Saturday, January 31, 2009

Anyone have a conspiracy?

Brian Dunning on skepticblog looks at the latest of conspiracies. In this case involving the flight that went down in the Hudson River.

In looking at it you can see the classic claims placed on a somewhat commonplace moment, an emergency landing. As it is the plane went down, and a competent pilot and crew kept it in one piece, and then ushered everyone off admirably, then local rescuers and boats swooped in with due diligence. It isn't a miracle, and, so far, no evidence shows a mystery.

Yet people will have you believe it is a lie, it is a trick, and it didn't happen. Why? Not to worry that will appear. Really, if you look at conspiracies they build up in amazingly twisted ways.

It is sad.

Getting it right on Darwin.

I was in Barnes and Noble the other day and noticed the cover of National Geographic.

Unlike New Scientist, NGM actually gets it right.

What Darwin Didn't Know

Says it all? Darwin had limited access to data, and resources in his time. And he did not have his and other contemporaries work to start from. What a measured approach. Learn something New Scientist, hmm?

Submit...Submit....No, just the women.

Kathryn Joyce on Alternet has taken a look at a creepy new movement to "make things right" in our culture.

This October, more than 6,000 women gathered in Chicago for the True Woman Conference ’08: a stadium-style event to promote what its proponents call “biblical womanhood,” "complementarianism,” or -- most bluntly -- “the patriarchy movement.”


The Associated Baptist Press explains the relationship of biblical womanhood to feminism, highlighting an ambitious initiative that arose from the meeting: a signature drive seeking 100,000 women to endorse its “True Woman Manifesto,” which, the ABP writes, aims “at sparking a counterrevolution to the feminist movement of the 1960s.”

To outside observers of the patriarchy movement, the starkness of the calls for gender hierarchy often seem amusingly outdated (not to mention historically misleading: feminist blogs Feministing and Pandagon have deftly dismantled some of the speakers’ Leave it to Beaver idealizations of the 1950s as a time when women were universally protected).

Though only just under 3,000 women have actually signed the document since its unveiling on October 11, the fact that it exists, and the campaign to gather such a large showing of public support, reveals something important about this movement: that its followers don’t view themselves simply as a remnant of polite, churchy women, holding out against a crass culture, but rather as a revolutionary body waging “countercultural” rebellion against what they see as the feminist status quo.


The terms of the manifesto (downloadable here) serve as a good shorthand description of the aims and principles of the submission and patriarchy movement. Signers affirm their belief that women and men were designed to reflect God in “complementary and distinct ways”; that today’s culture has gone astray distinctly because of its egalitarian approach to gender (and that it’s “experiencing the consequences of abandoning God’s design for men and women”); and that while men and women are equally valuable in the eyes of God, here on earth they are relegated to separate spheres at home and in the church.

The “countercultural” attitudes that signers support include the idea that women are called to affirm and encourage godly masculinity, and honor the God-ordained male headship of their husbands and pastors; that wifely submission to male leadership in the home and church reflects Christ’s submission to God, His Father; that “selfish insistence on personal rights is contrary to the spirit of Christ”; and, in a pronatalist turn of phrase that recalls the rhetoric of the Quiverfull conviction, their willingness to “receive children as a blessing from the Lord.”

Finally, in a reference to the importance of woman-to-woman mentoring within the conservative church, they affirmed that “mature Christian women” are obliged to disciple the next generation of Christian wives, training them in matters of submission and headship, in order to provide a legacy of “fruitful femininity.”


And with that I am skeeved out. I can't help but imagine the guys in this church being big time fans of Gor.

And the business of women having there own, separate, place in the church should bring a smile to Rick Warren's face.

And some people claim feminist speaking out is unnecessary.

FINALLY, returning to the fight

Atheist Experience:

The first step in de-moronizing the Texas State Board of Education has begun. In past years the Democrats have ill-advisedly ignored the SBOE, preferring more high-profile races in Texas politics. But with the current board overrun by anti-science creationist wackaloons who are turning the entire state into fodder
for late-night comedians
, the Dems are finally extracting craniums from rectums and realizing that the neocon theocrats cannot be allowed to gang-rape the education of an entire generation of Texas students.


So at long last Dem's are returning to take on the duties of fixing TX education. It is long overdo. There is a need for better leadership in decisions for books, courses, etc. Time for Texans to act and get these people on the board...for the children.

It's good to be the reverend

We have heard a lot of Warren and Haggard. They have been put down. But look what else they get. Haggard was caught with meth and a male prostitute and eventual lost his position. But his church covered as many of his sins as they could, including paying off a young man who Haggard had a relationship with.

For Warren, while he keeps women in there place and bars homosexuals from his church, he has had trouble with taxes. Now, for some reason, the clergy of America keep to deduct their housing expenses from taxes. But it is limited. This offended Warren, why should he have a limited tax deduction. Fair market value, pfffft. No he wanted to be given his whole salary as a housing expense, plus mortgage deductions beside, not internal to that. So he fought, bravely mind you. And he won. When the IRS went to appeal, things looked bad. The ninth circuit would even look at the validity of any tax break for clergy housing.

As noted in The Nation:


Seeking arguments on the constitutionality of the "parsonage exemption," as it was called, the Ninth Circuit panel appointed Erwin Chemerinsky as a friend of the court. At the time, Chemerinsky was teaching law at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles; today he is dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine (and thus my colleague). Chemerinsky observed that the housing tax exemption applied only to "ministers of the gospel"--not to leaders of secular nonprofits engaged in humanitarian work. He noted that the rule was established in 1954, at the height of the cold war, after a Congressman argued that "in these times when we are being threatened by a godless and antireligious world movement we should correct this discrimination against certain ministers of the gospel who are carrying on such a courageous fight against this foe." Chemerinsky concluded that the exemption represented an intentional government subsidy of religion, and thus it violated the First Amendment's establishment clause.


But Congress raced in and unanimity enacted the The Clergy Housing Allowance Clarification Act of 2002. This put down better rules to help the clergy and ended the case and the potential risk to clergy. Thanks Congress. 2002 this was a priority?


Religious denominations from Reform Jews to Southern Baptists expressed their support for the exemption. But their goal was preserving their own exemptions in the future, not defending Warren's past tax returns. The bill could have established the "reasonable" standard the IRS sought for the exemption without letting Warren off the hook. Or Congress could have waited to see what the courts would decide about the constitutionality of the exemption before acting on it.


So a famous pastor gets in a bind and the whole of Congress acts. For a guy who was looking to sneak as much money passed the IRS. If a rich guy like him did that on Wall Street we would boo. We should boo Warren to, as well for all the other crap he flings.

America's religious leaders.

EDIT: I somehow had then renamed Haggard. It is fixed now.

Family Planning and Stimulus

It has been interesting to watch the hissy fits over the stimulus bill and family planning. As mentioned earlier Christopher Matthews followed the Christian Defense Coalition line about it taking lives away and making us like China. Others asked why it was there? This is a bill to spur jobs. And while it will do it to an extent, it is not as critical as others. So wile some have criticized newsreaders for questioning it, I was not as sure. That seems to be the narrative winning out in the MSM. This bill is for jobs, and that is it. Period. Really. Despite the fact the president has said repeatedly that it is not...That in a moment.

First, it is annoying to note how we are measuring job creation, "infrastructure." Nice word. What does it mean? To a lot of people it is the image of the road crew, out jack hammering, digging, and layering cement or asphalt, in your mind how many women do you see? When we are talking about putting America to work, do we just mean one part of it? If you look back to the New Deal, there were jobs to go around to men and women, to people of different skills. But we say infrastructure and a lot of people how only a certain group of people in mind. Women, white collar, tech sector, as well need to be put to work. But for some like Matthews it may just not stir the leg enough.

Back to family planning. They put up a fight on the grounds of job growth, but if you do listen and read to the presidents words, he is interested in hitting a number issues beyond jobs, including offering assistance to those that are struggling through this period. And that is where family service is invaluable. But they see it as a harm, they even have Limbaugh mocking Pelosi to further their point, not that that is new. Dem's have conceded on this, so it came out.

People are mad about this. But the president has tried to reassure people. It isn't over. Perhaps as early as next week we should see another bill dealing with health care that will include it. The fight continues and their chief argument will be gone, and they will have to fallback to their old ones.


Feminsting notes the SCHIP expansion. It has passed finally in the Senate. Took long enough, thanks to Bush.

Of course this is also an example that Republicans are trotting out now of how those mean Democrats won't let them get into some bills and turn them into pig;s brunches before voting on them. I mean, how unfair. How else are they going to sabotage health care for children, or support for those suffering in this economic wilderness we are in? Meanies.

Steele at the RNC

Michale Steele is the new head of the RNC. So a guy who onced pretended he was a Democrat to try and get votes is in charge of the RNC. Good for them.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Since voting against stimulus for the country the Republicans seem determined to party. Apparently trying and failing to block aid, while offering up mist and vapors as an alternative is great. And I do mean that, as TPM notes the numbers they are using to attack and claim a better plan is ridiculous. And I have enjoyed the idea that some have pointed to apparent tax hikes in their plan. Yeah, celebrate a crappy plan of your own and general inaction and whining. I have a feeling inaction and whining are going to be growing traits for you.

Bipartisanship means not having to admot your not in power.

What is it about losing an election that has no bearing on Republican attitudes. Heck, they get worse. The president adds tax cuts, and they complain that there is too much spending and not enough tax cuts. Then he pulls out some spending they oppose and they complain and also mention the lack of tax cuts.

But the media is no help, to the president. Halperin who is too in love with the Republicans ideas, seems to see the president as a failure and far too partisan. Apparently not bending over backwards to kiss his own backside is a sign of being too rigid for Halperin, and others in the media. As John King and Chuck Todd have implied that the president needs a huge level of Republican consent to lead, or else.

I have to agree with the thinking on Crooks and Liars:


President Obama and the entire Democratic Congress were elected by the American people to change the direction our country is headed since conservatives have ruined our economy and most everything else under George Bush and the Republican led Congress. Villagers always fall back to their favorite term to smear liberals with. "Centrism." Only Democrats are supposed to be centrist in the minds of many Villagers, but never Republicans. Conservatives are the grownups and the left are dirty f*&king hippies who just want to trash the White House.

Listening to Mark Halperin in this clip should explain why blogs like C&L have gotten so popular. The Villagers are going to destroy this country. They helped Bush get elected over Gore, they led cheers for the Iraq war, and now they are supporting the Republican party at a time when this country faces a tremendous crisis.

Time and again. Dems need to concede on security, the military, the economy, leadership. Again and again, the presumption put forward by the media is that Dems don't know what they are doing and need the dad's in the Rep to lead and show the way. What is wrong with the media?

Obama wants the Republican input, to consider a range of ideas. But much of the media seems intent on selling the Republican approach. Bad media.

Not helping the debate.

As PZ Myers has noted, New Scientist has a new cover out.
It isn't helping anyone...that isn't a creationist.
This cover is going to be crowed over, copied, and sent around.
So, thanks New Scientist.
Still, if one actually reads the article it, as should be obvious, points to the need and reality that Darwin's work has been, challenged, changed, corrected, and surpassed in the years since, now, and in the future. It may well be worth the read for you, but the cover is going to give us all headaches for years to come.


Hard not to be pleased to have the Ledbetter Act finally passed and signed.

Oh, the media

Some have noticed that the media been getting a bit more pissy. When they weren't allowed in CNN acted as if there was no media coverage of the second swearing in. This in spite of the camera and four newspeople allowed in. But they weren't there, nor was a video camera, so it doesn't count. And as the fight about stimulus has grown the media is strangely enamored of the Republican argument, one reader on CNN in the morning seemed to be getting downright livid about the state of tax cuts.

What's worse Matthews seems to be suffering relapses. As has been cited, he noted for two days how horrible family planning was.
Matthews: I don't know. It sounds a little like China. I, Congressman Gingrey I think everybody should have family planning. Everybody believes in birth control as a right. I'm for abortion as a right and all that. It's all right. But why should the federal government have a policy of reducing the number of births? I don't know why the federal government has an interest in that. They have an interest in freedom and people making choices but I just heard a case made by Congressman Wexler that it was in the national interest to have fewer kids. I don't understand that. (crosstalk) What did you mean by that? What did you mean by that? Why is it an economic stimulus...why are we talking about family planning as an economic stimulus program...(crosstalk).

Wexler tries to talk about education and assistance to families in need of information and help and all Matthews sees is baby killers...not that he is opposed to birth control or abortion It's just family planning...kills babies... And what really annoys me is that they were in a discussion of spending and he jumped on this bit and would not let it go, then came back to it the next day. As was noted, the line about China comes write out of the works of the Christian Defense Coalition, who have decided that this topic is both racist and elitist. Way to pick sources Christopher.

None of this is helped by the notable lack of Democrats on the news. The trend has been to have Republicans and conservative thinkers and pundits on in far greater numbers. So when the R's ruled they were on the air, when the D's rule...why change things. Nice.

And sadly the rule of the hissy fit reigns, so the Republicans must be listened to and be right, so says too much of the MSM. Couldn't the newsreaders at least go on air without memorizing and using the latest Republican talking point fax? Come on. Particularly when it is easy to see how many of there numbers are being pulled from their collective ass.

Being on the left.

Juan Williams often is called one of the leftist voices on FOX News.

Feministing looked earlier at some comments he made about Michelle Obama.
WILLIAMS: -- she's got this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going. If she starts talking, as Mary Katharine suggested, her instinct is to start with this "blame America," you know, "I'm the victim." If that stuff starts to come out --

That is the liberal thought on, can we all agree Juan Williams is not a liberal voice. I liked him back in the NPR days, he was pleasant to listen to on Talk of the Nation, but since he has been on FOX, he's not sounding so sweet. He's gotten shriller and almost seems to parrot O'Reilly. But a lot of people seem to go to FOX and it just does not have a positive affect on them.

I ain't afraid of no ghost...oh yes I am!!!

Dr. Novella looks at an interesting point that has long bugged the hell out of me.

As far as I know the mortality rate due to ghosts is zero. There are no credibly documented cases of anyone being injured or killed by a ghost. Besides - they are supposed to be immaterial, so how could they harm you? They might make you a bit chilly, or give you a severe case of the willies, but that’s it. I suppose they could frighten a weak-hearted person to death, in which case all we have to fear is fear itself.


And this is a common thing seen in the TV "reality" shows about ghosties. I understand the average person being jumpy with they saw something odd, it is a surprise, unexpected. But these shows...they jump, scream, and run. Granted they don't do it as much on Ghost Hunters, but it happens a little (Especially it was notable when they were in Europe with that Irish idiot, who was always running around panicked.). But on most shows they scream and run all over the place. They are trying, allegedly to gather evidence, and delve into the mystery, yet when their is a "physical manifestation" they bolt (I am looking you Ghost Adventures, bug brave guys yipping over bumps in the night, snakes, and prairie dog holes.). The moment they may be on the cusp of success they just quit it.

It comes off as kids playing pretend and getting themselves overexcited. Kids telling stories by flashlight, or by a fire. They try to act like adults, but... Maybe that is why I can almost find Most Haunted amusing. It is so ridiculous, it is hard to believe they want you to take it serious. But it is a silly. A video error is a ghost, a speck of dust is a ghost, a crack on an audio recording...a ghost!!!

As Novella notes, their is one hospital that has people claiming it is haunted and an exorcist is being called in. A place of medicine and science doing this. So psychologist around they could talk with? But we see this again and again, like in New Orleans after Katrina, the military brought in priests, for the buildings.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


New era

As has been noted on some sites. Check out the updates to

Change has come. Revitalizing. Welcome. It's a new era, with new images and ideas.

Sworn in and speaking up

(from CNN)

He's taken the oath. We know have a new president, Pres. Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th executive of these United States.

And he has spoken to the nation, and we have troubles, and we have work to do.


Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.


TPM has the speech up for reading.

New Day

It is a new day. Just one hour until the United States has its next change of leadership, the next presidency will begin. The city is filling up as a write this, and the mall is packed, the stars are in, and the President-Present and President- Soon-To-Be are walking into the capitol.

It is a new day. And hope and eagerness is in the air.

A lot of hard work will be needed. But today we all get some excitement and joy. Along with some long needed relief and contentment that some bad things have passed.