Sunday, December 20, 2009


Has anyone noticed that it's kind of cold?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Skipping town on the Sabbath

With the run to complete a health care bill, Senators are working out what to do to be in place. Some Reps are bragging and twittering about putting in a cot in their offices to be in place.

What a about Joe Lieberman, you asked? No? Well I'll tell you anyway.

He's left town. Why? Sure he wants to kill it. Sure he is in league with Reps and Insurers to block it. But even the Reps are staying in place.

But not Joe.

He's back in CT. It's the Sabbath after all.

Why is this okay? Oh, well, it is sensible and respectable....pfft...

No it isn't. Racing to a dying friend or family member, sure. Go to a pregnant wife, okay...or if you are...I understand. A family happens.

But the Sabbath? He does know that he gets 52 of them every year, right?

What would have been laudable would have been giving up on the Sabbath for once for important work for the sake of his state and his country. But he isn't that loyal, is he?

Being charitable without being a dick

PZ Myers points out some secular charities that are available. Think of it, charity without the preaching, the commandments, or the moralizing. Could it be?

Here is the link.

Hands off holy mama

When I was born I was taken and baptized in a Catholic Church, after that I didn't really spend anytime in The Church. Except that one time a friend dragged me to communion and things got a bit wonky after I got the old wafer (not PZ Myers with a cracker cracker wonky just kid wandering into a groups weird ritual wonky).

So there was a whole lot about The Church I never knew. Until I saw the movie Dogma, I never knew what was supposed to be thought about Mary (God's baby's mama). I got that she was supposed to a virgin who gave birth to a child, sure why not. But the idea that she just stayed a virgin through the rest of her life...really? Why? As I understand now she's flippin' holy. She's the big mama of The Church, and no one touches mama. It's almost an arrested development fashion (And it does just add a whole new creepy layer to an already creepy story...perhaps I should tell the story of Jesus's conception this Christmas...). I mean, come on. Grow up, she had the kid and then had to go through raising him and Joseph had to be there, and just stand aside? They kept selling me as a kid the idea that her a Joe were in love and wanted to be together...or was that a lie to! Oh, man, is it all lies?!

Anywho. PZ Myers looks at the charming Catholic reaction to a billboard in New Zealand. They just don't seem to take to jokes about Joe and Mary's love life. Funny. Catholics always seem so light hearted and easy going....


There has been some consternation over talk of new taxation on cosmetic surgery.

Some feminist leaders popped up quickly to decry it as unfair and punishing to women. Other feminist reacted with surprise at this, and others agreed with the outcry.

One who found agreement talked about the unfairness of focusing in on women with a tax, and made some interesting points. Of note the use of taxation to pressure and bring morality to medicine.

But in looking at this and the concerns and arguments, I just have to disagree.

I do agree that I don't care for the government to try and force a view of society through tax breaks and burdens (to have marriage or families, etc.). But this is not the sole picture here.

First, the demographics. Men are a growing part of this cosmetic surgery customer base. Second various ethnic groups are growing in numbers to be found using these service. And finally, those making use of this service would seem to trend in to the middle and upper classes. This taxed group will be diverse sexually and ethnically, so not too much bias there. And more importantly they are a wealthy subset of the whole population.

And that is why this tax is being levied. It is on the rich. That is the view and impression. There could be an argument for it being placed on those that are deemed to be wasting money on vanity. But it is primarily being focused on those that are deemed to have excess of cash and a willingness to spend it. Hence the taxes placed on money luxury items. That is the view at the governmental top. And as the wealthy are more heavily hit, it is hard for most progressives to be particularly bummed.

Now, if this impacts needed (for healthy living) surgeries, that is bad. Likewise, the effect on gender changes deserves some consideration. But this is not a sin tax, just as import duties on luxury cars isn't.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Glam media

Crooks and Liars is somewhat peaked at the coverage Glenn Beck is getting from Barbara Walters, being called one of the years most interesting people.

I agree it is annoying to see him up like that treated as light fare.

But that is how Walters works, and Larry King. And it has long been so. King admitted once in an interview that if he had to choose between a news maker and a major celebrity, he goes with the celebrity as that is what his audience wants. It is how it works, and it works nicely for them, the interviewer, and them, the interviewee. It used to be a joke that when you get called out, as a politician or corporate face, for some negative remarks or acts, you go to this lot. The Walters give you some soft light place you beside your spouse, in sweaters and in front of a fire, and you your real snugly self to the world. Damage Control.

And it is nauseating. Look at the Tiger Woods story and how it is compared to the likes of Hugh Grant. People want him out in the limelight looking embarrassed and going red. Then they can move on, once we get our mental shaming done. Me, I don't care. It's a family issue. As to his business side, we'll see what comes.

But with the likes of Beck...he says horrid things daily. Makes money off of driving fear and anger. He stokes up a dangerous amount of rage, then tries to laugh it off and play the goof.

And with this interview he is just a jovial nice guy that...gosh, wants to help America. These shows are there to sell something. And like with Hugh Grant, it is about TV and movies, or others a tell all book. But when the politicians come in...

Were getting sold a whole other range of goods. That is what is nice with the likes of The Daily Show. They bring in an actor or author to talk about their work. But they don't treat the politicians the same. They are actually aware of the difference...a difference that some older venues are loathe to note.

The Battle of the Ages!

TPM is looking at how the Climate Change-Gate-Denial-Miasma is being dealt with in the media.

They seem to have to titan on the subject duking it out for their amusement. Al Gore and Sarah Palin.

Gore has spent many years looking at, discussing, and engaging on the issue.

Palin...likes Facebook.

It is a real battle royale. He responds to things she has written and she gets on Facebook and sets her mood to grumpy...

Couldn't the get Chopra or Cheney to weigh in? Where's Ashton Kutsher...shouldn't he be twittering on all this...I need more input!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Maddow vs the Gay Cure

Rachel Maddow has been giving some great coverage of the anti gay bill in Uganda, and also on The Family in D.C.

Last night she got a chance to engage one of the people who have help to bolster these groups, Richard Cohen, who claims he is a one time gay that is now cured (How do you cure a choice?).

TPM has the video that is a hoot. First she deals with the Uganda bill, but he gives his excuses. The rest of the interview deals with his book about the gay choice and the cure, and also the horrible things that the gays do. And this book gives here one heck of a cudgel to use on this guy.

It is great journalism and debunking.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Best Man - 1964

I just saw that they have the classic film The Best Man on tonight. It tells the story of the behind the scenes shenanigans of a presidential convention. It started out as a play by Gore Vidal, and stars the likes of Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson. And all I can think is...why the heck is this not yet available in the US on DVD?

What is the hold up for this classic? A contentious fight ensues at the Democratic (?) convention. This leads to a battle between different flawed would be world leaders. One man, Sec. of State Russell (Henry Fonda), has cheated on his wife and spent a brief period getting mental treatment, but he wants to be an honest and worthy leader. Another man, Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson), seems squeaky clean, but is determined to win, whether it means embracing segregation, red scares, or any suspect cause that will get votes. He's willing and ready to pull any trick or story to destroy his opponents. But then the would be honest man gets hold of a claim of a suspect sexual experience for Mr. Squeaky Clean...but he can see how suspect it is, and how dirty the trick is. Will he use this to guarantee the convention win? Can he live with winning by any means?

This is just a grand flick.

Boosting employment

Robert Reich shares his thoughts on the administration's work to get employment growth occurring.

I have to agree with his view that the investment from the government has been anemic. Some attempt has been made to stimulate the economy and get people to work. But it has not been remotely what it could be. The investment has not been enough, even now as more money is promised for stimulus. Reich suggests the need for up to $400 billion over the next couple of years, and what we will get is around $70 billion from the TARP returns. Where he sees this leaving us is an even longer wait for the return of near full employment in this country. And when that happens everyone is paying taxes and fewer people need additional government support. So the larger expenses for us all will continue. All so we can compromise for those that want a controlled and limited budget.

Monday, December 07, 2009

More with Chopra

It feels like it has been a while since I talked about old Deepak. He is a piece, a doctor that can get neither medicine or physics right. Yet he is a revered expert, particularly for us on the left side of politics.

So what has he said to get many in a huff? Instead of common sense, he specifically finds a bone to pick with skeptics (Hey, like my name!).

Various skeptics looked at his "thoughts":

... Anyway, he has gone to the very font of new age nonsense, the Huffington Post, to spew more woo: he’s written an article about why skepticism is bad. It’s almost a bullet-pointed list of logical fallacies. ...
Among the points Chopra tries to make are that:
  • Skeptics don't like speculative thinking. Cause I know I hate innovative and creative ideas, or creative imaginings of applications of science, or potential future discoveries. I'm such a dick. It is just lame. He throws out half-assed, unsupported, and easily disputed claims, and he gets pissed that other than the group than ignore him and those that listen eagerly at his feet...there are others that actually dispute and want sound foundations before they will treat his ideas as anything other than new age guru piffle. I know he finds that do the people selling crystals.

    This is pointed to by Steven Novella, who looks at where Chopra seems to sit:
    ... What this article demonstrates is that Chopra is unequivocally anti-science. That is the reason he attacks skeptics and skepticism. He wants his woo to get a free pass. He wants to be able to speculate wildly, without ever having to justify his claims with logic and evidence. Chopra laments being called “the emperor of woo-woo” – probably because he knows that this emperor has no clothes.

  • Then there is the beaut, that no skeptic has EVER made a major scientific discovery...ever. That is either blazing stupidity, or attempt to tightly control the definition of a major discoveries and skeptic. He no doubt has a few skeptics that are the good sort that won't be counted. Sagan Dawkins, Einstein, etc. All paved over or redressed for Chopra's needs.

It seems to come down to wonder. Skeptics have no sense of wonder. It is just a tired claim. It's like the denouncements atheist face. We can't be spiritual, have a sense of joy, have hope, happiness...we can't be fully human without embracing the guff pumped out my the likes of Chopra. And then there is the arrogance seen.

Sprinkle on the fairy dust, or you can never fly.

Jason Rosenhouse looks at some discussion among a couple of Christian scientist disagreeing.

We New Atheist types like to emphasize that religion ought not to be exempted from the usual requirement that assertions of fact be supported by evidence, and that both the methods and findings of science tend to weaken the case for traditional religious beliefs. For this we are accused, with tiresome lack of originality, of being arrogant. We are lectured about the limits of science and about how we can not prove there is no God. Sometimes we are even described as being like fundamentalists.

Such charges are nonsense, of course. It is not arrogant to grow irritated with those who demand respect for their religion without providing a shred of evidence in support of their beliefs. Arrogance is when you claim to know, with “know” in italics and clearly distinguished from “believe,” that some dubious bit of religious dogma is true.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Who for the holidays

For the holiday season, the BBC in England like to go all out with the seasonal commercials. Like using Doctor Who for some seasonal merriment.

Obviously I can't talk about spoilers for the End of Time episodes at the end of the year, but I can at least share the Whovian holiday fun.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Beck is still paying for his words.

Crooks and Liars points to another hit on the Beck Express. As he is apt to do he is planning another of his nationwide extravaganzas. It's a big old show with stories, music, and a big old nauseating slice of Glenn Beck.'s like finding a long hair in your food.

Well, as part of this event he was going to have the Harlem Gospel Choir on stage and singing. Note the tense, was going to. Not anymore. The people at ColorOfChange, who have been chasing of Beck's sponsors on TV, went and talked with the choir about the various comments and actions Beck has been a party to. They had to think on it, and decided to not be a part of the show.

They are saying that it is a matter of not being paid enough.

Yeah, not enough to be seen on stage with the likes of Glenn Beck, I imagine.

Take a stand about rape?

Sen. Franken of MN put forward an amendment to address the inadequacy of the legal protection of people that are sexually assaulted by military contractors. A handful of Reps came over to vote with him, most didn't. They have been feeling heat over that ever since.

The response now from Reps in the Senate is laughable and telling.

Senators are coming out to complain. Apparently being put in a position to stand up against rapist and corporations that try and cover up assaults is just unfair. It is unconstructive. Bills and amendments against rape are a Daily Kos-esque kind of play. Best of all they hope they won't see any more stuff like this in the future.

Those are great lines from the Reps. All ruffled over having to take stands on the sober dignified Senate floor. For shame. It is a place for speeches, filibusters, preventing reform, and grandstanding. You Mr. Franken, sir, offend the delicate sensibilities of this august body...I must alight to my fainting parlor.

Looking at a Democratic the enemy camp

A lot has been made of one comment made by Chris Matthews is getting lots of attention. And it deserves it. To him Obama was in the enemy camp, being at West Point.

First, is the ever applied assumptions that a Dem has no place on an army base, or amongst the armed forces. This is just tiring. Yes, people like Wolfowitz hang out here and plan and stage there foreign plans, but these are the armed forces that he is the commander of. Enemy camp? It's his freaking camp. And standing there, he owned it, and the responsibility of what is to come. No Matthews, he was taking ownership.

And it is funny if you see the end of the presidents speech, and how as he goes to talk with cadets they swarm around eagerly to talk, shake hands, and take pics. Wow, they really don't like him, hmm?

The other more direct issue is how Matthews looked at the image of the cadets and brass and saw a sober and serious group. The president is laying out how they will be expanding activity in a war zone, and how it will impact them. What was he expecting? Whooping? And if he didn't get them, or stage, eagerness among the uniformed's a failed speech, or an unfriendly audience. They are supposed to be disciplined. And they are not getting news of peacetime. They are getting ready to fight and serve, and are being appraised of what is coming. This was a business meeting. What more does Matthews seriously want?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

More with the Christian Right

Just to give you more of that Christian verve...

Wingnuttery deluxe: Palin's God Can Kick Obama's God's Ass

Cause, you see, Obama's a Muslim...and a cancer...and the best he can do is be a suicide bomber...but we got Sarah Palin [cue the choral music], and she's gonna save us...cause she has common sense (Sir, you insult all that is common, and all that makes sense.) and lives a Christian life (With the lying, gunning animals down from the air, and constantly quitting jobs...she did get someone to write a book and put her name on it...that's pretty Christian.).

And the Salvation Army. I always feel awkward about them. They are EVERYWHERE. They ring bells and give you looks as you walk by. And I would like to give some to help people in need. But it's the Salvation Army...a Christian group...and a nasty at that. I would be rather go with a secular group that isn't out to judge, dictate to, and push there beliefs. It's my money to give, and how is it gonna be used.

Salvation Army accused of checking immigration status of kids before giving them toys

That's right. The have gifts and aid...for the right sort.

More on the Salvation Army's anti-gay jihad

This links to a list of articles looking at the attack on gay rights that
the friendly old SA is party to.

It's Christmas Time*

... As a kid I knew the Salvation Army as the Starvation army from old labor songs. They haven't changed much from the organization that would refuse help to striking workers. ...

Find a secular group to give support to. Find one that isn't about exclusion.

UPDATE: Added another link.

The Religious Right, The Family, and Uganda

Rachel Maddow and Jeff Sharlet looked at the looming law in Uganda that puts the lives of gay people in the country in peril. The law will put away gays in some cases in prison for life, and others committing aggravated homosexuality will be killed (What is aggravated?). As well, they will seek to have nationals in other countries that are engaged in gay acts extradited back to Uganda...

What they note is just how closely this law is tied to American citizens. There are the evangelicals that have gone to warn them and encourage them to go to war on homosexuals. There are the ties to Rick Warren at Saddleback (You know, the cuddly religious bigot.). Then there is the Family, that group of religious politicians joined together in secrecy. They have been engaged in enticing this assault on gays. In fact the president of Uganda is a member of the Family. What a wonderful group.

Crooks and Liars looks at this and has video from the interview.

Ah, the evangelical right, joined in the imprisonment and murder of homosexuals. How Christlike.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Dealing with paranormal claims: Are the basic points even true.

Often when skeptics deal with paranormal claim there is dismissal. It's like creationism, how often do you have to get the transitional fossil argument before you have had it?

But addressing paranormal claims has value. In dealing with skepticism in the paranormal you run into different skeptics.

There are the ones that don't want to waste time or even talk about overexposed photos, crackling on a tape, or ever lose a good night sleep. Then the other extreme are the true believers that call themselves skeptics then immediately will tell you about how they know demons are real and aliens have visited a friend of theirs.

Not too surprising. It can be a pain, with the first group to deal with so much hokum. Some skeptics just don't want to talk evolution or religion. Let's face it even the ID arguments haven't changed in over a decade, it can be tiring to see how that garbage just remains with us. Like with moon hoax and holocaust deniers, there can be a breaking point for us. And likewise how many true believers about the holocaust, moon landing, or evilution call themselves skeptics? So many.

So credit is deserved for those that stay in these areas. Those that keep up the fight for the reality of evolution, ensure that history is not rewritten, and also look at paranormal claims.

But in this it is important to look at claims and cut through to the core of claims to dismantle the bunk. Maybe it will reveal relevant facts in the paranormal hunt, or maybe it will kill teach people to better understand the natural world and what goes bump in their heads.

One example of this is the work done by Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society. They do work to be skeptical, and to challenge all claims and go into the field to take first reactions and cut through heresay. One good example of there work and the issues of cutting through to the key bunk is with the Stanley Hotel.

This is the hotel for being, The Shining hotel. And since then it has become a hot spot for fans of paranormal adventures. The claims about it are just burgeoning. And like many such sites, including old hospitals, and homes of notoriety, it is getting booked for paranormal investigations throughout the year.

The RMPRS looked at one claim about this site, that it is as haunted as it is (as it is claimed it is) due to quartz rock and limestone that lies beneath the hotel and the land it is on. You may find that an odd statement, particularly if you have not heard all the claims made among many "investigators".

To quote Ghost Hunters, "The leading theory in the field..." Which means the opinion one guy told me once in the dark in a creepy old house, or at one of the paranormal conventions...

Well the idea is this quartz and some other minerals apparently store ghost energy and reflect it back. So it soaks up spooky and amplifies it back. I am sure like every folk tale how this is explained is almost as diverse as the tellers. There are all sorts of stories about what minerals are beneath, and what they do.

Well this group coordinating with the government to determine the facts. Instead of just stopping at, "it's not haunted." They looked at this quartz claim. And through the USDA they found that there was no survey of the land, so no one actually knew what was beneath. Which in itself would make you wonder about a claim about the mineral composition there. Again, folk tales. They did a survey of the land and found no sign of huge amounts of any of the suspect minerals.

Which means claims based on that claim can now be scientifically addressed and challenged.

And this is important. It forces true believers to accept the scientific results (which they often claim to embrace), or ignore it. Gotta keep them honest.

UPDATE: Forgot the links.

To not like being a Republican is the first sign of sanity.

Republican figureheads have only grown more creepy over the past several years. Slowly many conservatives have grown uncomfortable in just how aligned they are, and where they are expected to cheer lead and throw there support.

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs is the latest conservative that is just getting sick of it.

Crooks and Liars notes where he is really pissed. Support for fascist here and abroad. Support of bigotry, hate, and supremacism. Support at curtailing the rights of women. Support of anti-science positions.

This is not to say Reps as an individual are bad. But many platform pieces, rallying arguments and cries, things screamed out, put on display, and disseminated among the party faithful is just troubling. And those individual Reps have to look at there party and ask, what is happened? Palin? The Religious Right? This is good?

In Congress they has been attacking so many areas (from medicine to science to history to civil rights), one in particularly is climate change. They seem to be up on all the latest conspiracy claims. And some want to go to Copenhagen for the environmental conference to watch and rally against scientific claims. If you watch British news you know else who wants to go as well. The Tories? No they are somewhat sane on climate change. It's the BNP, the nationalist, the fascist lites. These are the contemporaries and common ally of today's RNC. Look at the open and unchallenged activity of a number of representatives in Washington that have been spouting on Muslim plots, or death camps. What is this, a serious national party?

Can everyday people in the Rep tent really be happy? Or is the promise to keep the gays and the "others" away all you need? It's time to offer some real internal dissent.

The Senate Stupak is now annointed

TPM has noted that Sen. Ben Nelson of NE is planning on bringing an identical amendment to Stupak to the floor. So, leading the Dem assault on women's reproductive rights will be the right honorable senator from Nebraska. Take note.

Many Dems joined up with it in the House. Now that D.C. knows how pissed we are at that, we will have to see how this plays out for the Senate.

Afghan speech

The text of the speech is available from a number of sources.

The video of the speech can be found on TPM.


  • AMERICAblog
  • TPM has looked at Rep reaction on CNN. Apparently Obama is just another Bush...and apparently that is bad to Reps now.
  • Firedoglake is not pleased at all.

Waiting for Obama

Well many of us are waiting for the president to speak in an hour. We will hear about where he wants to take out activities in Afghanistan.

I am curious to hear what the plan is.

Last year I was quite partial to continue on in the fight there. For a while I have held to a sense that this was all a fight we began, whether or not Bush was president at the onset. It was our responsibility. People would suffer if we were not there, people would be subjugated. And this was a all a matter of finishing up and not abandoning those people we flew in and made big promises to.

But my opinion has changed. I am more interested in what our choices mean for those people we put in uniforms, hand weapons, and send into harms way. Some want to chant and say we have to send them into likely mortal peril, for their sake. That is just screwed up. As well, we are just spending our way into debt for this cause. I am willing to spend a bit extra at times for the sake of the future, it can be a sound investment (like stimulus spending).

And that is the problem, what investment will we make? What cost? And what end result will be have? Presidency have the power, responsibility, and burden to send the nations kids in arms into harms way, and death. It should be done soundly. So when I have seen how open ended, how endless, and ceaseless this war is becoming. And you see how many more lives will be tossed into this cause, and then all these billions as well, it should just make us sick.

I want to do right by Afghanistan. But this should not be a case, and there should never be one, of winning and continuing on at any cost. That is just madness.

We need a result we can be satisfied with, an end that be seen on the horizon. Reps want a war that will just not end, belying and cursing our and that nation's history. They see the glory, honor, and thrill of war. If we kill, we are winning, It is madness.

We need a sound endpoint. We need a real road map to there. We need a real change in our actions. And as much as I hate to have to say it, we need to act for our interest first, and that is up out of this quagmire. We need to see our Commander and Chief stand up there and give his country and its armed forces a morale boost and real hope of this war's end.

Harvey said he wanted to go for a walk.

PZ Myers points to an all too not surprising study that shows that most people's gods pretty much think like them. Otherwise known as my opinions and ideas are right god thinks my ideas are good. Convenient, and impossible to prove. But being sacred, holy, spiritual, etc, it is not to be questioned. Unlike giant invisible rabbits, that would just be crazy.

This is one of the reasons I find it hard to impressed with faiths. So often the embrace of a higher power is so tightly tied to a personal desire for there to be one, and for it to be exactly like a person, or society, expects. It acts like a variable in an equation that explains why things are the way they are. And, over the centuries, more and more of its potential functions have been explained away. Until we are here and now, and to make a god being work it gets shoehorned in, and sometimes the squeeze is so tight that it can't fit, without science and history taking a hit, and for a god being at stake that is totally cool to do. Then there are the times when one tries to hold on to much of that science and history and the god being gets origamied into a new thing (God is love, or God is thought). Sure you have the deist approach as well, but when a god is that out of the picture and only acts at the earliest points, and then does nothing else...why the heck are we obsessed with it? Really, it makes giant invisible rabbits almost sound sensible.

People can feel free to have imaginary friends. Just don't try and blame you actions on them. Not even if they tell you they are a Pooka.

Canadian hospitality

You may have heard of what happen with Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now, at the Canadian border. As she tried to cross over to Canada to speak at an event, she was detained. Why? Well, they have the right and responsibility to defend against threats. But, why? They searched her car, went through her private papers, and her computer. Why? The main question they seemed to have for her was this, "Are you here to talk about the upcoming Canadian Olympics?" Huh? No, Really. They were scared of a journalist from the US coming to Canada and possibly talking negatively about the Winter Olympics. That is just pathetic.

Crooks and Liars has the video of her discussing what happened. Which means the Canadians really got a boffo result, hmm?

Democracy Now looks at it here and here.

Fear the debt?

TPM is looking at an interesting fact about some of the Blue Dogs that are so bothered about the financial impact of a public option in health care, and other entitlements. They were all for cutting into the estate tax, which would have cut a quarter of a trillion out of the funds available for the big deal...wait...
Yesterday, I posted this letter, signed by a dozen moderate and conservative Democrats, which raises concerns about the national debt. ... How does one square a vote to diminish the estate tax with fiscal discipline? ...

Banning a tower

On Sunday their was a vote in Switzerland in which voters moved forward with a ban on building any further minarets (which are found atop mosques - apparently there are around 4 in the country at present). To give some defense, apparently the government and various religious leaders weren't keen to see it pass, and the news media in the country looked down on the results. But...58 percent of those voting did like the idea. And now future construction is banned, until the EU courts get in and, I imagine, take the Swiss to task.

Juan Cole at Informed Comment, is ticked at this and looks at how unfair this just is.

AMERICAblog, also looks.

They play devils advocate to consider a sound reason to do a ban. So let us consider.

Banning of certain architecture. I think government has some power here. You can limit zoning, controlling residential uses, business uses, etc. You can argue to control height, in some places and cases, but it has to be limited and bases on some actual logic. But what is this? Just a ban on one piece of structural work, used by one religion. Will spires on churches be curtailed? How about steeples? No. This makes it a vindictive choice. Picking on an unpopular group, going after people deemed to be in the wrong. And any debate as to any merit is immaterial in what was covered in this vote -- but it seems it was material to many who voted in support of it.

How about sound? The call to prayer is famous for being yelled out from the minaret. That would be annoying to neighbor. And there are laws on noise volumes. But, again, what about churches? Ever been near (going to or by, or living near) on a Sunday morning? Those damn bells! What about that? As long as all annoyances are treated the same, great. But as has been noted, mosques in Switzerland do not do a call to prayer...having, it seems, assimilated somewhat into cultural and local needs.

The other point of interest is the question of assimilating. And there needs to be some give and take here. But how much? No minarets? There has to be a reason. Do we try to squelch aspects of Eastern Orthodox churches, or how about that huge Hindi temple they built a few years again outside of London, do we have a problem with that? What about Chinatowns, and other similar neighborhoods (Little Tokyo, Little Sicily, etc.), we seem to accept these.

There are problems with Islam, no doubt. There are problems with how it is situated in Europe and how some of its devotees there approach there beliefs. And it is reasonable to give people some room to grow and change, and hold on to some culture. Though there are limits. No Sharia law, no cultural based justice, etc. The laws of the land should be respected. And in turn, those integrating into a larger culture should be afforded their due rights.

How we approach this. Making "them" the enemy is a way to creates ones own self-fulfilling prophecy. Europe has a long history of dealing with minority groups, and often not doing it well. Jews. Muslims. Catholics. Protestants. Inquisitions. Crusades. Huguenots. And on and on.

Some have made a claim it is no big deal. It is just a minaret. Mosques can still go up. True. But it is a single step, potentially a first step. Why should we sit silent on that, especially when it seems so clearly to be wrongheaded?

In the end, this is about punishing Muslims. It is about teaching a social group in a community a lesson. Is this the way to do such a things? I have serious problems with the way most Islamic governments act, I have a problem with the way some Muslim groups advocate and others act, and I have serious problems with how certain Muslims persons affect the world. So we go after the whole? What result to do people see coming from this? All this is is a new talking points for fanatical imams, a new rallying cry for those that want to play the role of the persecuted, the wronged, the righteous man standing against tyrants.

This only helps the wrong people, fanatics of Islam and of the far right. Good job.


In its coverage, Crooks and Liars notes that now the Netherlands may be trying to follow in the footsteps of the Swiss.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Looking for something too normal in the paranormal

SCIfake has some footage from an old episode of Ghost Hunters calling into question a presumed paranormal event. You may know the story about Race Rock Lighthouse, and the chair that moved across a room. Groups like SAPS have looked at the idea and video and put forward ideas on how it could be faked. And there seem to be a number of approaches.

SCifake has a new vid. It looks at the movement of lights, and sound, and offers a perspective. Jason Hawes, founder of Ghost Hunters, has gone on to counter, particularly the claim their is more evidence that makes it blatantly clear it is all fake. He is right that we can only be sure if we see that evidence. He has a version of events that claims it is all innocent and true. This vid is another view, but is hampered by the reality of modern TV paranormal work, a world of grainy darkness. It is just hard to make things out. Without clear cut evidence, it is just opinion. It is more likely to not be real, an anomaly or cheat, but with the video we have now we can't say for sure.

Have a look at the video and see if you agree with the analysis.

Sometimes it can be hard to be liberal

As a liberal and a skeptic you run into many silly ideas. Just read Huffington Post.

But one really troubling area is with food. Have a way to feed people better in places that it is hard to grow food? Great! We have genetically modified this wheat. WHAT! Genetic! That's poison! We have a great method to improve food safety. Wow! We need that!

Now there's lab created meat. Or vat grown meat. If you can't stand the thought of the way cows or chickens are treated in meat production, this seems like a great way to still create a food source. But I have heard, again, some liberals get freaked out. Listen, this is still being experimented on. We are still a bit away from anyone tasting, or selling this. But first reaction seems negative. There is just a fear of things that are "unnatural". Maybe we will find more positive reactions down the line, as more info comes out. Personally, I am leery, but that is because I am particular about my meat. If it tastes good it will be different. But I love a good steak, roast chicken, and cured ham.

Here is a great bit of comedy from the fun new series Better Off Ted discussing growing meat. (Though some may remember an earlier episode of the series Eureka that dealt with chicken breast being grown.)

Back to point. There is just too much fear of science. Which is why we need to be more open and active. Conspiracy theorist, woo peddlers, and alt med promoters need challenging in progressive politics. We are seeing many of these people impacted policy and law, like Harkin with promoting alt med, and Kerry and Kennedy helping Hatch get prayer treatment covered. Get active!

Being pissed at Obama

As I have stated before, I have trouble with the stands, absence of stands, and just lolly gagging of the president at times. I am not satisfied.

Slate has a story that wants to praise him. AMERICAblog wanted to know if you agreed.

Obama has wisely deferred some smaller, politically hazardous battles over issues such as closing Guantanamo, ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and fighting the expansion of Israel's West Bank settlements. Instead, he has saved his fire for his most urgent priorities—preventing a depression, remaking America's global image, and winning universal health insurance. Chow time indeed, if you ask me.

No, and yes. You see I have to be realistic. I am very unsatisfied, but I know that all things are not possible, particularly in party without purity tests, larger tents, and at least a hope of open dialogue. So I try to be somewhat conciliatory. BUT... The president may yet get a bill passed on health care reform. And as I have said before their is a certain love of this idea. A bill. Or, any bill. If a bill passes, and it is about reform, you have success. Will it be universal? How many will have access? How soon will help come? Those on the outside, will they be made to pay by insurers? Is just passing a bill enough?

But noted in the article, and generally forgotten, the stimulus helped stem the worse, investment in banks (as badly done as it has been) helped prop up our system...for now. Was it enough? No. More control and more demands for real reform and responsibility in banking was needed. More money towards stimulus was needed (And we are still awaiting a second go as some promised...How long should I hold my breath on that?). But good was done. Utter disaster was prevented. Unemployment is horrible right now. But it could have been far worse. We should not forget this.

Also or image abroad has changed a good deal. But we still are doing things today that bothered before. The secret prisons are still out there. Or deals with devils are there. And we still strike into countries without even blushing or giving a shy backwards glance. The new car smell doesn't last forever.

I appreciate what has been done. But why should that be enough. I want more. I'm a greedy bastard.

Politco also looks at the president. They see seven dangerous stories that could be cemented around the president. As AMERICAblog notes, these are just memes. It would be nice if the media resists embracing memes...but they go to them like cats to catnip.

Let's look at these memes. First one, he thinks he's using Monopoly money. Tax and spend liberals. How is he even suppose to avoid this? If you don't have an R behind your name, you are tarred with this. Polls show that people are already inclined to see him in this light among conservatives. It is a no win. Embrace going cheap on reform, stimulus, and advancing national interests and you still get treated as if you blew the national budget on magic beans. Of course, Politico thinks the answer is to try and be more responsible, and that this is why polls and independent support is down. Not the attacks, smears, and fear tactics? Media help there would have been nice. But, as AMERICAblog notes, where was the White House, explaining why and where stimulus and bailouts were going, doing, and meaning. We've needed more of this.

Second, too much Leonard Nimoy? Too much abstraction. What would be nice is more connection on issues. I like a thoughtful and analytical leader. But he is in politics and it does rub some the wrong way.

Third, he's doing things the Chicago way...Really? When? I mean. They have shoved liberals, grassroots sorts, and other progressives. But where has this been in policy? And he buys people off? He makes deals, like every president. This meme is only taking hold among people who would spend a three day weekend in line to get an autographed Sarah Palin bio. When they call into a radio show is the only time you hear this mentioned.

Fourth, he's weak. Odd, following the last point, but memes can be funny that way. But his seemingly unwillingness to fight for many progressive causes is building some concern. No backing for NARAL, no real stand for gay rights, no real solid stands on health care reform. It is spectacularly unimpressive. But if it got solid results great. But what seems to be coming of these results?

Fifth, he's beholden to the UN. Please. This is on par with the Chicago method talk. This is the gossip exclusively of the Sarah Palin/Alex Jones/Lou Dobbs/Glen Beck fringe of society. And they need to help to embrace this and other ideas...They just know it.

Sixth, Pelosi is in charge. Who even thinks this? And if it is a matter of the House leading the way to some change...and? This is more about the evil hag image that is cultivated by conservatives and their friends, and those that just like to mock a guy that might be rivaled by a woman. The only way he'd be worried, or the media would get excited about the story is if she might run for the presidency. She isn't going to do that. I'd be worried if he was pushing ahead with a grand progressive list of programs and she could block him. He isn't

Finally, he loves himself. It is mostly crap. If the president is not out and talking, he's hiding from questions. He comes out to talk, he's overexposed and not working. Another no win in the media. One way it is a concern is in how he and the White House do there work from here on out. Are they more concerned about looking above it all? Do they want to be seen firstly as bipartisan, or nonpartisan.

And as AMERICAblog notes, they risk being a group that thinks they are the smartest kids in class, and you should just go away and have a juice box while they work. That would not be good. There was a brain trust with Kennedy and Johnson that just dug themselves a huge hole in Vietnam. Worth remembering.

Planet Hulk

I just learned that next February they are releasing a new Marvel animated DVD detailing the adventures of the Hulk chronicled in the Planet Hulk storyline. IN essence he got tricked and exiled by his friends. They sent him to an isolated and quiet planet, but he goes off course, ending up on a SciFi/Fantasy blend world. Weakened at first he is taken as a slave and gladiator. Hulk does like it when you treat him wrong...

The DVD looks to do a pretty good job retelling the rise of the Hulk.

What about transparency?

Obama made promises about increased transparency during the campaign and has not been as quick as liked to engage in it in many areas. And many of us are not happy with this. But the Reps have worked hard to just harp on this. When the Stimulus Bill was on the floor Rep. Boehner just pitched a fit over the bill not being online and available long enough (even taking the bill and slamming it on the floor like a whiny 5 year old). Then with health care they have done the same, even as the bill was online and available to be reviewed.

But now that transparency is not in there's different.

...Republicans shot down an effort today by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) to post proposed amendments to the health care reform bill online for before a vote. That would effect how many amendments the GOP could offer in hopes of gumming up the works, so they refused to go along. ...

Planes, Trains, and...oh, no trains?

TPM looks at the Center for Public Integrity work on a project to show the affect of the lobbying over the new rail projects across the U.S.
...The danger, as they see it, is that lobbying cash and congressional barons will ensure that the money is divvied out into so many different places and on to so many different projects that nothing of any real consequence -- in terms of technology or transformative infrastructure will end up getting done at all.

You know I am a realist and know deals are made and it is part and parcel of politics. But at this point with the troubles and the need to get so many of these projects going and done...we really need to cut this crap.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving posts and flying turkeys

A couple of good posts on this day.

TPM: Top 10 Wild And Wacky Political Voices -- For Whom We're All Very Thankful. From Palin to Foxx.

Crooks and Liars: The Turkeys of Thanksgiving Future: What would a President Palin turkey pardon look like?


"As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

Thanksgiving Traditions

I hope everyone is having a pleasant Thanksgiving Day (in the U.S. For some reason the rest of the world doesn't want to celebrate or holiday as set by down by our presidents...I mean, don't we all celebrate Guy Fawkes Night in the U.S.? Or all of the Dias del los Muertos?).

Juan Cole has done a bit of digging into the origins and traditions of this day. Classic Americana.
When we used to do Thanksgiving as cross-dressing and insulting authority...

... Thanksgiving in the nineteenth century in some parts of the country was a combination of Eddie Izzard (cross-dressing), Lady Gaga (wild costumes and breaking conventions)...
Now doesn't that sound like being worth a gander? The tale of old school all American revelry.

Where will the reform bills take us?

TPM has another look at analysis of where meager half-assed reform may take us...Will it just be a place for insurers to dump the sick?

Catholic Church, always doing the lord's work

Crooks and Liars has an interesting look at the trouble that Catholics have had in politics due to perceptions that they were not loyal first to the Constitution. And also how Bishop Tobin, as he does his media charm offensive, is just making those old fears seem strangely prescient. Bishops trying to give walking orders to legislators is just not a good look with a cassock. Catholic politicians have come a long way to the point of the 3 Kennedy brothers, among others. He seems fine to play a part in being the caricature now.

Also of note are the large amounts of monetary support the Church is giving...survivors of pedophilia?...oh, no, to campaigns against same-sex marriage. This is the Church that is shutting down parishes. This is the Church that often claims poverty when victims of it appear, or challenge them in court, or when, in one example, a woman has a child with a priest and needs help and the church just doesn't have the funds (but does have real estate, nice clothes, cars, nice watches, etc, etc.).


See how far the Church reaches, with compassion, to defend marriage? See the ends they go for there brethren? See how far they reach for harmed or endangered children?

TV: About the Gays

Ah, the liberal media.

Now apparently we just had one of those awards shows on the TV, this one for music. Who care. I don't. But as part of them you get to see some of the top artist do what they do best (in theory). Among those that performed at this particular awards show was one Adam Lambert (formerly of American Idol). I am guessing his career is going well, and this was a chance to show his craft.

Good for him. Bad for him though is the fact that he apparently, as part of the show showed affection to others on stage. That's not new, but it was...another man. That is beyond the pale. Remember Madonna and Britney Spears kissing? Remember the horror? Remember it being blotted from memory and records? No? Seen it on TV or in a magazine some time, or numerous times since?

Guess what, it isn't the same here. No. A dude kissed another dude. That breaks dude law, totally. So what happen...beyond the disgust at all the dirtiness.

ABC's morning show had Lambert booked to come on and play. Guess who was no longer welcome at ABC?

But then CBS snatched him up for there morning show. Guess what they did, as a bold progressive voice? They blurred the image of the kiss. But it is a morning show, they were careful...oh, they showed the Madonna/Spears kiss without a second thought, unedited?


What's the message there?

Seeing as I'm cheezed at the prez

So back to the half measure Obama has seemed to take so far.

What are we getting out of the White House...

But first let me stress that, yes, we are not a year in yet. No, I don't expect the moon, nor a unicorn for Christmas. But things were said last year, speeches were made, and a lot of talk about hope and making tough decision and being committed. Where the fuck has this taken up so far? Where is his campaign trail passion and fire?

AMERICAblog notes what I was saying, he seems to be all about the compromise.
...A lot of the criticism of this president has been over his willingness to cave on a promise at the drop of a hat, even when he holds some pretty damn good cards....
Why does he seem so adverse to political risk? He seemed eager to face it last year.

Look at health care reform. They don't want it to be messy. They sit on there hands for months. Only when things are about to fall apart and say...something. They say don't care about a public option, then say it is valuable, then say it is not important, then say it isn't key, then say...I am not sure where the White House is standing now.

Then there is the attitude that seems to permeate much of the White Houses actions, and what Dem leadership is saying. They seem quite adept at telling bloggers, grass root types, legislators, and other eager liberals to just go and shut it. Go after teabaggers, shut it. Criticize Lieberman, shut it. Put out ads to try and push blue dogs on health care, shut it.

This has actually been position of the Obama team since last year, if you remember. But it didn't keep any of us quiet. And it seems they still do not want the additional rhetoric, nor do they wish to acknowledge any of the impact it has had. Impact on the media discourse, and, of course, as pressure on him to take stands, speak up, or not think he is working carte blanche.

Look how at how many of the supporting groups from last year have been treated.
...Women are pissed because the White House didn't seem very worried about throwing them overboard in the health care reform bill. Gays are pissed for about 40 reasons, including the President's defense of anti-gay laws in court (and his lawyers' unfortunate comparison of gay marriage to incest and pedophilia - oops). Civil Libertarians are ticked that he flip-flopped on his support for domestic spying. Health care advocates are outraged that President Obama seems to have forgotten all the health care promises that Candidate Obama made. Everyone is ticked about the genuflecting to Wall Street that seems to take place on a daily basis. And so on. ...
Before Stupak got placed in the House Health Care bill, the White House assured NARAL that it would keep reproductive rights protected, if they would not cause trouble during the creation of the bill. NARAL agreed, kept its people out of the way. And look what we got. Where was the White House? Did the Prime Directive suddenly come into play and they needed to just not interfere?

And now we seem to be sending 30,000 to 36,000 additional forces into Afghanistan. Slightly less than what was asked for, but not a withdrawal either.

What does this mean? Interesting question. If it falls to pattern so far. We are sending them in as being enough to complete the plan that the 40,000 (originally 80,000) were wanted for. Namely to seed them in the mountain region in isolated groups to fight. A crappy plan.

But perhaps, they have a new innovative plan that needs fewer and pushes this conflict towards some resolution. That would be nice. Because up to this point, over the past several years we have had jack shit for a plan. Fight the Taliban. Fight the terrorist. Secure the capitol. Build roads. Destroy opium fields. Send drones into Pakistan. Do you see a problem here? Where is the end goal? How long did the Soviets do much of this before packing it in? Why? They were trying to hold and subjugate, and it didn't stick. We are trying the same, with a nicer face. We need a newer, realer, plan now. Because now we are just throwing Americans into harms way for little real return.

So I await Obama's speech next week. What will it be? A plan? Because I don't fucking need a lofty speech about our international aspirations and hopes. No soaring rhetoric about a commitment, expect towards a real ends. I need to now what we are going to do to resolve are involvement over there. No more just cutting down the middle commit to a result and accept the risk of not being lauded for it. I need some fucking leadership to start emanating from the White House. Take some stands. Engage supporters, the country.

I don't consider myself much of an idealist. I am a pessimistic bastard. But what are the White Houses goals for the first term? Get a second one?

And media joins in...

IN an earlier post I noted Limbaugh and Beck were eager to go after Sen. Landrieu as a hooker for making a deal for Louisiana to ensure her vote. It was cheap, and completely predictable from those two.

But wait, now the media wants in to. Not the radio side chat lot, but the legit know, the one that bloggers are too far beneath and so much more immature then.

Mark Halperin of Time magazine on his The Page blog at Time, a picture of Landrieu with her hair stuck up in the air akin to a well known image of Cameron Diaz in the movie There's Something About Mary. In the film the hair is at an odd angle due to accidentally getting semen in her hair. It is a cheap, but well remembered joke from the movie, and Halperin applying now, while discussing her dealing over her vote seems to dovetail quite nicely into the Beck and Limbaugh sensibilities.

It's cheap, ill thought, and really reminds one of all the crappy analysis and digs he has been taking for the past few years. He feels more symptomatic than accidental.

Look at the attitude he strikes when sitting around on set with Joe Scarborough. His and Joe's analysis of the president come down to this...he's acting too liberal. He's all so polarizing. That's right, too liberal. How many liberals do they actually think that he's been remotely liberal in his work this year? Apparently compromising is too liberal. Doing stimulus as a half measure is liberal, not fighting to get even a public option is liberal, and sending additional forces to Afghanistan is just liberal. Apparently Obama is forcing Reps to demagogue. This is his analysis. This is the analysis I expect from Charles Krauthammer or William Kristol, not an actual serious journalist.

Pathetic all around, Halperin.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

So it is okay for Limbaugh to say this stuff?

Limbaugh loves the inflammatory comments. Like his latest, quipping that soldiers at West Point could detain Obama when he goes to speak next week. Charming. But he keeps making these comments.

As a matter of free speech he can say what he wants and be the desiccated shriveled bit he is deep down inside. But isn't he still carried on Armed Forces Radio to this day? How are his constant attacks, denouncements, and now suggestions of a Seven Days in May type coup acceptable? (And it is hard to see if he, Beck, or Palin see themselves in the Burt Lancaster role.)

Is he still on that radio service? If he is, he needs to be off it now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

150 years

It is time for another anniversary.

It's been 150 years since the publishing of Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.

Here are some looks at what happen today.

Snarky Trek Video Reviews

SF Debris has some snarky and fun looks at the range of Star Trek that has come out. Some are textual and others are video reviews.

Here is a taste of some of them.

Star Trek
Space Seed

The Wrath of Khan - Part 1

The Wrath of Khan - Part 2

The Wrath of Khan - Part 3

The Wrath of Khan - Part 4

The Next Generation
The Outrageous Okona - Part 1

The Outrageous Okona - Part 2

Deep Space Nine
In the Pale Moonlight


The Caretaker - Part 1

The Caretaker - Part 2

Shuttlepod One

CNN wishes to welcome the Republican overlords.

If you keep an eye on the media and/or the RNC you will have heard about the upheaval in the RNC. Particularly in their communications teams, where the Senior Communications Advisor has left. Well in the wake of this event they have called up one Alex Castellanos to take on the role. You may remember him as a regular mouthpiece on CNN throughout the day. He is a Republican mouthpiece, as well as he works with the Chamber of Commerce and the Health Insurance Plans. In all three roles he is called on or paid to attack the presidents agenda, particularly health care.

But now that he is with the RNC, he is leaving CNN. I mean, he is an active official higher up operative of the core of one of this nation's two main political parties. If anything that is a line that can't be crossed and still serve as a constant, and generally unquestioned, voice on CNN. Right? NO. So CNN wants the talk radio people off, except when they do, to get in some more thoughtful conversations, and independent analysis, like with communications advisor for the RNC, or Orly Tates. Great.

So, yes, CNN only wishes to welcome their new overlords.

On the treatment of women

FOX News and the rest of the conservative mouths have been trying, since the entrance of Palin on to the national stage, to sell the idea that liberals are mean to, and just don't care for, women.

Laughable, yes. But they have also been trying to claim they are the defender of current social programs, civil rights, and actually the one that passed the Civil Rights Act (arm in arm with Martin Luther King, Jr,).

So when they see Palin facing criticism they scream. It's unfair to say she is not qualified, not intellectually engaged, or or acts vapid. Why not? We mostly said the same of the last president as we saw he swagger around, make stupid comments, and just seem board with his job too often.

Now to be fair there is unfair treatment. Mocking her looks is cheap. And the way Ann Coulter is gone after for ridiculous allegations that she is not a women. It is stupid, insulting, and beneath anyone who wants to claim they are in the process of making serious arguments. The same with Limbaugh a cracks at his enormous gut. They all have so much wrong with their ideas, words, and actions. It would take lifetime to go through a critique of just their personal attitudes and claims. But it is easy to just make mockery of the other sort. And I see plenty of that online, and sometimes in the media. Olbermann had a bad habit of making comments about women's looks, but I think I have not heard him dip into that depth in awhile.

But as the link above points to, you can see all the nastiness FOX throws at women that are Dems.

And just recently Limbaugh and Beck have found a new one. Calling a female senator who deals to get support for her state a hooker. Classy Beck. Lieberman is blocking reform for all the money being passed straight to him, not his state. Yet he is not going to be tarred with this epitaph, is he? Certainly not in any media stop on any network where he makes his obstructionist arguments.

Palin is challenged over her seriousness, and she quits jobs, does some social networking, and tours with a book that's 90% vindictiveness. Her acts day after day speak volumes. Senator from LA does as legislators do (for good or ill) and get aid for her state's citizens, and that is a unique and shocking act of prostitution. Tell me what, Beck. How about the Reps that added money for their communities in the Stimulus Bill or in Health Care (Like Orrin Hatch and the money that is going to go to the Christian Scientist), and then vote against it. What's that make them?

What's that make them, Beck?