5.31.2008

John McCain - Psychic Presidential Nominee

Woo infiltrates the race for the presidency...but that really not news, is it? Here's a good example, though, of what it looks like:
McCain falsely claims Mosul is ‘quiet.’
Today at a townhall meeting in Wisconsin, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tried to claim that President Bush’s policies in Iraq are “succeeding,” by pointing to the “quiet” in Mosul and other cities:
So I can tell you that it is succeeding. I can look you in the eye and tell you it’s succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels. Basra, Mosul and now Sadr city are quiet and it’s long and it’s hard and it’s tough and there will be setbacks.
But McCain is wrong. We still have more troops in Iraq than before the surge. He made a mistake. He misspoke. It happens. You can't be expected to get everything right with all these speeches and public appearances (although this is one of those 'Big Picture' issues that all candidates should have a firm grasp of). However, when pressed on the matter, his campaign refused to say that he misspoke. Rather, they provided us with a healthy dose of woo instead. Acknowledging that while we are currently not yet below pre-surge levels, McCain was nonetheless correct because we will be in the future.

Whoa. The fuuuutuurrrrre. That's heavy. Let's pinpoint the logic: He says we are. In reality, we are not. But someday we will be. Therefore, he is correct. QED or, as the Greeks used to say, Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

Note that this is a common tactic psychics use. Operating on many dimensions at once, they frequently speak to the beat of "fuzzy time". Temporally diffuse. They state some fact about you. For example, they may say there's some connection between you and someone named "Mary". But you don't know any "Mary". To which they reply, "You may not now, but sometime in the future you will."

When you are no longer bound by earthly dimensions, especially the 4th dimension of time, then it is not too hard to see how the only way for Sen. McCain to be wrong is if we maintain 130,000+ troops in Iraq -- forever.

And ever.

OMFG - Will The Stupidity Never End???

Uhhh...yeah, it's real...$2.5 million worth of inanity. How many starving kids is that?

It's purpose is to bring America back to God. This church says:
Neither God nor our Founding Fathers intended for Christianity and its practices to be separated from schools or public life. As a result of our laws removing Christian practices from our educational institutions, our schools are reaping the negative consequences. Lady Liberation is onlya a strategy that affords us the opportunity to call forth righteous foundations in our nation.
I guess they didn't get the memo.

5.30.2008

About That Dunkin Donuts - Rachel Ray Ad

So, what's the worst thing about this Dunkin Donuts ad with Rachel Ray?


No...it's not the paisley scarf which some morons call "jihadi chic". It's not even the fact that Dunkin Donuts is actually selling "Ice Latte Lites".

The biggest problem is Rachel Ray's head. It's huge. I mean, really really unnaturally huge. Even with her rapid rise to fame and fortune, I doubt that even her head could get this big. And, there's something going on with her left arm...I can't quite describe it. Maybe it's a foreshortening problem. And the cut and paste onto the background...that's so bad that it just has to be intentional.

I submitted this to the Photoshop Disasters blog (which will make you look at magazine covers in a whole new way). I wonder if my amateurish take on this is correct.

Dunkin Donuts was right to pull the ad, not because of perceptions from a few deranged individuals, but because it was a horrible looking ad.

Kieffe and Sons Poll

Hot on the heels of the Kieffe and Sons foray into bigotry, KGET.com is running a poll asking if the ad makes you want to buy a car from the dealership. So far, as of this posting, 1/3 say yes, 2/3 say no.

Academic Freedom - How Do You Test Students?

Academic Freedom bills promoted by the Discovery Institute, if passed into law, provide for a veritable free-for-all orgy of teaching whatever-the-hell-you-want. All you have to do is say that your pet theory leads to better critical thinking skills of your students; that you are presenting both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolution. Any ham-handed science theory will do. Where do babies come from? Biology can be so droll, so why not discuss the stork theory? Or the cabbage patch theory? Evidence doesn't matter...it's just a theory after all. Hell, Einstein developed the theory of relativity without evidence, so who's to say you're not the next Einstein?

Conveniently for you, the Discovery Institute has posted a sample academic freedom bill here, just in case you feel like slipping it into your district representative's inbox. But the question that keeps coming up is how to test the students? If you use intelligent design to expose weaknesses in evolution, well what is the student supposed to answer when asked how random mutation and natural selection affect a species?

Let's consult the sample bill:
Section 5. Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution of higher education shall be penalized in any way because he or she may subscribe to a particular position on any views regarding biological or chemical evolution.
The level of geniusness behind this statement makes me weak in the knees. That a teacher should accept any answer on a test, no matter what - well that solves half of the problems of No Child Left Behind at a stroke!

Laurels, accolades, and tributes all around. Let's celebrate the reemergence of the dark ages.

5.29.2008

Will The Louisiana Bill Allow Teaching Of Intelligent Design?

The "Louisiana Science Education Act" is currently up for final passage in the state legislature. Given the unanimous votes that have brought it this far, it's like the bill will be passed into law. This is one of those "Academic Freedom" bills that will create a back door for the teaching of intelligent design in the classroom.

Or will it? The text of the bill (pdf warn) says:
B.(1) The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon request of a city, parish, or other local public school board, shall allow and assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.

(2) Such assistance shall include support and guidance for teachers regarding effective ways to help students understand, analyze, critique, and objectively review scientific theories being studied, including those enumerated in Paragraph (1) of this Subsection.
Initially, I read this to mean that scientific theories should be analyzed in light of competing scientific theories. And, as we all know, intelligent design is not a scientific theory. However, on subsequent readings for this post, I realize that this is indeed a back door for intelligent design to be taught in the classroom. All it takes is a school board to "request assistance" in critically analyzing the theory of evolution. The Discovery Institute will be only to happy to set their claws onto every school board in Louisiana, bringing with them suggested reading materials...maybe the latest incarnation of Of Pandas and People propaganda.

Additionally, the best scientific theory on the Origin of Life says "We don't know". There is only one group that knows how life originated...and the Supreme Court says they aren't allowed to teach their story in school. So, I'm not sure why this would even be in the bill. Global Warming and Human Cloning are more issues than scientific theories. Since it sounds like Louisiana wants to turn science class into a one-sided debating session, why don't they also include the "scientific theories" of the Moon Landing Hoax, Peak Oil, and Iraqi WMDs?

D. This Section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.
Notwithstanding this "cover your ass" section, once intelligent design is brought up in the classroom as an alternative to evolution, then religion is being taught in school. Intelligent design is, as has been noted before, nothing more than creationism in a cheap tuxedo. In his conclusion of the Kitzmiller, et al. v Dover School Board trial, Judge Jones wrote
The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.
The Dover School board had to dish out over $1 Million in legal fees for the Kitzmiller defense team. The actual fee was over $2 Million but Pepper Hamilton* reduced the cost as it would have been a tremendous burden on the small school district. So, school districts throughout Louisiana should take care when the Discovery Institute comes-a-callin' with their Expelled DVDs and "irreducible complexity" nonsense because when push comes to shove, you'll find they've taken their checkbook back to Washington where they will only remember you in their weepy blog posts.

Oh, and in case there are any doubts that this is a bill to teach creationism, Bill Nevers, the bill's sponsor, said as much.
The Louisiana Family Forum suggested the bill, Nevers said.

“They believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin's theory. This would allow the discussion of scientific facts,” Nevers said. “I feel the students should know there are weaknesses and strengths in both scientific arguments.”
*edited to replace "Potts" with "Hamilton". Damn you Tony Stark!

UFO Caught On High Quality Digital Image

The actual headline from the story reads:

UFO captured on high quality digital images by reputable professional observers.


Awright! Finally. Some real, incontrovertible proof. Personally, I would have expected this a long time ago given the wide proliferation of digital cameras. You really don't need to have a high quality digital image, although that would be useful in later analysis. But what you do need is a clear, indisputable image of a UFO.

The news story is provided by Australia.to:
BRISBANE, Australia - UFO s are real. Here is the proof.

P___ V___* a pilot and Nigel Wakley with no reason to mislead, decided to visit a reputed UFO hotspot and came away with new images that prove that UFO s exist. What they are and who ( what ) is behind their presence has yet to be determined.
You can't get much clearer than that. Sit down and brace yourself. Click here to have your world rocked and see the high-quality proof that UFOs do indeed exist.

Imfreakingpressive!
-----------
*Update Nov. 12, 2009 - Name withheld by request

For What It's Worth - Kieffe & Sons Website Update

Rick Kieffe has updated the website for Kieffe & Sons Ford.

This statement is provided in response to reaction prompted by a radio commercial that Kieffe & Sons Ford recently ran referring to issues of God in our schools and on our money.

"For 15 years, Kieffe and Sons Ford has run ad campaigns that focus on current events. We have chosen to do this rather than presenting typical car sales ads. We do this through an agency that develops the material and sends us a package of commercials to review. From this, we select commercials that we distribute to area radio stations. Frequently we emphasize humor and patriotic themes, as we are located adjacent to two military bases. Public response over these 15 years has been hugely positive, often eliciting calls and visits from appreciative individuals. Regrettably, the commercial that has prompted the current objection to religious sentiment ("Under God", "In We Trust") was not closely reviewed by our dealership before it went live. The commercial has been replaced. We apologize to all who were offended. It is Kieffe and Sons' intention to support America and the freedoms that make this country great."

Rick Kieffe, President

"Frequently we emphasize humor and patriotic themes." So, what theme were they emphasizing with the "sit down and shut up" ad? Humor? Patriotism? Or maybe they decided the time was ripe to pull the old "Buy a Car from an Asshole" theme out of their bag of tricks.

(ht The Underground Unbeliever)

5.28.2008

Rick Kieffe and His 'Come to Jesus' Moment

It wasn't the wrath of God that brought Rick Kieffe to Jesus. No, it was a lot of upset bloggers and blog readers that brought him into the light. Whether or not they were atheists is immaterial. They were undoubtedly people doing their part to clean the world of bigotry and intolerance. The calls will continue to come in, however, as this story is just getting off the ground and Kieffe will have more apologizing to do before it all settles down. If he's genuine, then this will blow over and he can get back to running his business. If not, he will end up pouring more fuel on this bonfire and have to change his phone number (which is currently 661-824-2477 and 661-256-2811). At a minimum, he should fire the moron who is his Oklahoma ad producer.

The Bakersfield Californian has his first apology:
Car dealer regrets ads urging non-Christians to 'sit down and shut up'

Rick Kieffe, owner of Kieffe and Sons Ford in Mojave and Rosamond, insisted Wednesday that he does not remember approving the ad, which he said was written by his longtime advertising writer and producer in Oklahoma.

“It’s just something that went by us,” said Kieffe, who does not attend church but considers himself “a Christian spirit.” “We’re obviously sorry that it offends a given segment who identifies themselves as atheist.”

Why We Need Religion

Does Ford Endorse Bigotry?

I'm in the market for a new car, but I won't be buying a Ford. At least, not until Ford Motor Company does something about these jerks:



Call me crazy, but I didn't think BIGOTRY was an accepted form of advertising. I suppose this nutjob thinks intolerance is his ticket into heaven, but with viral exposure of his ad, he may be having a COME TO JESUS moment earlier than expected.

The Underground Unbeliever first posted about this on February 24, 2008, but it has only recently gained steam, especially after making it to BoingBoing and Pharyngula. This kind of advertising is appalling and offensive and, if directed at any other sector of society, would not be allowed to stand.

Of course, the primary culprits are Kieffe and Sons, a Ford dealership in Mojave, California. However, by not doing anything about it, the Ford Motor Company is implying tacit acceptance of the bigoted sentiments in the ad. It remains to be seen whether they will ever do anything about it or at least try to separate themselves from the franchisee, but I've always thought that there's something a little rotten with a company that waits until public pressure mounts before acquiescing.

Anna Lemma of the Underground Unbeliever wrote to Ford:
I wrote to the Ford Corporation Customer Service to complain about the ad:
I live in the Mojave desert in Southern California. One of your dealers has been airing a very offensive ad on the radio. This ad states that those who don't share his personal religious convictions can either get out of the country or sit down and shut up. He also states in the ad that he doesn't care who he offends.

As a veteran of the US Air Force, I find this ignorance appalling. I swore to uphold and defend the very constitution this man is trashing. The dealership is Keiffe & Sons in Mojave, CA. The ad aired at 6:20 pm on 106.3FM. I was looking at a Ford from that particular dealership, but I think that I will go somewhere else, like the Honda dealership.
I received the following reply from Ford:
Dear Anna,

Thank you for contacting the Ford Motor Company Customer Relationship Center regarding the advertising from Kieffe & Sons Ford.

We would like to document your feedback; however, in order to process this, more information is needed. Please include your original message with the following additional information to allow us to proceed.

Address:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Cellular Phone Number:
Daytime Phone Number:
Home Phone Number:

...
Huh? So Ford wants to put you on their mailing list? They can't document the feedback nor process it? So it just goes into some black hole? No "Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We want to assure you that Ford in no way endorses any kind of bigotry."? Nothing?

Like I said, I am in the market for a new car. My old Protoge is grinding, squealing, and leaking. I have not thought about dealers yet, though I'm looking forward to the next generation of hybrids. But I do know who I won't be dropping $30K with.

Gammy's In A Bottle

Mom (hiding something behind her back): "Children, remember when I told you Gammy had to go away for a long long time and that we may never see her again?"
Kids (sobbing): "Uh huh."
Mom: "And I said that she was going to a very special place where she would be safe and loved by everyone?"
Kids (sniffling): "Uh huh."
Mom: "You still miss Gammy, don't you?"
Kids (lamenting): "Uh huh."
Mom: "I know you miss Gammy very much and I can't bear to see your sad eyes. So, guess what?"
Kids (curious): "What?"
Mom (revealing what she has in hiding): "I brought Gammy back home with me and she's in..."
Kids: "GAMMY'S IN A BOTTLE!"

That's right! For only $20, you too can have a ghost in a bottle. That ghost might be your very own Gammy that you can keep by your bedside.
Ghost In A Bottle? Man Claims To Sell Them
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- A Florida man is in the business of selling bottled spirits; but you may not want to drink what he claims is inside the containers.

In rural St. Johns County, there's a little shed that's considered haunted because inside, Jon Deese said he's storing ghosts, Jacksonville television station WJXT reported.

Deese said he has ghosts trapped in bottles, and they're for sale.
Ahh, American entrepeneurialism. Is there any Woo money won't buy? This will make a nice addition to the Annals of Wacky Woo.
Each Ghost is captured from a reported haunted establishment, (house, hotel, ship, cemetery, etc), by our Ghost Hunters.

We seal the ghost in it's own bottle. The bottle is sealed for your protection.

No maintenance required; except occasional dusting.

You may release the Ghost at your own discretion and at your own risk.

The Ghost in the Bottle is contained mysteriously and is therefore sealed with wax shortly after the Ghost is caught. The bottle is sealed for your protection.
In keeping with the highest standards of Woo, this little business comes complete with Testimonials:
A few weeks ago me and my friends went to St. Augustine with our school and went into a shop and purchased one of these bottles. That night all the girls sat in a circle and we opened the bottles up and right when we did the phone rang and no one was there. We had a scratch on the wall, hand prints on the window and weird noises in our bathroom. Later on, one of our suitcases moved and we all felt like we were being watched. Two of my friends were so scared that they had to sleep in another room. We could not fall asleep until around 4:00 am.

This was probably the scariest thing I have ever experienced.

But, given the list of possible activities that might happen to you, selling bottled ghosts is an industry practically moaning for regulation:

If you open or break your bottle you may experience any or all of the following:

--A voice out of nowhere.
--Muffled Moans and Groans for long periods of time during the day or night.
--Doors opening or closing slowly.
--A feeling someone is following you around your home.
--The T.V. volume Increases or Decreases by itself.
--Water left running at the sink.
--The feeling someone is watching you.
--Noises leading into or out of rooms that no one is present in.
--A unfamiliar smell of perfume or cologne.
--Small items moved (favorite items to move are shoes, car keys, T.V. remote and jewelry).
--Lights coming on or going off by themselves.
--Electrical appliances coming on by themselves (sometimes they are not even plugged in).
--Phone calls (yes, sometimes they call).
--Your night light may be turned off during the night.
--Bed covers pulled off you, or you pillow may be tossed on the floor during the night.
--Touches (light pat on the back, the touch can be warm or cold).

Activity will usally peak around 3:00 am in the morning or on rainy days.

ISS to NASA - Bring Bags. Lots of Them!

This is a real pisser.

Four words you don’t want to hear in space:

“The toilet is broken.”


The crew aboard the International Space Station is working on a problem with the system for collecting solid and liquid waste, which is a trickier proposition without gravity than it is on the Earth. Space toilets use jets of fan-propelled air to guide waste into the proper container.

A NASA status report noted that last week, while using the toilet system in the Russian-built service module, “the crew heard a loud noise and the fan stopped working.” The solid waste collector is functioning properly, but the system for collecting liquid waste was not.


NASA does have some experience with this. At JSC, the 90-day crew in the Lunar-Mars Life Support Test Project (LMLSTP) Phase III collected their urine and recycled it. There was even a short-lived program to recycle human-generated solid waste. It involved a blender and an incinerator. It wasn't a pretty sight.

5.27.2008

Gambling on Psychics? Bet on Skeptics!

Psychics and skeptics coming to Vegas

Today through Saturday, for example, professional future-predictor Sylvia Browne will be performing at Excalibur, with a top ticket price of $137.50. Even more expensive is the bring-out-your-dead clairvoyant entertainer, John Edward, who will be at the Flamingo at $175 for the top ticket.

In case you can't tell from my tone, I am very uncomfortable with entertainment that proclaims to predict the future or to offer communication to people's lost loved ones. This is religion or at least faith that is being packaged and sold as entertainment in Vegas. We have built a city for tourists' amusement, and the Strip should never be confused as a spiritual haven where wisdom is dispensed from its showroom stages.

Even if you believe John Edward is sincere, how is it righteous to charge people desperate for a message from those they have lost in life $175 for a ticket? This does not, by the way, even guarantee that he will call on you in the audience.

You'd be better off gambling your money away than giving it to these predators. On the other hand, you can forgo this circus of charlatans for a smörgåsbord of substance:
Anyway, by one of those coincidences that inspires faith, the James Randi Educational Foundation will be following John Edward to the Flamingo next month when Randi holds his annual skeptics convention to support his foundation.

Cold Fusion - Woo or True?


Professor Yoshiaka Arata of the Osaka University in Japan is saying that he has finally demonstrated cold fusion in the laboratory. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann claimed to have done the same in 1989, but they circumvented the traditional scientific peer review process and headed straight to mass media. They prostrated themselves before the world and were resoundly thumped by the science community when their experiments could not be duplicated.
Physicist Claims First Real Demonstration of Cold Fusion
While Arata´s demonstration looked promising to his audience, the real test is still to come: duplication. Many scientists and others are now recalling the infamous 1989 demonstration by Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, who claimed to produce controlled nuclear fusion in a glass jar at room temperature. However, no one - including Fleischmann and Pons - could duplicate the experiment, leading many people to consider cold fusion a pseudoscience to this day.

But one witness at the recent demonstration, physicist Akito Takahashi of Osaka University, thought that the experiment should be able to be repeated.

After the Pons and Fleishmann debacle, we should have learned that stories like these are nothing more than interest items until they have been proven true by repeated successful replication of the results in other laboratories with objective scientists at the helm.

Evolution Stops Today

Evolution takes time. Hundreds of generations are needed to separate favorable mutations and pass them through a population. That's at least on the order of thousands of years, if not millions, to ensure stability of a species. One of the reasons global warming is so threatening is that it is projected to take place over a relatively short time scale. For the most part, climate change in the past has taken thousands upon thousands of years to occur, giving rise to generational adaptations. Abrupt changes in the environment lead to mass extinctions. Global warming will happen in an eye blink in evolutionary time scales.

Have you seen squirrels cross a road by way of the overhead power line? The more direct route is faster and easier, but we know what the likely outcome of that choice is...squirrel genes are smeared across the pavement instead of being passed on to subsequent generations. Perhaps adaptive behavior is taking place. Deer, unfortunately, have yet to learn to walk that tightrope. The sudden arrival of highways and roads have created unnatural barriers still begging for adaptation in most animals. Perhaps one day, deer will not only learn to look both ways, but also suppress their penchant for being easily spooked, that natural survival trait which is now working against them (they frequently make the wrong decision when faced with oncoming headlights).


But what about homo sapiens? We are subject to the same pressures of natural selection, but we are also changing our "natural environments" at a mind-numbing pace. Besides developing a larger brain, the ability to walk upright set us apart from our ancestors. Nowadays, walking is no longer the preferred mode of transportation (at least in the U.S. of A.) Trains, planes, and automobiles allow us to sit for long stretches of time. Comparing pedometers, it is likely we walk one-tenth the number of steps as our founding fathers did...and they had the horse. So what's the evolutionary impact? "Fat ass" becomes a euphemism?

How's your eyesight? A lot of people wear glasses, contacts, or have corrective eye surgery. What selection pressure, then, is there to weed out these annoying genes? Short of mandating Buddy Holly eye wear, glasses can be a sign of intelligence, confidence, wealth, at sexiness - at least that's what I keep telling myself.

I think this is a great topic for speculation of how people will evolve. I imagine brain capacity will continue to grow as technology and the information age explode around us. As countries struggle out of poverty, their middle class will wait a little longer each generation to have kids. This will lead to longer natural life spans (as opposed to expected life span, which depends on living conditions, availability of medicine, stress factors, etc.) as well as weeding out genes that might fell a 30 year old...and later a 40 year old. I.e. cancers and "old age" maladies will be shifted to even older ages. But, new ills will present themselves to populations living beyond their natural life span. We see examples of this today in the form of arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, etc.


Then again, the biomedical field will outpace our ability to evolve these problems away. We can envision nanobots targeting and disposing of unwanted viruses, eliminating cancerous cells, repairing weak blood vessels, rejuvenating aging heart muscles, scrubbing neurons, optimizing body chemistry (whatever that means) - in short, we can imagine technology taking over the functions previously performed by the natural laws of evolution to make a better human.

But will it in fact be a better human or just the same human? When evolution grinds to a halt, will we look the same a million years from now as we do today? With questions like these rattling around in my head, I was delighted to come across this article:

Evolution's end

Hay festival 2008: Could humans really have moved beyond biology's driving force?

The Hay festival's very own scientific rock star, Steve Jones, kicked off the first weekend with a provocatively-titled lecture on whether evolution was coming to an end for humans.

It was, perhaps, a risky proposition for a man who has built his career elegantly proving and communicating the truth behind Darwin's great idea. Evolution by natural selection irrevocably linked humans into the lineage of animals, negated the need for a creator and showed that we were as malleable as any life on Earth.

But no scientist can ignore the evidence piling up in front of him. To a packed auditorium, Jones wondered if our ability to cure diseases that would normally have killed us, the ways we move around the world, and our huge level of control over our bodies and our environments have conspired to take power away from the natural forces of evolution.

How do you think evolution of our species will be affected by technology? Is this where the evolution of the human being stops?

5.26.2008

EPA Word Games

The Environmental Protection Agency has been frequently smacked around in courts for not doing their job - i.e. PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT. It's as if they no longer understand what the words Environment and Protect mean anymore. The EPA is home to some remarkable scientists who have become increasingly frustrated because their work is suppressed or the goals they're working toward continue to shift and evade. Those at the top sacrifice honorable principles to ingratiate themselves with those at the top of the top - you know, that little white painted mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue.

One of the most insidious forms of Woo is to strip words of their actual meaning and reinterpret them anew. Games are played with laws to twist their purpose and intent. Does anyone even know what "torture" means anymore? The hoi polloi may not have PhDs, but they do know what the definition of "is" is and they can smell a skunk from miles away. For the past seven years, the smell of skunk has been coming from the EPA.

In 2006, the DC US Court of Appeals had to define the word "any" for the EPA. When a law says that any physical change to a static emission source (factories, power plants, etc.) which results in increased emissions [the so-called Equipment Replacement Provision (ERP) in the Clean Air Act (CAA)] will be required to undergo a permitting process, what do you think they meant? Lawyers for the EPA argued that the term physical change is ambiguous. What does that even mean? Changing equipment? Changing the number of people working at a factory? A change in the mental capacity of managers? According to the lawyers, if physical change is ambiguous then any physical change is exponentially more ambiguous. Therefore, Congress didn't really mean any physical change and so plants are free to make changes that increase emissions without being subject to the rigorous permitting process. QED.


Smell that skunk yet? Overpowering, isn't it? The Court of Appeals spent a lot of time giving the EPA a lesson on what the word any means and how Congress did indeed mean what they said. One clue can be found in the name of the law - the Clean Air Act. Clean. Air. Make the air cleaner.

According to the court,
Only in a Humpty Dumpty world would Congress be required to use superfluous words while an agency could ignore an expansive word that Congress did use. We decline to adopt such a world-view.(ref - pdf warn)
When a court departs from its stolid machinations and references Lewis Carroll against the lawyers for the EPA, then I think we can safely say the lawyers were on the receiving end of a smack down.

Here's another example of EPA lawyerly word games in which the lawyers were schooled in the definition of "daily". When Congress imposes requirements on the daily amount of pollution allowed to enter water sources, they couldn't have really meant daily daily, could they? It's not like The Daily Show comes on every day, does it? What about the weekends?

What's unusual under Bush, several legal experts said, is not just a high percentage of court losses. It's also that so many judges have scolded the administration over its legal tactics and what they said was disregard for the law and science.

In one case, judges on a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit quoted the Lord's Prayer in underscoring the "absurdity" of the EPA's interpretation of the word "daily." Lawyers for the agency had argued that Congress did not literally mean "daily" in establishing a cap on "total maximum daily loads" of pollutants flowing into rivers.

"The law says `daily,'" wrote Judge David S. Tatel in the court's 2006 opinion rejecting the EPA's policy of requiring only annual or seasonal pollution caps in the Anacosta River. "We see nothing ambiguous about this command. `Daily' connotes `every day.' ... No one thinks of `give us this day our daily bread' as a prayer for sustenance on a seasonal or annual basis." (ref)

Who needs a dictionary when you have courts to do the work of looking up words for you. And by the way, using the Lord's prayer in refuting a Christian conservative administration's legal tactics? That's called irony.


References
Clean Air Act
State of New York, et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency (pdf)
High Court Won't Review D.C. Circuit Clean Air Act Ruling
Bush Team Battered by Courts on Environment

Henry Rollins on Evolution

My favorite quote: "If you can't prove it in the scientific world, you've got no game!"

5.25.2008

Happy Scopes Indicting Day!

On this Day: Tennessee Educator Scopes Indicted for Teaching Evolution

On May 25, 1925, the “Scopes Monkey Trial” began when John Scopes was indicted under a state law barring the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

I Miss the Lonely Astronaut

This was popular back when I worked at JSC. They only made a few episodes. So funny.



The other episodes are here.

5.24.2008

Stephen Colbert Loses it on Live Television

Woo in the Wild

From Respectful Insolence
Your Friday Dose of Woo A Biblical Cure for Autism?
One of my favorite forms of woo tends to be religious. Nothing can beat a religious justification for pseudoscience. Nothing. Whether it's the unholy fusion of the Koran and Dr. Emoto's water quackery, labeling diabetes a "demon squid," or a Biblical diet that can cure everything, there's no woo like religious woo.
From No More Hornets
Puzzling Atheists #5: Some Woo
his is a puzzle to test your knowledge of woo.

Each numbered item leads to a term that’s related to woo in some fashion. All you have to do is supply the term. They’re clearly spelled out, so you can consider the numbered tidbits of woo as a gift from WWW.

Unfortunately, since this is a Woo Puzzle, I've had to acknowledge that God works in mysterious ways. So every consonant has been replaced with a W, and every vowel has been replaced with an O. That is, except for the letters W and O, which have been replaced by one another. For the purposes of this puzzle, Y is always considered a consonant. Thus, the word WOO would be written as OWW and the word WOW would be written as OWO. GOD, by the way, would be written as WWW. For ease of reading, if a term contains more than one word, the words are separated by an underline: _.

As an extra help — because we’re all atheists here, aren’t we? — all As have been left alone. So the word HALLELUJAH would be written as WAWWOWOWAW. Leave your solutions in the comments section. To give everyone a chance, though, please post no more than four answers at a time. I’ll give credit to the first person who identifies each term. (click for the puzzle)

5.23.2008

I Like Numbers

I started keeping track of Digg's top 20 podcasts a couple months ago when my favorite podcast nudged its way in to this illustrious group. Here's a graph of those podcasts ranked #16 - 37 according to the number of Diggs they've received. See if you can spot the runaway:

Looks like one little podcast isn't content in staying with the rest of the herd. This podcast is called The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe and is one of the best out there.

Word is starting to get around and skeptics are on the march. It's hard to find any forum or newsgroup on woo that doesn't have a few rational thinkers presenting truth. Although still only a small fraction of the community, their voice is steadily growing. Whereas woo is persuasion through stories, lies, and testimonials, these skeptics have a consistency in their message founded on scientific truths. All the psychics, ghost hunters, bigfoot trackers, intelligent design proponents, young earth creationists, and thirsty homeopaths look silly in comparison. And no one wants to look silly, do they?


Notes on the chart:
1. Tracking of podcasts ranked >20 started only a couple weeks ago
2. The top podcasts are not shown. Diggnation (23697 Diggs) and This Week in Tech (16922). Those numbers are astronomical, and I really don't understand why. There's only so much "Dude this" and "Dude that" I can take. Nor can I figure out why TWiT is so popular - must be a huge California techie audience.
3. Only one other podcast in the top 20 grew faster than SGU and that's The Totally Rad Show. This is basically a spinoff from Diggnation so the built in audience is already there. The following graphs put this in perspective. The first shows % Growth since March 2007. The second starts in March 2008.
Like I said...I like numbers.
Congrats to Dr. N and the Rogues.

The More You Give, the More You Get

What do Bennie Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Eddie Long, Paula White and Creflo Dollar have in common? They all preach what has come to be known as The Prosperity Gospel. The philosophical underpinnings of their ministries are deeply complex, requiring many hours of contemplation, so it won't be easy for me to capture the essence of their teachings in just a few words, but I'll try. The Prosperity Gospel goes a little like this: You give them money, they prosper. They do this by convincing you that by having an authentic belief in God, you will be prosperous. Of course, the authenticity of your belief is best measured by how much you sacrifice to their ministries.


And who wants to win that lottery the most? None other than those least able to pay for the ticket. These televangelists prey on the hopes and dreams of the impoverished through their living room T.V. set while weekly raking in the dough. God is refashioned into Santa Claus for adults. Just sit on Benny Hinn's knee, tell him what kind of car you want, slip him a little something on the side, and wait for the miracle to occur. In the meantime, he hops on board his private jet to pick up his dry cleaning in Cancun.
Because they run churches they do not have to file tax forms with the IRS. So it's unclear how many millions - or billions - are collected every year.

“Rolls Royces, Bentleys ... a marble commode in an expensive home: that’s a lot of money down the toilet,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
Grassley has asked for their financial records following a two year investigation into their tax exempt status. The latest update on responses from these various ministries is less than encouraging. December 7, 2007 was to have been the deadline for providing this information to the Senate finance committee. As of March 31 of this year, only some have responded. Creflo Dollar has outright refused. (ref - pdf warn)

A former staff member for Without Walls International Church named Hector Gomez said, "Mansions, big planes, money, fame. That's what it's all about now; there are prophets for God, and there are prophets for profit. That's the category they fit in." and that he has received "more manipulation than inspiration" from them. (ref)

And just to make sure you're not cheating on your faith, there's this gem:

An assistant pastor took the stage first and talked about the importance of tithing, about how God's law directs members to give a certain percentage of income to the church.

"Tithe is 10 percent of your gross income, not your net," Randy has reminded congregants. (ref)

Huh. I'd have guessed God would get a bigger tip than waiters - 15% at least, maybe 20% on non-cyclone days.

Prosperity Theology is big money squeezed from poor people. It's no different than gambling with the promise of big payouts except, in this case, the House always wins.

Always.

5.22.2008

Yet More Gaps in the Frog-Salamander Fossil Record


The missing link between frog and salamander has been discovered. Called Gerobatrachus hottoni ("Hotton’s elder frog"), this animal lived 300 million years ago. That's 50 million years before the dinosaurs walked the planet.
The description of the ancient 4.5 inch amphibian that millions of years ago swam in quiet pools and caught mayflies in Texas has set to rest one of the greatest current controversies in vertebrate evolution, say scientists at the University of Calgary, who report the find in the journal Nature.

"The dispute arose because of a lack of transitional forms. This fossil seals the gap," says Dr Jason Anderson, lead scientist. (ref)

Of course, proponents of Intelligent Design will tell us that all this means is that we now have two more gaps in the fossil record.

Damned scientists. They are their own worst enemy.

(But this is still a nice homage to the late Nicholas Hotton)

5.21.2008

Garry Kasparov and the Flying Penis

Is there anything you can't do with technology? One day there may be a bionic penis, but today we have to settle for the flying penis and a slightly annoyed Garry Kasparov.

The spirit of innovation lives on.

(first seen here)

Three Girls Win the Intel Science Fair!

The top 3 winners of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair:


This story really should go national. It's fantastic news! For more background from someone on the spot, go here.

Three talented, hard working, and lucky students are the recipients of the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award, which includes a $50,000 college scholarship. This year's winners are:

  • Efficient Hydrogen Production Using Cu-Zn-Al Catalysts Prepared by Homogeneous Precipitation Method by Yi-Han Su, 17 from Taipei Municipal First Girls' Senior High School in Taipei. (A girl! From Taiwan! And I happened to pick up her abstract and take a picture of her board! (I'll have the pic and highlights from the abstract later this afternoon)

  • Development of Biosensors for Detecting Hazardous Chemicals by Natalie Saranga Omattage, 17, from The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus. (Another girl!)

  • Computation of the Alexander-Conway Polynomial on the Chord Diagrams of Singular Knots by
    Sana Raoof, 17 of Jericho High School in Jericho, New York. (Another girl! It's a sweep!)

Scatologically Speaking, Simmons Doesn't Seem to Know Crap


Geoffrey Simmons is at it again, detailing his sublime ignorance of evolution in only a few paragraphs. Visiting the Discovery Institute's website is like going to the carnival and commenting on Simmons' work is like shooting fish in the barrel at said carnival. His latest homage to witlessness concerns, among other things, the wombat (a marsupial).
The wombat has an upside-down pouch. Scientists presume, and it makes sense, that position prevents dirt from entering the pouch when the wombat is digging in the ground. Could there have been transitional species with pouches situated sideways, or did the first wombats have to scoop dirt out of their pouches every day?
Rather than go off on the inanity, let me try a different tack. First, it is true that the wombat (or wombie) does indeed have a rearward facing pouch. This is also true of the bandicoot and the Tasmanian devil, who are also burrowers like the wombat. These pouches protect the young from dirt while burrowing and also protect them when the mother is racing along the ground away from prey. So, it seems these are good reasons for the pouch to either evolve or be designed to face rearward. However, the Koala bear also has a rearward facing pouch, and as we all know, these animals are arboreal - they live in trees. Huh. Sounds like somebody gave the Koalas the wrong design.

But Simmons stops way too short in his post in presenting evidence for intelligent design. If he was scatologically minded, he would have also noted that wombat poop is square. It's true...they have square scat - roughly cube shaped. That has to be some intelligently designed anus and it brings new meaning to pinching a brick. But there's are also a good reason why this might be an evolved feature.

And yet there is more! Simmons is a man easily amazed, so I wonder how he could have possibly missed this:
All marsupials share reproductive traits that distinguish them from other mammals. For example, the uterus, the organ in which the female carries her young, is divided into left and right compartments. The female has two vaginas, or openings, one leading to each compartment. The male penis usually is two-pronged, which enables the male to place one prong in each of the female’s vaginas during mating. (ref)
So I have to wonder, in the Marsupial community, does size really matter or is symmetry more important? Top-down or bottom-up, that's one helluva design!

One more thing before I leave. My last post on Simmons concerned his incredulity over the common egg. So, if the egg was such a nifty design, don't you think the designer might have given it to the wombat?
One of the more significant reproductive traits is the lack of a true placenta in pregnant marsupials. The placenta is an organ that develops in most other mammals, called placentals, to provide nutrients and remove wastes from the developing embryo. Instead of a fully developed placenta, the pregnant marsupial forms a type of yolk sac in her uterus. The embryo absorbs nutrients from this yolk sac for four to five weeks, after which it emerges from the birth canal in an extremely undeveloped state.

5.20.2008

Nailing Judi Hoffman

Blame my ignorance of horse racing for the soft post on purported psychic, the cat-collar-wearing Judi Hoffman. I just ran across this blog that really nails Judi.
Leaving aside the fact that Big Brown was a heavy favorite and Eight Belles (who was put down on the track after the race) was widely seen as the most likely to give Big Brown a run, take a look at the scan a little closer.

Why exactly would a psychic have to make TWO trifecta bets (and two other parlay bets) to produce a single win? Don't you think her publicist might have explained that sending a ALL the betting slips might not be such a good idea?

All psychics are frauds, but some are just really stupid frauds.

Meow, biatch.


(Update April 09, 2009:)
My take on Judi capitalizing on her cancer here.

5.19.2008

MUFON Sacrifices Alien Spaceship for Credibility

I last discussed MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network) here. Unfortunately, they didn't take me up on my suggestion of expanding their base by deleting "FLYING" from "UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS". Still, I got to have faith:

And my faith has been restored with this report:
Investigators: Most Texas UFO reports can be explained
FORT WORTH — Most of the 300 reported UFO sightings in Texas dairy country earlier this year were probably planets, cloud formations or stars, according to a group that investigates unidentified flying objects.

But some cases still remain a mystery, said Kenneth Cherry, Texas director of the Mutual UFO Network, which examined the January and February phenomenon in Stephenville and Dublin, about 75 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

"The bottom line is: We really do believe something did occur down there," Cherry said Monday. "That doesn't mean we know what it was, who it belongs to or where it came from. But the large number of witnesses in a small populated area is significant in and of itself."

To their credit, MUFON had a wonderful opportunity to exploit this to its fullest unidentified potential, but they chose to step back and let (gasp) rational thinking prevail. By interviewing hundreds of witnesses, retrieving radar information with FOIA requests, checking aircraft positions and astronomical charts, they were able to explain away many of the reported sightings. More importantly, those they couldn't explain weren't used as evidence for alien spaceships or military conspiracies. Rather, they said they simply didn't know what they were. More than truthful, that's scientific.

There's nothing wrong in saying "I don't know".

More Immoral Behavior From the Pulpit

Texas Megachurch Minister Busted in Internet Sex Sting

A minister from a Dallas-area Baptist megachurch was caught in an Internet sex sting and charged with online solicitation of a minor, police said Friday.

Undercover officers posing as a 13-year-old girl communicated with Joe Barron, 52, of Plano for about two weeks. The online conversations were sexual in nature, police said.

On May 6, Barron suggested meeting the girl in person. He eventually made the nearly 200-mile drive to Bryan on Thursday, when he was arrested. Police said they found a web-cam and condoms in his car.

Yet another story of lewd and licentious behavior from the clergy. If religion is the foundation for morality, then why such immorality among its leadership? Maybe the initial assumption is wrong and instead morality is one of the foundations of religion (another being untestable supernaturalism).

Autistic Children in Church

Mother Told She'd Be Arrested for Bringing Autistic Son to Church

Carol Race ended up attending a different church — after the Todd County, Minn., sheriff stopped her and said she'd be arrested if she brought Adam to the Church of St. Joseph in Bertha.

There is a restraining order barring Race's son from St. Joseph's. The Reverend Daniel Walz wrote in court documents that Adam's behavior was disruptive and dangerous. Adam is more than 6 feet tall and over 225 pounds.

The pastor wrote that Adam spits, urinates and once struck a child during Mass.

Hmmm. What would Jesus do? Or is it too much to ask?

The Norwegian Blue: In Memoriam


In honor of the recently discovered (albeit "just resting") Norwegian Blue:

Even a Psychic Can Win the Lottery

Cat-collar wearing psychic Judi Hoffman predicted that Elliot Spitzer would not finish his term as NY governor. And she predicted the Kentucky Derby trifecta...and got it right! Judi Hoffman is a psychic to reckon with, there's no doubt. She actually puts her money where her mouth is. In fact, she placed a $6 bet on the trifecta and won $1,619! To back up her claims of paranormal abilities, she produced the Off Track Betting tickets for everyone to examine.

The world needs many more Judi Hoffman type psychics...you know, the ones who are willing to risk everything for their craft, and then produce proof of their claims.

So, how did she do at the Preakness? Despite wearing the cat-collar of her equally psychic feline (askepticksaysWHA??), her trifecta box was a little less accurate.
If she had to pick one bet to highlight, she said, it would be her trifecta box of Racecar Rhapsody (6), Big Brown (7), and Kentucky Bear (8). She saw those numbers in her dream.
Actual results were Big Brown, Macho Again, and Ichabod Crane.

There is no word yet whether or not NY State will allow Judi Judi Judi to continue to play the lottery, although I'm sure they are breathing a HUGE sigh of relief after her latest stumble.

P.S. The extent of my knowledge on horse racing is limited to "trifecta" = "3 fectas". Thanks Latin class!

(Update April 09, 2009:)
My take on Judi capitalizing on her cancer here.

5.18.2008

Kevin James Pwned on Hardball with Chris Matthews

Who is Kevin James? It doesn't really matter. What matters is that he has a 90 mph mouth that crashed big time on Hardball. You see, woo is the art of persuasion and, for the most part, anyone with a couple of neurons can see right through it when it has no basis in fact. Unfortunately, as the homeopathy consumers prove, there are people with less than a couple of neurons. Here's a case of vacuous political woo where James builds his argument around something he knows absolutely nothing about...and Chris Matthews calls him on it.



Edited 5/19/08 to change "Christ Matthews" to "Chris Matthews". Jesus, what was I smoking that night?

5.16.2008

The Incredibly Edible Intelligently Designed Hen's Egg


Geoffrey Simmons has another breathtakingly inane post on the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Christianity Culture's Evolution News & Views blog-not-a-blog. As discussed in my last post about him, he's obviously trolling for a few suckers to buy his book. In his latest I'm amazingly amazed post, he claims
When it comes to citing examples of purposeful design, nearly every author likes to point out the hen’s egg. It’s really quite remarkable. Despite having a shell that is a mere 0.35 mm think, they don’t break when a parent sits on them. [emphasis added]
What makes this so remarkable is that apparently natural selection would favor eggs that break when the mother hen sits on them. Otherwise, this wouldn't really be that amazing...it would simply be a case of evolution laws in action. But recall that raptor eggs (the avian variety, eg. hawks, eagles, etc.) were frequently broken by the mother when DDT was entered into the mix, resulting in thinner eggshell walls. Obviously, the intelligent designer didn't plan on that ever happening! He goes on to say
Under microscopy, one can see the shell is a foamlike structure that resists cracking. Gases and water pass through 10,000 pores that average 17 micrometers in diameter. Ultimately, 6 liters of oxygen will have been taken in and 4.5 liters of carbon dioxide given off. The yolk is its food. All life support systems are self-contained, like a space shuttle.
...except for a heat lamp, otherwise the hen would have no need of sitting on the egg. Say, that reminds me of all the hard-shelled eggs deposited by reptiles. Often have I seen the nurturing tortoise and alligator sitting on their nest of eggs. I mean, they do do that, don't they? Why else would a designer design hard-shelled eggs for reptiles, as well as an egg-tooth for the hatchlings?

Hopefully, you've used your snarky-tooth by now to puncture through my hard-shelled snarkiness. We all know that reptiles do not sit on their eggs. Mostly (though not always) they lay 'em and leave 'em. So, you can either accept these two contradictory examples of intelligent design, or you can accept that hens eggs and reptile eggs are connected by a common thread in evolution and, while egg shells certainly offer protection from the weight of the mother, this is incidental to the reason why hard egg shells were developed in the first place.

One more point. Eggs are vulnerable to predators. The fox, snake, and gila monster like to raid nests and partake of these tasty morsels. And why not? Nature makes them crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside. But if I was a designer concerned about a hen breaking her eggs when she sat on them, I might also be concerned about the ferret running off with them. So, I think I would choose some composite material for the egg shell, something made of nanotubes, something indestructible by prey. I think I would also include an internal Air Conditioning/Heating unit. And I would program this new eggshell (Eggshell 2.0) to open automatically at the proper time, like a flower blooming. That'll make entering the world a little easier on the chick...no need to make it work so hard in its very first few minutes of life.

But that's just me. While I think the egg is indeed remarkable, it doesn't make me dizzy as it apparently does for Geoffrey Simmons.

P.S. - see my latest on Simmons here.

(edited 5/19/08 - correct typo)
(edited 5/21/08 - add link)

Common Sense

Ooooh...I wish I'd thought of this! One more from Uncyclopedia.

Uncyclopedia - Eating the Alien

I was perusing the satirical wikipedia site Uncyclopedia and came across this interesting news tidbit from the past:

Day of woe to World's scientists: Russian fishermen catch and eat alien
Fishermen from the Rostov region of Russia recently caught a weird creature after a strong storm in the Sea of Azov. The large and out of this world looking creature was producing strange squishy sounds and something vaguely resembling burps. The fishermen deduced that they had caught a young Hutt and recorded their 220 lbs catch with the help of a Nokia 3210 cell phone camera. The footage clearly shows the creatures’ head, slobby body and long tail.

However, to the dismay of ufologists and scientists everywhere, the fishermen had decided to roast, deep fry and stick the creature in a stew.


I thought this was just a joke, but it had a link to an actual news source:

Russian fishermen catch squeaking alien and eat it
Village residents from the Rostov region of Russia caught a weird creature two weeks ago after a strong storm in the Sea of Azov. The shark-looking creature was producing strange squeaky sounds. The fishermen originally believed that they had caught an alien and decided to film the monster with the help of a cell phone camera. The footage clearly shows the creatures’ head, body and long tail. The bizarre catch was weighing almost 100 kilograms, the Komsomolskaya Pravda reports.

However, ufologists and scientists were greatly disappointed when they found out that the fishermen had eaten the monster. They said that they were not scared of the creature so they decided to use it as food. One of the men said that it was the most delicious dish he had ever eaten.


Here's the video:

5.15.2008

James Van Praagh - Watch and Believe



Fusion Man - Simply Awesome!

This is just too amazing! We've been promised flying cars in our garage since the 1950's along with a whole host of scientific innovations to make our life easier. While those predictions haven't materialized (where's my phaser?), other inventions have come along that make life so much better: the computer, cell-phone, microwave oven, and iPod/mp3 player, just to name a few. But wouldn't it be nice to strap a jet on your back and zoom off to your next business meeting?

Check out Fusion Man!





I want one!

5.14.2008

The Vatican on our ET Brethren

Vatican: It's OK to believe in aliens: "'How can we rule out that life may have developed elsewhere?' Funes said. 'Just as we consider earthly creatures as 'a brother,' and 'sister,' why should we not talk about an 'extraterrestrial brother'? It would still be part of creation.'"
Sorry...I couldn't resist.

5.13.2008

House of Yahweh or House of Sin?

So what is it with religious cults and sex? Just a few days ago I posted about the sordid tale of the Lord Our Righteousness Church whose aging leader likes to lie down naked with 7 girls. And we have all heard by now of the rampant polygamy and marriage with underage girls at the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Now we have the latest story of the House of Yahweh - you know, House of God.

Although members deny they practice polygamy, former members say Yisrayl Hawkins has at least two dozen wives — and state records show he fathered two babies last year with women ages 19 and 22.

Yisrayl Hawkins, who has pleaded not guilty in his criminal case, told The Associated Press that he and his church are misunderstood and persecuted because of their religious beliefs.

"We have nothing to hide," said the bearded, white-haired Hawkins, who declined to address specific allegations against him and his sect.

Hawkins is 73 years old. And he's getting it on with a 19 year old and has two dozen wives? I'm definitely in the wrong line of work. How charismatic can the guy be?

Following in the footsteps of the Lord Our Righteousness Church, the House of Yahweh's website is chock full of claims of persecution, proof positive that their leader is the Messiah.
II Timothy 3:12— Yes, and all who will live Righteously, as Yahshua Messiah, will suffer persecution. What The House of Yahweh teaches and what our enemies say we teach are two different things. Our enemies know better than what they actually say, but they are experts in lying and that’s what they are doing when they persecute Yahweh’s Last Days Work. They lie and they use propaganda to cause hatred against Yahweh’s People.
Fearing that the House might also follow in the footsteps of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, there has been concern of mass suicides.

"No, we're not getting ready to kill ourselves," said the prophet of the House of Yahweh, a barbed wire kingdom of brimstone prophecies and abject poverty 15 miles southeast of Abilene.

"We're getting ready to live through the greatest tribulation that ever will be."(ref)

The absolute strangeness of this cult comes through in many different forms. Having to disinfect your hands and feet before entering the church is nutty, but then so are practices from many mainstream religions. A member of the church anonymously outed some of their other practices:
Women, the member said, are required to call their husbands their "heads" and to wear latex gloves and a veil during and immediately after menstruation. Dress codes are strictly enforced. A "breeding program" shields select girls and boys from the world to become future priests and priestesses of the church, the member said. And the congregation is asked to pray for nuclear war to fulfill the prophecies espoused by Yisrayl Hawkins.
And then there's the nuclear baby. I kid you not.
In 2006, Mr. Hawkins forecast that a "nuclear baby" would be unleashed on the world, bringing nuclear war to the Middle East on Sept. 12 of that year. After doomsday failed to materialize, the prophet said the 2006 date was the day of conception and that the metaphorical baby – depicted as a horror-movie-evil infant holding a baby bottle and missile – would be born in 2007. That too failed to come to pass.
Note to the next Messiah - make predictions for at least 20 years into the future. That way you'll have 20 years before you prove yourself to be an ass. So, what's up with the Nuclear Baby now? According to the House,

Yahweh is holding back the nuclear wars now. This is shown in Revelation Chapter 7 and other Prophecies. He is holding back the nuclear baby that will destroy a third part of man over a fourth part of the earth until He has sealed a certain number of people who will repent of sin and convert to keeping the Laws of Righteousness, Inspired to be written by the Holy Prophets of Yahweh. You need our book, Birth Of The Nuclear Baby, for full details of these wars that have already started in and around the great River Euphrates.

Only the nuclear part of these wars are being held back by Yahweh at this time. They will not be held back long. They will start by killing a third part of man over a fourth part of the earth in and around the great River Euphrates. Think about this. How did He know the troubles, in this time period, would be in that fourth part of the earth?

I'm convinced. Glad I sold my house on the Euphrates before the market really really tanks.

Dutch Past Life Regression Therapy - Another Rubber Ducky


It's another Rubber Ducky of Woo that refuses to sink - past life regression therapy. But now it's taken on an official role in the case of the jobless Dutch. They are being forced by local counselors to attend courses in regression therapy to confront their past lives in hopes of getting them back into the job force.

Ruh roh. Somebody in charge is not only drinking the Kool Aid, they're snorting it! And they're trying to inject their welfare recipients with it. Haven't they ever heard of job retraining? Britain's Telegraph news site brings us the story:

Klaas Boffcher, at the Dutch Ruach Boraka Centre for Complementary Therapy, uses the technique to help “people find experiences from past identities that could be negatively affecting them today”.

“It is very useful. When someone has a problem finding work it is often more about the need to find out about themselves. Reincarnation therapy can help,” he said.

“Reincarnation therapy is regression to a previous life. People’s complaints and problems have causes not just in the present but also in previous lives.”

Somebody needs to say something to the Dutch social affairs minister. This is really silly. Oh, wait...
Piet Hein Donner, the Dutch social affairs minister, is facing growing calls from MPs for an explanation as to why therapies including reincarnation, tarot card readings and astrology are getting government funding as part of efforts to get people back into work.
Ian Stevenson, MD, a guy who has experimented with hypnotic regression, has this to say:
In fact, however, nearly all such hypnotically evoked "previous personalities" are entirely imaginary just as are the contents of most dreams. They may include some accurate historical details, but these are usually derived from information the subject has acquired normally through reading, radio and television programs, or other sources. The subject may not remember where he obtained the information included, but sometimes this can be brought out in other sessions with hypnosis designed to search for the sources of the information used in making up the "previous personality."
So, we can't tell the Dutch how to run their train, but we can let them know they're heading off in the wrong direction, and their engineer is a big Rubber Ducky that won't sink.

The Curse on James Bond

007 has been able to extricate himself from many terrifying situations, but his number may finally be up. According to psychic Dean 'Midas' Maynard, the Halloween release date for the next bond film, Quantum of Solace, has put the whole production under a curse. Of course, Maynard will happily step up to remove the curse if only the cast and crew will have him.

How altruistic of him. What can he hope to get out of this other than a teensy-weensy bit of publicity?

Dean 'Midas' Maynard, who uses supernatural powers to help British sports teams and celebrities over slumps, has offered his help to 007 Daniel Craig and the cast and crew of the film.

He believes the recent accidents, which have dogged the Bond sets in South America and Europe, are part of a curse that hangs over the film.

And he insists Amy Winehouse's run of bad luck - with two arrests in two weeks - is linked to the Bond curse, because she has been recording a potential theme for Quantum of Solace. (ref)
As for me, I scoff at all this talk of a curse. Hahahaha! Oh, wait...
"People may scoff at the talk of a curse, but it seems strange that all these bad things have happened in such a short space of time, and perhaps it's something to do with the Hallowe'en release date of the film."

Carbon 14 - God's Wacky Gift to Science


Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5730 +/- 40 years, which is about 3 billion minutes. Organisms, whether they are plants or animals, will absorb C14 throughout their lives from what is present in the atmosphere when they were alive. When they die, the C14 is no longer taken up by their systems and so whatever remains in their body at the time of death starts to decay. So, this useful in getting a handle on the organisms age, assuming you know what the level of C14 in the atmosphere was. You measure how much C14 is remaining in your long deceased carbonaceous discovery, turn the crank on your radio-carbon dating machine, and can determine how long ago the organism lived. This technique is useful for determining age to about 60,000 years.

Now let's bring in the woo. Examine the half-lives of atoms with similar nuclear weights to Carbon-14:
  • Carbon-11------20 minutes
  • Oxygen-14-----1 minute
  • Oxygen-15-----2 minutes
  • Nitrogen-13----10 minutes
C14, on the other hand, has a half-life of 3 billion minutes. Why the big difference? No one really knows, although Gerald Brown supposedly has published a likely reason dealing with the unbalancing of mesons within the nucleus. All I could find was this:
We present shell model calculations for the beta-decay of the 14C ground state to the 14N ground state, treating the states of the A=14 multiplet as two 0p holes in an 16O core. We employ low-momentum nucleon-nucleon (NN) interactions derived from the realistic Bonn-B potential and find that the Gamow-Teller matrix element is too large to describe the known lifetime. By using a modified version of this potential that incorporates the effects of Brown-Rho scaling medium modifications, we find that the GT matrix element vanishes for a nuclear density around 85% that of nuclear matter. We find that the splitting between the (J,T)=(1+,0) and (J,T)=(0+,1) states in 14N is improved using the medium-modified Bonn-B potential and that the transition strengths from excited states of 14C to the 14N ground state are compatible with recent experiments.
Yeah...I know. Typical bar-scene pickup lines. But if you're a creationist, you can look past all this and be amazed at what a wonderful tool radiocarbon dating is. After all, it allows us to plumb the depths of human history and accurately date some of the gospels. In fact, it's so useful that the only reason C14 has such a long half-life compared to its cousins can only be because --- God did it.

That's right...you heard me. God gave us this remarkable handle on the past to show his awesomeness. If you don't believe me, check out this site where creationists like to play with science toys. Specifically, you'll have to listen to the Search For A Solar Twin podcast (here or at Itunes). In essence, they say that the reason God provided us this tool is because
...our Christian faith is rooted in history. As the bible itself says, if the resurrection didn't occur, our faith would be based on nothing and we wouldn't have any reason to believe it. And there's many other things in scripture that are rooted in history. If we don't have a conviction and evidence to support the historicity of the Christian faith then our faith is being eroded. And I think God has provided a handy tool for us to be able to test some of the things that are spoken of in scripture and date them and show that there is an authority and a correctness in scripture as it describes the history that it does.
Of course, radiocarbon dating can be a little irritating when it shows that life was around far beyond...oh, let's say 6,000 YEARS AGO! To solve that problem, you have to resort to some other wacky woo. Before long, the Woo piles so high that you either disregard all of it and learn some science, or succumb to Goddiditism.