Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Guess We Aren't That Different Afterall

We see the same thing with the only difference being I chose to believe what I see.

(via nakedpastor)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This Is Just Wrong

As it is, I am not sure how I feel about keeping the ashes of your departed loved ones in an urn on the fireplace mantel but I am sure that keeping them in this particular type of vessel anywhere is just plain creepy.

Personal urns are a new and exciting way to memorialize your loved one. 

Now we can create a custom urn in the image of your loved one or favorite Celebrity.

New advances in facial reconstruction and 3D printing have made it possible to have an urn made in the image of anyone from just a photograph.

Never forget a face. Personal Urns combine art and technology to create a family heirloom that will be cherished for generations.

(Gizmodo via The Daily What)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Texas Fundies At It Again

It is said that because of the sheer volume of text books bought by Texas schools, what they want put into those text books often ends up in the books used by the rest of the country. With that in mind the fact that the religious right has all but taken control of their school boards and state house should be sending shivers down the spines of those wishing to keep religion out of our public schools.

Just a few months ago a Texas legislator tried to pass a bill that would have effectively made teaching science a thing of the past by making telling teachers they must give out A's to students based on their beliefs, not on the curriculum.
Don’t believe in the theory of relativity?

Students wouldn’t have to and could not be penalized for it in school under proposed legislation filed Friday.

Teachers could not be penalized, either, if they reject plate tectonics or the kinetic theory of gases.

The bill says that neither student nor teacher could be penalized for subscribing to any particular position on any scientific theories or hypotheses.

“Students could claim they believe anything they wanted in anything in science and if that’s what they say, the teacher would be forced to give that student an A,” said Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science. “That’s how bad this bill is written.”

But Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, who filed the bill, said it is not an out for students, because they must still be evaluated on course materials taught.

“They can be lazy if they want to .?.?. but teachers are still in charge of the grading system,” Christian said.

The bill does not address evolution specifically, but that seems to be its target. Its goal is to reintroduce the ability to teach “weaknesses” of scientific theories. After two days of heated debate, the State Board of Education narrowly voted this winter to remove a requirement that Texas public schools teach weaknesses in the theory of evolution.

Apparently not satisfied with an all out assault on science, the fundies on the state board of education fed by a panel of "experts" including a fundamentalist preacher are now trying to rewrite history.
The Christian right is making a fresh push to force religion onto the school curriculum in Texas with the state's education board about to consider recommendations that children be taught that there would be no United States if it had not been for God.

Members of a panel of experts appointed by the board to revise the state's history curriculum, who include a Christian fundamentalist preacher who says he is fighting a war for America's moral soul, want lessons to emphasise the part played by Christianity in the founding of the US and that religion is a civic virtue.

Maybe the Texas fundies should quit beating around the bush and just get on with their real agenda of getting rid of all text books and just teaching the bible instead? They are giving them out in some schools already anyways...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Christian Instructional Video

This video is just dripping with satire and to top it off we get to see Stephanie Courtney aka "Flo" from those annoying Progressive commercials doing some real acting...

(h/t - Friendly Atheist)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

How To Handle A Homophobe

An Australian reporter shows us all how to handle homophobes, in this case those from the "God Hates Fags" folks from the Westboro Baptist Church. Hilarious.

(h/t - Unreasonable Faith)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Justifying A "Lie" With A Lie?

Putting religious messages on billboards has been around probably as long as billboards have been and recently even Atheist's have gotten into the mix with some of their own so on the surface the latest campaign by a group in Florida is hardly news. The group, will be placing ads on 10 different billboards in several Florida counties forwarding their belief that the Constitutional separation between church and state is a lie.
The Judeo-Christian foundation that the Founding Fathers established when America began is the reason that this country has prospered for 200-plus years," said [Terry] Kemple, president and sole employee of the local Community Issues Council, which paid for the Web site.

So what messages does Kemple use to make his claim?
The billboards showcase quotes from early American leaders like John Adams, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin. Most of the quotes portray a national need for Christian governance.

Others carry the same message but with fictional attribution, as with one billboard citing George Washington for the quote, "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."

That's right a fictional quote attributed to George Washington that Kemple justifies by saying that based on Washington's other writings, could have been said by our first President.

Of course being someone that was unsure of Washington's actual religious leanings and not quick to take a wingnut at his word in these situations, I did some quick research and found this that might give us some insight on Washington and his actual beliefs.
Washington was not anti-religion. Washington was not uninterested in religion. He was a military commander who struggled to motivate raw troops in the French and Indian War. He recognized that recruiting the militia in the western part of Virginia required accommodating the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, Baptists, and Dutch Reformed members in officially-Anglican Virginia. He was aware that religious beliefs were a fundamental part of the lives of his peers and of his soldiers. He knew that a moral basis for the American Revolution and the creation of a new society would motivate Americans to support his initiatives - and he knew that he would receive more support if he avoided discriminating against specific religious beliefs.

In the Revolutionary War, Washington supported troops selecting their own chaplains (such as the Universalist John Murray) while trying to avoid the development of factions within the army. Religion offered him moral leverage to instill discipline, reduce theft, deter desertion, and minimize other rambunctious behaviors that upset local residents. It was logical for Washington to invoke the name of the Divine, but it may have been motivated more by a desire for improving life on earth rather than dealing with life after death.

Washington understood the distinction between morality and religion, and between toleration of differences and full religious liberty. Washington's replies to messages from Jews and Swedenborgians showed he was not merely accepting the differences of religion, tolerating those who had not chosen the correct path. Instead, he endorsed what Jefferson would later define as a "wall of separation between church and state."

Washington used generic terms with his public requests for divine assistance, to the extent that his personal denomination must be classified as "unknown." That vagueness has not stopped Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Unitarian Universalists from claiming him as a member, and has invited others to identity him as a Deist. Washington was a man dedicated to creating national unity, not an exclusionist seeking to identify and select those with correct beliefs for reward in this life or the next. It would have been inconsistent for him to seek to blend the westerners and the Tidewater residents, the Yankees from the north and the slave-owning planters from the South, into one national union - while at the same time supporting narrow religious tests for officeholders, or advocating the superiority of one religious sect over another.

It might just be me but it sounds like Kemple might be stretching the truth a bit on Washington's perceived beliefs on religion but I guess stretching the truth (ok, outright lying) just works better when you don't have reality on your side. It is ironic though that the same 1st Amendment that Kemple has such issues with is the same one that allows him to forward his fictional quotes from our founders on those Florida billboards...

Oh and speaking of our founding fathers and their beliefs on the subject, one founder I noticed was missing from the group's campaign, namely Thomas Jefferson.

Why would they not use this quote as proof of our founding father's thoughts on this subject?
The rights [to religious freedom] are of the natural rights of mankind, and... if any act shall be... passed to repeal [an act granting those rights] or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right." --Thomas Jefferson: Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779. (*) ME 2:303, Papers 2:546

Or this one?
Among the most inestimable of our blessings, also, is that... of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to John Thomas et al., 1807. ME 16:291

Maybe they are saving them for their next billboard campaign...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Funniest Places

I am sure we have all seen and heard of people claiming to see the image of Jesus in all sorts of items. Grilled cheese, mirrors, tree stumps, etc but brings us probably the weirdest yet.

In November 2006, photographer and artist Jessica White's dog, called Angus MacDougall, had Jesus appearing on his... well, bottom. The dog is a very cute three-year-old terrier mix. The image of Jesus can be "clearly" seen in the fur surrounding his anus. (Source 1 | Source 2)

I guess this would fit right in with the Christian belief that Jesus is everywhere...

Thanks to Tim via email for the link

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

For The Gun Nut With Everything

Don't you hate it when you don't have a place to hold your Pabst Blue Ribbon while using your sniper rifle for home defense? Not a problem anymore.

(via Wired's Danger Room)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why Does It Matter?

My post yesterday on the perception vs belief of many scientific theories might have been a bit hard on the those that choose to split with science when it comes to certain subjects. I mean why does it matter if someone has different views that don't necessarily jive with science even if they are then able get those views taught to the masses? After all the science is often admittedly just currently unproven theories right?

A book by Charles Pierce called Idiot America that among other things describes a tour of Ken Ham's Creation Museum might help explain why it does often matter.
Pierce opens with a tour of the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where dinosaurs are depicted, living Flintstone style (some of them have saddles!) in Eden, and being taken on Noah's Ark, two by two, T-Rex and Raptor and the rest, with the other animals and Noah's family.

Dinosaurs with Saddles? Bananas as proof of a creator? If you choose to completely ignore science then you end up getting the Ken Ham's and Ray Comfort's of the world getting picked to head agencies like the Texas state Board of Education or oilmen like George W Bush and Dick Cheney determining environmental policy.

Science is far from perfect but it certainly beats wingnuttery. That is why it matters.

Now That's Talent

A Hooter's Girl show us what real talent is.

(h/t - Dvorak Uncensored)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Science Is Wonderful Except...

Ars Technica has an article documenting the strange contradictions between Americans and science as shown by Pew Research Center surveys. What is strange is that while the vast majority (84%) feel that science has been a boon to society and that scientists have had a positive impact (70%) on our lives, their actual findings and theories aren't thought of quite so highly.

Global Warming
Eighty-four percent of scientists consider the case for anthropogenic climate change to be on solid footing, and over 90 percent were either very or somewhat concerned about it (the discrepancy arises from a those scientists who consider the current warning to be driven primarily by natural events). This is especially striking given that geoscientists were the least represented scientific discipline in the survey, and acceptance of anthropogenic climate change is highest among climatologists.

In contrast, only about half of the public are convinced of the scientific community's conclusions, and that drops to only 21 percent among those who self-identify as conservative Republicans. Even among the most liberal fraction of the public, however, the numbers are lower than within the scientific community. One reason for this is that only half of the public believes that the scientific community has itself reached agreement on these matters.

But it's clear that there's a tremendous amount of confusion on the topic. Only 60 percent of the public thinks that science has reached a consensus on its acceptance of the evidence for evolution (97 percent of scientists think so) and half of those who think that species haven't evolved say that science doesn't conflict with their religious beliefs.

And let's not even get started on stem cell research...

So despite the majority of scientists having very strong science based beliefs in regards to the above examples and our expressed trust in science and scientists in general, many Americans still refuse to believe the results which brings up the $64,000 question. Why?

While the Ars Technica article throws out lots of possibilities, my money is on the dumbing down of our schools led by morons like those in the Texas state board of education who wouldn't know science if it bit them on the rear and our contining penchant to get the "science" knowledge that we chose to believe from big business, anonomously written web sites, and Sunday sermons. Other thoughts?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The GOP's Hitler Obsession

While our local far right-wingers concentrate on religiously driven homophobia and calling those of the left leaning persuasion every possible name ending in "-ist" (Communist, Socialist, Fascist, Marxist, etc.) in the English language the national far righties seem to have found an obsession of their own.

From the Washington Monthly
Sen. Jim DeMint says that America under Obama is like Germany before World War II. Republican women in Maryland say that Obama is like Hitler. Hitler comparisons are apparently rife at tea parties. What's gotten into the GOP?

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) once compared those who accept the science on global warming to the Third Reich. Assorted right-wing activists have compared Al Gore to Hitler.

At times it seems as if the right has no other historical comparisons from which to draw upon. Grover Norquist has said the estate tax is the moral equivalent of the Nazi Holocaust. Bill O'Reilly has made so many comparisons between his political opponents and Nazis, it's hard to even know where to start. Don't even get me started on Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg.

No wonder the fundie wing of the GOP has been given the nickname "Reich Wing"...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Funding The Deniers

This is just wrong on so many levels.

The House recently passed a climate change bill that includes a provision that would subsidize up to 50% of the cost for retrofitting energy systems of faith-based and other nonprofit groups.
After a spirited (pun intended) lobbying effort, a group of faith-based organizations has persuaded House movers and shakers to include benefits for religious organizations in the energy bill that passed last week.

At the last minute, at the behest of a coalition led by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, House leaders inserted a provision that would provide subsidies of up to one-half the cost of retrofitting energy systems of faith-based and other nonprofit groups. It's a testament to the lobbying clout of faith-based groups, although how far that influence will extend into other issues looming in Congress is an open question.

Lets put aside for a second that it is just plain wrong that US taxpayers could end up funding the energy saving upgrades for churches which would seem to be a clear violation of the First Amendment. The real irony of this vote by the House is the fact that we would be forced to pay for "greening up" the buildings for a group of citizens that include probably the largest percentage of global warming deniers there is. What a crock!

Fortunately the Senate version of the bill does not as of yet include this provision but as Americans United for the Separation of Church and State opines, "What is scary about all this is the continuing influence in Washington, D.C., of pressure groups that support public funding of religion."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Quick Hits - Surprises

Work will be taking up most of my time for awhile so before I leave this AM I figured I would throw out a few of thoughts on a couple of surprises.

Steve McNair's girlfriend was surprised?
As has been rumored from the start, police are now confirming that former NFL quarterback Steve McNair was in fact the victim of a murder suicide committed by his 20 year old girlfriend on the side, Sahel Kazemi. It seems that one possibility being investigated as to why Kazemi killed McNair and then herself was that she was distraught because he might have been cheating on her with a third women. My question is, if in fact that was true, why would Kazemi be surprised considering she was already the "other woman" for the married McNair? It's not like he hadn't shown a penchant for such things...

I am surprised.
A new Gallup poll shows that 41% of respondents would still be likely to vote for Sarah Palin for President even after she quit as Alaska Governor. My question is why, considering her reaction to the relatively tame scrutiny she has had to endure in relation to what awaits if she ran for President, would people still think this woman could handle it? Too bad we couldn't have her walk in Barack Obama's shoes for a few days, I have a feeling she would be ready for a jacket with no sleeves and an extended stay in a room with rubber walls.

Enjoy your Thursday.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Definition Of Irony

Isn't it ironic that a new earth believing Arizona State Senator, Sylvia Allen, is speaking in favor of mining uranium, the very mineral often cited as scientific evidence to date the age of the earth at over 4.5 billion years old? Of course you don't need much if any understanding of the science to be in favor of the mining as this woman proves, but ironic (and mind numbing) just the same.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Peer Reviewed Study?

What do you call a study on human behavior that involves no human participants but is instead based on 100 years of tainted data? Of course you would call it a "study" conducted by the "save the gays by converting them" group the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and promoted by the homophobe's from Focus On the Family. The study recently published in volume one of NARTH's very own The Journal of Human Sexuality concludes, now hold your breath here, that sexual orientation can be changed, and that psychological care for individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions is generally beneficial with no significant risk of harm.

The "peer" reviewed study's data used for this conclusion?
NARTH mined nearly 100 years of research on attempts to change sexual orientation. Of course, the vast majority of those studies were done when aversion therapy was commonly practiced, when many people sought therapy because they were convicted of homosexual offenses before Lawrence v. Texas to avoid jail, when few clinicians bothered to do any kind of follow-up, and when the APA still considered homosexuality a mental illness.

And what about the peers from this "peer reviewed" study?
And as for this new journal’s “peer reviewed” status? Well, I guess when you have a paper written by an anti-gay activist posing as a therapist, and you send that paper off to other anti-gay activists posing as therapists, all of whom are members of your tight little NARTH club with no possibility of an actual independent review taking place, then maybe I would have to concede that the effort was “peer reviewed.” Unfortunately, that’s not the definition accepted by the scientific community.

So what's the next "scientific" study from NARTH being prepared for volume 2 of their new journal?

No one knows for sure but rumor has it (ok, so I started the rumor) that they have irrefutable peer reviewed data mined from former Miss California Carrie Prejean and Fred Phelps from the Westboro Baptist Church that shows that gays should not be allowed to marry.

Sandlin Running For House

I guess Pat Powers will just have to go back to regurgitating more GOP "hit" press releases and continue to criticize Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and her husband for things like selling their Texas house at a loss versus slamming her for not deciding which office she will be running for as KELO has just reported that she is going to run for another term in the House in 2010.
Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin plans to run for re-election in 2010. Herseth Sandlin announced the decision on Tuesday. She has served as South Dakota's only member of the House of Representatives since 2004.

In a statement from her office, Rep. Herseth Sandlin said, "I strongly believe I can best serve the state by building on the work I've undertaken over the last five years in Congress."

Herseth Sandlin says she and her husband, Max, decided running for re-election is the best decision for their family. She says they have found a good balance between their professional lives and the time they spend with their young son.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Everything Is Obama's Fault

Conservatives like to say that for some reason Sarah Palin scares liberals. Of course I don't necessarily believe that sentiment as I personally think a Palin ticket would put Liberals back into the White House for another 4 years but one thing I do know is that in the minds of many Conservative wingnuts, President Barack Obama is to blame for literally everything that goes wrong in our country.

The latest case in point revolves around last nights fireworks at Mt Rushmore. For those that might be unaware, South Dakota's treasured tourist magnet Mt Rushmore holds what many consider to be the country's best fireworks show of the season drawing 10's of thousands of visitors each 4th of July holiday. This year's event was scheduled for last night and unfortunately the weather was pretty much wet and foggy for most of the day putting the show in doubt right up until the 9:30pm scheduled start time.

At the last minute the rain stopped but the fog remained but those in charge decided to go forward with the show anyway, narrated at least in part by Obama, and here is where it gets goofy at least as far as certain commentators on The Rapid City Journal's story of the night are concerned...

Todd Potter wrote:

" Four famous presidents carved in stone, and who do we get quotes from??? OBAMA?? PATHETIC, Mount Rushmore, pathetic. Maybe we can out spend him in fireworks next year. "

goverment spending your money wrote:
" Obama and Baker having no problems spending your hard earned dollars. I dont even know what else to say!! "

sick of Obama wrote:
" Why oh why waste thousands and thousands of dollars in fireworks when you couldn't see them. Wow...colored clouds...typical of the clody administration we have in Washington now I guess....someone has their head in the clouds...what a joke and another waste of taxpayer dollars. "

Figures wrote:
" In 2008 when Bush was President the fireworks were beautiful and when off perfectly. In 2009 Obama is President and we get this mess and waste. How is that hope and change working out for you? "

RK wrote:

" Since most of what Obama says and does is usually in the fog, the fog rather seemed appropriate since we had to listen to him during the lighted fog show."

So there you have it, tin foil hat wearers have Obama being to blame for the bad weather, going forward with the show despite the inclement weather, and spending private donations (despite what above comments seem to imply, the show is not federally funded) on a fireworks show that no one could see.

Simply amazing.

Palin's Popularity With The Far Right

I had promised myself that I would not continue to post about Sarah Palin vowing to only write again if and when the real reason for her sudden resignation yesterday came out. And while I still plan to not make this an all Sarah all the time posting marathon, a reader comment provided by Andrew Sullivan goes far to answering a question I've had since John McCain picked this woman to be his VP and hence was reason enough for at least one more post.

Why is this woman so popular with the fundies in the GOP?
Part of Sarah Palin's irresistible appeal to her fundamentalist base is her ability to look at the camera with utter conviction and declare black to be white.

The ability to lie well is a valuable part of the fundamentalist psychology. My son isn't gay, he just hasn't found the right woman! Those rocks aren't 50 million years old, they just look like it as a test of our faith! My sexless marriage isn't foundering, it is filled with God's spirit! The minister isn't molesting little Maria, they're just very close! It isn't torture, it is being tough on terrorists!

Fundamentalists can recognize a truly audacious and talented liar from miles away. Instead of running the other way, as you might expect, they gather around the powerful liar, for they know that their own lies will be respected and protected by a leader who understands the paramount importance of preserving their whole system of denial.

It is so much clearer now.

Where's My MJ News?

Damn that Sarah Palin! The news that she has resigned is getting in the way of my 24hr a day Michael Jackson is dead news fix.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pretty Cool

The Pentagon does not want them because the F-22 Raptor is way too expensive to operate and way too complex to maintain but seeing them in action is just way too cool.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="Photo Courtesy Navy News Service"][/caption]

Oh and just because the Penatgon doesn't want them doesn't mean they won't get them. The Senate Armed Services Committee whom we all know understands what the DOD needs more than the DOD does is still trying to shove $1.75 billion into next years budget to keep the F-22 alive.

Something Smells Fishy

The breaking news today revolves around Alaska Governor and religious right darling Sarah Palin resigning from office effective later this month.
At an 11:00 a.m. press conference today, Governor Sarah Palin announced that she would not seek a second term as governor. The governor continued, saying that by the end of the month she would resign from the governorship.On a day that most public employees have off, Palin sent out an early morning press release indicating that she would be giving an announcement from her home in Wasilla. Joining Palin were her parents, family and state commissioners.

Palin announced that she will transfer power to Lt. Governor Sean Parnell. Parnell will be sworn in during the upcoming governor's picnic in Fairbanks on July 26. An emotionally choked-up Parnell said he plans to keep all state commissioners and continue to pursue a natural gas pipeline. He also announced that he would enter the gubernatorial race in 2010.

The prevailing theory on this by many early on seems to be that Palin is quitting to focus on a run at the 2012 Presidential election but for some reason I just don't see it. For someone who already is light on the political experience front to quit her only real political gig halfway into her first term in office seems a bit fishy to me and makes me wonder what else might be coming out besides her whining over being "overly" scrutinized for ethics violations. They were being mean to me won't work too well if she ever wants to win higher office, just look how well it worked when she was the 2nd line on the ticket.

Maybe she can see the writing on the wall from her window in Wasilla right next to the Soviet Union? Considering this announcement comes on a day before a holiday Friday I am guessing this story is far from complete...

UPDATE: Here is her speech.

Can a speech be more confusing or out in left field than this?