31 March, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Tonight, I raise my glass high to another resignation within the Bush Administration: mucho mas, por favor!

As a rule, having the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development resign in the midst of a national mortgage crisis seems like an unwelcome development. But in the case of Alphonso Jackson, who resigned this morning in the midst of multiple scandals and a criminal investigation, the Bush administration is probably better off with a vacancy.

This guy was muy malo. Which, come to think of it, describes pretty much everyone else running the show in Washington right now, so he's hardly unique. Carpetbagger has a gorgeous list of this - ah - gentleman's particular faults. I encourage you to go have a look.

Speaking of bad sorts, let's have a look at what Senator "My lips are attached to McCain's backside" Lieberman's been up to these days:

Lieberman added that McCain is “a reformer, somebody who understands ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country and remembers the other part of the Kennedy inaugural, which said that we will bear any burden, pay any price to assure the survival and sustenance of liberty. That’s John McCain.”
Is he talking about the same John McCain I had the extreme displeasure to be represented by? Because that doesn't sound like my John. My John McCain was a total - argh, these restrictions on cursing are killing me - he's totally not like that at all.

Senator Lieberman, whatever you're taking, you should stop now. The sky is not pink, the Republicans are not good, and McCain nothing at all like Kennedy. Step away from the alternate universe now, please.

I need twelve more shots after this. I cannot have them, as I'm still at work. But happily, there is something on Pharyngula today that gives me the warm fuzzies without the buzzies:

That is just the greatest billboard ever.

(Un)Civil Discourse

I'm hamstrung.

It doesn't help that I took the knife to my own tendons in accepting Canadian Cynic's "The CC 'Canadian Dumbfuck Wanker Challenge.'" Yes, I know I'm not Canadian, and thus could have thrust my nose high in the air and proclaimed, "Well, I'm an American, so that doesn't apply to me." I'm a cynical liberal who likes to cuss a blue streak, and that's all the reason I needed to accept this challenge:

For one day -- Monday, March 31 -- I challenge every single member of Canada's progressive blogging community to be polite.

That's right -- from midnight to midnight, over the course of Monday, March 31, I'm defying every single left-wing blogger in Canada to be nice. Be genteel. Be suave and urbane, and refrain from calling anyone a numbskull, retard, imbecile, cementhead, stupid cunt or dumbass motherfucker, even when they clearly deserve it, just to prove that, yes, we can play nice when we feel like it. I don't think it'll be that hard. 24 hours? I've gone longer than that without a beer so I'm pretty sure my willpower is up to it. (And, yes, playing nice includes comments as well. No getting around this on a technicality.)

This is just too great an opportunity to pass up. I'd wanted to say a few words about words anyway, and then here's CC, challenging us to use family-friendly language for 24 hours.

It comes at a time when some folks over at ScienceBlogs are wringing their impecably polite hands over PZ's succinct use of the f-bomb. (Word to the Wise: if you visit the first link there, the true gold is in the comments.) There's also an article exhorting liberals to make more liberal use of fighting words. It's a debate that comes up with depressing frequency: should we, or shouldn't we, be more polite when we call someone a fu dumba ret person who's not using his or her mental faculties adequately?

I have to admit something: I used to come down on the side of civility. I thought you'd get your point across far more elegantly if you didn't use - um - "strong" language to make it. Set the example by using reasoned, decent language while the unwashed masses were slinging shi poo at each other. Don't sink to their level. Yada yada bulls whatever yada. Granted, I was a veteran user of the euphemism for intercourse, an expert in alternatives to "excrement," and a blasphemer extradordinaire in private life, but I'd never stoop so low as to use such words injudiciously in a written piece unless it was dialogue or a direct quotation.

You can refer to my previous posts to infer that I have changed my mind.

There is such a thing as being able to use vulgar language in a sophisticated way. I indulge in that at times. Sometimes, it's good to just let yourself go, and I indulge in that variation as well. There are times when you could use flowery phrases to state a position, but you could use a single curseword to much greater effect.

One example of that has stayed with me for decades.

So no shi kidding, there we were in DARE class, back when I was in high school and (according to creationists) dinosaurs still roamed the earth. We're sitting there bored as a Home Depot overstocked on lumber, and our DARE officer is yammering on and on about the dangers of drugs. I can't tell you what he was saying, and I was a law enforcement buff who was less inclined to tune out and start thinking about fu sex than most. You can imagine how little most others were hearing. But then, he says in this deadly serious voice, "I want to tell you something." He leans over his desk, knuckles planted, and gives this furtive look around the classroom and door for lurking administrators. We all perk up. What's he got to say that's making him look like Deep Throat about to spill Nixon's secrets?

"Drugs are shit," he says.

I can guarantee you that if you polled the group in that classroom today, that is the only thing they'll remember. It's the only thing they needed to remember. Here was an authority figure, a cop no less, speaking naked truth in the starkest terms possible. It wasn't just the word, although that was powerful stuff coming from a representative of authority in a suffocatingly religious community. It was the tone. It took an attention-getting word and made it stand for every harm drugs could do to self and society.

There are times when one naughty word is worth a thousand civil ones.

There are times when sinking a level or two is the right thing to do. Sad to say, many Americans (and I'm sure plenty of Canadians and British and other assorted speakers of the English language) aren't appreciative of sophisticated wit. That doesn't mean you don't use it. That means you sneak it in with a heaping helping of vulgar tell-it-like-it-is language-of-the-streets in-your-face verbal smackdown. The pure intelligentsia and literati may gasp in horror, but they're drowned out by the rest of the audience gasping in appreciation. And you reach a broader swath of people that way. Talking over someone is just as annoying as talking down to them, if you ask me. There's a difference between being learned and snooty. A judicious use of colorful language makes it easier to avoid the snoot.

Then there's the ridicule factor. You can patiently trot out the facts, correct erroneous arguments, plead for reason, tolerance and civility, and make a scrupulous example of yourself as a fair-minded, kind-hearted, open and friendly defender of science/liberty/justice/Mom. Some folks might listen, especially those on your side. But when you salt the above with some salty language, you catch the attention of those who might not have been listening otherwise. Do you think I give two tugs on a a flying fu a darn about Canada's right wing? I do now, but it's not because of some excrutiatingly polite liberal moan about the horrible lies and why can't we all just get along and this is so terrible! It's because Canadian Cynic's snark is so delightful. And because of said snark, I now know that they have a Bush II clone in office, they have a right wing that gives ours a run for their money on lies, corruption and destructiveness, and that if progressives everywhere don't grow a pair, this is all we can hope for the world over: that the authoritarian sadists will allow us a dab of Vasoline before they bend us over.

Snark breeds awareness, my darlings. Don't you forget it.

"But we need to set an example," I hear some folks whine. Of course we do. That's why some of us will be iconoclastic, outrageous, generally, perhaps charmingly but above all relentlessly offensive.

This accomplishes several things.

It gets attention.

Far from drowning out the voices of moderation, it can highlight them. I can imagine some folks turning to the likes of Nisbett, Moody et al in relief after getting their ears sandblasted by PZ Myers, Dawkins et al. Face it, friends: if you didn't have radicals to blush about, how much would you have in common with the moderates on the right who are busy blushing over the shenanigans of their own embarrassing relations?

It shows folks that you can stand out from the crowd and survive.

That last bit's important, and I'll tell you why: Bob Altemeyer. He did a study on authoritarian followers (i.e., the 30% or so who swallow every lie the neocons and theocons feed them and keep swallowing no matter how many times wiser folk have proven they're drinking poison). You should read it if you've run out of horror novels. But anyway, he did some studies, and found that a good majority of us will follow authority. And if there's not someone else there setting an example in defying said authority, that majority gets scary huge.


Often one person can steel another, and another and another, until many are working together. You don’t have to form a majority to have an effect. Two or three people speaking out can sometimes get a school board, a church board, a board of aldermen to reconsider authoritarian
actions. Lack of any opposition teaches bullies simply to go for more. But it takes one person, an individual, to start the opposition. [The Authoritarians (pdf) page 244]

See there? We need to act out for the good of society!

All right, so he has other points that tend to counter mine in that list of suggestions for changing hearts and minds, but he's talking about courting the 30-percenters, and I'm talking about swaying the people who aren't sure which voice to follow: the one that says "You must obey authority!" or the one that says, "They're [expletive deleted] getting us killed, you [asperation on addressee's intelligence deleted]! Sod this for a game of larks Forget them!"

John Dolan has it just about right in his article "How to Humiliate - and Convert - a Right-Winger":

A good first step would be accepting the fact that language is a weapon -- and then start using it effectively. Most liberals affect scorn for mere words, in the way that I affected scorn for mathematics after flunking algebra twice in high schools. And most of the hardcore academic progressives I've known have tin ears. Their sheer awfulness is adaptive within the academic ghetto, in the way that a lack of any olfactory ability is adaptive for carrion eaters; but it's disastrous when they try to talk to people outside their guild.

He goes on to say much the same thing John Douglas did when speaking of serial killers - when we give more respect than is due, when we elevate them by calling them "John Wayne Gacy" instead of "that sick bastard who killed all those kids," when we don't denegrate, we make them glamorous rather than horrifying. He advocated digging through their past for humiliating nicknames and using other such means to minimize and despise them.

Yes. Yes! Granted, right-wingers, creationists, theocons and neocons and all of the other plagues on democracy and reason aren't serial killers, but they are bullies, and you don't win a bully's respect by whining about fairness and decency. You put a stop to him by putting him down. PZ Myers has it right - point and laugh. Ridicule. Debunk. It's a sad fact that people respond to negative attacks more readily than reasoned discourse, but they do. The bards in Ireland were feared by kings because of their power to make people laugh. Reducing your opponent, destroying his prestige, works.

I plan to use the language as a weapon. I'll use all weapons at my disposal: satire, parody, reason, rhetoric, logic, and the foulest of foul language. Let others be the diplomats. I'll even be diplomatic, when the situation calls for it, but diplomacy without fighting spirit comes across as being a snivelling pansy, and we all know how much that impresses people, don't we?

There are times when a judicious application of (un)civil discourse can go a long way. These are those times. And I cannot fuc friggin wait until April 1st...

30 March, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse:

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. We've got yet another Attorney General who thinks it's his job to lie for Bush rather than uphold the law:

Michael Mukasey has conclusively proven himself to be an exact replica of Alberto Gonzales -- slavishly loyal to every presidential whim and unbound by even the most minimal constraints of truth while serving those whims. Speaking in San Francisco this week, Mukasey demanded that the President be given new warrantless eavesdropping powers and that lawbreaking telecoms be granted amnesty.

The claim is that 9/11 could've been prevented without that pesky FISA law. Bullshit. Of course it could - FISA's never prevented law enforcement from obtaining warrants to listen in on terrorists. Mukasey's proved himself a lying sack of shit, and just like everybody else in this Administration, he's relying on tears and fears to help Bush have his way.

Glenn Greenwald rips him a new one. I'm going to let him handle this while I opt for uno Herradura, thanks very much.

So, how's the mortgage crisis going? Any help on the horizon? Doh, shit:

The Republican response to the mortgage crisis has been, shall we say, a bit of a joke. John McCain has led the way for the party with a plan that is both ineffective and surprisingly callous.

The real core of his speech was his argument against government action to help dig distressed homeowners — or the country — out of the mortgage mess…. His suggestion that federal aid might wrongly reward “undeserving” homeowners sounded both mean-spirited and economically naive. And then there is the double standard. He seemed less concerned about the government helping reckless bankers, endorsing its role in preventing the bankruptcy of Bear Stearns.

So, according to the Republicons, it's perfectly okay to bail out inept businesses, but John and Jane Homemaker can go fuck themselves. Tell me again why we're supposed to vote for McCain?

...and speaking of McCain:

DNC spokesperson Karen Finney noted that the party recently conducted a focus group and found that McCain’s support dropped the most when voters learned about his habit of “shifting his positions to make them more acceptable to the right wing of the Republican Party.” In other words, people like McCain less when they learn about his flip-flops.

Why do I get the impression the Straight Talk Express blew its engine after the wrong turn at Albuquerque? Let's share the joyous news and see if we can get his general election poll numbers to equal Bush's popularity - it's not like they're fundamentally different on the issues, after all.

One for the road: Blake Stacey tells us how to boil an egg.

Step 1. Obtain an egg, without provoking undue grievances from the vegan community.

Click on the link for the rest of the steps. Without the context, you won't bust your gut laughing.

I just have one more thing to add.


And you will understand why in a few hours. Tune in again.

Mark Mathis Opens Mouth, Proves Stupidity (Again)

Someday, I'm going to write my Great American Novel, Cornflakes. I've been gathering material for it going on two decades now. It's about the rampant stupidity of certain human beings. Mark Mathis, Associate Producer of Expelled, has earned his place within it, for verily, he is a corny flake.

Well, actually, he's a total fuckwit, but the novel's not called Fuckwits, alas. Perhaps it should be.

Many of you will have had the great good fortune of not knowing just who the fuck Mathis is. I'm sorry to be the one to draw your attention to this raving lunatic. Just take comfort in the fact that, despite all of his efforts to draw attention to himself, you had no clue who he was before I foisted him on your attention. Those of you who needed no introduction, my sympathies.

Perhaps the only thing you need to know about Mathis is that he's one of those lying sacks of shit making sensible Christians feel ashamed of their brethren. That, anyway, is all the introduction I'm willing to give him: He's one of the bastards responsible for the atrocity that is Expelled, and he's a lying sack of shit. Everybody say hi to Mr. Mathis.

Now that introductions are taken care of, let us proceed.

I wanted to thoroughly spank Mathis for a few particular inanities he spouted in that "conference" call so spectacularly interrupted by PZ Myers. I know I don't have to wear my own arm out - just search ScienceBlogs for "Mark Mathis" and you'll see what I mean - but I just get this twitch when I'm confronted with this level of inanity. Paddling his tender bottom will help that twitch subside.

Brother Richard from Life Without Faith was part of that conference call, and he was so kind as to post his raw notes. One of the questions and answers in particular caught my eye, but before we get to that, let me share the Mathis quote that had me nearly pounding the floor with laughter. Appetizer, then main course, as it were:

[Mathis] also points out that he had a personal grudge against Myers and he wanted him to have to pay for the movie. He points out that he let Michael Shermer attend another viewing and that Shermer enjoyed the film. [emphasis added]

Let's put aside the fact that Mathis only settled on the "personal grudge" excuse after trying the "PZ was causing a disturbance" excuse (he wasn't) and the "Myers and Dawkins were gate-crashers" excuse (they weren't). That isn't what made me nearly fall to the ground in hysterical laughter. Look again at the line in bold.

Michael Shermer? Michael Shermer? Seriously Michael Shermer, you mean, the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine? The one who had this to say about Mathis:

My take on Mathis is that he's an opportunist. He says and does whatever he thinks necessary to get his film made and now promoted. My guess on the latest flap about tossing PZ out of the screening but not Dawkins was PZ's original assumption that they just didn't notice Dawkins there, and only after the fact rationalizing the whole affair with plausible (and ever changing) reasons.

And this about Ben Stein:

I also pointed out to him that Darwin has been used and abused by ideologues of all stripes, and that in any case that is all separate from
whether the science is good or not. That seemed to tax his thinking too much, because shortly after he announced that he had to take a rest break and he just got up and went out to his car for about 20 minutes!


Then Stein came back in and that's when we walked around the office with the handheld camera to get some B-Roll footage, and they showed him asking me about my books, and that's where I told him I thought ID was much closer to pseudoscience than science.

That Michael Shermer? Oh, yeah. I'll bet he enjoyed the film. It must have been the same sort of life-changing experience as being interviewed for it by those two assclowns.

And yet, that wasn't the most inane thing Mathis said. That wasn't what had my spanking arm twitching. Brother Richard notes:

The question is asked, if the issues are just about science, then why are so many Darwinists upset? Why do they have such passionate anger? Mathis says that Darwinism is a worldview. Scientists like Myers and Dawkins are scared because their atheistic worldview might come crashing down on their heads.

This is wrong in so many ways that it's going to take me the rest of the night to deconstruct it. Grab yourselves some snackage and drinkage and make yourselves comfortable. We're in for the long haul.

Firstly, "Darwinism" is only a worldview in the miniscule mind of Mathis and those of his ilk (and how I wish I didn't have to add that last bit). Rational people who enjoy objective evidence for claims of how life came by its incredible diversity have accepted the scientific theory of evolution because it provides abundant evidence of said diversity, no myth required. If someone proved by means of objective scientific evidence that evolutionary theory was incorrect, and came up with a better explanation, our world would not end. Thinkers such as ourselves are quite used to adjusting to new evidence. I refer you to the excitement rather than panic when Einstein's theory of relativity nudged Newton aside for a good example of this.

As for people like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins being scared that their "atheistic worldview might come crashing down on their heads"... puh-leeze. I'm no scientist, merely an avid consumer of same, but I am an atheist, and I can tell you that the last thing I'm scared of is having that worldview come crashing down. We're not angry because we're scared. We're passionately angry because we can't stand lying sacks of shit trying to force their useless dogma on us.

"Why do we have such passionate anger?" I have a few ideas. And I can tell you why I'm spending so much time and energy fighting these assclowns and the poison they're pushing with this propaganda flick.

1. The (scientific) theory of evolution has led to medical breakthroughs that save lives. Intelligent Design has not. Au contraire, "Goddidit" and pseudoscientific explanations do nothing to further the science that gives us new treatments for disease, and sometimes they kill.

2. Intelligent Design is not science. It has no claim to be treated as such, and therefore deserves expulsion. Academic freedom isn't even in it. So it really pisses me off when some total bastards try to get their religion into the classroom by playing us for fair-play suckers. They want Intelligent Design in the classroom, fine - it can go in Comparative Religion where it belongs.

3. Three words: Creationism's Trojan Horse. Two more words for you: Wedge Document. Real science doesn't have to come up with systematic schemes to lie and cheat and game the system to get recognized as science. Even if it weren't for the above two items, the IDiot's whining claims for equal time and the right to academic freedom would be annihilated by the stunning intellectual dishonesty their strategy displays. Credibility destroyed(.pdf).

4. Science class is for science, not pseudoscience, not the frontiers. And for those who claim Intelligent Design can be introduced and then debunked, face facts: you'd cry bloody murder, infringement on religious rights, persecution, the whole works. You don't want it debunked, you want it enforced. So even that little strategem fails. ID doesn't belong in the classroom under any pretense, period.

5. But I know they don't give a shit about science or integrity, so I'll just mention this: it's bad religion. It's harming the Christian mainstream message. Go on. Everyone, now, even the IDiots in the audience. Go read the whole comment I linked to. It's on a Christian message board, so you don't have to associate with those icky atheist scientists.

You know you've fucked up when your religious compatriots are saying that "the 'Intelligent Design' movement is a plan by Satan to discredit the Gospel in the minds of many...," eh?

So let's review: the fuckwits pushing Intelligent Design are floating a pseudoscientific raft of bullshit under the misnomer "Theory of Intelligent Design." Their "science" has made not one useful contribution to medicine, while evolutionary theory has. They lie six ways of Thursday and have nefarious little plans on sneaking their fanaticism into the classroom. They're making things miserable for their fellow religious travellers. And they think scientists and atheists are just scared our worldview might be challenged? They think we're fighting them because of that?

Worldview isn't even in it.

And sadly, my five points above have just barely scratched the surface. I encourage you, even if you think Intelligent Design can't harm you, to click on a few of the above links. It's not just about Intelligent Design trying to edge out evolution in classrooms, my darlings, although that should be quite enough - this country is failing miserably at science education, and it's not like adding religious pablum will make it any better.


It's not just that.

It's about keeping the fanatics from getting a toehold. They catch enough young ears and bend them, we're all going to end up in a theocracy run by the most outrageous elements of the Religious Right, and I damned sure don't want to wake up to that world in a few years. Neither do you.

I'm not asking you to do anything more than be vigilant. Watch out for the lies. Keep the theocrats out of our government, our school boards, and our personal lives. Don't be swayed by the silver tongues of the terminally stupid. You'll feel badly if you end up featured in Cornflakes right there beside Mathis.

Tip o' the shot glass to Brother Richard.

Oh, Noes! They Got My Best Friend!

The hardest thing about embracing my atheism and deciding to do my part in calling creationists out on their bullshit is the wall it's put up between my best friend and I.

Take tonight. There we were, having a fairly decent conversation about life, the universe and everything. I can't even remember how we got to this point - it was that innocuous a conversation - but his church's views on evolution had come up, probably due to my crowing over PZ's pranking the Expelled crew, and without any warning, a creationist talking point comes tumbling from the mouth of my usually rational best friend:

"Well, it's the theory of evolution, you know - it's not like it's the law of evolution."

Said in that somewhat indulgent, somewhat admonishing tone I dread, that gentle voice of correction the churches use when you're going astray.

I didn't react well. I tried to keep a civil tone as I explained that a theory in science isn't the same thing as a theory in layman's terms, but I know I was nearly shouting. And no, I'm not angry at him. I'm outraged at the pompous assclowns who love pulling blindfolds over people's eyes and drill these fuckwit phrases into folks who only want to live good Christian lives. As if accepting evolution means spitting on God. As if God couldn't have come up with such an elegant and simple idea for the creation of higher life forms.

We got past the bad moment. That's why he's my best friend: these things are nothing compared to the love we share. The walls are going up, but they'll never get so high we can't talk over them.

But it's made me understand how pervasive the lies are. The only good news is that his church isn't pushing Expelled as a must-see. They have better taste than that, a fact for which I'm forever grateful.

Let me just state something clearly: I have no problem with faith in God. Some people need God. They can have Him (take my God - please! hur hur hur - sorry). I understand the need for something greater in our lives. Some of us fill that need with secular things, some with spiritual, and it's all good. I wouldn't mind seeing less religion in public in this country, and I despise a lot of the things supposedly "religious" people do, but that doesn't equate to wanting it eradicated like a mental illness. Fanaticism needs to be fought lest we end up living in a theocracy, true, but let's don't get stupid.

But I have an enormous problem with people lying for Jesus, and good people getting taken in by those lies. I cannot let that stand.

So that's right, creationist cretins: I'm coming for you, you lying sacks of shit.

I'm going to link to sites that debunk you. I'm going to join that chorus spanking you all up and down the internet. I'm going to vote your asses down, and I'm going to counter your pathetic lies, and I'm not going to let you impose your narrow, rabid, fanatic, ugly, distorted view of religion on me and mine. I won't let you do it to kids, and I won't let you do it in my community, and I will try my damnedest to take my country back from you, and I am not alone.

It begins here. Listen:

According to the National Academy of Sciences,

Some scientific explanations are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them. The explanation becomes a scientific theory. In everyday language a theory means a hunch or speculation. Not so in science. In science, the word theory refers to a comprehensive explanation of an important feature of nature that is supported by many facts gathered over time. Theories also allow scientists to make predictions about as yet unobserved phenomena. [emphasis added]

And don't you start blowing smoke up our asses with "the Theory of Intelligent Design." That so-called "theory" falls under the vulgar definition of theory. It has nothing to do with science. It's the fucking fantasy of Intelligent Design. It's a euphemism for creationism, and if that weren't true, you all wouldn't be fighting the battle in the political arena: you'd be too busy in the lab to mess about in politics, trying to force your fantasies on the rest of us by fiat.

You want the truth? Science doesn't lead to atheism. You do. You're the ones presenting it as the choice between science or God, and considering the company I would have been keeping as a church-going Christian, I chose science. Evolutionary theory didn't shake my faith in God: you did. Your lies and your frothing and your intolerance and your self-righteousness shoved me right out the door. There are atheists who got there through science, true, but there are a hell of a lot more who ended up happily God-free because we couldn't stand the fanatical fuckheads that were destroying faith. So don't try to spew that "science will turn our children into atheists!" crap. Tell it to Ken Miller. Let him tell you how much science destroyed his faith.

Oh, wait. You can't. He's Catholic, and he's an evolutionary biologist. Whoops.

Here's the deal. Stay the fuck out of my government, and the fuck out of science classrooms, and stay the fuck away from my friends. ¿Comprende?

No. I know you don't. And that's why we'll be having this little talk again.

Pre-rant Catblogging

I'm a crazy cat lady: I own a crazy cat, and I am a lady. Well, female - the lady part is debatable.
My cat is evil. I have no idea why. I raised her from kittenhood, and I don't remember any traumatic experiences that could have led this. She was always fed, loved, played with, and suffered no abuse, and yet she's turned into a homicidal maniac. She cuddles up to new people and starts purring. This is because she's found a guillable victim, not because she's sweet-natured. People usually discover this just after they've told me, "She won't bite me - look, she's purring - ARGH!"

We do roughhouse, and I decided once that this must be the reason for her belligerance. So I resolved to be nothing but calm and gentle. We would play string and hair tie, but no kitty kung-fu. This state of affairs lasted three days. At the end of the experiment, she sat at my feet glaring. I murmured something indulgent, and she growled. When I asked her what was wrong, in the sweetest, most understanding tones possible, she leaned forward very slowly, very deliberately, and bit me.

We haven't tried the "play nice" strategy since. It makes her miserable and puts my ankles in peril.

Most of my photos of my cat show her being sweet, innocent and above all sleeping, because it's very hard to photograph a raging cat with one hand and fend off grievious bodily harm with the other. However, I did get lucky here:

No fingers were lost in the making of this photograph.

That is a far truer approximation of Misha's general views on life, the universe and everything than this:

Note the expression. It says, "I would come over there and bite your face off, but I'm far too busy being regal at the moment."

My cat is foremost among the myriad reasons I won't have children. If this beast had been a human, I'd be on the local news about now saying, "I have no idea how I raised a serial killer." And of all the phrases I envision myself someday uttering on the news, that's not on the top ten most desired.

I'm afraid the next cat I own is going to be dead boring after this one, so I hope she lives forever.

29 March, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Pshaw, why would we need universal single-payer health care in this country when we have these quality health plans?

Wal-Mart Sues Disabled Ex-Employee

The Shanks didn't notice in the fine print of Wal-Mart's health plan policy that the company has the right to recoup medical expenses if an employee collects damages in a lawsuit.


The family's situation is so dire that last year Jim Shank divorced Debbie, so she could receive more money from Medicaid.

Jim Shank, 54, is recovering from prostate cancer, works two jobs and struggles to pay the bills. He's afraid he won't be able to send their youngest son to college and pay for his and Debbie's care.

Un-be-lievable. So remember, kids: read that fine print. Not that you'll have any choice but to sign anyway - it's not like you're making enough money to purchase your own health insurance.

Pour me another drink, and let's see what else we've got.

Hey, wasn't
Iran the enemy? I thought we were supposed to bomb them... I'm all confused (via The Carpetbagger Report (emphasis mine):

Maliki has since struck a close alliance with ISCI, which has its own militia, the Badr Organization, and whose members also hold much sway within Iraq’s official security forces (though more with the police
than with the national army). This alliance has the blessing of U.S. officials, even though ISCI—which was originally called the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq—has much deeper ties with Iran than Sadr does. (ISCI’s leaders went into exile in Iran during the decades of Saddam’s reign, while Sadr and his family stayed in Iraq—one reason for his popular support. As Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations has noted, SICRI was created by Iran, and the Badr brigades were trained and supplied by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.)

Did I end up with the absinthe by mistake somehow? Harf? The man we wanted in power in Iraq is all buddies with the man we want to destroy in Iran, and now we're fighting beside folks who were armed and trained by Iran, which just a little bit ago was the reason we wanted to bomb Iran, because they were arming and training the people trying to kill us... ye gods. I have a headache, and it ain't a hangover.

Moving on.
What's all this I hear about ThinkProgress? They fucked up? And then they did what?!

You mean they published an immediate, prominent correction? They didn't bury it somewhere deep within the site where no one would ever see it so that ignoramuses could continue to cite the uncorrected original as proof of their bogus smears? Journalistic integrity? I thought we'd gotten rid of that pesky idea.

But you see, my darlings, this is the difference between news organizations and propaganda outlets: news orgs aren't afraid to issue mea culpas, whereas propaganda outlets... well, are.

And then, when the propaganda outlets crow over the mistakes of their foe, things like this happen:

The right wing has been jubilantly celebrating the fact that ThinkProgress made an error in claiming John McCain had plagiarized a speech by Adm. Timothy Ziemer. Drudge, Weekly Standard, National Review, and Instapundit have all referenced our mistake. On its "political grapevine” segment this evening, Fox News reported our error as well. Fox host Bret Baier said, “The left-wing blog ThinkProgress has had to eat its words.”

At the end of the segment, Fox News referenced this website as “ThinkProgress.com” in an on-screen chyron. Note to Fox: we’re actually ThinkProgress.org. It’s ok — we all make mistakes.

Note to Fox: if you're going to gloat over your enemy's mistakes, be sure you gloat accurately. Otherwise, you just announce what the rest of us already know - that you're fucking stupid. Thank you, but we already have abundant evidence.

And now, on a lighter note, sea cucumbers:

At 2:00pm today someone (in Alabama, no less) came here via a Google search for "sex with a sea cucumber". I'm speechless.

Tip o' the shot glass to John Lynch over at Stranger Fruit. I haven't laughed so hard since PZ Myers busted into the Expelled crew's hermetically-sealed press "conference" call.

Nothing to Fear but PZ Myers

Just when the brouhaha over PZ Myers getting expelled from Expelled was dying down, this happens:

Some of you know that the producers of Expelled had a conference call this afternoon…a carefully controlled, closed environment in which they would spout their nonsense and only take questions by email. I listened to it for a while, and yeah, it was the usual run-around. However, I dialed in a few minutes early, and got to listen to a tiresome five minutes of Leslie and Paul chatting away, during which time they mentioned the secret code (DUNH DUNH DUNNNNH!) for the two way calls. I know. Sloppy, unprofessional, and stupid, but that's the way
they work. So … I redialed. (DUNH DUNH DUNNNNH!)

Then I listened along quietly until I could take no more.

Skepchick has the audio. It's absolutely awesome. And might I just add:

I've pointed out before the inanity - nay, the sheer fuckwittedness - of making a movie ostensibly about the silencing of scientists for their views, and then refusing to let scientists speak. They're dead intent on silencing their critics. They force folks attending their propaganda screenings to sign non-disclosure agreements, then whine that their critics aren't addressing the content of the movie. They lie, they obfuscate, they attack evolution (which in their world begins and ends with Darwin, as if there's been no developments in the field in 100+ years), they refuse to share this supposed "science" that disproves evolution (because there isn't any), and they cancel planned screenings of their schlock as soon as they discover that - gasp! - some people might attend them not to applaud, but to debunk.

Don't let the claim about "unavoidable travel plans" fool you. They didn't cancel until just after PZ Myers got ejected and the internet erupted with the hilarity. This marks the second excuse I've seen for the cancelled screenings: they've also cited "security concerns." I ask you.

I'm delighted by the fact that PZ once again threw a cart full of eggs on the Expelled crew's faces. I can't wait for the next installment: I'm having pleasant visions of them cowering in terror, wondering where PZ will strike next. Nowhere is safe from the wrath of Myer!

It's inevitable. The more they try to exclude PZ, the more they fuck up. There was the Minnesota screening, of course, wherein they placed the invitation for a supposedly "private" screening on a public website with no restrictions on who could sign up to attend. Then, when they spotted PZ in line, they were so busy expelling him that they missed Richard Dawkins - don't believe their claims that they generously allowed Sir Richard to attend because he'd come such a long way to see their movie. That's just CYA, and it's poor lying to boot. Even our very own White House spins better than that, despite the fact they've stopped trying to make said spin plausible.

Then we have this episode. They invite a variety of media sorts, including bloggers, to their carefully-controlled "conference" call (note to Expelled goons: it's only a conference if people can actually confer), pointedly not inviting PZ - only they did:

Today we sat in on a conference call with the Expelled frauds. PZ has his story up, and others will probably follow. However, some people, including the producers of Expelled, have already taken to accuse us of crashing their call, much like the lies about PZ crashing the Expelled screening.

This is false. We got an explicit invitation yesterday from Expelled‘s media relations firm to participate, note to whom the invitation is addressed.

Subject: INVITE: Live teleconference with BEN STEIN of Expelled

Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2008 13:45:24 -0400

From: Schlicht, Stacy (LAN-RCN)

To: thecrew@pandasthumb.org

JOIN BEN STEIN TOMORROW, Friday, March 28 at 1:00 pm. PST for an exclusive, invitation-only LIVE press teleconference!

Some crew members got multiple invitations, including the one above and one at the personal site. PZ, however, was not one of them, despite the amount of (bad) press he has been able to generate for the frauds. I guess they purposely excluded his personal email from the list. However, they apparently forgot that PZ is a crew member, when they sent us our invitation. [emphasis added]

Heh heh heh whoops.

It still wouldn't have been such a disaster for them if they hadn't been blabbering the code for a two-way call when PZ called the conference line a few minutes early. Listen. Every moron knows that you don't share security codes in the same forum where said code is supposed to be used. Two basic things should have occurred to them:

1. The people calling in were going to be muted, so how the hell are you supposed to know if they're listening?

and 2. Some folks come to shindigs earlier than the time on the invite, so it might be a good idea not to share the secret stuff five minutes before the scheduled conference.

They have good reason to fear PZ. He's a lot smarter than they are. Then again, so is your common garden gnome.

Keep it up, PZ!

28 March, 2008

We Have a Poet Laureate!

I just want to draw your attention to the Official Poem of En Tequila es Verdad:

tremendous wine

tremendous wine, electrically translucent,
whisper every puppet so manuscripts release dreams.
imagine a fermented monkey--funny beneath lime.

-courtesy of The Magnetic Poet, Nicole

Yes, this is what she's capable of given a handful of fridge magnets. Now just imagine how good she is when she gets to use any word she wants. If you're suffering from a lack of imagination today, you can go see for yourself.

"tremendous wine" is the perfect poem for this blog. I love wine. I love tequila. I love writing. This poem celebrates wine and writing, and it's got a lime in it, which goes well with tequila. Perfecto!

Gracias, Nikkita!


Just so we're clear: I'm one of those pathetic Americans who speaks a few words of español, a smattering more français, and for seasoning can add a greeting or two in Japanese, German, Russian, and sundry other languages. But I'm sadly unilingual.

So why all the Spanish? Why not just celebrate my native tongue, unadulterated by others?

Well, there's reasons. For one, English isn't English so much as a hodge-podge of assorted borrowed, begged, pilfered, filched, and impounded words from a great many languages. I've never tried this experiment, but I'd be very interested to see what would happen if you reduced the dictionary to pure English-origin words. We'd have, what, about a handful left? So I'm just carrying on the grand English tradition of appropriating whatever catches my fancy at the time.

Then there's the fact I grew up in the Southwest. Rather hard to avoid appending a word or two of Spanish down there. "¿Cómo estás?" becomes just as habitual as "how're you?" Your horizons expand beyond "enchilada" and "taco" by default.

So it's funny that I used to hate Spanish. Or maybe not. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that. I took French in high school instead. Je parle un petit pous français, très mal, and now I wish I'd taken Spanish, because I've fallen in love with it. And now that I'm without it, I suffer.

I love the Northwest, I truly do, but a part of me will always miss the Desert Southwest. I miss the border culture, where Mexican and American intermingle so much that it becomes hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. There's a latino community up here, true, but it's not yet so pervasive. If I try to tell the joke about why the Chevy Nova didn't sell in Mexico, I have to explain it. I can't just say, "Because it's a no va!" and get a gale of laughter. No, I have to murder the punchline by adding, after the blank pause, "no va is Spanish for 'doesn't go'".

I miss Cinco de Mayo and Mexican flags and restaurants where all you hear is rapid-fire Spanish.

I miss being so close to Puerto Peñasco, where Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers throw Circus Mexicus twice a year.

And these are the reasons this blog will have such a heaping helping of Spanish words and phrases. Just in case you were wondering. Look, I provided you with a link to Babelfish if it gets too much. And hey, maybe this would be a good time to think about your roots, too. What's in your history that you celebrate?

Just a thought.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

We gots to get us some edimicashun in this country:

The impression that Obama is Muslim varies by education, region, and religious background. Voters who did not attend college are three times as likely to believe Obama is Muslim when compared with voters who have a college degree (15% vs. 5%). [emphasis added]
Here's a thought: let's offer a free public course entitled "Just Because It's In Your Inbox Doesn't Mean It's True."

Sigh. All right, time for a public service announcement:


I need another drink. And let's see what else we've got here... oh, now, this is good:

[McCain] has opposed extending the assault weapons ban, federal hate crimes legislation, the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, pro-labor legislation, ergonomics rules, lawsuits against gun manufacturers, and benefits for gay partners. He has supported privatizing Social Security, conservative judicial appointments, the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, tax cuts for the wealthy, and the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools (Free Ride, Pages 139-140). On national security, McCain has consistently proven himself to be one of our most hawkish senators. Conservative groups such as the American Conservative Union and the Christian Coalition of America routinely give McCain high marks (Free Ride, Pages 145-146). [emphasis added]

Anyone here still think McCain's a moderate? No? Didn't think so.

Moving on, then. Sad news, alas. It looks as though Rush Limbaugh won't be prosecuted for fraud for encouraging Republicons to game the Democratic nomination:

As for Limbaugh's chances of facing charges, Jennings said, "We have no intention of prosecuting Rush Limbaugh because lying through your teeth and being stupid isn't a crime."


But at least we can end with some good news:

The Wright controversy has not heightened the public’s impression that Obama’s race will undermine his chance in the general election if he is the nominee. Only 21% say Obama’s race will hurt his chances, compared with 25% who held that view in January. [emphasis added]

And the analysis I read shows that number steadily on the wane since September. This bodes very well indeed - if you're not a racist fuckhead, that is. It would be premature to drink to America's first black president, but I'll drink to America's first extremely viable black candidate, and the beginning of this country finally beginning to practice what it preaches.


27 March, 2008

Bienvenido a Mi Casa

For those of you who no hablo espanol, Welcome to my house!

Introductions are likely in order. I'm Dana Hunter. I'm an SF writer in Seattle. Don't bother looking me up on Amazon just yet - there's a reason I call myself a writer rather than an author: not published. We're working on it.

This is my cat, Misha:

Do not pet the cat. She is a homicidal maniac.

Of course she looks too cute to be homicidal. That's her modus operandi.

Don't fall for it.

You'll notice the place is still under construction. Bare bones, alas. But we have a full bar, so we should do all right. Pour yourself a drink and get comfy.

Right. Let's get this party started.

Bit o' a tour, to start. You've met the homicidal beastie. Down at the bottom there, you'll note the Video Bar, fully stocked, of course. To your left, I'm slowly but surely building links to places I find fascinating, and playing about with various and sundry interesting bits for you to explore. You'll notice that big red A right off, I'm sure. That stands for Atheist. It doesn't stand for anti-religion, mind. But if you're a morbidly pious sort, or a right-wing evangelical prostelytizing judgement-passing fuckwit, you're probably not going to be very happy here.

Ah, yes, I should mention the language. There will be language here. Plenty of it. If you faint at the word "fuck," you should probably move on. There was a time I tried to be more polite in public, but that was before the Bush Regime radicalized me. Now I'm true-blue, and I use the same color language.

You'll have noticed by now I lean left. That's not a lean, it's a sprawl, caused by being shoved rudely from the middle by aforementioned regime. I reserve the right to inch back toward the middle if and when such an option becomes available, but for now, the left is where I stay, and that's where you'll hear my voice screaming from.

And there will be screaming. Feel free to join in.

You'll notice from the links (sadly sparse right now, but check back later) that I love science, and I've become something of a political animal, and I thrive on snark and oddities. I hope you'll enjoy those blogs as much as I do. There's great stuff in there, a lot of great people who restore my faith in humanity, and I invite you to go strike up a conversation with them. We get outrageous at times, I admit. I don't always agree with the views expressed. But that's the beauty of the First Amendment: it allows for a variety of voices, a cacophany of choices, and a plenty of challenges to entrenched ways of thinking.

Which brings me to another point: comments. Time was, I'd have requested a civil discourse, discouraged flame wars, and pleaded for you to avoid name-calling. No more. I do moderate comments, but there are very few things that will get your comment banned. Let's go over those, shall we?

  1. Threats.
  2. Hate speech. Yes, I know it's a limit on the First Amendment, but it's mi casa, and I won't tolerate racial slurs, ethnic attacks, and other such nonsense.
  3. Sexual harassment.
  4. Stuff that should be taken outside. Which means that if you want to talk about some personal quibble, you email it. It doesn't belong in comments. An example of this would be, "Dana, you left your underwear sitting on my kitchen counter." Dirty laundry doesn't belong in the comments section, are we agreed?

And that's about it. If other things become problems, we'll revisit this, but I think we're all adults here. We can argue and hurl insults and laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the world without crossing the line into the grotesque.

If someone expresses a view you don't like, refute it. I don't care how much dirty language you use and how much name-calling you do, but please, address the issue rather than attacking that person's gender or background or what they eat for breakfast. Wikipedia defines ad hominem for us:

An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument to the man", "argument against the man") consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim. The process of proving or disproving the claim is thereby subverted, and the argumentum ad hominem works to change the subject.

And this is what I'm talking about. Let's try to keep ad hominem to a minimum here. Enough said. Go forth and comment prolifically and with abandon.

I know, I know. Right now you're asking yourself: Dana, what the hell am I supposed to comment about? You haven't written anything.

Muy verdad, mis amigos. However, there'll be plenty to come: science and pseudoscience, atheism and religion, writing and reading, and catblogging, for a start. There's a poll, there, just to your left, asking - nay, begging - your opinion. There's a comment section just waiting for you to put your own two cents in. Use it. Let's talk. I enjoy a good talk about Life, the Universe, and Everything.

You see that blogroll, over there? You, too, could be listed! Send me the link. Don't have a blog? Create one. Don't blog enough to create one but came up with a fascinating diatribe you just know we'll all love? Email it. If it tickles my fancy, you'll end up a guest blogger, with all the fame and - well, with a little more recognition than you had this morning, anyway. And maybe someday, my snark will count for something and guarantee you a wider audience. Stranger things have happened. Just look at 2004.

While mi casa's under construction, I invite you to amble on over to my alternate sites: MySpace and danahunter.net. If you're truly bored, you can even read my previous rantings along with more recent outpourings and, gods help you, my old short stories which are lurking around. Just remember that yes, the views I professed then are not necessarily the ones I hold now. People get older, they get jaded, they get new obsessions, and their minds change. Don't hold the me of two years ago against the me of now. I'm not a politician: I don't have to be consistent, right?


Not that I've changed that much, mind. Just gotten a lot less patient with woo, embraced a more skeptical outlook, and various other minor course corrections. Change is good. Especially when it's larger coins.

Anyway. The rambling must cease. Again, welcome, and enjoy your stay!