Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bush is determined to reshape Iraq in his image. This includes, of course, inserting American propaganda into their newspapers without any recognition.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I came across this most intriguing website that provides dummy accounts to subscription-only websites, such as the New York Times or Chicago Tribune. Felt like spreading the joy.
From Professor Myers, I find the website Fundies Say the Darndest Things. Professor Myers quotes some gems:

  • On evolution:
    god exists because evolution would have given me eyes in the back of my head if there really were such a thing.

  • In a similar vein, on genetics:
    What strikes me as odd that is, given the current state of genetics, no one has compared simian dna to homo sapien. The differences should be obvious and radical.

  • And in the comments of the post that introduced Professor Myers to this website, a close second favorite of mine about cows:
    "Did you know that all bulls are males? How can these bulls mate to have more bulls? It's your funeral evolutionists. Admit evolution is a pathetic fantasy created by scientists because they can't accept God."

    Eternal, Internet Infidels

    "[After being told 'they mate with cows, you idiot']

    Then, why don't the bulls that are born have some bull like features and cow spots? If a bull mates with a cow, wouldn't you get a female eventually? Evolution is dead water."

    Eternal, Internet Infidels

  • And my favorite, astronomy:
    One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn't possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it.

  • [Edit] Oooh... someone pointed out one in comments that may just top the above one:
    "[A series of posts submitted collectively]

    [Page 1]
    Note: Humans are mammals - not animals

    [Page 2]
    When you can show me an animal (that are not mammal) that its milk is produced by modified sweat glands called 'mammary' glands and have a diaphragm (which is a shelf of muscle extending across the bottom of the ribcage).

    If you can produce this animal (not mammal) then I'll consider your logic.. Until such time mammals are not animals..

    [Another post]
    This is what the evolutionists are reduced to Dion.. Debating whether mammals are animals.. Anyone that spends 5 sec in the dictionary and reads any science literature conclude mammals are not animals..

    [After someone mentions just going to a dictionary to seeKingdom Animalia includes mammals]
    Now Laoldar says "Kingdom Animalia" include mammals

    Lets go to the dictionary Animalia
    taxonomic kingdom comprising all living or extinct animals [syn: Animalia, kingdom Animalia, animal kingdom] Do you see mammals listed?.. Didn't think so
    Nobody in science would conclude mammals are animals - except atheists to push they're agenda and a few evolutionists trying to cover-up Darwin's error..

    [Page 5]
    Kingdom Animalia, just like any other word or phrase (such as God, or God's kingdom) is only valid for those that believe in it..

    [Another post]
    Oh, I see.. this is the same as motor vehicles (as Kingdom Animalia), under that comes trucks (as mammals) and motorcycles (as animals)"

The White House has a "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq"!, over two years after starting the damn war.
Amanda at Pandagon says:

That in mind, it's getting harder and harder to believe the abstinence-only crowd isn't as worried about teenagers suddenly having sexual urges they didn't have before so much as they are worried about the prevalence of people like me and probably most of the readership here--sexually active folks who don't suffer needlessly.

She also mentions two amusing events in that vein. One an anecdote concerning high schoolers in Tennessee, and the other a billboard that just has to be seen to be believed....
So... is there a single GOP official who isn't involved in an ethical/legal brouhaha?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

White House claims 'strong consensus' on Iraq pullout

By which they mean "That thing the Democrats have been pestering us to do for a while, pulling out of Iraq? Our idea all along. They're copycats."

The White House has for the first time claimed ownership of an
Iraq withdrawal plan, arguing that a troop pullout blueprint unveiled this past week by a Democratic senator was "remarkably similar" to its own.


Even though President George W. Bush has never publicly issued his own withdrawal plan and criticized calls for an early exit, the White House said many of the ideas expressed by the senator were its own.

I'm not sure whether that's chutzpah or a desperate hope that nobody in the country has a memory longer than thirty minutes. Cause if they do, they might remember Bush proclaiming that they won't "cut and run".
The most recent episode of Veronica Mars involved a gay student who went to a reparative therapy camp. I find this interesting.

...what? Did you expect more bloviation?
Kansas University introduces another class that teaches Intelligent Design

Teaches that it's psuedoscience, not real science, that is.
A glimpse at the intelligent design of mankind

Saturday, November 26, 2005

On Thanksgiving, my step-brother, his girlfriend and I were discussing Harry Potter.

I raised the question of whether there are any Jewish students at Hogwarts. Every year they have a dozen giant Christmas trees, but no giant menorahs. Don't any of the students complain about discrimination? This led to us considering who at Hogwarts might be Jewish.

Benji suggested that if there were a giant menorah, it should be in Hagrid's window. He also thought Lockhart might be Jewish... I still don't get that. He also found very amusing the mental image of Shacklebolt, sitting stiffly at a typewriter in the Prime Minister's office, with a kippah on his head. But then again, Benji also thinks that Shacklebolt doesn't look like this; which is ridiculous. Of course Shacklebolt looks like that! Saying otherwise is like saying that Jason Carter wouldn't have made the perfect Sirius Black! He even looks like a Sirius.

I suggested Mad-Eye Moody was Jewish. It would explain his paranoia: "The Arabs are out to get me... the Christians are out to get me... the Muggles are out to get me... the Death Eaters are out to get me..." In that vain, Benji suggested Filch, saying it could contribute to his sense of persecution.

I also brought up my theory that the students at Hogwarts are pansies. They know the Summoning Charm, but what do they use it for? Fetching their brooms. Never fetching a Death Eater's heart (Ha! Let's see you hang onto that, Bellatrix!). And when surrounded by twenty Death Eaters, what do they use the Reductor Curse for? Blowing up bookshelves! Why not use it to blow up the Death Eaters? Or at the very least their wands!

These powers are wasted on those dull-witted, unimaginative ninnies! I could kill people so efficiently if I were them!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Evidence that I am... different

I turned 21 today.

Allegedly, this event is accompanied by a tradition of having 21 shots of alcohol.
(I know this only because it seems Purdue feels this tradition enough of a threat to its source of money as to send all who are about to turn 21 a birthday card warning them not to drink)

And I?

In addition to this, I spent today today in the library, looking through a roll of microfilm that I brought with me from home.

Clearly, I know how to party.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I am so fucking pissed off at this, I can barely unclench my mouth:

The state’s gay marriage panel will recommend that New Hampshire’s same sex couples be denied legal status, and be allowed only a minimum of the benefits available to married heterosexual couples, according to a draft report obtained by The Associated Press.

Representing the commission’s conservative majority, the draft concludes that same sex marriage is not a right, because homosexuality is a choice, not a genetic predisposition. The report’s authors also said the absence of any mention of gay marriage in New Hampshire’s history weakened proponents’ arguments for it.


The final version of the report, which is undergoing minor revisions, is to be released to the Legislature on Dec. 1.


The report’s authors, representing the majority views of Sen. Jack Barnes, Reps. Paul Brassard, Tony Soltani, Maureen Mooney, public member Jack Fredyma and former state Sen. Russell Prescott, acknowledge that it’s up to elected officials and the public to decide how same sex couples should be treated in New Hampshire. But they say gay marriage is not a civil rights issue, and has no similarity to the fight to legalize interracial marriage nearly 30 years ago.

"Race unlike sexual orientation is ... immutable and an innate characteristic and not something that is acquired and changeable," reads the draft report.

"Merry Christmas! You're perverted trash that don't deserve happiness!
We're going after those filthy kikes' marriages next."
A very interesting article. Many snippets:

Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

The information was provided to Bush on September 21, 2001 during the "President's Daily Brief," a 30- to 45-minute early-morning national security briefing. Information for PDBs has routinely been derived from electronic intercepts, human agents, and reports from foreign intelligence services, as well as more mundane sources such as news reports and public statements by foreign leaders.

One of the more intriguing things that Bush was told during the briefing was that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime. At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources.

The September 21, 2001, briefing was prepared at the request of the president, who was eager in the days following the terrorist attacks to learn all that he could about any possible connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda.


The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for the CIA assessment, the PDB of September 21, 2001, and dozens of other PDBs as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information in the run-up to war with Iraq. The Bush administration has refused to turn over these documents.

Indeed, the existence of the September 21 PDB was not disclosed to the Intelligence Committee until the summer of 2004, according to congressional sources. Both Republicans and Democrats requested then that it be turned over. The administration has refused to provide it, even on a classified basis, and won't say anything more about it other than to acknowledge that it exists.


The conclusions drawn in the lengthier CIA assessment-which has also been denied to the committee-were strikingly similar to those provided to President Bush in the September 21 PDB, according to records and sources. In the four years since Bush received the briefing, according to highly placed government officials, little evidence has come to light to contradict the CIA's original conclusion that no collaborative relationship existed between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

"What the President was told on September 21," said one former high-level official, "was consistent with everything he has been told since-that the evidence was just not there."

In arguing their case for war with Iraq, the president and vice president said after the September 11 attacks that Al Qaeda and Iraq had significant ties, and they cited the possibility that Iraq might share chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons with Al Qaeda for a terrorist attack against the United States.

Democrats in Congress, as well as other critics of the Bush administration, charge that Bush and Cheney misrepresented and distorted intelligence information to bolster their case for war with Iraq. The president and vice president have insisted that they unknowingly relied on faulty and erroneous intelligence, provided mostly by the CIA.

The new information on the September 21 PDB and the subsequent CIA analysis bears on the question of what the CIA told the president and how the administration used that information as it made its case for war with Iraq.


The most explosive of allegations came from Cheney, who said that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, the pilot of the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center, had met in Prague, in the Czech Republic, with a senior Iraqi intelligence agent, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, five months before the attacks. On December 9, 2001, Cheney said on NBC's Meet the Press: "[I]t's pretty well confirmed that [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in [the Czech Republic] last April, several months before the attack."

Cheney continued to make the charge, even after he was briefed, according to government records and officials, that both the CIA and the FBI discounted the possibility of such a meeting.

Credit card and phone records appear to demonstrate that Atta was in Virginia Beach, Va., at the time of the alleged meeting, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials. Al-Ani, the Iraqi intelligence official with whom Atta was said to have met in Prague, was later taken into custody by U.S. authorities. He not only denied the report of the meeting with Atta, but said that he was not in Prague at the time of the supposed meeting, according to published reports.


One reason that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld made statements that contradicted what they were told in CIA briefings might have been that they were receiving information from another source that purported to have evidence of Al Qaeda-Iraq ties. The information came from a covert intelligence unit set up shortly after the September 11 attacks by then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith.

Feith was a protégé of, and intensely loyal to, Cheney, Rumsfeld, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, and Cheney's then-chief of staff and national security adviser, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. The secretive unit was set up because Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Libby did not believe the CIA would be able to get to the bottom of the matter of Iraq-Al Qaeda ties. The four men shared a long-standing distrust of the CIA from their earlier positions in government, and felt that the agency had failed massively by not predicting the September 11 attacks.


At first, the Feith-directed unit primarily consisted of two men, former journalist Michael Maloof and David Wurmser, a veteran of neoconservative think tanks. They liked to refer to themselves as the "Iraqi intelligence cell" of the Pentagon. And they took pride in the fact that their office was in an out-of-the-way cipher-locked room, with "charts that rung the room from one end to the other" showing the "interconnections of various terrorist groups" with one another and, most important, with Iraq, Maloof recalled in an interview.

They also had the heady experience of briefing Rumsfeld twice, and Feith more frequently, Maloof said. The vice president's office also showed great interest in their work. On at least three occasions, Maloof said, Samantha Ravich, then-national security adviser for terrorism to Cheney, visited their windowless offices for a briefing.

But neither Maloof nor Wurmser had any experience or formal training in intelligence analysis. Maloof later lost his security clearance, for allegedly failing to disclose a relationship with a woman who is a foreigner, and after allegations that he leaked classified information to the press. Maloof said in the interview that he has done nothing wrong and was simply being punished for his controversial theories. Wurmser has since been named as Cheney's Middle East adviser.

Internal Pentagon records show not only that the small Pentagon unit had the ear of the highest officials in the government, but also that Rumsfeld and others considered the unit as a virtual alternative to intelligence analyses provided by the CIA.

On July 22, 2002, as the run-up to war with Iraq was underway, one of the Naval Reserve officers detailed to the unit sent Feith an e-mail saying that he had just heard that then-Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz wanted "the Iraqi intelligence cell … to prepare an intel briefing on Iraq and links to al-Qaida for the SecDef" and that he was not to tell anyone about it.


In a memorandum to Wolfowitz, Feith wrote: "The briefing went very well and generated further interest from Mr. Hadley and Mr. Libby." Both men, the memo went on, requested follow-up material, most notably a "chronology of Atta's travels," a reference to the discredited allegation of an Atta-Iraqi meeting in Prague.

In their presentation, the naval reserve briefers excluded the fact that the FBI and CIA had developed evidence that the alleged meeting had never taken place, and that even the Czechs had disavowed it.

The Pentagon unit also routinely second-guessed the CIA's highly classified assessments. Regarding one report titled "Iraq and al-Qaeda: Interpreting a Murky Relationship," one of the Naval Reserve officers wrote: "The report provides evidence from numerous intelligence sources over the course of a decade on interactions between Iraq and al-Qaida. In this regard, the report is excellent. Then in its interpretation of this information, CIA attempts to discredit, dismiss, or downgrade much of this reporting, resulting in inconsistent conclusions in many instances. Therefore, the CIA report should be read for content only-and CIA's interpretation ought to be ignored."


The Plame affair was not so much a reflection of any personal animus toward Wilson or Plame, says one former senior administration official who knows most of the principals involved, but rather the direct result of long-standing antipathy toward the CIA by Cheney, Libby, and others involved. They viewed Wilson's outspoken criticism of the Bush administration as an indirect attack by the spy agency.

Those grievances were also perhaps illustrated by comments that Vice President Cheney himself wrote on one of Feith's reports detailing purported evidence of links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. In barely legible handwriting, Cheney wrote in the margin of the report:

"This is very good indeed … Encouraging … Not like the crap we are all so used to getting out of CIA."

So there goes the whole "Iraq had ties to al-Qaida", "Congress had the same intelligence as the President", "it was the intelligence that was bad", "we didn't manipulate the intelligence", and most other bullshit talking points the right wing vomits forth.
A fascinating tidbit apparently hidden within a new scientific paper that will, I'm sure, delight my step-brother to no end:

This tasty bit of information involved monitor lizards, such as the Komodo dragon. The conventional wisdom has been that these lizards kill by infecting their prey with bactera during a bite, featured on many sites such as this one:

[The komodo dragon] can run as fast as a dog for short stretches and prey they merely injure are brought down shortly by the deadly bacteria in their mouths.

and this one:

[The komodo dragon's] saliva is not venomous, but the mouth of a Komodo dragon is so full of bacteria that a bite from one almost always leads to infection. If untreated, the infection is usually fatal.

Only thing is, it's wrong. I can't say how much bacterial infection plays a role in the killing of a komodo dragon's prey, but the research by Fry's group shows that indeed, these lizards are capable of producing venom, via previously undescribed venom glands. (Carl Zimmer has posted a figure from the Nature paper; the komodo dragon is in the Varanidae group).

Mighty Mice Regrow Organs

Mice discovered accidentally at the Wistar Institute in Pennsylvania have the seemingly miraculous ability to regenerate like a salamander, and even regrow vital organs.

Researchers systematically amputated digits and damaged various organs of the mice, including the heart, liver and brain, most of which grew back.

The next step for the scientists is fusing adamantium to their tiny mouse bones.

Monday, November 21, 2005

One-third of Britons blame rape on woman, study finds
Bush: "The whole world thought that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction!"

Right, I remember that's why France and Germany unilaterally invaded Iraq--wait.

Let's see what some foreign countries really thought:

  • Germany:

    The German intelligence officials responsible for one of the most important informants on Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction say that the Bush administration and the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during the run-up to the war in Iraq.

    Five senior officials from Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.

    According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball's information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also misstated Curveball's accounts in his prewar presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

    Curveball's German handlers for the last six years said his information was often vague, mostly secondhand and impossible to confirm.

  • Italy:

    Italian intelligence warned the United States about bogus information on Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions at about the time President Bush cited them as a crucial reason for invading Iraq, an Italian parliamentarian said yesterday.


    The Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi was and remains a key ally of the Bush administration. Italian intelligence has been linked to a dossier alleged to have been forged by an Italian that purported to show that Iraq had been seeking to buy uranium from Niger to make nuclear weapons.

    In his State of the Union address in January 2003 President Bush repeated a similar claim to bolster his case for war. "At about the same as the State of the Union address," Senator Brutti told reporters after listening to Gen Pollari's evidence, the Italian intelligence services "said that the dossier didn't correspond to the truth".

  • England:

    Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.


    It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.

"My honored mayor (may Allah bless him with sons in abundance) agrees that we must recognize and respect each other's ways.
He promises to respect your venerable custom to keep slaves."


"In return he trusts you'll respect our venerable custom to hang slavers wheresoever we find them."
More reasons not to use torture:

"If you talk to people who have been tortured, that gives you a pretty good idea not only as to what it does to them, but what it does to the people who do it," he said. "One of my main objections to torture is what it does to the guys who actually inflict the torture. It does bad things. I have talked to a bunch of people who had been tortured who, when they talked to me, would tell me things they had not told their torturers, and I would ask, 'Why didn't you tell that to the guys who were torturing you?' They said that their torturers got so involved that they didn't even bother to ask questions." Ultimately, he said -- echoing Gerber's comments -- "torture becomes an end unto itself."

Once I stumbled across a forum where somebody (possibly more than one bodies) were arguing that torture obviously works because we haven't given it up yet. Since people have been using it since the before recorded history, their reasoning went, that obviously showed that it was effective--otherwise we would have stopped using it. Which is true, to some degree--torture is very effective at what it does. What they apparently failed to understand, though, is that what torture does is force people to say what we want them to say, not give us good intelligence:

the Pentagon cannot point to any intelligence gains resulting from the techniques that have so tarnished America's image. That's because the techniques designed by communist interrogators were created to control a prisoner's will rather than to extract useful intelligence.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Jewish Leader Blasts 'Religious Right':

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, said "religious right" leaders believe "unless you attend my church, accept my God and study my sacred text you cannot be a moral person."

"What could be more bigoted than to claim that you have a monopoly on God?" he said during the movement's national assembly in Houston, which runs through Sunday.


Yoffie said liberals and conservatives share some concerns, such as the potential damage to children from violent or highly sexual TV shows and other popular media. But he said, overall, conservatives too narrowly define family values, making a "frozen embryo in a fertility clinic" more important than a child, and ignoring poverty and other social ills.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

An interesting article. Some excerpts:

In the early hours of Nov. 18, 1755, the most destructive earthquake ever recorded in the eastern United States struck at Cape Ann, about 30 miles north of Boston.


For Bostonians, the experience was unlike anything they had been through and their reactions varied widely. On the one side were a few who absorbed the experience with keen interest; as a natural phenomenon with natural causes. In this group were people like Adams and his favorite Harvard professor, John Winthrop, who gave a lecture on the science of earthquakes the following week.

To such people, the Cape Ann quake was an opportunity to learn something about a kind of event that was quite rare in their part of the world. While they knew nothing of plate tectonics and fault lines, the written accounts of these observers are replete with the sort of details that a modern seismologist would value. This was the reaction of men inspired by the still-new principles of natural philosophy, as science was called then, to believe that there were laws governing the operations of the world and that man could come to understand these laws through careful observation and reason.

The more typical mid-18th-century response to these kinds of events, however, was a desire to find supernatural explanations that while short on empirical detail, were usually long on ominous foreboding. To these folks earthquakes and hurricanes were simply just deserts for sins ranging from loose morals to having strayed from the true religion of their pilgrim forefathers.

The weeks after Nov. 18 saw an outpouring of sermons preached and articles published on the subject of the quake's divine origin. One strain of faith-based explanation, however, stands apart from the rest, not only for its popularity but also for its downright strangeness. According to a prominent Boston minister, the Rev. Thomas Prince of South Church, and his adherents, one novel practice in particular, together with its originator, was to blame for provoking this act of divine wrath; no, not that unlucky Boston distiller, but the lightning rod and its famous inventor, Benjamin Franklin.

It was a widespread belief in the 18th century that lightning was God's instrument of choice when manifesting his displeasure. In fact, it was a common practice to ring a town's church bells upon a storm's approach in an 11th-hour plea for mercy. To the grief of many a poor bell-ringer's widow, it was not a tactic that met with much success. But Franklin's idea of mounting pointed iron rods to the tops of tall buildings was so effective that their use quickly spread around the globe, making Franklin internationally famous two decades before he fixed his name to the Declaration of Independence.

And it was precisely the effectiveness of Franklin's invention that drew the blame of some in the city he had run away from at the age of 17. Lightning rods meddled with God's usual mode of reprimand, went this line of thinking, causing God to reach for another, more terrible weapon in his arsenal. "God shakes the earth because he is wroth," insisted Prince in a sermon he published soon after the quake. He warned his flock that the more lightning rods were erected around Boston, the more earthquakes would afflict the city as a result.

While not present at this sermon, Adams wrote that he heard idle talk of the "presumption of philosophers in erecting iron tods ... attempting to control the artillery of heaven," and dismissed it a drunken nonsense. For his part, Franklin was amused by the reaction. Why, he wryly asked, was it acceptable to build a roof to keep out the rain but blasphemy to place a rod upon the roof to keep out the lightning?

Survey Reveals Geographic Illiteracy

But hey, at least the U.S. is smarter than Mexico.

They have a sample survey available on-line, and I'm pleased to note that I got all the questions right (although some had to be by process of elimination). The on-line sample gives the questions in multiple-choice format, then the correct answer, and then a graph showing the percentage of people who got the question correct, based on nationality. They have data on nine countries: Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, and the U.S.

What's amazing is how many people got some of these questions wrong. Now, of course, I'd expect that for some of these--such as the locations of Afghanistan, India, or Argentina.

But the first question is "What is the current population of the United States?"

And only 1/4 of Americans know. Every other country on the survey scored better on that than we did.

The second question is "Which religion has the largest number of follows world-wide?" And I am stunned by the number of people who got it wrong. Mexico actually scored best (92%), with Italy second (73%) and the U.S. and Canada tying for third (62%).

Despite the fact that we waged two incompetent wars against the Taliban and al Qaida, not even 3/5 of Americans know which country they were based in. And less than half know "which organization endorses the euro as the common currency for its members".

I know I shouldn't be... but I'm still stunned by our amazing ignorance.

But I at least found this tidbit, um... vindicating? I'm not sure:

Americans who reported that they accessed the Internet within the last 30 days scored 65 percent higher than those who did not.

Chuck Norris was the fourth Wiseman. He brought baby Jesus the gift of "beard". Jesus wore it proudly to his dying day. The other Wisemen, jealous of Jesus' obvious gift favoritism, used their combined influence to have Chuck omitted from the Bible. Shortly after all three died of roundhouse kick related deaths.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Came across this post today, and this letter to the editor showed up in today's Exponent.

I still marvel at the idiocy of some people.
Another Republican idea with no basis in reality. I'm shocked:

Despite considerable opposition from lawmakers, including some within his Republican party, President George W. Bush seems determined to push ahead with plans to introduce further cuts in taxes for the rich, continuing to assert that it would create more jobs for the poor.

But the findings of a new study suggest that Bush's claim on job creation is based more on political rhetoric than actual facts related to the nation's economic realities.

"It's a great sound bite that unfortunately does not hold true in the real world economy," say authors of the report, entitled, "Nothing to Be Thankful For: Tax Cuts and the Deteriorating U.S. Job Market."

Changes in tax policy suggest no evidence of their impact on job creation or destruction, according to the 22-page study released Tuesday by United for a Fair Economy (UFE), an independent group that tracks the growing economic divide between the nation's haves and have-nots.

Since 1950, significant tax increases and decreases have both been followed by job losses and job gains, say the researchers.

Based on statistical analysis of changes in tax polices and rates of job growth in the past 60 years, the report points out that tax reduction does, however, disproportionately lead to economic disparity between the rich and poor.

"No workers have really benefited from President Bush's tax policy," says Gloribell Mota, a bilingual education specialist at UFE. "But Blacks and Latinos have suffered disproportionately."

The study shows that African American unemployment remains about twice as high as that of White workers. Moreover, it indicates no sign of growth in quality jobs (defined as paying at least 16 dollars per hour and including health benefits and a pension plan) for workers from any racial background, including Whites.

Last year, one million people fell below the poverty line, a disproportionate number of them children, while the number of billionaires rose to 374, the study says, adding that the number of people living in poverty rose from 11.3 percent in 2000 to 12.7 percent in 2004.

The study also shows that the percentage of American workers benefiting from employment-based health insurance was down from 63 percent in 2000 to less than 60 percent in 2004. This despite the fact that U.S. workers are spending more than 1800 hours per year at work while their counterparts in other technologically advanced nations work for 1600 hours a year--a difference of five full work weeks.

In June 2003, the Bush administration had claimed that the president's tax cut policy would create more than five million jobs by the end of 2004, but the study shows that only 2.6 million jobs were created--1.6 million less than what would have been expected without any special economic stimulus.

"Contrary to what President Bush and his policy makers are saying, tax cuts do not automatically create jobs," said Liz Stanton, director of research at UFE and co-author of the report.

"Their policy is bankrupt," she added. "It is time to recognize that jobs are both created and destroyed during times of tax decreases."

Stanton and other researchers say the weakening of job creation during an economic recovery such as the one currently being experienced by the country is "unprecedented since the First World War."

On Tuesday, Republicans tried hard to advance their tax cut plans, but failed to muster enough support in a Senate body to extend tax cuts for capital gains and dividends beyond their planned expiration in 2008.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 14-6 to endorse a package that would cut taxes by $80 billion over five years but would omit the administration's priority of preserving reduced tax rates for investment income.

Some Republicans who voted for the bill later indicated that they would try to reinstate the extension before the legislation is debated by the full Senate or signed by the president.

Meanwhile, critics of the administration's policies are wary that millions of Americans would not be able to participate in the national feast of Thanksgiving next week.

"This is because the multiple breadwinners each family needs these days don't have jobs," said Anisha Desai, co-author of the study. "Of those that do, many are not making enough money to pay for turkey and trimmings for everybody in the family."


Thursday, November 17, 2005

A breakthrough!

I think I finally know why we invaded Iraq!

Saddam -> Sodom -> Sodomy -> Lawrence v. Texas -> "State laws against... same-sex marriage... are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers' validation of laws based on moral choices"

We invaded Iraq to protect the institution of marriage!
I wasn't aware there was much of anything in Canada, much less a "rogue, corrupt and repressive" regime.
A while ago (July 25, it looks like), Rick Santorum appeared on The Daily Show as that day's guest. One of the topics that came up gay marriage. Here's an excerpt of the exchange, beginning around six minutes into the clip:

Stewart: But wouldn't you say that society has an interest in understanding that the homosexual community also wants to form those same bonds, and raise children, and wouldn't, uh... a monogamous, good-hearted, virtuous, homosexual couple be in society's best interests in raising a child rather than, uh... a-a heterosexual couple with adultery, with alcohol issues, with other things--? By the way, I don't even mean to make that sound as though a gay couple can only raise a child given failures in other couples.

Santorum: Well that's--you're, you're matching up best-case versus worst-case.

Which is the entire frigging point. Enacting a blanket ban on gay marriage is degrading in the same way that the Jim Crow laws were--it says that the best gay couple is not worth as much as even the lowliest straight couple.

Case in point:

I've seen some stupid people in my life, but this one just may take the cake. A woman in California was shot 4 times by her boyfriend. He and his family then held her hostage, refusing to take her to the hospital. The idiot who shot her happened to mention to a family friend that he was holding his critically wounded girlfriend to a family friend, and that friend called the police. The boyfriend was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but the idiot girlfriend wrote a letter to the judge asking him to go easy on the guy:

"I love Christian today as deeply as I loved him before this awful thing happened to us," Stebbins wrote in a victim impact statement. "We are soul mates."


And here's the kicker - the law would allow them to get married because they're straight, but gay couples who've been together for years and love one another - and, ya know, have never shot one another 4 times and held them hostage - why, we can't allow that to happen. That would undermine the "sanctity of marriage."


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Study links cancer to oral sex:

Certain cases of mouth cancer appear to be caused by a virus that can be contracted during oral sex, a Swedish study shows.

People who contract a high-risk variety of the human papilloma virus, HPV, during oral sex are more likely to develop mouth cancer, according to a study conducted at the Malmoe University Faculty of Odontology in southern Sweden.

"You should avoid having oral sex," dentist and researcher Kerstin Rosenquist, who headed the study, told Swedish news agency TT.

I can just imagine what the "abstinence-only" crowd will make of this.
1 - Cars are bigger than me. Therefore they have right of way.
2 - Squirrels are cuter than me. Therefore they also have right of way.
3 - But squirrels the size of cars? No way. You're not getting my seat, you overgrown rodent. So you can take your eldritch flaming sword and shove it.
More pre-war intelligence that Bush ignored

And less than 2% of those being held in Iraqi prisons have been convicted, according to Raw Story

We're really teaching them everything we know.

We have an inclusive torture policy, says Iraq

A top Interior Ministry official said Wednesday the 173 malnourished prisoners found by U.S. forces included all Iraqi sects, playing down allegations of a campaign by Shiite-led security forces to suppress Sunni Arabs ahead of next month's election.

The Shiite-led government sought to dampen Sunni outrage over revelations Tuesday by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari that the detainees, some showing signs of torture, were found last weekend by U.S. troops at an Interior Ministry lockup in the capital. Most were believed to be Sunni Arabs, the leading group in the insurgency.

But the deputy interior minister, Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal, said the detainees also included Shiites, Kurds and Turkomen. He gave no breakdown.

The U.S. acknowledges that it did, in fact, use white phosphorus as a weapon in Iraq

Their defense?

Col Venable denied that white phosphorous constituted a banned chemical weapon.

Whew! What a relief! It's not banned, so it's okay to burn people's flesh with it--wait, what's that? There's more, you say?

Washington is not a signatory to an international treaty restricting the use of the substance against civilians.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Stumbled across this post by Andrew Sullivan, quoting an e-mail he had received defending torture. The gist of it is "We have to be good to good people and bad to bad people!" A few things caught my eye:

Like most people today you judge western society by how well monsters and evil people are treated, especially if they fall into a couple of protected categories. This is false - it is how well ordinary people - especially the vulnerable and the weak - are treated that counts.

I haven't read the post he's responding to, but I rather suspect the first sentence to be the e-mailer gallantly slaughtering a straw man. Who on earth judges the entirety of western society by that measure alone?

But what really gets me about this is that he's defending torture by saying that we should look at how we treat "the vulnerable and the weak". Because, you know, prisoners locked up in cells without much in the way of personal items, much less anything that could conceivably be a weapon, aren't vulnerable or weak.

But what caught my eye the first time was this excrement he somehow managed to convert into digital form and transfer via e-mail:

You mentioned cruelty to the SS by the British during WWII. The only cruelty was to the world around by permitting such monsters to live. The SS had no human rights - they forfitted them when they perpetrated what they did. Islamofascists are in the same category.


The enemy being fought is undeserving of humane treatment, and the Arabs and Muslims must be made to understand this. Indeed, it is an affront to morality and decency to so treat people with humanity.

Apparently it doesn't even cross this person's mind that a number of the people locked up aren't terrorists.

So, how do we look now when judged by how we treat the vulnerable and weak?

Emetic bastard.
In my Hebrew class about a week ago, our professor read us a short story. This is my very sketchy memory of it:

Once, an old blind man lived together with his wife in a small hut. They were very poor and childless, and so had little means to support themselves in their old age. So the old man prayed to God for help.

Since the old man never asked God for anything, He decided to grant this man some help, and sent down Elijah the Prophet.

"I have come to grant you one wish," said Elijah.

"One wish!" the old man exclaimed, wracking his brains dizzily. "But we have so many misfortunes, one wish will not do! Can you not grant us more?"

"No. One will have to do."

"There's nothing I can do to change your mind?" the old man wheedled.

"I am not the one who grants the wishes," Elijah reminded the old man.

The old man frowned and shook his head. "One wish... I cannot make this decision alone. May I talk with my wife?"

Elijah smiled. "I can give you one day. But tomorrow night, when I return, you must have your wish prepared."

So Elijah left the old man's house, and the man told his wife what had happened. The two began to discuss what they might wish for, and continued to talk all through the night and day. Until at last Elijah knocked on their door once again.

"Have you decided on your wish?" Elijah asked.

The old man smiled. "I wish to live long enough to see my children eat from golden plates."

A lot smarter with his wish than that twit Aladdin, that's for sure.
More torture.

And more lies.
To hear the likes of Bill "I can diagnose people by watching very select videos of them" Frist tell it, Democrats are whining about Bush lying the country into the war in Iraq because they don't have a successful plan to counter the Republican plan of... well, continuing to get blown up.

So Democrats propose a plan.

And what do Republicans, the self-styled "party of ideas", do?

Copy it.
Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert) is apparently an idiot.

And he's not the only one.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

It occurs to me that this would make a perfect supervillain backstory.

What? It makes about as much sense as going evil just because Superman turned you bald or Reed Richards nicked your face.

But not as much sense as this.

I wonder if that's how the Incredible Popeman gets his powers.

For my Nicky...

...who will probably die laughing after reading this:

The day Jake Gyllenhaal was cast in "Brokeback," the chatter around the industry was not about what a wise choice he'd made. "It's the most stupid move he could make," said one top producer over lunch that afternoon. "It'll alienate his teen-girl fan base and could kill his career. What a waste." It's always been considered risky, if not career suicide, for actors with A-list aspirations to play gay roles. Tom Hanks's performance in "Philadelphia" helped a little, but even Hanks didn't kiss another man on screen.

Yeah, teenage girls have absolutely no interest in watching two attractive men kiss.

"Democrats had the same intelligence the White House did, and they voted for the war! That proves the White House did the best with the intelligence it had!"

Um, no. Congress was pretty much reliant on the White House for information--meaning they only saw what the White House wanted them to see.

That doesn't necessarily absolve the legislators of responsibility, of course, given most of them didn't even look at the intelligence they were given:

The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But, as The Washington Post reported last year, no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary.

The God of Small Things:

If there is an intelligent designer, the box jellyfish was surely one of his weirdest ideas. This deadly sea creature has 24 eyes, four rudimentary brains and 60 anuses.

That wacky unspecified-omnipotent-mystical-being.

The drainage holes at the top of our sinuses and the way our guts are attached by a membrane to the backbone are good examples. Both designs are fine for four-legged creatures, but now we have evolved to walk upright, they lead to clogged sinuses and hernias, he says.

It's Prez Rickard!
"You need not ask my permission. I believe in letting people do as they wish, as do I myself.
Sometimes, of course, what I wish to do is kill them and they do not wish to die.

This gives life interest."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Oh... wow.

Video here.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I have to say, I never really noticed any "Christian" overtones in the Chronicles of Narnia when I read them--but that could be because I really knew nothing about Christianity. But really, is it supposed to be Christian just because Aslan came back from the dead? If that were true, everyone in the Marvel universe would be Jesus about a dozen times over. They could gloat over who was more Messianic than the other.

Of course, we all know who would win: Immortal Man.

Or maybe Resurrection Man. It was never really made clear.

Then again, The Immortal might be up there in the runnings.... Lincoln out-Jesuses Jesus!

But, really, can you imagine "The Simpsons" without sex, drinking, and doughnuts?
On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study


Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government's invasive abilities. We theorize that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.

They value your virginity more than your life

And your fetus. They value that more than your life, too.
Why, in AP's Daily News Digest of "Science News", did they see fit to include this article:

Hunting Season Opens for Mythical Creature

Since when did belief in myths count as science, despite its scientific-sounding name?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Professor Myers discovers the correlation between Christianity and protection rackets.
Prostitution? Check.

Slavery? Check.

Suicide bombing? Check.

Lies? Check.

Two lines of an alphabet have been found inscribed in a stone in Israel, offering what some scholars say is the most solid evidence yet that the ancient Israelites were literate as early as the 10th century B.C.

"This is very rare. This stone will be written about for many years to come," archaeologist Ron E. Tappy, a professor at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary who made the discovery, said Wednesday. "This makes it very historically probable there were people in the 10th century (B.C.) who could write."

Christopher Rollston, a professor of Semitic studies at Emmanuel School of Religion in Johnson City, Tenn., who was not involved in the find, said the writing is probably Phoenician or a transitional language between Phoenician and Hebrew.

"We have little epigraphic material from the 10th century in Israel, and so this substantially augments the material we have," he said.

The stone was found in July, on the final day of a five-week dig at Tel Zayit, about 30 miles south of Tel Aviv.

Y'all have probably heard the allegations that the U.S. Army used outlawed white phosphorus, essentially chemical warfare, in Fallujah.

To which the U.S. says, "Phosphorus shells are not outlawed."


No, sorry, they also say that they were used not as weapons, but for illumination.

Someone should have told them that.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

It occurs to me... if a Supreme Court Justice "interprets the Constitution faithfully", shouldn't they come to the conclusion that they don't have the authority to interpret the Constitution at all, since that power came from Marbury v. Madison, not the Constitution?

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

I share, with love.
Some among the anti-abortion crowd demand that before a woman be allowed to have an abortion, they be informed about all the options available to them and the consequences of each. Which is fair enough, really.

Or it would be if the information distributed about the consequences of an abortion weren't peppered with falsehoods.

A take on torture that I hadn't really considered

At least, not in so many words:

What real CIA field officers know from their work with actual sources is that whatever short term benefit can be derived from torture will be offset by the new enemy you have created. It is better to build a relationship of trust, no matter how painstaking, rather than gain a short term benefit that puts you on par with a Nazi concentration camp guard.

"We have to fight the terrorists--we can't negotiate with these people!"

Unless you actually try....

"Down in Guantanamo Bay, there are instances in which lots of al-Qaida people will tell you anything that you want to know and tell them as much truth as you want them to tell you if you give them the candy bar that they want or the magazine that they require," he said.

"When I was in Vietnam, we were given the most intelligence, the best intelligence and had the most success with captors if we gave them cigarettes, medical care, food (and) water. Almost always, you get the best success from treating people properly," Jacobs said.

And here we notice again the discrepancy between what we get by being nice and what we get by making people think we're going to drown them:

At the time of al-Libi's capture on Nov. 11, 2001, the questioning of detainees was still the FBI's province. For years the bureau's "bin Laden team" had sought to win suspects over with a carrots-and-no-sticks approach: favors in exchange for cooperation. One terrorist, in return for talking, even wangled a heart transplant for his child.


Monday, November 7, 2005

"We're fighting in Iraq to defend our freedoms and our rights!"

Except, y'know, the right to privacy:

Lawmakers expressed concern Sunday that the FBI was aggressively pushing the powers of the anti-terrorist USA Patriot Act to access private phone and financial records of ordinary people.


Under the Patriot Act, the FBI issues more than 30,000 national security letters allowing the investigations each year, a hundred-fold increase over historic norms, The Washington Post reported Sunday, quoting unnamed government sources.

The security letters, which were first used in the 1970s, allow access to people's phone and e-mail records, as well as financial data and the Internet sites they surf. The 2001 Patriot Act removed the requirement that the records sought be those of someone under suspicion.

As a result, FBI agents can review the digital records of a citizen as long as the bureau can certify that the person's records are "relevant" to a terrorist investigation.

I've always thought that God had accountability issues, but this just takes the cake:

Pat Robertson on Sunday said that the tornado in Indiana and Kentucky was God’s way of expressing His anger at the actor Warren Beatty and his wife, Annette Bening for trying to disrupt yesterday’s speech by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at a campaign rally in San Diego. “By choosing to disrupt this national event, these Hollywood elites have clearly invited God’s wrath,” Robertson said on ‘The 700 Club’ on Sunday. “Is it any surprise that the Almighty chose to strike at a town on the opposite side of the country?”


Sunday, November 6, 2005

Can't say I follow, but it sounds interesting
For months, the Bush administration claimed that al Qaeda was being trained by Iraq on the use of chemical and biological weapons.

Not only was that obviously not true, but they knew it wasn't true back in February 2002:

"It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers," the February 2002 report said. "Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest."

And why on Earth would he do that? Because he was one of the first people we started torturing, due to "a series of covert directives" to the CIA from President Bush.

And Cheney still wants the CIA to be able to torture false information out of people.

So we can add this to a growing list of arguments made in support for Iraq that they knew to be unsupported by the evidence when they made them. We can also add the idea of "close collaboration between Iraq and al Qaeda":

In an interview on Friday, Mr. Levin also called attention to another portion of the D.I.A. report, which expressed skepticism about the idea of close collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda, an idea that was never substantiated by American intelligence agencies but was a pillar of the administration's prewar claims.

"Saddam's regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements," the D.I.A. report said in one of two declassified paragraphs. "Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control."

This only continues to increase my belief that these people and their supporters don't give a damn about being effective, as long as they're being "tough".

Saturday, November 5, 2005

On a lark I decided to look up information about James Garfield. And I find this:

Remarkably, the ambidextrous Garfield could simultaneously write in Greek with one hand and in Latin with the other.


Notably, Garfield found a new proof for the Pythagorean theorem in 1876.

It makes me weep to think that our presidency degenerated from that to a man who chokes on snack food.
Concerning the last day of the Kitzmiller v. Dover case:

(Warning: approximate quotes ahead.) At close, Pat Gillen remarked to Judge Jones, "Your honor, by my reckoning we have been here 40 days. That seems an auspicious number." Jones replied, "So it seems, but it was not designed!" At which point the courtroom burst out in applause. Jones let that go on for about 15 seconds, then adjourned the court.

I love this judge.
Drop your pants for freedom!

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Mike Wallace, talking about his interview with Ayatollah Khomeini on the Daily Show:

So finally I said, "Look. They can take me hostage because I'm going to ask: 'Forgive me, imam. Anwar Sadaht--Anwar Sadat--says that you are not a good Muslim, and besides, he says, you are a lunatic.'"


So the translator looks at me and says, "Look. If you think I'm going to translate that, you're the lunatic."


Wednesday, November 2, 2005

From an 1840 report to the Massachusetts legislature advising the repeal of the state's anti-miscegenation law:

[Your Committee] are well aware of the strength of the social prejudice in which this law took its origin, and still finds its support; but they have yet to learn that this Legislature will deliberately, and after full examination, sanction the principle that the tastes of the majority shall be the measure of the rights of the minority...

It is enough for those who hold such a belief, that the vigorous spirit of constitutional liberty, disdains to interdict the full expression and dissemination of their opinions; but it is too much for them to ask that their hatred, or fear, or disgust at their fellow men, should be carried out in legislation, and enforced by penal enactments.

Democracy is not the rule of the majority. It's the rule of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority. Why is this such a difficult concept for some people?

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Oh my god.