23% of Texans are Ignorant

Hot. Humid. Desert. Flat. Home of our current President. What could make Texas worse?

Poll finds 23% of Texans think Obama is Muslim
A University of Texas poll to be released today shows Republican presidential candidate John McCain and GOP Sen. John Cornyn leading by comfortable margins in Texas, as expected. But the statewide survey of 550 registered voters has one very surprising finding: 23 percent of Texans are convinced that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is a Muslim....
The Obama-is-a-Muslim confusion is caused by fallacious Internet rumors and radio talk-show gossip. McCain went so far at one of his town hall meetings to grab a microphone from a woman who claimed that Obama was an Arab.

Melamine: It's What's For Dinner

Looks like China is quickly becoming the world's bread melamine-basket. Is there any reason at all to import food from a country known to disregard public health safety?
Melamine Is Discovered in More Eggs From China
To date, the F.D.A. is advising consumers not to buy certain products, including flavored drinks under the Blue Cat brand, milk-flavored candy from White Rabbit and instant and milk tea products under the Mr. Brown label after companies recalled them because of concerns about melamine contamination.


McCain Excoriates Conservationists

Well...at least it looks like McCain.

If he had feathers.

And was blue.

With a beak.

Oh never mind! The disposition was accurate! Nyah!


Atheist Bus on Fire!

The campaign to put atheist advertisements on buses in London has quickly taken hold thanks to some international attention via the British Humanist Association and Richard Dawkins. The campaign launched just six days ago with a target to raise £5,500.00 (about $8585 US) with a promise to match that amount from Richard Dawkins himself, bringing the total to £11,000.00. This would be enough money to create a mobile billboard reading "There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." The campaign reached its goal in only 10 hours!

But it didn't stop there. As news of the campaign spread like fire across the internet, donations continued to pour in. Within two days, the campaign had climbed Mount Improbable and reached £80,000.00. And still the donations arrived. As of this posting, they have accrued £110,835.00 (approx. $172,000 US). That's enough money to place ads on 300 buses for 4 weeks. When you read this, the total will likely have changed. Click here to find the current amount. You can also provide a small donation yourself.

The campaign got its start back in the summer of 2008 with an article published in the Guardian (also see Ariane Sherine's original blog post) on the religious advertisements seen on the sides of buses:
Yesterday I walked to work and saw not one, but two London buses with the question: "When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). It seems you wait ages for a bus with an unsettling Bible quote, then two come along at once.
The ads provided a web address which explained what sin was
Sin is the state that resulted from mankind rejecting God. Sins are the acts that people do as a result. Sins can include exaggeration, lying, jealousy, stealing, murder, adultery or sexual perversion.
as well as the consequences of rejecting God:
You will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell.
(Between you and me, if exaggeration wasn't a sin then I might think the last quote was a little over the top...)

A little over 800 people promised donations for this first attempt at getting atheist ads on buses, short by about 3,200 donors. But the idea never faded away. It smoldered and, as with most things on the internet, suddenly took off.

By the way, if you wonder why the ad says "There's probably no god...", it's worth looking back at the original Guardian article again:
I then asked her about another unrelated ad: was it okay for Carlsberg to say their lager was "probably the best lager in the world"? She thought so: "We haven't upheld a complaint against them."

After that, I Googled Carlsberg and found this marketing site, which suggests that using the word "probably" at the start of the ad saved Carlsberg from litigation.
I've yet to tune in to the atheist blogs to see what their take on this is, but I'd guess you need the word probably because, if sued, the burden would be on you to provide proof that your ad is correct. Still, it's a weak argument. There are more things that don't exist than do. How do you prove they all don't exist? Regardless, Ariane Sherine has a little more on why "probably" here. Also, commenter Jonathan suggested this blog post for more (thanks!)

The Guardian also has a short article about what Barack Obama and the Atheist Bus have in common - which boils down to the method of garnering a lot of support and raising a lot of money using the internet as a medium. This will probably be the Dems new territory. Republicans tend to get most of their info spoon fed to them from TV and talk radio...not the best of vehicles to raise money. But that's another subject altogether.

So, has anyone started a similar campaign for buses in the U.S.? That would certainly roil the masses.


From Russia, With Love - You Betcha, Doggonit!

Friggin' hilarious!

Nice to see glasnost is still alive in one form or another.

An Interesting Correlation

An interesting correlation:

The decline of the republican party and the unusual lack of sunspot activity.

If I had the brain of a typical global warming denier, I might just as easily have gone straight from correlation to causation. I bet we can also find an interesting connection between the lowering intensity of the solar wind and Dick Cheney's health. I even suggested Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, bring it up on the Colbert Report if he ever makes it there on his promotional tour for his new book, Death from the Skies!


What Planet is Orson Scott Card From?

Orson Scott Card, the author of the highly popular Ender's Game, recently penned an open letter to his local Greensboro, NC newspaper lamenting the state of journalism today, especially when it comes to reporting on the candidates running for the office of President of the United States. From what I've read, Card is that rare breed of cat, the conservative democrat. (As for myself, I am a half-breed conservative democrat, with the other strand of my DNA being liberal republican. I'm forever worrying that I'll self-annihilate in my sleep. But enough about me....) While I love much of Card's science fiction, his letter (here or here) is something altogether different. After reading, you could be forgiven for thinking that he had been in a coma for the past seven years, and has woken to the blood-boiling opinions of Fox News. In other words, his letter is nothing more than a rant against the democrats and Barack Obama.

The letter starts off with Card pinpointing the cause of our housing crisis.
This housing crisis didn't come out of nowhere. It was not a vague emanation of the evil Bush administration.

It was a direct result of the political decision, back in the late 1990s, to loosen the rules of lending so that home loans would be more accessible to poor people. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were authorized to approve risky loans.
Nearly 80 years after the fact, the causes of the Great Depression are still being debated among scholars and professional economists. The same will likely be true of our current economic woes. One thing is for certain, there is plenty of blame to go around. But Card filters everything out to boil it all down to the fault of one party:
This was completely foreseeable and in fact many people did foresee it. One political party, in Congress and in the executive branch, tried repeatedly to tighten up the rules. The other party blocked every such attempt and tried to loosen them....

These are facts. This financial crisis was completely preventable. The party that blocked any attempt to prevent it was ... the Democratic Party. The party that tried to prevent it was ... the Republican Party.
That's pretty brash of Card, especially knowing that the Bush administration championed the so-called "ownership society" and that one party controlled both House and Senate during his first six years in office. Yet they were somehow powerless to stave off this looming disaster? And what does the smartest guy in the room have to say about it all?
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress on Thursday he is "shocked" at the breakdown in U.S. credit markets and said he was "partially" wrong to resist regulation of some securities.
Looks like Card needs to adjust his filter settings. They limit his credibility in these matters, which is to say, they make him sound like a loon.

Later, matters take a turn for the worst as we watch Card dive off the deep end:
If you who produce our local daily paper had any personal honor, you would find it unbearable to let the American people believe that somehow Republicans were to blame for this crisis.

There are precedents. Even though President Bush and his administration never said that Iraq sponsored or was linked to 9/11, you could not stand the fact that Americans had that misapprehension — so you pounded us with the fact that there was no such link. (Along the way, you created the false impression that Bush had lied to them and said that there was a connection.)
Here, Orson Scott Card is railing against the media for engendering a belief that the Bush administration linked Iraq to 9/11. Note that he fails to mention that the media was in a constant state of orgasm during the run-up to war with precious few actually questioning what we were getting ourselves into and, more importantly, why. Only after the price tag started climbing higher than the estimated $60 billion cost for war, and only after it was evident that we weren't being welcomed as liberators, and only after we plainly didn't have a plan to get out, and only after the death toll start to mount, and only after no WMDs were found, and only after Mission Accomplished...did the media start to question the administration's reasons for war. Card should be most critical of the media for this, their biggest failing. Yet he would rather lambaste them for...oh, let's take one example from June 29, 2005:
"This war reached our shores on September 11 2001," Mr Bush said, pointing to links between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Jordanian extremist thought be behind many of the suicide attacks in Iraq, and Osama bin Laden. "The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September ... if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi ... and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden," the president said.
I suppose Card was also pissed off everytime the media reported on IED attacks. That's no way to treat an administration.

Card eventually turns his sights on Obama. As McCain falls into double digit territory behind Obama, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Barack Obama is just another politician, and not a very wise one. He has revealed his ignorance and naivete time after time — and you have swept it under the rug, treated it as nothing.

Meanwhile, you have participated in the borking of Sarah Palin, reporting savage attacks on her for the pregnancy of her unmarried daughter — while you ignored the story of John Edwards's own adultery for many months.
Borking? Oh yeah...alien speak. I really have to catch up on my SciFi. While we're on the subject of naivete, Card should take a moment to look down. He'll find the path he's on is well worn. Thousands of mule trains have gone before him. Few come back, and those that do have the battle scars to show for it. There is little question that Governor Palin is not yet ready for prime time. The turkey, as it were, was taken out of the oven too early. And as far as the pregnancy of her unmarried daughter, the only time I hear that is as a talking point from the right. There's just so much more interesting fodder that keeps getting dumped by the McCain campaign that the left has no reason to recycle old jokes.

But I will give Card a point on John Edwards. As we are not yet a nation of adults, we can pry into the personal lives of our would-be leaders and feign disgust while still wanting to compare pictures of the mistress with the wife. Why the Washington Post didn't want to conduct surveillance for hours outside a hotel and then chase Edwards into a bathroom with penetrating questions is beyond me. Do they really want to continue to cede that territory to the National Enquirer? No wonder the elite print media's stock is falling.

The last bit of Card's letter is your average right-wing rant against the media. We should note that it's kinda late in the game for this (assuming Card's purpose is to sway voters - if not, then his letter really is poor and, frankly, illogical). I can only guess that echoes of the Republican National Convention are still rattling around in his head, heavy on media bashing, light on substance.
If you do not tell the truth about the Democrats — including Barack Obama — and do so with the same energy you would use if the miscreants were Republicans — then you are not journalists by any standard.

You're just the public relations machine of the Democratic Party, and it's time you were all fired and real journalists brought in, so that we can actually have a news paper in our city.
For Card, the truth is what he wants to hear and the real journalists are the ones who would parrot his beliefs. Failing the wholesale dismantling and rebuilding of the media around Card's particular brand of truthiness, as a professional author, he can write his own truth and sell it in the fiction section of your local bookstore. Until then, let's hope he can find his way back home from whatever parallel dimension he happens to be visiting.

Thank God It Wasn't Sylvia Browne!

When does a psychic deserve applause? How about when they

1) prove beyond doubt that they are indeed psychic (don't hold your breath), or
2) save someone's life

Joanne Jordan, a self-professed psychic medium, deserves our applause and recognition for saving a man's life. According to the Grantham Journal,
Joanne Jordan, 43, of Sunningdale, Grantham, was just leaving her home when she noticed a man lying on the ground by the side of the road near the junction of Belton Lane and Green Lane.

She pulled over to help and found the man had a weak pulse and had stopped breathing.

Joanne, who works as a psychic medium, said: "I gave him mouth to mouth while a GP who had also stopped to help gave him CPR.

"On the second breath he opened his eyes- it was very weird.

"When he came round he was covered in my pink lipstick."
Witnesses overheard him murmuring "Thank God it wasn't Sylvia Browne."

OK...just kidding. That part didn't really happen. But all the same, thank God it wasn't Sylvia Browne.


This is Progress?

I heard an interesting commercial on a podcast today, an advertisement for Chevrolet:
Some Chevrolet Standard 6 owners report gasoline mileages as high as 26 miles to the gallon and nearly all of them get 18 to 24, depending on how they drive.
That doesn't sound too bad, especially considering the Silverado Hybrid is claiming only 22 mpg. Chevrolet's most fuel efficient vehicles are estimated to get 34 - 37 mpg, so that's quiet better than the Standard 6. Sill, the average car on American roadways gets only 22 mpg.

Oh, one more thing about the Standard 6. It was advertised for only $445. In 1933. I was listening to the Jack Benny podcast from the Old Time Radio collection.

10 mpg improvement in 75 years. This is progress?

Oh Rochester, how long before we reach the future?


Money to Burn

The eBay Bigfoot Hoax Costume sold last night for 6 million dollars $250,283.00 by someone with the username Vitanetworks. The buyer could be the owner of this company, or not. I thought one of the bidders was Penn Gillette. Then I ran a profile on who is most likely to throw away money during an economic downturn, and came up with an AIG manager as a likely buyer. However, I'm reconsidering my choice. Who, after all, is most likely to find sentimental value in a humanoid form bearing resemblance to our common ancestors, with money to burn and the moxie to not give a crap what everyone else thinks?

Ooo - I know! How about these guys:


Blossom Goodchild Learns How to Eat Crow

Blossom Goodchild has been in contact with the Federation of Light. They plan had planned to visit our lonely planet on Oct. 14, 2008 and told Blossom to get the word out. First there was this (navigate to >Federation of Light>Message):


We wish it to be understood that on the 14th day of your month of October in the year 2008 a craft of great size shall be visible within your skies. It shall be in the south of your hemisphere and it shall scan over many of your states.

We give to you the name of Alabama.

It has been decided that we shall remain within your atmosphere for the minimum of three of your twenty four hour periods.

During this time there will be much commotion upon your earth plane. Your highest authorities will be intruding into ‘our’ atmospherics that surround our ship. This ‘security field’ is necessary for us, as there shall take place a ‘farce’ from those in your world who shall try to deny that we come in LOVE.

The text drags on and on. October 14th came and went. So, what does Blossom Goodchild (if that really is her name) have to say now?

"Imagine your disappointment to all those who believed..." Well yeah! I'm totally disappointed now that I didn't prepare myself with unconditional love before the visitation was to occur. But I didn't know. Blossom screwed the whole thing up by not getting the word out to me. I feel that I'm the one to blame. Of course, I missed the signs of unconditional love all around me (especially as the Dow was tanking)...so I should work on my powers of observation. And unconditional loving. Don't know what I'm talking about? Try this on for size (via a Blossom defender):

Damn my skepticism for denying me alien Nirvana!

Look Over There

Often in the ID vs Evolution debate, ID proponents (aka Creationists) bring up the eugenics movement and attempt to tie Darwin to Hitler. This was a major premise in the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. This is nothing more than a distraction from the lack of scientific merit in the illusion of intelligent design. In skeptic circles, it's a Red Herring.

I learned something new today about Red Herrings. From Merriam-Webster's word of the day for Oct. 3:
Believe it or not, "red herring" has as much to do with hunting dogs as with brightly colored fish. Here's how: A herring is a soft-finned bony fish. People who like to eat herring have long preserved them by salting and slowly smoking them. That process makes a herring turn red or dark brown — and gives them a very strong smell. Dogs love to sniff such smelly treats, a fact that makes the fish a perfect diversion for anyone trying to distract hunting dogs from the trail of their quarry. The practice of using preserved fish to confuse hunting dogs led to the use of the term "red herring" for anything that diverts attention from the issue at hand.


Crop Circles '08

There's no way this could have been done without advanced alien technology. The precision is uncanny.

Apparently a far superior intelligence is trying to tell us something: VOTE - or you will be probed!

(via this guy)


How to Waste Money in Bad Economic Times

One way to waste your money in bad economic times is to sell your stocks and mutual funds while they're at 3-5 year lows.

Another way is to win the Bigfoot Hoax Costume eBay auction. It's now at $200,100!

Hmmm...I think I'll revise my guess on who the buyer is. Instead of Penn Gillette, I now think it's an AIG manager spending some of his bailout money.

Bigfoot Hoax Costume at $100K on eBay!

Two months ago, a couple of good ol' boys from Georgia let a bigfoot hoax get out of hand and they ended up in the national spotlight. What they claimed to be the body of a bigfoot they had shot instead turned out to be a costume stuffed with roadkill. Everybody...and I mean everybody...laughed at their antics. While I snorted at the amount of media attention they garnered, in the end I was happy to see that, at least in this case, the networks, newspapers, and blogs were skeptical. Then again, it wasn't too difficult to be skeptical. If the results of DNA testing came out differently, I can easily imagine some starting to take this seriously.

Time has passed, and now the costume and container used in the hoax are up for auction on eBay. Starting at $499 a week ago, the bidding has now reached $101,600. Who's the mystery bidder? We'll have to wait on that. For various and sundry reasons, my initial guess is Penn Gillette. I have a limited imagination so I can't see how anyone can consider this to be worth $100K, much less $499 (especially knowing it had been stuffed with guts!) Instead I think it's going into someone's personal collection of oddities. Or maybe someone's starting up a Skeptic's Museum!

There are a little over 2 days left in the bidding. How high will it go?

Creationist Eats Crow - Lots of Crow!

On YouTube, there's this guy Thunderf00t who produces a series of videos called "Why Do People Laugh at Creationists"...an entertaining and rational examination of creationist beliefs. Then there's this other guy VenomFangX who produces videos about creationism, the glory of God, why evolution is wrong, etc. They're not very entertaining and they repeat the same old canards often used to support creationist ideology. Eventually, these two guys crossed paths and a little YouTube war started. Ultimately, VenomFangX was unable to contend with the rational arguments put forth by Thunderf00t.

Blame it on the irrational exhuberance of youth or blame it on stupidity, but VenomFangX next did something which he shouldn'tve oughtta done (aw gee whiz, I've been watchin' too much Palin!). He invoked the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and claimed that his material had been wrongfully stolen and used in a Thunderf00ts videos. Apparently he had never heard of Fair Use. YouTube took down two of Thunderf00t's videos until he provided a counter claim showing the wrongful use of the DMCA by VenomFangX. Essentially, VenomFangX was purposefully misusing the law to censor content. And that's perjury, a criminal offense.

Thunderf00t had three options to pursue:
1) he could have VenomFangX's account permanently suspended from YouTube,
2) he could pursue legal action
3) or he could do this...

(via Skepchick)


Who's Got The Biggest God?

I just found a video on TPM of what I wrote about earlier.

I find this sort of thing creepy because I know there are people soaking it up.

(via TPM)

The Passion of the Right

Have you heard? Christianity isn't the only religion in the world and Christians aren't the only ones expressing faith in a god or other all powerful concept. Here's a breakdown from 2005:

It's natural to think that all these non-Christians hold the god of their faith in higher regard than the Christian god. That is, they think their god is "bigger" than the Christian god. But if you happen to be Pastor Arnold Conrad, the minister who recently gave the invocation at a John McCain rally in Davenport, IA, this is not a foregone conclusion. In fact, if you were he, then you would know there is a danger that, if Barack Obama is elected to the office of the President of the United States, these other non-Christians are going to think that their god is "bigger" than your god.
I would also add, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god — whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons. And Lord, I pray that you will guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and election day.(ref)
At a time when right wing fervor is increasing and the ignorantly angry McCain supporters are switching from "Drill Baby Drill" to "Kill Baby Kill!", Pastor Conrad's remarks can only be taken as fanning the flames by perpetuating the politics of fear. One man has already been shot for wearing an Obama t-shirt, three others were nabbed for plotting to kill Obama during his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, and the secret service is investigating a threat issued at a McCain/Palin rally (ref). Hopped up on heavy doses of right wing talk radio and Fox News, this rabble have waved their pitchforks at liberals and the "mainstream media", claiming that "liberals are ruining the country". Remember James D. Adkisson? He's the 58 year old gunman who shot up the Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN. At the time, the church was putting on a children's play. Two people died. From the New York Times,
According to a search warrant for Mr. Adkisson’s house filed by the police, during interrogation Mr. Adkisson admitted to the shooting and said “he had targeted the church because of its liberal leanings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country.”
Conservative pundits claim you can see the same vitriol from the left. Just go check out the comments sections of the blogs. However, I have not heard anything from supporters on the campaign trail that approaches violence. Calling McCain old or Palin an idiot does not rise to "Off with his head" and "Kill him". I know there's passion in a crowd brought together under a common purpose, but for Obama supporters, it's passion for your candidate. For McCain's, it's passion against your opponent, even to the point of booing McCain himself when he tries to calm the crowd down.

Pastor Conrad invokes the threat of Islam and Hinduism supplanting Christianity if Obama were to be elected. In a conversation, I would guess he was speaking tongue in cheek. But as a formal public speaker, he is saying nothing less than "A vote for McCain is a vote for God".

Yay. Go God. Big ups for ignorance.

Christians should be offended, but I doubt the NASCAR Christians at McCain/Palin events sit around parsing invocations. They have an appetite for hate and enjoy being spoon fed by the likes of McCain and Palin. And Pastor Conrad.


McCain Succumbs to the Stereotype

Several of my recent posts have been political in nature. That's not the point of this blog. But one of my personal reasons for keeping this blog is to capture some memorable moments of the present. This is one of them:

(via DailyKos)


Yoda Fargo Marvelish

We all know by now that Sarah Palin has an unusual way of speaking. She doesn't invest much in speech, treating it with the casual air of a farm girl in cutoff Jordache jeans with a shaft of America's finest wheat hanging from her lips. With her, the average person's "uhhhs" and "mmms" give way to "also", which she uses as a conjunction tying disparate thoughts together. She speaks in clauses, not in sentences. Her vocabulary is straight from Stan Lee ('nuff sed) yet flavored with that muted Fargo twang. So many "gonnas" and "you betchas". You gives way to ya, them to 'em, and to an'...sometimes I wonder if her teleprompter font is Comic Sans. Who can forget her signature line, "I'll try to find ya some, an' I'll bring'em to ya".

Pure Shakespeare.

And is it me, or does Governor Palin often reverse her subjects and verbs? Maybe that's the way Alaskan's talk. But really, I think Palin has blended several language styles together. Most editorials have called it "folksy"...but I think of it as Yoda-Fargo-Marvelish.

In Yoda-Fargo-Marvelish, it's acceptable...nay, required...to drop the 'g' from '-ing' suffixes (often accompanied with a coquettish wink) - as in "Someone's been messin' with the nuclear launch codes again," or "Don't tell anyone I told ya, but someone's been gettin' mighty upset at bein' behind in the polls."

So I have to ask myself, does she spell her name Palin or Palin'?