Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sam Brownback Is Muddled

Update 5pm: I wrote PZ Meyers about this op-ed this morning, telling him I was looking forward to hearing his comments. Witness the master.

Sam Brownback, GOP candidate for president, writes an excruciatingly irritating op-ed in today's Times, trying to explain why he raised his hand at the first debate when the candidates were asked if they "believe in evolution." It's a textbook example of watery evolution/faith muddiness, of political doublespeak.

Saying it to make it true? Check.
The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.
Use of the nonsense term "microevolution" and strawmanning evolution? Check.
The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.
Misunderstanding evolution as producing things by "chance?" Check.
The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident. That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.

Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves. There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species. Yet I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation — and indeed life today — is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.
"Small changes that take place within a species?" How can you POSSIBLY sensibly draw that line. That's pathetic.

I'm continuing to understand better why Sam Harris has such anger for the religious moderate position, as it seems to much more intellectually dishonest. Just saying you don't want there to be a contradiction between things doesn't make that contradiction go away. Science class is where we say we only believe things that we can prove. We don't decided what we believe and then pick and choose facts to support that prior decision. We go where observations lead.

Sure, that's not all there is to the world. We don't do this in English class. We don't do this in music. You don't have to do it in Sunday School.

Continuing on...

False dichotomy? Check.
Biologists will have their debates about man’s origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table. For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed. As science continues to explore the details of man’s origin, faith can do its part as well. The fundamental question for me is how these theories affect our understanding of the human person.
But always hidden under all this talk about "Some of my best friends are reason" is the fact that he fundamentally rejects the most basic guideline of science - that there are no a priori truths. Brownback reveals that for him, science is a tool to prove the conclusions he has already reached: man's "unique and intended place in the cosmos." That is not science, that is not reason, and that means he does not understand the significance of evolutionary theory.
The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.
And then Brownback just lets loose with it. He says it outright. If science confirms what he already believes, he's cool with it. Otherwise, it's false - it's "atheist theology posing as science." My dear, what the fuck do you think science is?
While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.
A stunningly revealing post about the mind of Sam Brownback.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Crooks and Liars:

These paragraphs, from an article in The Politico yesterday, are so common they barely register anymore.

Giuliani has tried to appeal to social conservatives, embracing their agenda by pledging to appoint “strict constructionists” to the Supreme Court, using Justices John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. as examples. Conservatives expect “strict constructionists” to determine that the Constitution does not mandate abortion rights.

But, like Dwight Eisenhower’s in 1952, Giuliani’s national security stature after the Sept. 11 attacks more likely explains his continued popularity within the religious right, whose voters have long held hawkish positions on the issue. (emphasis added)

Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II. Giuliani was mayor of New York on 9/11. Eisenhower’s national security stature was earned by defeating the Nazis and helping save the world. Giuliani’s national security stature is a media creation, bolstered by clever public relations. To put the two in the same sentence is comical.

(Final bold sentence my own emphasis)

Yes he appeared on TV after the attacks, and he appeared steady. We were calmed by his presence. But it is a disgrace to those who died and served on that day to let guiliani make a "presidential" or "electable" or "tough on terrorism" persona of himself on the backs of those victims.
To celebrate the new iTunes Plus DRM-free launch this morning, I bought the recently released LCD Soundsytem record, and am digging it so far. Consistently strong lyrics, like this from the title track "Sound of Silver":
Sound of silver talk to me
makes you want to feel like a teenager
until you remember the feelings of
a real life emotion of teenager
then you think again
The top service industry offering I'd rather not receive as "faith-based" is medical care.

I don't have the money for it, but if I did, pretty close on medicine's heals would be construction.

(to be fair, they seem like relatively grounded folks)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Scorpion Portrait

Scorpion Portrait, originally uploaded by Shaolin Tiger.

This photographer clearly respects chelicerata! Nicely done, Shaolin Tiger...

Wingnut Watch: So who's going to suggest that we invade Venezuela for disbanding independent media?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Does every white female actress need to remake Stand and Deliver at one point in her career?


P1010251, originally uploaded by Geezitron.

"Eatin' Good - In the Neighborhood"

Friday, May 25, 2007

My Player 2

Adorable quote from one of the videogame blogs I read:
Forgive me, this has nothing to do with video games, but I still wanted to share it all with you. Last night I asked my girlfriend of two and a half years to become my wife. To accept that while I may be a huge geek and a video game addict, I will also love her for the rest of my life. She said, “yes” and made me the happiest man in the world. There is still along road ahead and many challenges to face. But now I have my “Player 2” so I know I’ll be ok.
When a WFMU DJ cleans out his "GIF-Box," you take notice.
Ann Coulter, kickin' it Coulter-style:
We fought a civil war to force Democrats to give up on slavery 150 years ago. They've become so desperate for servants that now they're importing an underclass to wash their clothes and pick their vegetables. This vast class of unskilled immigrants is the left's new form of slavery.
Happy Memorial Day, Ann!
And this headline makes me want to delete the "tech" category of feeds in my RSS reader: "MyBlogLog Gets Into Tagging"

I don't really know what this Gawker post is talking about, but I'd call it the best headline of the day: "Lead Us Not Into Penn Station"
Isn't the Internet itself already the "social operating system" of the Internet?

Slow Limbs

Whenever I see someone taking their bulldog out for a walk, it makes me think of what it would be like to take a bullfrog out for a walk.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Oligopoly Watch

This is why I read the Oligopoly Watch blog. Did you know that Nike owns Converse? Etc, etc...
Sorry to waste your time with tedious questions you've heard before, but...why the fuck do we have a government where a law changing the minimum wage has to be attached to a law that funds a war?

Does Corporal Punishment Have "Its Fascinations?"

New York Times
But for debates, a visitor goes elsewhere. The Creation Museum offers an alternate world that has its fascinations, even for a skeptic wary of the effect of so many unanswered assertions. He leaves feeling a bit like Adam emerging from Eden, all the world before him, freshly amazed at its strangeness and extravagant peculiarities.
That's all well and good for an adult journalist who views this place as a fascinating assignment, a rich depiction of a subculture. But the place seems not so quaint when you consider that children, forming their views of the world and their ability to THINK critically about the universe around them, are brought here and subjected to this tripe.

Rhetorically, this push to include science-y stuff like fossils and bones and charts is very effective for Young Earth Creationism. When your arguments kinda look like science, there's not Danger Outside the Door that you need to shield your brainwashed followers from. You've already provided them with a response to have when they see this kind of thing: "Oh, yeah, fossils. Those are from the Flood."
Watching a little 10 year-old, on the train on his way to the museum as part of a schoolgroup, in uniform. As I watch, I saw him discover, to his slight confusion, that he found it very satisfying to bounce in his seat and rhythmically slam his upper back against the hard plastic backing of the seat.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ezra Klein:
The immigration status quo is a worst-of-all-worlds for workers, as illegal immigrants exist outside the wage standards and labor laws that help level the playing field and avoid a high-speed race to the bottom. When these workers' rights can be enforced, they will no longer be so cheap relative to native-born workers, and thus native born workers may see their other advantages -- linguistic, cultural, etc -- win the day. If you really want to screw the low-income workforce though, keep the situation static, and force them to continually compete against a workforce that's paid less than minimum wage and isn't subject to the safety standards and sundry other regulations of legal workers.
This is why it's so damn hard to make things better.

Che Prada

I shouldn't be surprised, but I still thought it was pretty gross to
see this ad in the subway this morning for some luxury housing
complex in wb: "Williamsburg: Radically Chic, Chicly Radical"

Hollow-Tipped Fleas

The new "is it or isn't it a parody?" Blogs4Brownback blog places an example of wingnut logic on the table for review. Gotta Catch 'Em All!
the good news is that each guy we kill is one less guy we have to kill. Sooner or later, the bad elements of Iraqi and Muslim
society will be gone; the people that are left will be able to enjoy the peace and prosperity we've won for them. They're going to owe us big-time, but I'm sure they'll know that, too. One thing I think we can expect from Iraq is gratitude.

Meanwhile, of course, we're going to have to do some killing. And I think we should stop tying our hands behind our backs when we go into battle. I think we need to take the bad guys out. If a few innocent bystanders get killed in the process, I'm very sorry, but that's war. They chose to live with the terrorists nearby, and when you lie down with dogs, you get fleas. If they don't want to buy it with the bad guys, they should leave. We'll let them know when it's safe to come back.
Larry Flynt: My friend, Jerry Falwell (Los Angeles Times):
No wonder that when he started hugging me and smooching me on television 10 years later, I was a bit confused. I hadn't seen him since we'd been in court together, and that night I didn't see him until I came out on the stage. I was expecting (and looking for) a fight, but instead he was putting his hands all over me. I remember thinking, "I spent $3 million taking that case to the Supreme Court, and now this guy wants to put his hand on my leg?"

Soon after that episode, I was in my office in Beverly Hills, and out of nowhere my secretary buzzes me, saying, "Jerry Falwell is here to see you." I was shocked, but I said, "Send him in." We talked for two hours, with the latest issues of Hustler neatly stacked on my desk in front of him. He suggested that we go around the country debating, and I agreed. We went to colleges, debating moral issues and 1st Amendment issues — what's "proper," what's not and why.

In the years that followed and up until his death, he'd come to see me every time he was in California. We'd have interesting philosophical conversations. We'd exchange personal Christmas cards. He'd show me pictures of his grandchildren. I was with him in Florida once when he complained about his health and his weight, so I suggested that he go on a diet that had worked for me. I faxed a copy to his wife when I got back home.

The truth is, the reverend and I had a lot in common. He was from Virginia, and I was from Kentucky. His father had been a bootlegger, and I had been one too in my 20s before I went into the Navy. We steered our conversations away from politics, but religion was within bounds. He wanted to save me and was determined to get me out of "the business."

My mother always told me that no matter how repugnant you find a person, when you meet them face to face you will always find something about them to like. The more I got to know Falwell, the more I began to see that his public portrayals were caricatures of himself. There was a dichotomy between the real Falwell and the one he showed the public.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Why is Fox News calling Michael Moore's new film "brilliant and uplifting," demonstrating "a new maturity?" 

I'm totally suspicious. What's their aaaaangle here?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

PZ Meyers has a remarkable, impassioned post up about "Christianity's Sins Against Science."

It never hurts to restate these points.

And no, I don't believe that anyone who calls herself a Christian is incapable of performing "good science" - that's question is distinct from this list.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

It's not often I find myself face to face with a new species of nutbaggery, but Christian Domestic Discipline:
Loving Wife Spanking in a Christian Marriage
leaves me speechless. A taste:
A Christian Domestic Discipline marriage is one that is set up according to Biblical standards; that is, the husband is the authority in the household. The wife is submissive to her husband as is fit in the Lord and her husband loves her as himself. He has the ultimate authority in his household, but it is tempered with the knowledge that he must answer to God for his actions and decisions. He has the authority to spank his wife for punishment, but in real CDD marriages this is taken very seriously and usually happens only rarely. CDD is so much more than just spanking. It is the husband loving the wife enough to guide and teach her, and the wife loving the husband enough to follow his leadership. A Christian marriage embodies true romance and a Christian man a true hero.

I guess it could conceivably be considered in the Purity Ball clade, in a bizarre, negative-space kinda way...

(Jesus' General was the original adventurer that discovered this new species)

You Are Already Deciding For Yourself

Everytime I read or hear about a debate between (usually) Sam Harris and some "moderate" "person of faith," the latter always shapes the debate to be about whether atheists or religious folk have done the worst stuff in history.

Hitler was atheist! No he wasn't! Einstein was religious! Not so!

But to me, Sam's most powerful argument is this:

The greatest objection to atheists that Christians tend to have is "But where is your moral rock, your moral compass? If there is no moral absolute, how do you justify your choices?" Christians fear that atheists just "make it up as they go along," and that internal choice seems oddly unsatisfying to them.

However, Sam simply points out that the sense that "religious" people base their ethics on something outside of themselves - say, the Bible - is already erroenous. That may have been true at some time in the past, but for many of those that call themselves "moderates," they are ALREADY picking and choosing from the notions in the Bible they like and those that they don't. These selections are based on nothing other than their personal convictions and internal understanding.

These people are already shaping their moral view of the universe based on their own personal viewpoint. If you pick and choose what absolutes work for you, then you are not following absolutes.

You are doing what atheists claim is our only option as living, thoughtful, moral beings. Morality can and does exist as a continuous personal choice.

(note: this position has nothing to do with fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are lost to me as humans that could ever communicate outside of their world. If you have relatives like this, just love them and enjoy your occasional dinners with them, and make sure your presidents and your doctors are not of their pursuasion)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Long Time Ago

I'm digging this Japanese photographer Kirai, A Geek in Japan, and his full-content RSS feed. This shot he took is just one image from an anti-smoking campaign that gets into extreme detail about some objections to the habit.

Definitely click-through - they're all beautiful!

Monday, May 07, 2007

All of Roger Clemens' words about how wonderful an opportunity it was for him to be back with great manager Joe Torre seem to me a bit hollow when you consider the other perk he's getting - $4.5 million per month.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

David Horowitz to Lawrence Auster: "I want you to go away Lawrence."

At Memeorandum the other day I stumbled upon an disturbingly-titled piece called "The Truth of Interracial Rape in America," by a human named Lawrence Auster. After reading it in context at a place called FrontPage, I discovered that the content lived up to the revolting suggestion in the title. He's basically saying "the liberal media is not reporting on a terrible, obvious pattern in the US, that most rapes in the US are blacks raping whites!" He ends:
Each story of black on white rape is reported in isolation, not presented as part of a larger pattern. There is never the slightest mention of the fact that white women in this country are being targeted by black rapists. In the inverted world of liberalism, the phenomenon does not exist.
But the reason I'm posting this here is what I discovered when I said "wow, who the hell is this Lawrence Auster guy?" I followed the link at the bottom of the article to his blog, "View From the Right," where the top story was "Horowitz Expels Me from FrontPage".

Now this is entertainment.

He records the events that occurred following the posting of that story on FrontPage, including his email exchanges with David Horowitz (who I guess runs FrontPage), where the latter admits to having decided to stop publishing the former's work a YEAR ago, but never told him. And then this article, about the raping blacks, slipped through because he (Horowitz) had forgotten the decision he had made.

Horowitz writes:
Lawrence you're a big pain in the ass. One article from you takes more time and energy than 50 articles from 50 writers and gets me attacked and now is getting me the third degree from you. We have had many arguments over your racial attitudes as you know. I don't think you're the kind of racist this prick Mills describes you as (and if I can find it I will send you the email I sent him defending your current piece). But I do think you have made statements that are racist. I have a million enemies out there and I don't need attacks waiting to happen by publishing your stuff. I published this piece because I forgot my exchange with Mills last year and my overall impression of your work is that it is interesting if obtuse. I forgot I guess also how difficult you are to work with. I'd like to see you defend yourself against the charges Mills is making rather than attacking me.
There's lots more, and I recommend you read the whole sequence of a few back and forth emails.

It's funny seeing a rightwinger telling an underling that he's too much of a lunatic even for him. I feel like it's a window into a mental process I've never witnessed before.

Bonus: Don't miss some of Lawrence's other articles, with fun titles like "Are We Really a Nation of Immigrants?" and "The Second Mexican War."

Large whipspider, Ecuador

Large whipspider, Ecuador, originally uploaded by artour_a.

Very nice...

About Fear. And Iran.

Tim Dickson, at Rolling Stone National Affairs Daily, writing on McCain's performance in the first GOP debate:
Reflecting his inherited political team, he debated just like Bush used to, as though he were reciting lines from a neocon Hemingway novel. Tiny sentences. About fear. And Iran. And the line item veto.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Whip Scorpion

Whip Scorpion, originally uploaded by fiznatty.

Should I start "Friday Whip Scorpions?"

Hot Women CEOs!!

What a weird promo from Fortune.

The question that I obviously don't need to ask is: Would Fortune ever post a "gallery" of male CEOs?

Nice Line-Up

Nutsiness from the GOP debate:
There were revealing moments that went past the well-rehearsed lines by all the candidates. Three of the candidates — Mr. Huckabee, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado — raised their hands to signal that they did not believe in evolution.

LAPD Chief Not Even Trying To Deny It

Boing Boing covers much more on the police attacks in LA against the immigration march. LAPD Chief Bill Bratton is quoted as calling the episode the worst he has "encountered in 37 years."

Something Called "Strength"

Andrew Sullivan, author of "The Conservative Soul," on the GOP debate last night:
As for foreign policy, very little nuance, very little subtlety, almost no fresh thinking. Conservatism now means simply projecting something called 'strength' rather than articulating something called strategy. On the question of thinking through the lessons of Iraq, they seemed frozen. On the question of Iran, they never seemed to include any understanding of what constraints Iraq has placed on us. Just bomb them and kill them and we'll 'win'. That was about as sophisticated as it got (with the modest exception of McCain's endorsement of Petraeus). And these people seem more aware of the Islamist threat than the Democrats. That's the state of the country and those entrusted with its defense.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Okay, Bill, Not Bad

Assocated Press: What is your favorite Reality TV show?

New Mexico Gov. (D) Bill Richardson: "Fox News."

(The rest of the responses are here)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

Fly, little number, fly!

Steve Jobs, 2/6/07:
The most serious problem is that licensing a DRM involves disclosing some of its secrets to many people in many companies, and history tells us that inevitably these secrets will leak. The Internet has made such leaks far more damaging, since a single leak can be spread worldwide in less than a minute. Such leaks can rapidly result in software programs available as free downloads on the Internet which will disable the DRM protection so that formerly protected songs can be played on unauthorized players.

An equally serious problem is how to quickly repair the damage caused by such a leak. A successful repair will likely involve enhancing the music store software, the music jukebox software, and the software in the players with new secrets, then transferring this updated software into the tens (or hundreds) of millions of Macs, Windows PCs and players already in use. This must all be done quickly and in a very coordinated way. Such an undertaking is very difficult when just one company controls all of the pieces. It is near impossible if multiple companies control separate pieces of the puzzle, and all of them must quickly act in concert to repair the damage from a leak.
It seems that the entire coverage of the Immigrant rights marches across the country yesterday was about how it was "smaller" than last year, but what about the rubber bullets that LAPD fired into the crowd to disperse the marches in LA?

CNN Transcript from ThinkProgress:
It was a dramatic and chaotic end to what was otherwise a peaceful day here in Los Angeles. … Police started to move and disperse the crowd and fired rubber bullets, dozens of rubber bullets, into the crowd. People went running and fleeing, trying to get out of their way, and there really was, there didn’t seem to be any warning. Police just took ground and moved forward and started firing on this crowd. … There were a lot of children and families at the rally, in the crowd, and I’ve got to tell you, there really wasn’t a lot of warning.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dinosaur Comics:
Futurism was an art movement where dudes were all "CARS ARE COOL AND THE PAST IS FOR CHUMPS. LET'S DRAW SOME CARS."