Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Answering one question

There was a great story on NPR tonight about research being conducted to ascertain the shape of the electron.

Round, right? I bet you were going to bet that it's round.

Well, we'll leave that question for a minute while I talk about something else.

When you hear theists talk about evolution, or pretty much any kind of science, one of the things they always get into is their claim that scientists claim to know everything. "They're just so sure of themselves. They think they know everything."

Of course, the exact opposite is true. It's the theists who think they know everything because their god told them, and now they never have to think about anything ever again. All that thinking's been done for them.

So this story describes the entire set of experiments, going on over twelve years, with 25 million repetitions, and they were able to get the measurements to the level of precision that if the electron were magnified up to the size of the solar system they would have the measurement within the thickness of a human hair.

Pretty damn precise, wouldn't you say?

And what does the "arrogant" scientist say about his results?

“As best we can tell, you know, to our experimental precision, the electron seems to be round.”

Go over that one again:

“As best we can tell, you know, to our experimental precision, the electron seems to be round.”

That's the difference between science and religion right there. Science will not go beyond the evidence.

So the next time you hear one of these religious nuts droning on about how scientists claim to know everything, remember the shape of the electron.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Is it possible they were wrong?


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Can you believe it's not over?

Here we go again.

(425) 643.1131; FAX (240) 384-7297For response to this
May 10, 2011
News Release
Re: Legal proof that President Obama’s Certificate of Live Birth is a forgery.Dear Sir/Madam,I have irrefutably proven that the Certificate of Live Birth that President Obama presented to theworld on April 27, 2011 is a fraudulently created document put together using the Adobe Photoshopor Illustrator programs and the creation of this forgery of a public document constitutes a class Bfelony in Hawaii and multiple violations under U.S. Code section Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 47,Sec.1028, and therefore an impeachable offense. When this comes to the public’s attention, it will be the greatest scandal in the country’s history—nothing comes even close. This will surpass the all previous scandals including the Watergate scandal of the Nixon administration.

So in case you're wondering, no, this is never going to end. After all, he'll never be able to produce a birth certificate that says he's white.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Major opportunity for Obama

The successful raid on Osama bin Laden has handed President Obama a major opportunity to advance his foreign and domestic policy goals, please his liberal base, and make a major dent in the budget deficit.

The only question is whether he will have the political wisdom to build on this latest success.

Talking Points Memo reports this week that our congressman, Peter Welch, is one of the leaders of a bipartisan group calling on Obama to use the death of bin Laden as an opportunity to redirect the effort in Afghanistan from nation-building, and the quagmire of fighting a war against an indigenous force on behalf of a corrupt government (gee, sound familiar?) to what the war was intended to do: roll up and destroy the remaining al Qaeda forces in the country.

Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations, want the Obama administration to view the successful mission against bin Laden as a model for U.S. counter-terrorism strategy as a whole. Welch, Chaffetz and a group of three Democrats and three Republicans sent Obama a letter calling for the end of the war in Afghanistan and a shift to more surgical, strategic operations to combat worldwide terrorism.

Whether Obama will capitalize on his success in Abbottabad remains to be seen, and in part it depends on secret developments based on the intelligence collected in the raid. Nevertheless, for someone who seemed like a smart political operative,, Obama has seemed strangely unable to develop and follow through on strategies, building on success in ways that not only advance his strategic goals but also enhance his political support.

This month Obama is riding a wave of increased support based on the bin Laden raid, but polling still suggests severe weaknesses. Redirecting the Afghanistan effort can address these weaknesses in a number of ways:

==>It can stop an unwinnable effort, the aforementioned quagmire, and redirect those energies to something that makes sense to people.

==>It will cost less than the war in Afghanistan. To a degree, Obama is a victim of his own honesty, because unlike Bush he has actually put the wars in the budget. A smaller, more targeted Afghanistan mission will be less costly than the current open-ended and inconclusive mission.

==>It can energize his base. Almost every day we hear from young or progressive activists, the people who walked the streets and worked the phone banks and the interwebs for Obama, saying that they will not lift a finger for him next year. A concrete move away from the failed Bush policy in Afghanistan can help get back those activists whose work will be needed to win in 2012.

As I said at the beginning, President Obama deserves the credit for getting bin Laden. Peter Welch has shown him the way to use that success to extract the United States from our Twenty-First Century Vietnam and keep his presidency moving forward.

Let's hope he has the wisdom to follow that lead.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Small government, Republican style.

Don't you love the way Republicans claim to be committed to small government?

For years they've decided that there is one small segment of society who isn't entitled to privacy: women.

Things have gotten worse in recent years. We have seen an unprecedented wave of anti-choice, anti-woman legislative proposals.

Legislatures in more than 30 states are weighing — and in some cases passing — many fast-moving bills to restrict abortion rights in a blitz that could prompt the Supreme Court to revisit the issue.
Along with bills prohibiting abortion outright, or in certain circumstances, they're also pushing bills that go to the heart of the doctor-patient relationship, limiting where abortions can be performed, telling doctors what they have to say to their patients, and the like.

I think it's important to keep straight in our minds what these bills are. To say they are anti-abortion bills oversimplifies it, and it really plays into the other side's hands because abortion is more controversial among the general public than other choice related topics.

The Supreme Court has recognized in its precedents that the questions of choice, contraception, and procreation are decidedly based on our constitutional right to privacy.

You would think that a political party that pretends to a commitment to individual autonomy and limited government would be against these laws that restrict the doctor-patient relationship, wouldn't you? After all, not only do they impinge on the personal autonomy of the person, the interfere with what is, at least in part, an economic transaction between the doctor (vendor) and patient (customer).

But no.

Here's the latest. I don't ordinarily link to Fox News, but they're kind of the source for this stuff.

With a stroke of the governor's pen, Florida is positioned to become the first state in the nation to prohibit physicians from asking patients if they have guns in their homes, a move some doctors say will interfere with health care.

That's right, a coalition of gun nuts and small government Republicans have decided that those private conversations between doctors and patients are just a little, well, too private, and the way to fix that is for the government to reach its hand into every doctor's office in the state, and tell those doctors what they are and are not allowed to talk to their patients about.

So let me get this straight. We need to have small government because it's un-American to have government interfering with people's private lives and individual economic transactions.

Except that if protecting privacy rights means protecting women's rights, well, then, privacy rights go out the window and so does small government.

Or if privacy rights interfere with someone's paranoid fantasies of big, scary government, well, there again, we can't stand up to those paranoid fantasies so the privacy rights get chucked aside.

Thanks, Republicans. Stay consistent.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

More ultra-Orthodox sexism

One of the facially attractive rationales for maintaining our military operations in Afghanistan at one time was the way women are oppressed under Islam. I'm actually prepared to accept that women are severely oppressed under conservative forms of Islam, but Islam is by no means alone in this respect.

Today I'm focusing on another example of sexual oppression under extremely conservative Judaism. We have addressed this issue once before just over two years ago when an ultra-Orthodox newspaper in Israel deleted two women from a photograph of the Israeli cabinet.

Today it's happening in the United States.

The picture at the top of this diary is one you've undoubtedly seen dozens of times. It shows President Obama's national security staff watching the feed of the bin Laden attack. You will note Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and counterterrorism expert Audrey Thomasen in this gathering.

The second picture is Der Zeitung, a Brooklyn based Hasidic newspaper. Abracadabra, no women!

The stated rationale is familiar: any depiction of women in the newspaper runs the risk of being sexually suggestive.

When we hear fundamentalist Muslims say this we know that this is a transparent ploy to maintain women's oppression by preventing them from participating in the public life of their culture. After all, if women are virtual prisoners in their own homes, allowed to be seen in public only at the whim of a male relative, men have no reason to fear being supplanted by women in positions of power.

Is there any doubt that the true reason is the same here?

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Saturday, May 07, 2011

Ummm, tritium. . . Tritium . . . .TRITIUM!!!!!!!!!!

Just a quick note here from a friend on Facebook. We don't usually cover news from Mississippi, but in this case I have to make an exception.

According to

Workers at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Plant in Port Gibson, Miss., last Thursday released a large amount of radioactive tritium directly into the Mississippi River, according to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and experts are currently trying to sort out the situation.

What does that have to do with Vermont, you may ask?

Well, just take a wild guess what company owns Grand Gulf.

Yes, it's our friends at Entergy.

"Entergy. Meeting all your tritium needs since 1971."

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Hard-hitting reporting

I watched the NBC News tonight, per my usual routine (All Things Considered on the way home, then McNeill-Lehrer, then NBC News) and among the stories about the successful bin Laden mission and whether the photos would be released Chuck Todd reported that three Senators had said that they had seen the photos, only to be corrected by the White House.

End of story.

What he left out:

1. They did see a photo, it's just that it was the faked, photoshopped photo that was making the rounds on the Internet earlier in the week.

2. All three Senators who said they had seen the picture were Republicans.

Sure, it could have been anyone, but since it was well known who the three were, why not tell the world? Especially since one of them was Saxby Chambliss, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee?

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Obama made the right decision

We know now that President Obama has decided not to release the photographs of Osama bin Laden, and I think he made the right decision.

It's tempting to say that it's the right decision just because former half-term Alsaka governor Sarah Palin thinks it isn't, but there are better reasons than that.

My thoughts:

1. People already know we've killed him. Showing the pictures will make him more of a martyr than they already consider him.

2. Releasing the photos won't convince anybody. The people who don't believe bin Laden was killed Sunday are the same ones who have looked at a million copies of Obama's official birth certificate and decided it was a fake, while concluding that an obvious forgery was his actual birth certificate from Kenya. What are the odds they won't claim that any bin Laden death photos aren't faked?

3. This isn't like Abu Ghraib; the disclosure of those photos was needed to tell the truth to the American people and the world. Here there is no good-faith question of what happened, nothing to prove.

4. We're better than that. Civilized people are rightly repelled by the barbaric display of the heads of vanquished enemies. We have the opportunity to rise above the baser voices calling for a bloodthirsty display of the corpse of a man who amply deserved his fate. We don't display body trophies.

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Four dead in Ohio

It was forty-one years ago today that the Ohio National Guard murdered four students at Kent State University for the crime of disagreeing with what we were told was government "of the people, by the people, for the people."

Despite years of coverups and denials, the Cleveland Plain Dealer is continuing to investigate the massacre at Kent State, and making progress. In part those investigations have centered on tape recordings of the events.

Here's a link to one recent article:

KENT, Ohio — In the four decades since Ohio National Guardsmen fired on students and antiwar demonstrators at Kent State University, Terry Norman has remained a central but shadowy figure in the tragedy.

Despite numerous claims to self-defense, there has been no credible evidence presented that the National Guard contingent was in serious danger.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Inside the conservative mind

It must be pleasant to be a conservative. Never let the facts confuse you, never worry about what to do when your precious ideology crashes into reality--just ignore the facts!

So tonight, in honor of the death of Osama bin Laden, we present to you a list of things that Conservatives know Bush had nothing to do with.

1. Failing to prevent the 2001 terrorist attacks. Bush had nothing to do with it. And he especially never told the guy who briefed him, "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

2. Letting Osama bin Laden escape from the mountains of Tora Bora.

He was strong on defense, a decisive leader. He would never do anything like this:

In retrospect, it becomes clear that the battle's underlying story is of how scant intelligence, poorly chosen allies, and dubious military tactics fumbled a golden opportunity to capture bin Laden as well as many senior Al Qaeda commanders.

3. Abu Ghraib torture. He was the Commander in Chief, but conservatives know for sure that he had nothing to do with this. We should ignore the fact that he was President: after all, he wasn't down there applying the electrodes himself, was he?

4. Lying about yellowcake from Niger. Sure it was in a speech that Bush gave, and his own people tried to take it out, but he had nothing to do with it. It came from the English or somebody. Definitely not Bush's fault.

5. Blowing Valerie Plame's cover when Joe Wilson exposed Bush's lies. Definitely not Bush's fault. Nothing to do with it. There is no way you can hold the guy at the top for every little thing that happens on his watch.

6. Deficit spending. Get this straight. Republicans are fiscally responsible, Democrats are spendthrifts. That's the way it is. Just ask any conservative.
So if there were deficits that just happened to be during Bush's term in office, he had nothing to do with them, and they were good for the economy anyway.

7. Failing to respond to Hurricane Katrina. Bush has a special affinity for the common man. Just look at all that time he spends in his pickup or on his Segway. Only a regular guy would do that. So you can be sure he did everything humanly possible to prevent any harm to New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. Because that's what conservatives do. And we know that Brownie did a heckuva a job, and since he was working for Bush, that means Bush did a heckuva a job too, right?

And I guess that's about it . . .

No, wait, they're telling me I have time for one more.

Here's one thing that conservatives are absolutely positive Barack Obama had nothing to do with:

Finding and capturing Osama bin Laden.

This is also a moment to salute George W. Bush.

This is what you're hearing conservatives say a lot,

Posted by a friend on Facebook:
OBAMA did NOT kill Bin Laden. An American soldier, who Obama just a few weeks ago was debating on whether or not to PAY, did. Obama just happened to be the one in office when our soldiers finally found OBL and took him out.

A sampling of conservatives on a discussion board I frequent:

Sorry but thanks to the MILITARY.
President Obama deserves no credit.

Obama hasn't done sh*t. Bush started this War.
I am not a Bush fan but Obama deserves no credit.

God bless David Petreus Although the big earred dope will take credit for it

So Obama got him personally?
Wow that is amazing.

So if you're keeping score at home:

Anything bad that happened while Bush was president? Nothing to do with Bush.

Anything good that happened while Obama was President? Nothing to do with Obama.

The conservative brain at work.

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