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May 31, 2006

Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday

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And so we rant

The bizarre US diplomatic practice of backing oddball losers and megalomaniac lunatics has again paid off. We got a boy in Iran who is spoiling for a fight just when we need one.

I’d like to suggest that it’s a Republican practice. The elephant crowd were the bunch who supported Hitler in the 30’s. Pinochet certainly owed his ascendance and survival to the mad power-mongers of the corporate right (and fuck you Dita Beard). Noriega couldn’t have done it without the Torrijos plane crash, a Republican political technique both offshore and on, those plane crashes, and I know this because the BAD GUYS DO NOT DIE IN PLANE CRASHES, ONLY THE GOOD GUYS DO. Hussein must have been baffled when the US Republicans who empowered him turned on him. The guys who had him killing Kurds like Miz Muffet putting away a jug of whey turned on him like jackals and invaded, and tore down the very statues of him they had paid to erect. There are dozens of these globally powerful goons, enabled by the corporate right, supported by the full faith and credit of the US, then torn from power when it becomes expedient. . .

Do you know what Nascar means? 

The collapse of reason

Noam Chomsky: Why it's over for America

South Dakota has responded to this with this.

Gore: Bush is 'renegade rightwing extremist'

Al Gore has made his sharpest attack yet on the George Bush presidency, describing the current US administration as "a renegade band of rightwing extremists".

A Cup of Joe

Lewis Black on the Starbucks® at the end of the universe.

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Lewis Black America's foremost commentator on everything!

May 30, 2006

Links With Your Coffee - Tuesday

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A Shrink is just what they need.
Facts should be taskmasters, and there is no exemption for fiction

Historical novelists must not manipulate an audience's veneration for the truth with their phoney verisimilitude

A place for everything, and everything in its place. This is a fun diversion. I'm ashamed of my result some average 60 miles off. I know I'll be taking a good map if I leave the Western United States.

Kneel don't kneel I'm never surprised at how damn funny people are who substitute superstition and faith for reason. They actually believe the authority figures they esteem, well usually. This is ROFLMAO funny.

A Ban on Kneeling? Some Catholics Won't Stand for It

Kneeling "is clearly rebellion, grave disobedience and mortal sin," Father Martin Tran, pastor at St. Mary's by the Sea, told his flock in a recent church bulletin. The Diocese of Orange backs Tran's anti-kneeling edict.

Since at least the 7th century, Catholics have been kneeling after the Agnus Dei, the point during Mass when the priest holds up the chalice and consecrated bread and says, "Behold the lamb of God." But four years ago, the Vatican revised its instructions, allowing bishops to decide at some points in the Mass whether their flocks should get on their knees. "The faithful kneel … unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise," says Rome's book of instructions. Since then, some churches have been built without kneelers.

The debate is part of the argument among Catholics between tradition and change. Traditionalists see it as the ultimate posture of submission to and adoration of God; modernists view kneeling as the vestige of a feudal past they would like to leave behind.

The Top Ten signs you're a fundamentalist Christian.

May 29, 2006

Richard Dawkins on the Problem of Evil

The Theology of the Tsunami
by Richard Dawkins
Op-Ed column in Free Inquiry 25 (3), 12-13, April/May 2005

I have never found the problem of evil very persuasive as an argument against deities. There seems no obvious reason to presume that your God will be good. The question for me is why you think any God, good or evil or indifferent, exists at all. Most of the Greek pantheon sported very human vices, and the ‘jealous God’ of the Old Testament is surely one of the nastiest, most truly evil characters in all fiction. Tsunamis would be just up his street, and the more misery and mayhem the better. I have always thought the ‘Problem of Evil’ was a rather trivial problem for theists, compared to the Argument from Improbability which is a genuinely powerful, indeed knockdown argument against the very existence of all forms of unevolved creative intelligence.

Nevertheless, my experience is that godly people, who show no evidence of even beginning to understand the Argument from Improbability, are reduced to quivering embarrassment if not outright loss of faith, when confronted with a natural disaster or a major pestilence. Earthquakes, in particular, have traditionally shaken people’s faith in a benevolent deity, and December’s tsunami provoked a lot of agonized soul-searching on the question “How can religious people explain something like this?” The most prominent apparent quaverer was the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican communion. It turned out that he had been traduced by the Daily Telegraph, a notoriously irresponsible and mischievous newspaper and one of several London newspapers which devoted many column inches to this knotty theological conundrum. It turned out that the Archbishop had not in fact said that the tsunami shook his own faith, only that he could sympathize with those who did have doubts.

The most famous precedent, several commentators reminded us, is the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which deeply disturbed Kant and provoked Voltaire’s mockery in Candide. The Guardian published a flurry of Letters to the Editor, headed by one from the Bishop of Lincoln who asked God to preserve us from religious people who try to ‘explain’ the tsunami. Other letters attempted just that. One clergyman conceded that there was no intellectual answer: just hints of an explanation which “will only be found in a life lived by faith, prayer, contemplation and Christian action.” Another clergymen cited the Book of Job, and he thought he had found the beginnings of an explanation for suffering in Paul’s idea that the whole universe was experiencing something akin to the pains of a woman in childbirth:

“The argument for the existence of God from design would be fatally flawed if the universe were seen as complete already. Religious believers see the totality of experience as part of a greater narrative moving towards an as yet unimaginable goal.”

Is this the kind of thing theologians are paid to do? At least he didn’t sink to the level of a Professor of Theology in my University who once suggested, during a televised discussion with me and my colleague Peter Atkins among others, that the holocaust was God’s way of giving the Jews the opportunity to be brave and noble – a remark which prompted Dr Atkins to growl, “May you rot in hell!”
My own initial response to the correspondence on the tsunami was published the following day:
“The Bishop of Lincoln (Letters, December 29) asks to be preserved from religious people who try to explain the tsunami disaster. As well he might. Religious explanations for such tragedies range from loopy (it's payback for original sin) through vicious (disasters are sent to try our faith) to violent (after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, heretics were hanged for provoking God's wrath). But I'd rather be preserved from religious people who give up on trying to explain, yet remain religious.

In the same batch of letters, Dan Rickman says "science provides an explanation of the mechanism of the tsunami but it cannot say why this occurred any more than religion can". There, in one sentence, we have the religious mind displayed before us in all its absurdity. In what sense of the word "why", does plate tectonics not provide the answer?

Not only does science know why the tsunami happened, it can give precious hours of warning. If a small fraction of the tax breaks handed out to churches, mosques and synagogues had been diverted into an early warning system, tens of thousands of people, now dead, would have been moved to safety.

Let's get up off our knees, stop cringing before bogeymen and virtual fathers, face reality, and help science to do something constructive about human suffering.”

Letters to the Editor necessarily have to be brief, and I failed to insure myself against the obvious charge of callousness. Among the onslaught that flooded the letters page the next day, one woman wondered what comfort science could offer to a parent whose child had been swept out to sea. Three letters were from doctors, who could justly claim more experience of human suffering than I could match. One of them deployed a bizarrely literal-minded interpretation of Darwinism: “If I were an atheist, I can’t imagine why I should bother to help anyone whose genes might compete with mine.” Another lashed petulantly out at science “cloning sheep or cats”. The third lashed out at me personally, describing me as his personal bogeyman: “the atheist version of a door-stepping Jehovah’s Witness’. An ayatollah without a deity – God help us.”

I don’t usually come back for a second go, but I was anxious to dispel wanton misunderstanding, so I sent in another letter which was published the day after:

It is true that science cannot offer the consolations that your correspondents attribute to prayer, and I am sorry if I seemed a callous ayatollah or a doorstepping bogeyman (Letters, December 31). It is psychologically possible to derive comfort from sincere belief in a nonexistent illusion, but -- silly me -- I thought believers might be disillusioned with an omnipotent being who had just drowned 125,000 innocent people (or an omniscient one who failed to warn them). Of course, if you can derive comfort from such a monster, I would not wish to deprive you.

My naive guess was that believers might be feeling more inclined to curse their God than pray to him, and maybe there’s some dark comfort in that. But I was trying, however insensitively, to offer a gentler and more constructive alternative. You don’t have to be a believer. Maybe there’s nobody there to curse. Maybe we are on our own, in a world where plate tectonic and other natural forces occasionally cause appalling catastrophes. Science cannot (yet) prevent earthquakes, but science could have provided just enough warning of the Boxing Day tsunami to save most of the victims and spare the bereaved. Even worse lowland floodings of the future are threatened by global warming which is preventable by human action, guided by science. And if the comforts afforded by outstretched human arms, warm human words and heartbroken human generosity seem puny against the agony, they at least have the advantage of existing in the real world.

One of the most popular of religious responses to natural disasters is the “Why me?” response. This underlay several of the replies to the first of my letters to the Guardian. One actually berated science for its inability to answer the ‘why me’ question. And that really doesn’t merit a response.

May 27, 2006

Links With Your Coffee Saturday

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Five Alternatives to Throwing Your Penis at the Police (A Cautionary Tale)

The 35th Skeptics Circle

The Politics of Evil by Richard Neville

In January, when a CIA strike on Damadola village in Pakistan missed an Al Qaeda fugitive and wiped out five women and five children, there was not only a lack of an official apology but a rebuke to the weeping relatives. You shouldn't hang out with bad guys. While US Senator John McCain did apologize, unlike Bush, he didn't seem to mean it, "I can't tell you that we wouldn't do the same thing again". A New York Times editorial decided the Damadola strike had been "legitimately aimed". So there you have it. A pinheaded Goliath unleashes Hellfire missiles at an impoverished village in a friendly nation, liquidates children, and is defended by moderates. It doesn't make sense. If it is "legitimate" to kill innocents, then it is legitimate for bin Laden to strike the World Trade Centre. This is absurd. Therefore the argument is false.

Bush on immigration (video)

Pink Floyd's Latest: 'Dubya— Another Prick on the Wall'

One Flew over the cuckoo's nest. Update on Anthony Flew. Maybe he's a deist. Scroll down for the latest May 2006 update in the Flew saga.

President George W. Liar

Saturday Night Live parody of Neil Young

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Richard Dawkins on Knowledge and Design

Natural ‘Knowledge’ and Natural ‘Design’
by Richard Dawkins
Op-Ed column in Free Inquiry 26 (3), 34-45, April/May 2006

As conscious animals, we think of knowledge as something that we consciously know. A zoologist might see knowledge as facts that are useful for survival and reproduction, whether or not they are known to a mind. An orb spider’s survival tool is its web, and it behaves as if it ‘knows’ how to build it. Each cell in an embryo lioness ‘knows’ how to participate, with millions of other cells, in a virtuoso performance of orchestrated origami whose end product is an adult hunter: a carnivorous machine with limbs to run, eyes to see, claws to subdue, teeth and enzymes to dismember and dissolve, guts to digest, and two uteruses to make new embryos that will preserve the genetically encoded ‘knowledge’.

A spider doesn’t know how to make a web as a fisherman knows how to make a net. Spider genes are a recipe for legs, muscles and spinnerets, together with a brain whose wiring diagram causes it to manipulate muscles in such a way that a web automatically results. The spider – presumably – knows nothing of webs or flies, any more than you knew how to build yourself during your nine months of unconscious gestation. Genes literally don’t know anything, but in a powerful sense they store knowledge about environments from the ancestral past.

Beaver genes, ‘knowing’ about an external world of rivers, trees and dams, program bodies to exploit it. Like all mammal genes, beaver genes also ‘know’ about the internal world of mammal biochemistries and mammal bodies, and they build cells that transact the first and construct the second. Genes ‘know’ about their environment in the special sense that a key ‘knows’ the lock that it uniquely fits.

Where do genes gain their knowledge? All knowledge of the future must come from the past. Gene pools store knowledge of ancestral environments, and program future bodies to use it. To the extent that the future resembles the past, locks open and bodies survive to pass on the same genes. To the extent that it doesn’t, bodies die, and the genes inside them. In extreme cases, whole species go extinct.

But how is the information read out of the environment and into the genes? This is the indispensable role of natural selection, the stunningly simple yet powerful engine of evolution first discovered by Charles Darwin, although he expressed it differently. Neo-Darwinians speak of the nonrandom survival of genes in gene pools. The gene pool of a species is the set of genes that is available, through sexual shuffling, for making individuals of that species. With the exception of clones such as identical twins, every individual is unique. But genes are things you can count. As generations pass, good genes become more frequent in the gene pool; bad genes disappear. ‘Good’ means good at building bodies that survive to reproduce in the environment of the species: woodland, sea, soil, coral reef etc. Regardless of external environments, good genes are good at cooperating inside cells with other genes that have become frequent in the same gene pool and are therefore, by definition, also good.

As a sculptor shapes a statue by subtraction of marble, so natural selection chisels the gene pool towards perfection as generations go by. It isn’t only subtraction. New variation is added to the gene pool by mutation – random mistakes which occasionally turn out to be superior. The randomness of mutation is partly responsible for the widespread, ludicrous misconception that natural selection itself is a random process.

Nonrandom natural selection, automatically and without awareness or deliberation, funnels information about environments into the DNA of a species. This coded information fosters the illusion that organisms were designed precisely for their environments. Think of the uncanny resemblance of camouflaged insects to the background on which they sit. Think of the vertebrate eye with its high-res trichromat retina, variable focus lens, and light-metered fine-adjustment of the pupil. But think, too, of the strange fact that the vertebrate retina (though not that of the independently evolved octopus) is back to front. Light has to pass through a forest of connecting wires before hitting the photocells: exactly the kind of ‘mistake’ you would expect of an evolved, as opposed to designed, instrument.

Several factors conspire to make the natural illusion of design persuasive, complex and often beautiful. ‘Arms races’ between predators and prey, or parasites and hosts, drive the perfection of evolutionary adaptation to spectacular heights. Perfection is enhanced by large numbers of genes, each of small effect, cooperating with each other in cartels of long standing. The evolution of beauty is abetted by the principle that Darwin called sexual selection. The gorgeous colours of a male bird of paradise certainly don’t help it to survive as an individual. They do help the survival of genes that make them attractive to females.

Above all, the illusion of design depends upon the gradual accumulation of small improvements, escalating to levels of complexity and elegance that could not conceivably be achieved in a single lucky step. We are rightly incredulous of any suggestion that biological complexity could spring suddenly from primordial simplicity in one generation. But it is easy if each step of a gradual progression is derived from its immediate predecessor which it closely resembles. That, in a phrase, is why evolution can so brilliantly explain life, where neither chance nor design can.

Intelligent design works as a short-term proximal explanation of cameras and cars, prize roses and poodles. But it is fatally flawed as an ultimate explanation for anything, because it miserably fails to answer the $64,000 question: Who designed the designer? That is not a frivolous debating point. It looms menacingly and fatally over the case – such as it is – for intelligent design. And, by the way, there is nothing new about ‘Intelligent Design Theory.’ It boasts a slick, adman-crafted name but (aside from an irrelevant shift into cellular biochemistry) it offers no new arguments beyond those that Darwin himself demolished in his magnanimous chapter on ‘Difficulties’.

The central (and virtually only) argument offered in favor of intelligent design is the Argument from Improbability. Some biological feature – an eye or feather, biochemical pathway or bacterial flagellum – is claimed to be too statistically improbable (irreducibly complex, information rich etc.) to have evolved by natural selection (naive old-style creationists say ‘chance’). Therefore, by default, it must have been ‘designed’. Positive evidence for design is never even considered: only alleged failures of the alternative.

It is hard to imagine a more lamentably weak argument. The complex biological feature, in every case that has been examined in detail, always turns out to have a gradual ascent path leading to it. In any case, no attempt is ever made to show that the so-called alternative ‘theory’ of intelligent design fares any better. Ultimately, however statistically improbable, however irreducibly complex an eye or flagellum or anything else might one day prove to be, any intelligent being capable of designing it would have to be even more statistically improbable and complex.

Disingenuously, intelligent design advocates try to disguise their religious motives by claiming that the designer’s identity is left open. Not necessarily Yahweh, it could be an alien from space. Scientists would not object to that in principle, because the stellar alien, who might indeed be god-like from our humble viewpoint, presumably evolved by a gradual, cumulative process. You can roll the regress back if you wish, to a designer of the designer. But sooner or later you are going to have to foreswear what the philosopher Daniel Dennett calls ‘skyhooks’, and employ a solidly founded ‘crane’. The only natural crane we know is natural selection, and I have no doubt that if life exists elsewhere in the universe it will turn out to be, in the broad sense, Darwinian.

To the extent that creationists rely on the Argument from Improbability, they cannot get away with postulating an unevolved designer – who would have to be even more improbable. To the extent that they allow their unevolved supernatural designer to have sprung into existence ab initio, they should allow natural agents the same dubious privilege. Intelligent design is not only bad science; it is bad logic, bad philosophy and even – as my theologian friends point out – bad theology.

The United States is, by any standards, the leading scientific nation in the history of the world. Yet this unprecedented powerhouse of scientific achievement is being dragged down in derision, in the eyes of the entire educated world, by the preposterous antics now occurring in a Pennsylvania court, and threatening other boondocks of local democracy. A second rate mathematician, a mediocre biochemist, a born-again retired lawyer, and a Moonie have somehow succeeded in elevating themselves, in the eyes of influential but ignorant politicians, rich benefactors, and duped laymen, to near parity with the entire National Academy. How has it been allowed to happen? When will this great country come to its senses and rejoin the civilized world?

May 26, 2006


Come on baby light my fire (tip to onegoodmove reader Wendy from Zurich)

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Filling the holes

You know I get it, people are just looking for a way to fill the holes. But they want the holes, they want to live in the holes. And they go nuts when somebody else pours dirt in their holes. [yells out to nobody in particular] Climb out of your holes, people! House, Season 2, Episode 19 House vs. God

An excellent article by Richard Dawkins, one of the best at pouring dirt in their holes.

God’s Gift to Kansas
by Richard Dawkins
Op-Ed column in Free Inquiry 25 (5), 13-14, Aug/Sept 2005

Science feeds on mystery. As my colleague Matt Ridley has put it, “Most scientists are bored by what they have already discovered. It is ignorance that drives them on.” Science mines ignorance. Mystery – that which we don’t yet know; that which we don’t yet understand – is the mother lode that scientists seek out. Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious. Scientists exult in mystery for a very different reason: it gives them something to do. Maybe we don’t understand yet, but we’re working on it! Each mystery solved opens up vistas of unsolved problems, and the scientist eagerly moves in.

Admissions of ignorance and mystification are vital to good science. It is therefore galling, to say the least, when enemies of science turn those constructive admissions around and abuse them for political advantage. It is worse than galling. It threatens the enterprise of science itself. This is exactly the effect creationism or ‘intelligent design theory’ (ID) is having, especially because its propagandists are slick, superficially plausible and, above all, well-financed. ID, by the way, is not a new form of creationism. It simply is creationism disguised, for political reasons, under a new name.

It isn’t even safe for a scientist to express temporary doubt, as a rhetorical device before going on to dispel it.

“To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”

You will find this sentence of Charles Darwin quoted again and again by creationists. They never quote what follows. Darwin immediately went on to confound his initial incredulity. Others have built on his foundation, and the eye is today a show-piece of the gradual, cumulative evolution of an almost perfect illusion of design. The relevant chapter of my Climbing Mount Improbable is called ‘The fortyfold path to enlightenment’ in honour of the fact that, far from being difficult to evolve, the eye has evolved at least forty times independently around the animal kingdom.

The distinguished Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin is widely quoted as saying that organisms “appear to have been carefully and artfully designed.” Again, this was a rhetorical preliminary to explaining how the powerful illusion of design actually comes about by natural selection. The isolated quotation strips out the implied emphasis on ‘appear to’, leaving exactly what a simplemindedly pious audience – in Kansas, for instance – wants to hear.

Deceitful misquoting of scientists to suit an anti-scientific agenda ranks among the many un-Christian habits of fundamentalist authors. But such Telling Lies for God (book title of the splendidly pugnacious Australian geologist Ian Plimer) is not the most serious problem. There is a more important point to be made, and it goes right to the philosophical heart of creationism.

The standard methodology of creationists – indeed, all their arguments are variants of it – is to find some phenomenon in nature which, in their view or even in reality, Darwinism cannot readily explain. Darwin said

“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”

Creationists mine ignorance and uncertainty, not as a spur to honest research but in order to exploit and abuse Darwin’s challenge. “Bet you can’t tell me how the elbow joint of the lesser spotted weasel frog evolved by slow gradual degrees?” If the scientist fails to give an immediate and comprehensive answer, a default conclusion is drawn: “Right then, the alternative theory, ‘intelligent design’, wins by default.” Notice, first, the biased logic: if theory A fails in some particular, theory B must be right! We are encouraged to leap to the default conclusion without even looking to see whether the default theory fails in the very same particular. ID is granted (quite wrongly as I have shown elsewhere) a charmed immunity to the rigorous demands made of evolution.

Notice, second, how the creationist ploy undermines the scientist’s natural – indeed necessary – rejoicing in uncertainty. Today’s scientist in America dare not say:

“Hm, interesting point. I wonder how the weasel frog’s ancestors did evolve their elbow joint. I’m not a specialist in weasel frogs, I’ll have to go to the University Library and take a look. Might make an interesting project for a graduate student.”

No, the moment a scientist said something like that – and long before the student began the project – the default conclusion would become a headline in a creationist pamphlet: “Weasel frog could only have been designed by God.”

I once introduced a chapter on the so-called Cambrian Explosion with the words, “It is as though the fossils were planted there without any evolutionary history.” Once again this was a rhetorical overture, intended to whet the reader’s appetite for the explanation that was to follow. Sad hindsight tells me now how predictable it was that my remark would be gleefully quoted out of context. Creationists adore ‘gaps’ in the fossil record.

Many evolutionary transitions are elegantly documented by more or less continuous series of gradually changing intermediate fossils. Some are not, and these are the famous ‘gaps’. Michael Shermer has wittily pointed out that if a new fossil discovery neatly bisects a ‘gap’, the creationist will declare that there are now two gaps! But in any case, note yet again the unwarranted use of a default. If there are no fossils to document a postulated evolutionary transition, the default assumption is that there was no evolutionary transition: God must have intervened.

It is utterly illogical to demand complete documentation of every step of any narrative, whether in evolution or any other science. Only a tiny fraction of dead animals fossilize and we are lucky to have as many intermediate fossils as we have. We could easily have had no fossils at all, and the evidence for evolution from other sources, such as molecular genetics and geographical distribution, would still be overwhelmingly strong. On the other hand, evolution makes the strong prediction that if a single fossil turned up in the wrong geological stratum, the theory would be blown out of the water. When challenged by a zealous Popperian to say how evolution could ever be falsified, J B S Haldane famously growled: “Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian.” No such anachronistic fossils have ever been found, despite discredited creationist legends of human skulls in the Coal Measures and human footprints interspersed with those of dinosaurs.

The creationists’ fondness for ‘gaps’ in the fossil record is a metaphor for their love of gaps in knowledge generally. Gaps, by default, are filled by God. You don’t know how the nerve impulse works? Good! You don’t understand how memories are laid down in the brain? Excellent! Is photosynthesis a bafflingly complex process? Wonderful! Please don’t go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to God. Dear scientist, don’t work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries for we can use them. Don’t squander precious ignorance by researching it away. Ignorance is God’s gift to Kansas.

May 25, 2006

Religion Gone Nuts

Do you remember this story? Kenya's 'Koranic fish' Saturday Night Live did.

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Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday

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Did you know that if you click on the word Archives at the top of the list of monthly archives you'll see a list of all the posts at onegoodmove. There are two ways to search the site. The search box top right and the Google Search at the bottom of the page.

Enron's Lay, Skilling Convicted of Conspiracy and Fraud Charges

Oh Kenney boy, the cell the cell is calling.
from now till then, you'll find it and besides
Your freedom's gone and all your friends are crying
Tis you, tis you must go and we must chide.

Great Minds think alike check out Mad Kane's effort in 2002

Colbert defending Delay Delay thinks so.

Keep smiling CONGRESS MAKES ENGLISH MUFFIN OFFICIAL BREAKFAST OF U.S. from Don Davis and this on the Times and the Republicans from Mad Kane

May 24, 2006

Reply to a Christian

Council for Secular Humanism Sam Harris replys to a christian.

Since the publication of my first book, The End of Faith, I have received thousands of letters and e-mails from religious believers insisting that I am wrong not to believe in God. Invariably, the most unpleasant of these communications have come from Christians. This is ironic, as Christians generally believe that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own. Please accept this for what it is: the testimony of a man who is in a position to observe how people behave when their faith is challenged. Many who claim to have been transformed by Christ's love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism. While you may ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that the hatred these people feel comes directly from the Bible. How do I know this? Because the most deranged of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse.

Before I present some of my reasons for rejecting your faith-which are also my reasons for believing that you, too, should reject it-I want to acknowledge that there are a few things that you and I agree about. We agree that, if one of us is right, then the other is wrong. The Bible either is the word of God, or it isn't. Either Jesus offers humanity the one, true path to salvation (John 14:6), or he does not. We agree that to be a real Christian is to believe that all other faiths are in error and profoundly so. If Christianity is correct, and I persist in my unbelief, I should expect to suffer the torments of hell. Worse still, I have persuaded others, many close to me, to persist in a state of unbelief. They, too, will languish in "everlasting fire" (Matthew 25:41). If the claims of Christianity are true, I will have realized the worst possible outcome of a human life. The fact that my continuous and public rejection of Christianity does not worry me should suggest to you just how unsatisfactory I think your reasons for being a Christian are.
You believe that the Bible is the literal (or inspired) word of God and that Jesus is the Son of God-and you believe these propositions because you think they are true, not merely because they make you feel good. You may wonder how it is possible for a person like myself to find these sorts of assertions ridiculous. While it is famously difficult for atheists and believers to communicate about these matters, I am confident that I can give you a very clear sense of what it feels like to be an atheist.Consider: every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim that you now have for being a Christian. And yet, you know exactly what it is like not to find these reasons compelling. On virtually every page, the Qur'an declares that it is the perfect word of the Creator of the universe. Muslims believe this as fully as you believe the Bible's account of itself. There is a vast literature describing the life of Muhammad that, from the Muslim point of view, proves his unique status as the Prophet of God. While Muhammad did not claim to be divine, he claimed to offer the most perfect revelation of God's will. He also assured his followers that Jesus was not divine (Qur'an 5:71-75; 19:30-38) and that anyone who believed otherwise would spend eternity in hell. Muslims are convinced that Muhammad's pronouncements on these subjects, as on all others, are infallible.
Why don't you find these claims convincing? Why don't you lose any sleep over whether or not you should convert to Islam? Please take a moment to reflect on this. You know exactly what it is like to be an atheist with respect to Islam. Isn't it obvious that Muslims are not being honest in their evaluation of the evidence? Isn't it obvious that anyone who thinks that the Qur'an is the perfect word of the Creator of the universe has not read the book very critically? Isn't it obvious that Muslims have developed a mode of discourse that seeks to preserve dogma, generation after generation, rather than question it? Yes, these things are obvious. Understand that the way you view Islam is precisely the way every Muslim views Christianity. And it is the way I view all religions.
Christians regularly assert that the Bible predicts future historical events. For instance, Deuteronomy 28:64 says, "The Lord will scatter you among the nations from one end of the earth to the other." Jesus says, in Luke 19:43-44, "The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." We are meant to believe that these utterances predict the subsequent history of the Jews with such uncanny specificity so as to admit of only a supernatural explanation. It is on the basis of such reasoning that 44 percent of the American population now believes that Jesus will return to earth to judge the living and the dead sometime in the next fifty years.
But just imagine how breathtakingly specific a work of prophecy could be if it were actually the product of omniscience. If the Bible were such a book, it would make specific, falsifiable predictions about human events. You would expect it to contain a passage like, "In the latter half of the twentieth century, humankind will develop a globally linked system of computers-the principles of which I set forth in Leviticus-and this system shall be called the Internet." The Bible contains nothing remotely like this. In fact, it does not contain a single sentence that could not have been written by a man or woman living in the first century.
Take a moment to imagine how good a book could be if it were written by the Creator of the universe. Such a book could contain a chapter on mathematics that, after two thousand years of continuous use, would still be the richest source of mathematical insight the earth has ever seen. Instead, the Bible contains some very obvious mathematical errors. In two places, for instance, the Good Book gives the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter as simply 3 (1 Kings 7: 23-26 and 2 Chronicles 4: 2-5). We now refer to this constant relation with the Greek letter p. While the decimal expansion of p runs to infinity-3.1415926535 . . .-we can calculate it to any degree of accuracy we like. Centuries before the oldest books of the Bible were written, both the Egyptians and Babylonians approximated p to a few decimal places. And yet the Bible-whether inerrant or divinely inspired-offers us an approximation that is terrible even by the standards of the ancient world. Needless to say, many religious people have found ingenious ways of rationalizing this. And yet, these rationalizations cannot conceal the obvious deficiency of the Bible as a source of mathematical insight. It is absolutely true to say that, if Archimedes had written a chapter of the Bible, the text would bear much greater evidence of the author's "omniscience."
Why doesn't the Bible say anything about electricity, about DNA, or about the actual age and size of the universe? What about a cure for cancer? Millions of people are dying horribly from cancer at this very moment, many of them children. When we fully understand the biology of cancer, this understanding will surely be reducible to a few pages of text. Why aren't these pages, or anything remotely like them, found in the Bible? The Bible is a very big book. There was room for God to instruct us on how to keep slaves and sacrifice a wide variety of animals. Please appreciate how this looks to one who stands outside the Christian faith. It is genuinely amazing how ordinary a book can be and still be thought the product of omniscience.
Of course, your reasons for believing in God may be more personal than those I have discussed above. I have no doubt that your acceptance of Christ coincided with some very positive changes in your life. Perhaps you regularly feel rapture or bliss while in prayer. I do not wish to denigrate any of these experiences. I would point out, however, that billions of other human beings, in every time and place, have had similar experiences-but they had them while thinking about Krishna, or Allah, or the Buddha, while making art or music, or while contemplating the sheer beauty of nature. There is no question that it is possible for us to have profoundly transformative experiences. And there is no question that it is possible for us to misinterpret these experiences and to further delude ourselves about the nature of the universe.
If you have read my letter this far, one of two things has happened. Either you have perceived some error that is genuinely fatal to my argument, or you have ceased to be a Christian. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any errors you may have found. You could yet save me the torments of hell.

Net Neutrality

network neutrality.jpg

Radical Chicks or Targets


What's so radical about the Dixie Chicks? Why did the Times choose the cover they did? Bag News Notes has some thoughts on the topic as suggested by the picture above.


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Countdown with Keith Olbermann

May 23, 2006

Truth to Power

Jean Sara Rohe spoke truth to power with force and conviction. The response to truth in this instance revealed a lack of character, a pitiful lack of character.

The senator does not reflect the ideals upon which this university was founded, I am young, and although I don't profess to possess the wisdom that time affords us, I do know that pre-emptive war is dangerous and wrong...

And I know that despite all the havoc that my country has wrought overseas in my name, Osama bin Laden still has not been found, nor have those weapons of mass destruction

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Faith + Values Forum: Keep religious texts out of laws, civil marriage

The problem is that circumstances change, while ancient texts do not. For example, slavery, which is condoned in the Bible, is properly outlawed in modern society.

Laws must have a secular purpose. We have laws against theft and murder, not because of the Ten Commandments, but because we can demonstrate that these acts cause harm to society.

Contrast this with attempts to ban same-sex civil marriage. Depriving committed gays and lesbians of the opportunity to marry serves no secular purpose -- it only advances a particular religious agenda. In fact, if we believe that marriage serves a beneficial role in helping to stabilize society, then we should actively promote marriage regardless of sexual orientation.

Debating the Best American Fiction
In praise of "small" novels.

The Simpsons as philosophyThe Simpsons as philosophy


I always wonder why people don't ask themselves why the aliens drop in only when the dropped in on have just woken up from sound sleep. Why don't they knock on the door at 3 in the afternoon and ask for lemonade? Why don't they show up at noon and help make lunch? Why don't they show up right after dinner and pass the mints? Why don't they show up when everyone for miles around is wide awake and alert and dressed and walking around and thinking straight? Eh? Why is it always when people are lying there in fetid heaps wondering what woke them oh it's an alien? You would think they'd wonder.

Nick Cohen on Truth
He mentions both Blackburn's Truth : A Guide and Benson and Stranghorn's
Why Truth Matters both on my list of recently read and recommended.

Mad Kane's Ode to Rep. Jefferson.


And lest we forget, oh, we did didn't we Victoria Day here's an offering from Avery Ant Oh, Oh, Canada

Colbert's Correspondents Dinner Roast of Dub is number one on iTunes via Swedes for Obama

Dixie Chicks

The Dixie Chicks are 'not ready to make nice' and neither am I. Here is a live performance of their song on Dave Letterman

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Late Show with Dave Letterman

May 21, 2006

SNL Presidential Outtakes

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*** Latest on Rove Indictment Story

Further - and again this is "What We Believe" - Rove may be turning state's evidence. We suspect that the scope of Fitzgerald's investigation may have broadened - clearly to Cheney - and according to one "off the record source" to individuals and events not directly related to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. We believe that the indictment which does exist against Karl Rove is sealed. Finally, we believe that there is currently a great deal of activity in the Plame investigation.

Couldn't have said it better myself nor could I. Philip Roth's new book is Everyman

Hidden codes in monkey chit-chat

"PYOW pyow hack hack hack". Or, to translate from monkey-speak: "C'mon. We're outta here." That's how male putty-nosed monkeys tell their group it's time to move on.

Logarithms are for the birds

Pascal Boyer on religion. (tip to Vivek)

Why is religion natural? Is religious belief a mere leap into irrationality as many skeptics assume? Psychology suggests that there may be more to belief than the suspension of reason

and don't miss this from the archives.

Jonathan Miller and Pascal Boyer Interview (Video)

May 20, 2006

Dub's America

"American Paranoiac"
(Art: Pancho / Le Monde, Paris)

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Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds video tip to Mad Kane

And here is another from the Mad One The Nursery (video) Weird, but I like it.

Thinking ahead not limited to humans.

Catholic Church should welcome Code film

Sir Ian claimed at a news conference attended by co-stars Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou that the Catholic Church should be pleased the film's plot confirmed that Jesus Christ was not gay but married to Mary Magdalene.

He said: "I am only too happy to believe that Jesus was married. I know that the Catholic Church has problems with gay people and I thought this would be absolute proof that Jesus was not gay."

Bush Lied a Fish Died

. . .He has a manmade lake that is artificially stocked with fish, and let's not forget the scuba divers who are under there who actually put the fish on the hook for him. And then Cheney comes over and they literally shoot fish in a barrel. The part I love is . . .

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Real Time with Bill Maher

May 19, 2006

High Drama on the Border

This is part of Dub's plan to steal our lunch money and give it to the defense contractors. You'll find more on the story at Bag News Notes


In related border news

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A Guide to Naturalism

Chimp study shakes human family tree

The US research, published in Nature, shows that the evolutionary split between humans and chimpanzees was not clean and sudden 7 million years ago, as previously suspected.

The split happened 6.3 million years ago at the earliest, say the scientists. But more importantly, the genetic analysis shows that chimpanzees and the earliest hominids continued to have sex with each other and swap genes for another 1.2 million years before the final break.

Muslims, not to be outdone by a grilled cheese sandwich with an image of Jesus, present a tuna with Koranic text. Someone has stolen the fish, they might start their search for the missing fish at the Vatican.

Kenya's 'Koranic fish' disappears

A fish with markings that resembled a Koranic text has disappeared from the Kenyan Fisheries Department in Mombasa.

The tuna fish, which had provoked intense interest from Muslims, was apparently stolen by people posing as National Museum officials.

If you have questions for the NSA send them here

May 18, 2006

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Bible Stories YouTube

Sleeper Veep Thanks Mad Kane

Butt-Puppet Syndrome what's a hand to do.

Nine Things To Be Happy About

Bush, bird flu, iPod mania, Stephen Colbert, big hairy dogs and the best CD of the year

Why Religion Must End

May 17, 2006

It's All Fiction

It takes a Brit to tell it like it is. Kudos to Sir Ian McKellen. The only difference I see is that da Vinci Code is rated R and the Bible is rated X and that the Bible is the more dangerous book. (tip to Ray)

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Clinton Warns Canada

Avoid U.S. health model

The answer to Canada's health-care woes does not lie in the "insane" system in place south of the border, former U.S. president Bill Clinton said last night. . . he argued forcefully that the U.S. model is a "colossal waste of money" that is "killing" his country competitively."It's a good thing, your health care system, with all of its problems". . . "Don't do anything that will lead to increased administration costs and letting the financing tail wag the health-care dog," he warned.

May 16, 2006

El Presidente

Bag News Notes has the story Dub, a flag, and the right-wing explodes.


Practice Makes . . .

Nightline on the fallout from Bush's premature address to the nation.

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May 15, 2006

SNL Al Gore for President

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Following a court case involving Apple Computer and The Beatles' record label, a floor manager had run to reception and grabbed the man, thinking he was , editor of, a specialist internet publication. Actually, he was a minicab driver who had been waiting to drive Mr Kewney home once the interview was completed. The unknown cabbie he was applying for a job and was there for an interview, his first name Guy, the same as Mr. Kewney led to the confusion. The wrong guy attempted to bluff his way through and, speaking in a strong French accent, sustained a (somewhat illogical) form of conversation. Meanwhile, the real Mr Kewney watched indignantly on a monitor in reception

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Countdown with Keith Olbermann

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Israel Unification Law

I think this has more to do with demographics than security. It seems to me that this could be addressed in a more pro-family way. The vote was close an indication that many Israelis feel the same, though that's probably not much consolation to the families it tears apart.

Israel's high court Sunday narrowly upheld a controversial law that restricts the right of Palestinians to live in Israel with their Arab Israeli spouses and children.

The law, imposed in 2002 at the height of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, is believed to have kept hundreds, and possibly thousands, of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians from moving to Israel to live with their families. . .

"This is a very black day for the state of Israel and also a black day for my family and for the other families who are suffering like us," said Murad el-Sana, an Israeli Arab attorney married to a Palestinian woman from the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

"The government is preventing people from conducting a normal family life just because of their nationality," el-Sana, one of the petitioners, told Israel Radio.

Mark of the Beasts Birds, Darwin, taxonomy and the future

The New York Times Frank Rich on who the real traitors are.

We can see this charade for what it is: a Hail Mary pass by the leaders who bungled a war and want to change the subject to the journalists who caught them in the act. What really angers the White House and its defenders about both the Post and Times scoops are not the legal questions the stories raise about unregulated gulags and unconstitutional domestic snooping, but the unmasking of yet more administration failures in a war effort riddled with ineptitude. It's the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press's exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security. That's where the buck stops, and if there's to be a witch hunt for traitors, that's where it should begin.

George Connects The Dots

The Big Bang

Peter, The Family Guy, on Evolution. "Then over millions of years evolution took its course. Of course I’m obligated by the state of Kansas to present the Church’s alternative to the theory of evolution."

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The Simpsons And Evolution

On the Simpsons last night.

Lisa is arrested for defying the new law in Springfield against teaching evolution after Reverend Lovejoy is appointed by Mayor Quimby (at Ned Flanders’s request) to be the town’s new “morality czar” in charge of promoting creationism; can a comment made in the show’s first season come back to save her? Guest stars Larry Hagman and Melanie Griffith.

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May 14, 2006

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Cheney in the middle and the smoking gun

Michelle Goldberg on those out of control Christians and here is Michelle with Terry Gross, thanks Peter.

Christian Virgins Overrated you decide.

When the atheists talk to the Christians the results can be interesting. (tip to Erick)

And a little on pro-life Catholics

Above The Law

George Wahington University constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley on Dub's violation of the law. In related news he has our number and we have his. Wait, what's this, George has abandoned his illegal spying program.

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Countdown with Keith Olbermann

May 13, 2006

New Rules

Bill Maher uses the last show of the current season to do some serious Bush bashing.

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Real Time with Bill Maher

May 12, 2006

Rove Indictment Soon

Rove Informs White House He'll be indicted I don't suppose you'll give me credit for predicting an indictment this week on the basis of this story?

Within the last week, Karl Rove told President Bush and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, as well as a few other high level administration officials, that he will be indicted in the CIA leak case and will immediately resign his White House job when the special counsel publicly announces the charges against him, according to sources.

Details of Rove's discussions with the president and Bolten have spread through the corridors of the White House where low-level staffers and senior officials were trying to determine how the indictment would impact an administration that has been mired in a number of high-profile political scandals for nearly a year, said a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources confirmed Rove's indictment is imminent. These individuals requested anonymity saying they were not authorized to speak publicly about Rove's situation. A spokesman in the White House press office said they would not comment on "wildly speculative rumors." . . .

***UPDATE ***

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent more than half a day Friday at the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm representing Karl Rove.

During the course of that meeting, Fitzgerald served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning.

other high level administration officials, that he will be indicted in the CIA leak case and will immediately resign his White House job when the special counsel publicly announces the charges against him, according to sources.

Details of Rove's discussions with the president and Bolten have spread through the corridors of the White House where low-level staffers and senior officials were trying to determine how the indictment would impact an administration that has been mired in a number of high-profile political scandals for nearly a year, said a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources confirmed Rove's indictment is imminent. These individuals requested anonymity saying they were not authorized to speak publicly about Rove's situation. A spokesman in the White House press office said they would not comment on "wildly speculative rumors." . . .

***FURTHER UPDATE *** Did Jason Leopold speak too soon.

*** FURTHER UPDATE 05/21/06

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How low can it go 29% and . . .

US military, intelligence officials raise concern about possible preparations for Iran strike

Not ha ha funny.

Say it again. What are they dying for Absolutely nothing

The 34th Skeptics Circle


Avery Ant on the Vatican and Condoms or maybe a better title would be Bums and Pews

Drunk Monkeys (tip to Dan)

Monkeys drink more alcohol when housed alone, and some like to end a long day in the lab with a boozy cocktail, according to a new analysis of alcohol consumption among members of a rhesus macaque social group.

These and other observed behaviors strongly correspond with human patterns of alcohol use. Researchers attribute a predisposition to alcohol abuse in some monkeys and people to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

May 11, 2006

Can You Hear Me Now?

NSA has massive databse of Americans' phone calls

In related news John Q Bummer spokesman for National Association of Proctologists recommends that everyone check their rectum on a daily basis. Proctologists are reporting an increase in the number of calls from patients complaining of finding George W. Bush up their asses. Mary from St. Paul explained her symptoms this way. Whenever I pass gas there is a high pitched whistling sound, like an incoming round from howitzer, or like Dick Cheney whistling Onward Christian Soldier. The ladies at my bridge club don't like it and have threatened to kick me out. I went to my doctor for advice. It only took him a few minutes to discover and remove George from my ass. George was smiling, I was not.

May 10, 2006

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Excellent Article on Colbert's takedown of the president.

How's this for a newsworthy lead? It was perhaps the first time in Bush's tenure that the president was forced to sit and listen to any American cite the litany of criminal and corruption allegations that have piled up against his administration. And mouth-tense Bush and first lady Laura Bush fled as soon as possible afterward.

Creationism dismissed as 'a kind of paganism' by Vatican's astronomer

Brother Consolmagno is half right. Religion needs sicence to keep it away from superstition, but science certainly doesn't need religion to determine that just because something is possible it may not be a good thing to do. Reason works quite well in that regard.

Brother Consolmagno argued that the Christian God was a supernatural one, a belief that had led the clergy in the past to become involved in science to seek natural reasons for phenomena such as thunder and lightning, which had been previously attributed to vengeful gods. "Knowledge is dangerous, but so is ignorance. That's why science and religion need to talk to each other," he said.

"Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism - it's turning God into a nature god. And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good thing to do."

When religion trumps reason you get amusing stories like the following:

First there was the toilet thing but that's not the only problem facing practitioners of Islam. The question is always where's Mecca? It is not an idle concern. New Scientist reports on additional challenges.

While going into space can be a religious experience for some, for the devout it can post peculiar challenges. Take Malaysia's National Space Agency: it is trying to work out how its astronauts will practise Islam in space during a future Russian space mission.

Traditionally, Muslims pray five times per day. This would ba challenge if the "day" is the 90 minutes it takes their spacecraft to orbit Earth. " Any legal scholar advising these astronauts would have to simply pick various times that would roughly correspond to their morning, noon, afternoon, sunset and night prayers, " says Alan Godlas a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Also facing Mecca while zooming around the planet at 28,000 kilometres per hour will be tricky. Godlas says that facing Earth might have to suffice. "There are instances where the Prophet indicated kind of a general direction," God las says.

Religious practice and symbols in space are nothing new. For instance, there is a Christmas tree on the International Space Station. &for some, religion is very comforting," say Walter Sipes chief of operational psychology at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Mad Kane has a a word or two on the Mikey's nomination

May 9, 2006

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Stephen's Huge ones via Swedes for Obama

German 'Robin Hoods' give poor a taste of the high life

A GANG of anarchist Robin Hood-style thieves, who dress as superheroes and steal expensive food from exclusive restaurants and delicatessens to give to the poor, are being hunted by police in the German city of Hamburg.

Blessing Services Inc.

Lower revenues and the appearance of rust on the collection plate have convinced the Church of England of the need to diversify.

Home owners worried about crime in their street, the problem of rising damp or lacklustre sex in the bedroom can now call on divine assistance.

The Church of England is going into partnership with estate agents to offer blessing services to people moving home.
From this week, house buyers in a number of dioceses will be offered the services of a vicar, who will say special prayers to cover almost every eventuality.

Clergy behind the scheme want to tap into the explosion of interest in New Age practices such as feng shui as a way of tempting people back to church.

An excellent anti-war video by Jackson Browne

May 8, 2006

The Mark of Cain

Dr. House meets a 15 year old faith healer. A drama that had me laughing from start to finish. I've not heard so many great lines in a long time. You're going to love this clip, okay well maybe it's more of an extended trailer that gives away the entire show.

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I'm predicting that Karl Rove is indicted by the grand jury this week. Charges will include perjury and the big one obstruction of justice.

West CoastMen in Clogs: The Test

What a Bummer

Oh No! Please say it's not so. Many Youths Disregard Their Virginity Pledges, Harvard Study Says

Virginity pledges, in which young people vow to abstain from sex until marriage, have little staying power among those who take them, a Harvard study has found.

More than half of the adolescents who make the signed public promises give up on their pledges within a year, according to the study released last week.

Contra-Contraception The race to the 16th century and beyond.

After the wanton years that followed the restoration of the monarchy, a time when both theaters and brothels multiplied, social conservatism rooted itself in the English bosom. Self-appointed Christian morality police roamed the land, bent on restricting not only homosexuality and prostitution but also what went on between husbands and wives.

Mocking the Main Man?

What a Bummer more evidence of what a silly enterprise religion can be.

President Perch

May 7, 2006

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What's The Trouble With Impressionists?

Scott McClellan's First Day Back at Home (tip to Brian)

More Mad Kane limericks

On the fucking war, they're finally cheering us in the streets.

The War on Fucking

Last Question Is Obstruction for Fitzgerald, Rove

Hundreds of pages of emails and memos "discovered" by the White House in February and turned over to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald show that Karl Rove played a much larger role in the Valerie Plame Wilson leak case than he had previously disclosed to a grand jury and FBI investigators. . .
    Some of the emails and memos were written by Rove, and are part of a growing body of evidence suggesting he lied to the grand jury and the FBI and may have obstructed justice during the course of the investigation. It was following their disclosure that Fitzgerald advised Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, several weeks ago that he intends to indict Rove for perjury and lying to investigators. The lingering question, sources close to the case said, is whether Fitzgerald will add obstruction of justice to the list of charges that he has already drafted against Rove.

Cheney Attacks Russia, Revives Cold War

May 6, 2006

The American Dream

Bill Maher has something to say about making it in the United States. Move to Europe! If you're born poor here you're pretty much fucked.

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Psychic Scumbags

They claim they can contact loved ones from beyond the grave, chase away evil spirits, predict the future, and help clients live longer healthier lives.
Isn't this the same message that many religions sell? Forgiveness and the opportunity to join your loved ones. The religious message is more sophisticated, but doesn't it pray on the same human weaknesses that the psychics pray on. (thanks to David for the video and the title for the post)

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Good Luck Mr. President

Bill Maher's tribute to the opening of Mission Impossible III

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May 4, 2006

Rummy 's Vivisection

Truth to power. Rummy gets nailed with his own words, and is forced to deny them. It's an interesting argument Rummy makes. He argues that since we prepared for chemical and biological weapons it is proof that we believed they were there. I wear my seatbelt every day not because I believe that I'll need it, but rather as a simple precaution. What preparing for WMDs proves is that we were prudent, nothing more.

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Countdown with Keith Olbermann

Links With Your Coffee - Thursday

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Did you know that if you click on the word Archives at the top of the list of monthly archives you'll see a list of all the posts at onegoodmove.

An evolution 'slideshow' very cool. (tip to inwit)

In other news plagiarist Kaavya Viswanathan's book deal with Little Brown is no more. Little Brown is recalling every word even the ones Kaavya didn't steal. Kaavya probably would have gotten away with it but made the mistake of being seen in a local restuarant with plagiarist Ben Domenech. Kaavya when asked for a comment on the recall, said, "I just lost a shitload of money. " Undeterred, she has already begun on a memoir. How Kaavya Got Rich, Met Ben, and Lost it All.

Immigration Debate (video)

The American Dream

Forget tract homes and gated living. The new American dream is a condo right inside the mall

May 3, 2006

Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday

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A Cold Day In Hell Vatican considers exceptions to condom ban. Would condoms even work on a cold day in hell? Would you really need one?

Why Stephen Colbert didn't bomb in D.C.

The Myth of Productivity and the Function of Consumerism: An Institutional Perspective

The distribution of incomes is not determined by productivity but by power relations and institutional arrangements of societies. Centuries ago, princes received huge amounts of the community product, while doing no productive work themselves. Their relatively greater income was acquired because they had the power, both legal and physical, to command tribute from their vassals. The penalty for not paying the prince his due could be the loss of one’s head.

Today, ownership and control of productive assets, with the resulting ability to command a disproportionate share of society’s income and wealth, still is enforced by law and social privilege. The “free private enterprise system” is slavishly credited with the overall production of the society and with the determination of individual rewards. Today the penalty for not paying the princes of corporations their due is the loss of one’s job.

What if . . . Thought experiments, what are they good for?

Washington Monthly on Healthcare So what the hell is wrong with us? Do we just like feeding the corporate pigs?

We're in trouble, members of the the next generation can't find their asses with both hands. Geography 101

May 2, 2006

Stephen Colbert on 60 Minutes

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Links With Your Coffee - Tuesday

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He's still an asshole It looks like they've updated it a bit since I last linked to it. (tip to Thomas)

Information here on New Dixie Chicks Video ( tip to Theo)

Avery Ant You're kid isn't a genius (flash video)

A little blasphemy with your coffee (tip to Sharon)

Evolution gets hot and steamy.

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Truthiness Hurts worth the day pass.

Froomkin on Colbert

Yes, it turns out Colbert has brought the White House and its press corps together at long last, creating a sense of solidarity rooted in something they have in common: Neither of them like being criticized.

Juan Cole on the Israel Lobby

An Important Distinction

"At Cambridge University I was taught a laudable method of argument: you never personalize, but you have absolutely no respect for people's opinions. You are never rude to the person, but you can be savagely rude about what the person thinks. That seems to me a crucial distinction: You cannot ring-fence their ideas. The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it's a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible."—Salman Rushdie

This by the way is the basis for the rules for comments at onegoodmove. Criticize ideas, yes, criticize people, no.

May 1, 2006

Blasphemy is a Good Thing

Open Debate: The Righteousness of Blasphemy

He's right you know, in a secular democracy it is just as legitimate to mock Jesus, or Mohammed, or Moses as it is to mock Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter or Bill O'Reilly. if you're a Republican feel free to substitute your favorite left-wing characters.

"if a believer demands that I, as a non-believer, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy."—Rose Flemming
What's been missing has been an acknowledgment that blasphemy isn't just something that must be tolerated. It's something that possesses a special political value of its own. Blasphemy, in short, is a good thing. It's something admirable, noble, and, yes, even respectable. Why have we forgotten this?
It must be stated and stated unequivocally that it's no more improper in healthy democratic discourse to ridicule religious figures and ideas (even core ideas) than it is to criticize and mock (other) politically important figures and ideas. Here's why.
  Formally speaking, in democratic discourse there's nothing special about religious doctrines. Like other ideologies, religion instructs and even commands people about what they should value and how they should conduct themselves. And it does so in a powerful and effective way. Ongoing controversies concerning gay marriage, abortion, war, hijab , pornography, and social services offer clear examples of this. Many clerics actually tell their congregations how to vote.

It's simply not acceptable for a participant to enter public debate, have such a powerful effect upon it, and then claim immunity from the sort of treatment to which other participants are subject. As distasteful as it may be to those invested in religious belief, mocking Mohammed, or Moses, or Jesus, is therefore no more improper than mocking Karl Marx or Adam Smith or Rush Limbaugh or Hilary Clinton. The religious can't have it both ways.


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