bites too was replaced with this: Bush the wanker
 
Several blogs have had links to pieces about David Barton. He's the so-called historian who has made a fortune fabricating quotes, and taking quotes out of context, to make the Founding Fathers sound like fundie Christians. The process is known as "Lying for Jebus."
Barton 1 Barton 2  Barton 3  Barton 4  Barton 5
July 2010 - He's part of Glenn Beck's scam "University," hawking the same lies.
 

support the troops
impeach Bush
      OYE
Operation Yellow Elephant
Bush & Cheney:
terrorist recruiters

Oct 2007, Fark headline: China, India, Georgia, Canada, New Mexico and Belgium join map of world's wine-producing regions, producing plonk that only makes you wonder how they got the cat to sit on the bottle
 
Republicans lie head torturer
rednecks vote republican
Bush deserted
creation crap
treason. the new patriotism

"Wellllll, people get the government that they deserve, or so it's said."  
 Made me immediately think of an Onion "American Voices" comment: 
 "I guess they say you get the government you deserve, but I don't remember knife-raping any retarded nuns." - comment at Pharyngula, 12 Dec 2007

"Look, I'm sure you're a perfectly nice guy and if you stepped in front of my car, I'd swerve so I wouldn't hit you. But if I believed something as ridiculous as a bunch of foo-foo cribbed together out of Mithraic and Zoroastrian mythology by a bunch of cave-dwelling mountebanks 2,000 years ago, I'd be disinclined to announce that fact so proudly. People might think there's something wrong with your ability to reason, ya know what I mean?" -: Marcus Ranum, comment at Pharyngula, 26 Jul 2007
The politics pages from 8/2000- 9/15/2004 and 9/2004 - 12/2007 are still online, not that many people will read them.

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. — Sinclair Lewis.