Life on Titan?

The article I link to investigates the question "Will we even recognize life on Titan if it's there?", so there is a concentration on the areas of biology and chemistry, and the article is a tad out of date since the probe arrived in early 2005, but still, it's wicked stuff.

But there is an additional thing to think about - the scope of this achievement.

We humans are; sending a machine, from Earth, out of our gravity well, past the Moon, past Mars, past the asteroid belt, all the way out to Saturn, where it will rendezvous not merely with the gas giant, but with one it's moon's about 2/3rds the size of Earth and potentially capable of supporting life. It will then survey Titan using the instruments on board, and relay the information back to Earth.

Is this not mindblowing stuff?

The answer to the question I pose in the title of this post is 'Yes'. The Huygens probe is the glove around our hand, reaching across the solar system to grasp Saturn's most intriguing moon. A sign of life will be there, because the Huygens probe will be a sign of us.

Sexier Posterior Evolves Almost Overnight

Damn that science is sexy

The Hatemongers pimp hurricane Katrina

Repent America says that God "destroyed" New Orleans because of Southern Decadence, the gay festival that was to have taken place in the city over the Labor Day weekend.
"Southern Decadence" has a history of filling the French Quarters section of the city with drunken homosexuals engaging in sex acts in the public streets and bars" Repent America director Michael Marcavage said in a statement Wednesday.

"Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city." Marcavage said. "From ‘Girls Gone Wild’ to ‘Southern Decadence’, New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same."

"Let us pray for those ravaged by this disaster. However, we must not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long," Marcavage said.
"May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God," Marcavage concluded.

AR: These people are beneath contempt. What kind of twisted souls could cheer at the suffering and destruction of an entire city, give the credit for said destruction to their invisible 'deity of love', and to top it off, claim that said invisible deity's motivation for the horrific destruction was His homophobia?

Couldn't God have acted a little, uh, subtler? Perhaps a tad more targeted in his approach to punishing the wicked? He is afterall, the 'Supreme Being' - you'd figure there would be less collateral damage from the creator of the universe, burner of bushes, dispenser of stone tablets, etc.

No, apparently theirs is a God who rains destruction on the innocent and wicked alike, for crimes that haven't even been committed yet.

I've always argued that Atheism need not be synonymous with cynicism or pessimissim, and that a positive view of existence and mankind is possible to achieve without resorting to supernatural beings, heaven, or salvation.

Even in its most nihlistic forms, atheism is infinitely preferrable to these vengeful petty, hate-filled people and their vengeful, petty, hate-filled god.

Q: Why is the US so screwed up?

A: Ignorance. Given the results of this survey, a sizeable portion of Americans are in the grip of a white-hot madness that occludes reason.

Only 28% of Americans can correctly identify the origin of human beings as evolution by natural selection.

42% insist on believing that; 'Life has existed in it's present form since the beginning of time'.

In other words, they are in the throes of a theological stranglehold that prevents reason or logic from inhabiting them. Indeed, given the recent advancements ID theorists have made in imposing their views on the US school system, I think we can expect this ignorance to continue to flourish as it metastisizes into an institutional intellectual cancer.

This also may well explain the Red States voting pattern. Cripple a generation or more with religious dogma and poor education, then sell them a potent brew of fear that 'liberal' and 'atheist' science and evolution are the cause of their problems, and you can coast to office on a tidal wave of discontent - discontent that is conveniently disconnected to any reality that the now disastrously backward population can percieve.

'God Bless America' indeed.

Top Ten Bush Outrages

From 'The Nation'


Jerry Coyne: The Faith That Dare Not Speak It's Name

Must read for Richard - a magnus opus defense of Darwinism (including; history, examples, criticism and defense) ID theory (origins, politics, and a look at the merit of it's claims) written by Coyne for the New Republic (via Panda's Thumb)

One caution, its big. I could 'money quote' from it till the rapture. I probably will too.

Money Quote:

"Recent studies of the human genome provide more evidence that we were not created ex nihilo. Our genome is a veritable Gemisch of non-functional DNA, including many inactive "pseudogenes" that were functional in our ancestors. Why do humans, unlike most mammals, require vitamin C in our diet? Because primates cannot synthesize this essential nutrient from simpler chemicals. Yet we still carry all the genes for synthesizing vitamin C. The gene used for the last step in this pathway was inactivated by mutations forty million years ago, probably because it was unnecessary in fruit-eating primates. But it still sits in our DNA, one of many useless remnants testifying to our evolutionary ancestry."

The National Review surprises me again

The 'Derb' (John Derbyshire) is one of the theocons who writes for National Review, a magazine not noted for being particularily receptive to secularism, pluralism or atheism.

So imagine my astonishment when I read the Derb and find him bashing the POTUS for his ill-conceived remarks on Intelligent Design theory.

Money Quote:

"Why not teach the little ones astrology? Lysenkoism? Orgonomy? Dianetics? Reflexology? Dowsing and radiesthesia? Forteanism? Velikovskianism? Lawsonomy? Secrets of the Great Pyramid? ESP and psychokinesis? Atlantis and Lemuria? The hollow-earth theory? Does the president have any idea, does he have any idea, how many varieties of pseudoscientific flapdoodle there are in the world? If you are going to teach one, why not teach the rest? Shouldn't all sides be "properly taught"? To give our kids, you know, a rounded picture? Has the president scrutinized Velikovsky's theories? Can he refute them? Can you?"

Quote of the Day

"I don't want to live in a world where there are no lions anymore. Or no people like lions."

—Werner Herzog


The Gaza Withdrawl

An excellent article on the Gaza withdrawl that pretty much speaks for itself.

Money Quote:

"Yet when I saw infants and children intentionally brought to places of potential violence, children left in jail for days and weeks, refusing to identify themselves, while their parents do not look for them, I realize that a fanaticism has gripped these people that is even stronger than their parental instincts. Fanaticisms that powerful frighten me. "

Hitchens on Iraq

Christopher Hitchens also appeared last week on the Daily Show where he was confronted by the quick-tongued host on his continued support for the Iraq invasion. By my account, Stewart kicked his butt, but that doesn't mean Hitch doesn't have some valid points;

Iraq was a failed state. Whether it supported terrorists is beside the point (Stewart correctly pointed out that you can't swing a dead cat in any Middle-East country and not hit a handful of wanted terrorists - Iraq was nothing special in that regard), Iraq was definitely a serious threat to its neighbours, had a history of eggregious violence against its own people, and despite the lack of any WMD's, was nevertheless going to be pursuing them as soon as it could (which again is nothing really new for states in the ME). Further it was never going to transition into anything remotely like a democracy without first having it's leadership taken out.

My objections to the Iraq war were never about whether Iraq fit the criteria for being overthrown - it certainly did. Hussein was not the worst despot in the world, but he was certainly in the top 5. No, my objections to the Iraq invasion were based on a variety of other factors:

1. The importance of completing the Afghanistan invasion/rehabilitation first. If the US had concentrated more resources and efforts at rebuilding Afghanistan, and capturing Bin Laden, we wouldn't be seeing the gradual descent into 'warlordism' that characterizes what Afghanistan is currently going through, and the worlds most wanted man might be on trial right now.

2. There was no urgent reason to invade Iraq - it was certainly a tempting target (if only because it was relatively easy to knock over), but it was by no means one that had to be taken out immediately. However, both Iran and North Korea represented emerging and immediate NUCLEAR threats to the global order that Bush has left to simmer on the stove while he carries out his war in Iraq.

3. In the rush to war the planning for the invasion was either non-existent or based solely on the notion of defeating the Iraqi army and declaring victory. That the US would defeat the Iraqi forces was never in doubt for a second. How the US forces would hold the country together afterwards was apparently never considered.

4. My deep concerns (that IMO the evidence supports) is that the invasion was done more for domestic political gains then anything else. This concern was present in the prelude to Bush's first election campaign against Gore, and everything the Bush administration has done, including the calculated exploitation of 9-11 as a means of rallying for war in Iraq has confirmed it for me. Bush wanted to be a 'war-president', and so he is. He ran for re-election on a platform of equal parts security/homophobia and defeated a strong democratic candidate in the process - when if he had run on just his domestic agenda, I suspect that he would have been soundly defeated.

5. The utter failure to engage the rest of the world, including Canada, and the EU to partake in the efforts in Iraq essentially doomed the US efforts to failure. So long as it was a purely US/British enterprise, it was never going to have either International approval, popular support, or sufficient troops to complete the work necessary. This combination of flippancy, navel-gazing, and even open hostility to creating a genuine international coalition on the part of the Bush regime was so poisonous that it has all but ensured a disastrous result for the US and Iraq. If Bush could have eaten just a little crow (in private of course) and engaged them in a charm offensive instead of just being offensive, he could have put in place a global effort to invade and rebuild Iraq rather than a purely US/British one.

Related to these concerns about the invasion itself, is the disconnection between the stated PR of the Bush regime and the actual goals of the invasion. It was never about WMD's, but it has always been about establishing a permanent US military presence in the Middle East - conveniently located on top of about 20% of the world's oil. From a strategic perspective, this is completely sensible - not because the US requires the Iraqi oil for itself, but because controlling that level of oil supply gives the US incalcuable benefits as a tool of both foreign and domestic policy in the future (anyone who has played the CIV 3 game understands that once you have industrialized your economy and secured oil for oneself, it makes sense to also invade and control the other places where Oil is found - not because your nation needs it, but because everyone else does and you can extract all manner of goodies - including tech, money, and even territory from them for the excess oil you possess). I have no doubts at all that the actual nature and composition of the post-invasion Iraqi regime was of less concern to the military planners than the size, location and scope of the military bases they were planning to permanently plant on Iraqi soil, and the economic access to the oil they planned on enshrining in their happy new client state.

But you can't rally people for a war on the premise that it will preserve American global hegemony in the future - hence, the reliance on the narratives of; 9-11, 'fighting them over there, rather than here' (which Hitchen's correctly rebukes), 'war on terrorism', 'WMD's, bringing democracy to the middle-east, etc. etc. Those were never more than excuses and can't be taken seriously as the purpose for the war, any more than scholars take the 'Gulf of Tonkin resolution', or the death of a couple of marines in Panama seriously as the reasons for those wars (the actual reasons for Vietnam were the same as Iraq - to establish a permanent military presence and client state in a region otherwise bereft of one, and for Panama it was always about ensuring control over the Panama canal).

This PR failure is made even more clear when we see what the actual Iraqi constitution is going to look like (presuming things don't actually get worse and the nation descends into a full blown sectarian civil war - the outcome I actually expect to be most likely at the moment). With the establisment of Islam as the 'fundamental source' for the new laws and constitution, the 'democracy' that Iraq gets out of all of this will not look like any other we have ever seen - indeed, it looks suspiciously theocratic and undemocratic.

This wouldn't have been a problem except for the reliance on rhetoric that the US intended to establish something completely different from what is actually being delivered. Again, this is a complete failure to plan for and execute the actual rebuilding phase - a problem that could have been corrected or ameliorated by any of several ways, including making real efforts to get international approval and support.

So, while I share Mr. Hitchen's complete and justifable contempt for the Hussein regime, and while I continue to support the use of international law backed by force in removing despots and dictators from their regimes, I cannot and do not support the US invasion as it was conceived or conducted.

However, I also understand that the genie is already out of the bottle, and cannot be squeezed back in. The US cannot wave it's magic wand and re-establish Baathist control of the country, say 'sorry for the mess' and walk away. No, they must remain in-country until there is an Iraqi defense force (or in my humble solution, UN Peacekeepers backed by US air support - but that would again mean having to admit a mistake - and Bush simply won't do that) to keep the country and region from flying apart at the seams.

So the US will have to stay in Iraq, probably at least three or four more years.
And if there is any justice, it won't be the GOP in control of the senate, congress or the White House when the rebuilding of Iraq is complete.

Ice Hockey = 'Game of Satan'!

Hat tip to Jeff D. who forwarded me this link as well as some kind comments about the blog. I am probably going to hell for posting it, but I figure, heck, the only way I can get there any faster is if sodomize the pope, so posting this probably won't make that big a difference to St. Pete anyway.

Money Quote:

"Every evening, a horde of young men swarm into the stand. These men should be reading the Holy Bible or practice some good hobbies during the evenings! Often these men have drank some alcoholic drink before they left home. Constantly they smoke tobacco, and they swear and curse and blaspheme while waiting for the insane game to begin.

Then they sit down to the stand, and dear God, what kind of rage begins! First they take forth the "juice", which has been strengthened by alcohol. The game begins, and the audience starts the constant noise, shouting, and horrible swearing, cursing, and jeering, and supring of violence!! If a slightest mistake is made by a player or judge, it will be followed by an obnoxious gust of lewd swearwords and indecencies. The youth inspire each other to savage fervor, which causes both physical and mental problems later.

And God forbid, if a fight breaks out in the rink, that is the climax of the evening, and a terrible lust of blood follows! Everyone is hoping, that a player would be terribly hurt or even KILLED in the rink, or at least pints of blood would pour upon the shining white ice.
But this lewd bacchanal does not end with the game, NO! The youth go out into the streets, and look for the fans of the opposing teams for a fight. If they don't find a target for violence, they will then go into a pub to drink alcohol. They look for immoral young women to practice the deadly sin of fornication! The consequense is very often a vile (veneral) disease, which is a shame to their whole family, and for the girls it means often a bastard child which ruins their whole life.
After the pub, the gang often continues their bacchanal in the private home of one of their parents. Often this home is completely defiled and broken by the drunk boys. Frequently the boys engage in HOMOSEXUAL ACTS in these drinking nights!!!
That kind of misery and corruption causes this satanic game, which should be forbidden by the law as soon as possible!!! "

AR: So to summarize, hockey leads to; drunkeness, fighting, VD, unwanted pregnancies, and homosexuality.

I'm not sure I see what the problem is.


A Sino-Rus pact?

The Chinese and Russians just held a moderately sized joint military exercise.

Money quote:

"Chinese and Russian officials say the exercises are based on a scenario of a joint mission to stabilise a fictional country".

Funny how this was reported in Al Jeezera, but not the major US dailies, and it does make one wonder who the 'fictional' country might be.


Debating the FD minions about God

So here's the background, I posted a series of articles related to the topic of 'Is Atheism a religion?" on Free Dominion. One of the responders gave me the following question;

"Also if any atheists could in addition to answering these questions offer their own explanations of why God is not real it would be appreciated."

Now I admit, I struggled a bit here. Afterall, most of my arguments for positive atheism rely on dismantling my opponents conceptual framework - usually along the lines of 'all god-talk is incoherent'. But this poster hadn't done or said anything in particular to warrant my heaviest atheist weapons, and frankly gave me the impression from the rest of her post that such an assault would have merely caused her to tune me out. After thinking about it for a while I came up with the following answer:

"To answer your question with just a word 'dentistry'. When my tooth gets really sore I could decide to go to a faith healer of some sort - someone who will; help me overcome my negative energies, align my chakra's, give me the philosophical ammunition to combat my demons, pray with me for guidance, give me spiritual support, etc.

Or, I could go to my dentist who will take a look into my mouth, see the tooth decay, and if necessary - drill it out and put a filing in. He might even take a look at the other teeth to see if they need help as well, and at the end he'll give me a toothbrush and a lecture on better tooth care and the virtues of flossing.

So for me, science, as painful and imperfect as it is, is infinitely preferrable to the faith based alternatives."

Picture of the Day

While I was debating with some of the more radical religious right in Canada at 'Free Dominion' about whether or not 'Atheism' is a religion (it isn't), one of the posters asked me if I had 'any sense of spirituality at all'.

I replied that I did not, but that I still had a healthy sense of 'awe'. When they asked what things I felt this 'awe' towards, I answered 'mankind'.

- Who needs gods when men can walk on the moon?

The Ostrich Solution

It seems that a British study concluded about 4% of all children aren't genetically related to their 'fathers'.

Not surprising really. Women are afterall human beings too, and in the war of the sexes neither of us are known for being exclusively monogamous.

But the main article I link to makes the mistake of equating the information about the lack of paternity, with the consequences of mothers, fathers and kids finding out the truth. They even go so far as to advocate not performing the tests at all (I call this the 'Ostrich solution').

The problem of false paternity isn't that a genetic test will blow apart families - the problem of false paternity is that there is a false paternity!

Blaming the existence of the test for wrecking a family is like blaming the care-worker who brings you the test results that proves you have HIV. Sure without the test results you would still be in blissful ignorance of your situation, but is that better than knowing the truth?

Bill's New Rule

Wow - thank goodness Bill is BACK!

Money Quote:

New Rule: You don't have to teach both sides of a debate, if one side is a load of crap.

Now, President Bush recently suggested that public schools should teach intelligent design, alongside the theory of evolution. Because, after all, evolution is quote, "just a theory." Then the President renewed his vow to drive the terrorists straight over the edge of the earth. Now, here is what I don't get. President Bush is a brilliant scientist. He's the man who proved you can mix two parts booze with one part cocaine, and still fly a jet fighter.

And yet... yet he just can't seem to accept that we descended from apes. It just seems pathetic to be so insecure about your biological superiority, to a group of feces-flinging, rouge-buttocked monkeys, that you have to make up fairy tales. Like we came from Adam and Eve, and then cover stories for Adam and Eve like, intelligent design. Yeah, leaving the Earth in the hands of two naked teenagers. That's a real intelligent design.

I'm sorry, folks, but it may very well may be that life is just a series of random events. And that there is no... master plan. But enough about Iraq.

Let me instead restate my thesis. There aren't necessarily two sides to every issue. If there were, the Republicans would have an opposition party. And an opposition party would point out that even though there's a debate, in schools, and government, about this, there is no debate among scientists. Evolution... is supported by the entire scientific community. Intelligent design is supported by guys in line to see "The Dukes of Hazzard."

And the reason there is no real debate, is that intelligent design isn't real science. It's the equivalent of saying that the thermos keeps hot things hot and cold things cold, because it's a god. It's so willfully ignorant you might as well worship the U.S. Mail. It came again! Praise, Jesus!

No, stupidity isn't a form of knowing things. Thunder is high pressure air meeting low pressure air. It's not God bowling. Babies come from storks is not a competing school of thought in medical school. We shouldn't teach both. The media shouldn't equate both.

If Thomas Jefferson... If Thomas Jefferson knew we were blurring the line this much between church and state, he would turn over in his slave.


Brock Peters RIP

Along with playing Sisko's Dad on ST:DS9, Peters was also 'Admiral Cartwright' in two ST films.

Of course he also happened to be in a little seen film called 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.

Bummer. If only because I expect that because of the age of the ST franchise, I'll probably be doing more ST obituaries in the future. And when Nimoy goes I'll be inconsolable.

Blowback for Pat Robertson

"With unmistakable clarity and an apparent lack of self-consciousness, Robertson simply called for an assassination, presumably to be undertaken by U.S. military forces in violation of U.S. law.In so doing he gave the Venezuelan leader a propaganda gold mine, embarrassed the Bush administration, and left millions of viewers perplexed and troubled. More importantly, he brought shame to the cause of Christ. This is the kind of outrageous statement that makes evangelism all the more difficult. Missing from the entire context is the Christian understanding that violence can never be blessed as a good, but may only be employed under circumstances that would justify the limited use of lethal force in order to prevent even greater violence. Our witness to the Gospel is inevitably and deeply harmed when a recognized Christian leader casually recommends the assassination of a world leader." - Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

AR: hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for the quote. It seems there are some moderate Christian voices afterall.

Another Top Ten Most Ridiculous Black Metal Pics!

Brought to you by 'Ruthless Reviews' - simply the funniest stuff I've seen in a long, long, long time.

Heatley Feedback

I recieved this response from the Highlander (FUNHL GMs have their names changed to protect the innocent):

Red Five and I were discussing how this news, like all hockey news, is instant proof that the Severed Heads have improved. It has become so automatic that I, and I suspect others, are quick to disregard it as so much hot air. In this instance, however, I think the Sens have a player that will make their team far, far better and may be the key (along with Hasek) that could put them over the top. In the pts department, however, I think this is still a bit of of a question mark as Ottawa's goal is to win while Atalanta's may be to entertain. Daniel Alfredsson would be a much higher scoring player on another team but he sacrifices some offense for solid team defence. Danny Heatley will be asked to do the same, and I suspect he will do so gladly. Will he be a dominant NHL RWer, absolutely. Will he outscore Hossa in the FunHL, not necessarily.

AR: Do I sense a coke bet (that is a 'can of coca-cola', for those who are not FUNHLr's) related to who performs better? Here it is again in print; Heatley will outscore Hossa - any takers?

As for your contention that all news improves the fortunes of the Severed Heads consider the following:

Lindros leaves the sinking Rangers ship for the Leafs.

Selanne signs with the high powered Ducks

Heatley leaves young unproven Atlanta for deep and talented Ottawa

Slegr re-signs in Boston (where he will play on the pp with Leech)

Roberts will play for a Keenan team (and thus I believe move his PIM way up)

All of which I think are signficant gains for the 'Heads.

However, all is not wonderful at the 'Heads training camp;

Jagr is still a Ranger. Not bad in and of itself, but Sather has surrounded him with fragile Jagr-parasites like Straka and Rucinsky, and did not sign any high talent free agents to round out the team (especially in key spots like defense and goal) - not a good sign.

Afinogenov still plays for the totally hapless Sabres.

Foote moves from Colorado (where he had serious +/- potential) to Columbus, and while he will certainly get more quality offensive minutes for me to play him +/- (which is where his real value lies) would be sheer folly.

Enter the Saviour

'Jesus General' responds back to Pat Robertson as only someone who is 'an 11 on the manly scale of absoulte gender' can.

Note: almost certainly contains blasphemy. Imperil your soul at your own risk.

Bonus points: anyone who references the truly awful martial arts movie, 'Gymkata' (featuring Olympic gold medalist in Gymnastics, Kurt Thomas!) deserves either a reward for culture mining, or a free lobotomy to ease their pain.

Quote of the Day

""Like every other man of intelligence and education, I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised."

- Woodrow Wilson, 1922

(hat tip to Daily Kos for the quote)


NHL News!

Heatley traded to the Senators for Hossa and a defenseman to be named later, in a word, ‘Wow’!

Word is that Heatley’s agent requested the trade, I presume A: to get him on to a Canadian team where he will be more comfortable, and B: to get him away from the US media’s focus on his car accident. Who won? I’d say the Senators for sure, but if you are going to trade Heatley for anyone getting Hossa back is definitely one of the best deals you could make.

Hossa will fit well with the Thrashers, but he is another pure sniper (like Kovie) who needs a playmaker to succeed. The best the Thrashers have is Marc Savard, and I assume he’ll be playing with Kovalchuk. So does Hossa line up on the other side, or draw a different centre and form the second line? Could make a big difference in his points.

Heatley will almost certainly play with either Spezza or Alfreddson, both of whom are better passers than shooters. All in all, I expect his goal scoring to go up with a potential drop in his assists mark.

As for how this affects the FUNHL, I’d say Hossa drops a bit for Brian being a Thrasher, but that’s still a hard call given the rising talent level in Atlanta.

Heatley should be much happier in Ottawa, and if he’s happier, I’m happier. I'm also pretty sure that Spezza will be happy too.

Selanne is once again, a Duck. Good for the Ducks. He’ll fit nicely into a potent powerplay with Fedorov, Sykora, Niedermayer and Ozolinsh. Consider what Burke has already done for the Ducks PP with Oz, Nieds and now Selanne joining in since he became GM – nicely done.

Bondra appears to be the last remaining higher end player to sign a new deal. After he goes, there isn’t much news to report for signings, unless you are eagerly awaiting for Yannic the Panic Perrault to ink a deal.

Overheard in New York

I picked out one of my faves, but the whole site is a blast!

Hat tip to Ma-at for the link.

"Woman: Do you have a non-fiction section?

Book Guy: Well, everything that's not fiction is non-fiction. [Over] there's cooking, and there's history.

Woman: No, that's not what I asked. Do you have a section for non-fiction?

Book Guy: Well, there are no non-fiction novels. Everything here that's not a novel is non-fiction.
Woman: But you don't have a non-fiction section?

Book Guy: No. Everything that isn't fiction is non-fiction"
--Barnes & Noble, Staten Island

Bush approval rating soars to 36%!

In other news; Oceana is at war with Eurasia. Ocreana has always been at war with Eurasia. The chocolate ration has been increased from 4 grams per week to 2. The insurgency is now in it's last throes.

Rude, but also on the money

The 'Rude Pundit' isn't one of my favourite blogs - mostly because it comes across as the ravings of a recent college grad still afflicted with the verbal diarrhea of a frat boy.

But he can be quite funny, in a 'I can't believe you said that' kinda way.

This time around he nails it on the head. To defend freedom of speech you have to defend it even for the odious and rank speech you dislike.

He moves on from there (in a flourish of vulgarity that would make a hardened sailor blush with shame), to tackle the recent 'we should kill him for the oil' stupidity of Pat Robertson.

It's worth checking out, just remember that his spelentic tourettes like schtick is just that - a schtick.

Money Quote: "Again, Graham is just another Limbaugh/Hannity wannabe, flouting his "redneck" credentials as if saying that a man from the South is conservative is some kind of revelation. He says vile things, and, in the end, he was fired because he upset people with his words. You wanna call the advertisers and get them to bail on the show or the station? Great. You wanna boycott shit? Fine. You wanna put up posters saying that Michael Graham is a wad of fuck and photoshop his face into Satan's? Go right the fuck ahead. And if Graham gets cancelled because he has no listeners and no advertisers, then so be it.But let us not "applaud," as CAIR did, Graham's firing for his words. It's the same as applauding ABC for firing Bill Maher after 9/11. It'd be the same as taking Marc Maron off Air America for some of the (really funny) shit he says about fundamentalist Christians."

Exactly right - if a little less couth then I might have put it.

When Theocrats speak an Angel cries

An anonymous commenter sent me this link (thanks!) where Pat Robertson called for the assassination of the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Cuz you know, it was the Christian thing to do.

I've been critical of the muted Muslim community reaction to the bombings, so I might as well put this out there too - where is the outcry from Christians about Robertson? Why aren't they distancing themselves from him (and his money) as fast as possible? What do these guys have to say to get them discredited?

That basic science is flawed and requires equal time for religion? Check - the NYT is even in the game now falsely portraying the ID theorists as actually having a theory.

That women shouldn't have access to either birth control or abortions? Check. Now we are just waiting to see how the whole Pharmacists-for-God-refusing-to-dispense-birth-control lawsuits play out.

That God hates homosexuals and it is a good thing when they suffer and die? Check. At Justice Sunday II we got treated to the theological musings of 'Big Swede' Rev Phelps who said just that.

That assassination of an elected official is an acceptable practice for civilized people? Check.

So..apparently NOTHING they say is too controversial, too repugnant, or too obscene for the mainstream media to condemn.

Now, for me as an atheist to rail against the Christian right is one thing - afterall, nobody really cares about the opinions of atheists - but why is there no reaction to these things from 'mainstream' Christians? The stuff I list above bears no relation (none - zero - bupkus) to the religion I was raised in - so how come the normal everyday moderate Christians aren't furious about it?

Is mainstream moderate Christianity dead? Has the King of Peace become a symbol of assassination with nobody noticing, or worse objecting?


As a kid I read a LOT of sci-fi. It lead me to think that one day in my lifetime we would have space travel, space stations, a moon base, etc.

Well here I am as an adult and we do have space travel, a space station, and if NASA's plans work around and about 2020 we should have a program for establishing a permanent human presence on the moon, and maybe if I am lucky (and quit smoking) on Mars as well.

Is this a great time to be alive or what?

Deep Time

"Every where is within walking distance if you have enough time" Steven Wright

The NYTimes, perhaps in response to the criticism they have (justifiably) recieved over their articles on Science and Faith, ran this Op-ed commentary.

Simply much better than the crappy Scientists without Faith vs. the world approach they took in the series they recently ran.

Money Quote:

"Accepting the fact of evolution does not necessarily mean discarding a personal faith in God. But accepting intelligent design means discarding science. Much has been made of a 2004 poll showing that some 45 percent of Americans believe that the Earth - and humans with it - was created as described in the book of Genesis, and within the past 10,000 years. This isn't a triumph of faith. It's a failure of education.

The purpose of the campaign for intelligent design is to deepen that failure. To present the arguments of intelligent design as part of a debate over evolution is nonsense. From the scientific perspective, there is no debate. But even the illusion of a debate is a sorry victory for antievolutionists, a public relations victory based, as so many have been in recent years, on ignorance and obfuscation."

Exactly. The only places ID Theory is taken seriously is under the revival tent, and in the GOP.


Porn makes you blind!

...For about 1/8th of a second.

Erotic (and horrific) images apparently crash our systems - it seems we might be 'wired' to take special note of bad things (mangled bodies) and good things (naked chix).

Shocked! Surprised! Not!

As the old saying goes, 'I just want to do it till I need glasses'.

The Economist article is meant to be a cautionary tale about drivers who temporarily lose attention because of billboards, or accidents they are passing, etc., but given that more than 1/8th of a second is needed to; process the change in radio stations, answer the cell phone, or slap the wailing child in the back seat, I think erotic and horrific images on billboards are probably safe for now.

National Review - turning over a new leaf?

National Review is one of the right wings better pundit places - even if David Frum is involved. Normally I only referrence them when I want to present what the villainous pluto/theocrats are on about.

Yet here we have Andrew McCarthy finally echoing what most dissenters have been saying for a while - the project in Iraq is in deep, deep trouble, and the Bush regime is making it worse - not better.

Money quote regarding the new Iraq constitution:

"And if the United States, in contradiction of its own bedrock principle against government establishment religion, has decided to go into the theocracy business, how in the world is it that Islam is the religion we picked?"

High Tension

Got the screener for 'High Tension' last week, and finally watched it this weekend.

The first thing I should say is that this is a horror film in the old school tradition. No lame jokes. No comic relief characters. No winking at the audience by the director. No relief from the onslaught on the screen. Maybe because it comes to us from France (it is in English though), or maybe the director just didn't get his cookie cutter script from the major studios, but it was refreshing to have a horror movie that was, strangely enough, actually about 'the horror'.

The premise is simple enough, two young women (a blonde and brunette) head to a home in the country to spend the weekend with the brunette girl's family. Later that night a killer shows up who wipes out most of the family (in grisly fashion, lovingly rendered by the director) kidnaps the brunette to play with later (he is unaware of the existence of the blonde), leaving the second girl to try and stop the killer before he finishes off her friend.

For the first 4/5ths of the movie, High Tension rips along with demented sadistic glee - only at the end when we have the 'pay-off' twist ending, does it seemingly come off the rails.

Or does it? I know I saw the 'twist' coming from a hundred miles away (directors do foreshadow you know, and this one is no exception), so like 'Sixth Sense' the final revelation wasn't much of one at all for me. Some critics have claimed that the ending wrecked what was otherwise an excellent nasty bloodsoaked little movie. I have no doubt that these same critics never saw 'Fight Club' or 'the Machinist', or they were so intellectually bludgeoned by years of watching Michael Bay movies to put the pieces together themeselves.

In any case, the grindhouse character of the film will prevent it from ever achieving the same status as other less gruesome horror flicks, but if you have the stomache for some ultraviolence, and want a movie that will keep you rivited at the edge of your seat from start to finish - High Tension will do the job.

New Iraq, better than the old Iraq?

Juan Cole's blog 'Informed Comment', is one of the absolute best at presenting the real information of the Iraq occupation. His proscription for how to extract the US forces from the quagmire while also preventing all-out civil war was very thought provoking.

Further in I found this delightful detail;

Dexter Filkins of the NYT reveals some of the details about which the constitution drafting committee has been arguing. One is whether clerics will sit on the Supreme Court (they do in Afghanistan). Apparently one plan would give them 4 of 9 seats. You can only imagine what US law would look like if 4 of the Supreme Court seats were set aside for Cardinals and televangelists. We'd all have 12 kids and they would be taught "intelligent design" in state schools.


Native Americans against ID Theory

Wow - the article manages to capture both the origins of the right wing hatred for science, the Bush mental block about it, and end with a devastatingly succinct position on why pluralism and science is superior to religious 'equal time'.

My only concern is that something this profoundly smart and good is only getting pressed in what is otherwise an invisible non-mainstream publication.

Good thing we have the internet!

Money Quote:

"Given the choice, we prefer the non-religious and secular space, such as public schools guided by universally shared scientific values and methods. Let each people have its religious approach and way of prayer. The other approach is a slippery slope to dangerous manipulation and intolerance. What little the various human cultures and societies have in common resides in the life of science and its search for open-minded truth. "


On Swedes and Indians

The most religious nation on earth is India.
The most un-religious nation on earth is Sweden.
We are a nation of Indians, ruled by a group of Swedes.

- Rev. Phelps at 'Justice Sunday II'

For those who don't know, JSII was a political rally supposedly to 'stop the fillibustering of people of faith'. Or perhaps better understood as the rally to 'Give us our Theocracy Now'.

Rev. Phelps is a particularily disturbing portrait of the Godly gone batshit crazy. One of his websites is 'godhatesfags.com'. After the Tsunami tragedy he declared that 'God was cheering at the death of 20,000 Swedes'.

What can I say about this lunatic that could possibly top that?

Focus on the Hypocrits

Money quotes:

"It is astonishing to consider just how far we have fallen in recent decades. In the 1960s, when the Rolling Stones appeared on the "Ed Sullivan Show," they were required to change the lyrics of their song "Let’s Spend the Night Together" to "let’s spend some time together" before the tune could be broadcast. Fast forward to 2005, when radio stations and MTV offer up sexually charged songs to teens that would make a sailor blush."

And here we have the dream of the religious right. Television firmly under the thumb of the censors, no shaking hips on the screen, and potentially suggestive lyrics santized for their consumption. In other words, a culture rooted firmly in the precepts of Orwellian mastery.

"In June, we have the French film High Tension, which has been rated R for "graphic bloody killings, terror, sexual content and language." That just about covers the spectrum, doesn’t it? The film has already been released in several European countries, where it drew extensive criticism for its graphic violence."

I'll be watching 'High Tension' this weekend. Looks good too, the cover has a chick covered in blood weilding a chainsaw.

"In all fairness, it must also be said that there have been some encouraging signs in the entertainment industry, and particularly Hollywood, in recent years. Most notable is Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ. While the crucifixion scenes were extremely violent, the movie brought the message of the Gospel to audiences around the globe in a dramatic and moving fashion."

Now here is where we see the duplicity of Mr. Dobson. The carnage of 'Passion of the Christ' is way more graphic, explicit and realistic in its portrayal than anything that I am going to find in a cheap foreign slasher flick like 'High Tension'. But he LOVES this film despite its over the top violence! Why? Because graphic violence, disturbing and grotesque abuse of the flesh, terror, etc. are all OK if they service his religious world view.

This may explain the complete disconnection between the 'culture of life' people - they who sought government intervention into the private decisions of a man and his brain dead wife, being the same people who cheerfully place retarded teenagers onto death row in Texas.

Or maybe they are just a bunch of religious whackos drunk on their influence.

The Onion Magazine - Oracle or satire?

Check out this post from way back in Jan of 2001.

Money Quote:

"Bush swore to do "everything in [his] power" to undo the damage wrought by Clinton's two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street.
During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years."

This of course, was well before Bush actually did all of those things.

Perhaps it just isn't that funny afterall.

Pedophilia and Star Trek?!?!

First off I am highly skeptical of any link or correlation between a TV series from the 60's and the abuse of children - even if this places me into disagreement with the Toronto police.

Secondly, I found the article betrayed the author's ignorance of the series, it's characters, etc..

Save me from arm-chair psycho-babble about Star Trek from non-nerds (check out the author's picture - I guarantee she was never a nerd).

Listen, I won't give her tips on how to do her makeup, and she can keep her trap shut about Star Trek. Deal?

Stolen Elections

I have to admit, I'm a bit torn on this. On the one hand I think the Bush junta did fix the Florida count in 2000, but I am a little more doubtful that the tactics in Ohio in 2004 cost Kerry the election.

Mr. Krugman here tallies up some of the discrepancies and while I think it does point to a concerted effort to undermine the Dems, I don't know that he has a smoking gun.

He is right though, the Republicans will definitely try to do it again.


Best of Shakespeare on Film

Top ten Shakespeare Movies!

1. Macbeth (Polanski)

Simply put, it is the greatest Shakespeare adaptation ever. The scenes that Polanksi improvises around the plays text are breathtaking (especially the ending – WOW).

2. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Mamet)

Less an adaptation of Hamlet than a new invention out of the bard’s original cloth, it stands as an amazing and humour filled work that owes a direct debt to the bard.

3. Ran (‘King Lear’) (Kurosawa)

Considered one of the all time great movies, ‘Ran’ is the tale of King Lear told as a Samurai epic. Unlike his other major Shakespeare adaptation ‘Throne of Blood’ (Macbeth) Ran is in full colour and much more restrained in it’s acting. The scenery, the devastating cinematography (the entire film is in mid to long-shot – not a single close-up), and the few tweaks he makes to the plot (he adds a fascinating character foil) all add rather than detract from the Bard’s work. I saw this film well prior to ever seeing the play performed, and I’ve yet to see it’s anything approaching its equal.

4. hamlet (Almeyreda)

My favourite Hamlet, it stars Ethan Hawke in the title role, and is a ‘modern’ version using the original text. My only quibble is the decision to do a sword fight rather than modernize that as well. Of special note are Hamlet’s soliloquies which rather than delivered by Hamlet to the camera (and audience) are instead played back from Hamlet’s own tape recording of events - the effect of which is that we get to hear his interior monologues and witness his own reactions to them as they play back.

5. Romeo and Juliet (Luhrman)

Visually stunning, and thoroughly conceived it takes the Bard’s most lyrical work and makes it sing for the entire length of the movie. The character of Mercutio is reconceived as a cross-dressing dandy – lending their scenes and added emotional edge as it becomes clearer that Mercutio did not just ‘love’ Romeo, but was also ‘in love’ with him.

6. Othello (Parker)

Fisburne delivers on the apoplectic rage and jealousy, but Bob Hoskins’ ‘Iago’ is truly a villain for the ages.

7. Titus (‘Titus Andronicus’) (Taymor)

Shakespeare’s story of revenge is transformed into a sumptuous feast of imagery and gut wrenching violence. Anthony Hopkins as the General Titus is excellent, but Jessica Lange steals the film with her hyper-sexualized Tamora.

8. Richard III (Loncraine)

Ian McKellan (in a pre ‘Magneto’ performance) owns the film as the villainous Richard. Set in a fictional fascist England of the 40’s it contemporizes the themes of the play without moving into a full-blown modernization ala the Hamlet I mention above. McKellan is simply mesmerizing throughout.

9. Looking for Richard (Pacino)

Al Pacino directs this documentary that examines the plight of American actors tackling Shakespeare. In it he deconstructs the Richard III play to its basics and provides an invaluable lesson in understanding what Shakespeare was aiming for with the play.

10. Henry V

Despite not being a play of the calibre of the ones I list above, Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V is a gem from start to finish, and contains a cast of Shakespearian actors to die for. Not even Emma Thompson’s undisguised mustache can’t bring down this ebullient vision of Shakespeare’s play.

Who is the greatest Philosopher of all time?

The BBC asked this question - the link takes you to the results.

I have to say, I was a bit shocked at the man they picked - but given the Beebs political leanings, maybe I shouldn't be.

That said, I thought the list was atrocious (Aquinas? He was a theologian - maybe the best ever, but NOT a philosopher. Plato? An unreconstructed apologist for aristocracy and totally anti-democratic- and hence off my list), and so I offer my own top ten to counter it. Further, I will take any submissions from my dear readers as to who they think should be in the top 10.

However (unlike myself), you will be asked to provide a REASON for asserting so and so is the greatest/one of the greatest philosophers of all time -especially if you deride someone on my list in any way.

So without further ado, here's my top 10;

1. Nietzsche
2. Socrates
3. Hume
4. Einstein/Darwin/Popper (The holy trinity of scientists get to share a slot, though I also thought of putting Hawking in as well)
5. Daniel Dennett
6. Machiavelli
7. Sartre
8. Freud
9. Thomas Paine
10. Buddha

Honourable mentions;

Voltaire, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, Spinoza, Liebniz, Descartes, Plato, Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Hanna Arendt, Ayn Rand, and of course, Hegel.

So there you go. IMO, ole Freddy the syphyllitic wins the race!

'Intelligent Falling Theory'

Evangelical Scientists take on Gravity! Courtesy of 'the Onion'.

Satire this good just doesn't grow on trees to later fall on the head of unsuspecting Isaac Newton.

Money quote:

"Let's take a look at the evidence," said ECFR senior fellow Gregory Lunsden."In Matthew 15:14, Jesus says, 'And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.' He says nothing about some gravity making them fall—just that they will fall. Then, in Job 5:7, we read, 'But mankind is born to trouble, as surely as sparks fly upwards.' If gravity is pulling everything down, why do the sparks fly upwards with great surety? This clearly indicates that a conscious intelligence governs all falling."



Bill Maher takes out the trash

Bill Maher's New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer"

NEW RULE: Skip the truck. President Bush is down on the ranch, and we all know what that means---lots of pictures of him in that pickup truck, as if he's going into town to pick up a bale of hay. Okay, we get it. You're a "rancher." You're "clearing brush." You're a "Washington outsider." You're a huge country fan. Unfortunately, that country is Saudi Arabia.

NEW RULE: God is a waffler. Pat Robertson said God told him that Iraq would be a bloody disaster. But the same God told George Bush it wouldn't, which so surprised Robertson, he almost dropped the pennies he was stealing off a dead woman's eyes. But why is God talking out of two sides of his mouth? Flip-flop. God told us to beat our swords into plowshares. God: Wrong on defense, wrong for America.

NEW RULE: News organizations have to stop using the phrase "We go beyond the headlines." That's your job, dummy. You don't see American Airlines saying "We land our jets on the runway!"


Hammer Time!

The Flames have just signed the best d-man still available - Roman Hamrlik, to a three year deal.

This is the fourth homerun that Sutter has manufactured in as many weeks.

1. Jarome Iginla - whatever else the Flames did, this signing was absolutely KEY. With the league's best all-round forward under contract, all things are possible.

2. Darren McCarty - adding McCarty's 210 lbs of nasty to the third line is an awesome aquisition. He plays the game the way it was intended, with ferocity of purpose. Only drawback is that McCarty has had alcohol abuse issues in the past.

3. Tony Amonte - He's a good fit in the short term as a powerplay specialist and 2nd line winger. I doubt he has the legs anymore to play with the top unit, but his ability to provide secondary scoring help will be welcome.

And now he adds Hamrlik - He's able to play monster minutes in all situations, can QB a powerplay with his passing or be it's focus with his heavy slapshot, he's big and strong enough to handle powerforwards, he's not a pushover in his own end like other offensive defensemen and he's a terrific puck rusher who can break the trap with his speed. In short, he's exactly the kind of defenseman Calgary was lacking - a pure #1 who can be on the ice for half a game.

With his aquisition, I see at least one odd man out moving forward. Here are the Calgary defenders under contract and expected to play (I may be wrong here, so call me on it if you see a problem):

Regehr-Hamrlik, Leopold-Warrner, Lydman-Phaneuf

Which makes Andrew Ferrence the odd man out at #7. Still, it's good to have depth!

Now if only they had a better #1 pivot than Daymond Langkow, I'd be confident enough to colour us in as favourites to win the West!

Kissinger on Iraq

Expectedly, when the 'V' word comes up, Kissinger dissembles. Rather than lay the blame on the US failures in Iraq on it's leaders (where it belongs), he draws a dubious parrallel to what he thinks cost the US victory in Vietnam. Public opinion.

In essence, he is blaming americans who are anti-war for Bush's ongoing failure to produce results.

Never mind the facts, that the Vietnam war was very popular until the Kent State massacre, or that Bush doesn't need PR when he controls Congress and the Senate and he isn't running for re-election.

These guys will just lie and lie again.

But at least one thing in the article connects the dots. Iraq IS like Vietnam, and we all saw how well Vietnam turned out for the US.

Revolting stuff - the truth about earwax and smegma!

C'mon, I know you want to know about this stuff.

You might want to wash your hands afterwards reading it though.

Money quote:

"While rummaging around in the files, I also found an older paper (from 1947) that analyzes another similar substance: smegma. As you might expect from the fact that it is also a waxy, oily secretion from skin cells, it is also about half lipid, and consists of:

Cholesterol and cholesterol esters: 18%
Fatty acids: 71%

This paper is notable for a couple of things. It tells us where to get a supply of smegma.

'Smegma is best obtained from dead horses in rendering plants or from anesthetized animals in a department of veterinary surgery.'

That's good to know; I wouldn't want to make the error of trying to collect smegma from live, conscious horses."

If I haven't said it before, 'Pharyngula' is the BEST science website out there. There, I've said it.

Reason and Rushdie

'Reason' magazine does an interview with (one of my favourite authors!) Salman Rushdie.

Money quote:

Reason: Where does this leave us on the question of democratic reform in Islamic countries? Do you think that Islam lacks a crucial piece to build a foundation for freedom?

Rushdie: What it has is an extra piece that believes that religion can be the foundation for a state. It’s a question of removing that piece rather than adding something. There have been various moments in the history of Pakistan when attempts to Islamize the country were resisted strongly by both generals and civilian governments. It’s not inevitable that a country full of Muslims will seek to Islamize its structures. But I do think there is a need for a widespread realization among Muslims that you cannot build a state based on religion. Pakistan is proof of that. Here was a state that was built on religion, but a quarter of a century after it was founded it fell apart, because the glue is not strong enough.


Lyric(s) of the Day

Matt Johnson (the artist behind 'the The') released his album 'Mind Bomb' way back in 1989.

See if these lyrics don't seem to be prescient;

"God doesn't belong to the Yankee dollar
God doesn't plant the bombs for Hezbollah
Islam is rising
The Christians mobilising
The world is on its elbows and knees
It's forgotten the message and worships the creeds".

In an even earlier album, 'Infected', Johnson again seems to peer into the early millenium with uncanny accuracy;

"This is your captain calling--with an urgent warning
We’re above the gulf of arabia--our altitude is falling
And I can’t hold her up--there’s no time for thinking
All hands on deck--this bird is sinking"

from - 'Sweet Bird of Truth'
As I predicted (months ago) the Big E is a Leaf.
For those Lindros doubters out there (and there are a few), I offer the following stats;

He's a career 1.2ppg player
He's a career 1.6ppg player if you factor in his PIM.

He gets to play with Sundin and Allison on the pp.

He's finally home, and obviously happy.

He signed a 1 year deal worth $1.55M - so this is not about his pay anymore.

He's a RFA for the Severed Heads - and is the chief reason we felt it was ok to let Richards go to the Shadowmen for a pair of first rnd prd picks.

Lastly, he will allow the Leafs to do something I've been praying for for years - convert Sundin back to the wing where he belongs. Not that Sundin is a poor pivot - far from it, but as awesome he is as a centre, Sundin really shines as a winger where his speed, power and hand skills are better utilized. Lindros in contrast is a pure center, with a higher calibre of playmaking ability than Sundin (or Allison). So, my hope is that the Leafs do the right thing, move Sundin over to Lindros' wing, and let the two work some magic.

Afterall, Lindros as a Leaf and Sundin on the wing are both items that we have waited for long enough.

Phillip Klass issues curse from the grave

Noted debunker of UFO's, Phillip Klass has passed away.

However, he did leave the following message to those who he opposed in his lifetime;

The Last Will and Testament of Philip J. Klass
To UFOlogists who publicly criticize me…or who even think unkind thoughts about me in private, I do hereby leave and bequeath THE UFO CURSE: No matter how long you live, you will never know any more about UFOs than you know today. You will never know any more about what UFOs really are, or where they come from. You will never know any more about what the U.S. Government really knows about UFOs that you know today. As you lie on your own death-bed you will be as mystified about UFOs as you are today. And you will remember this curse.

Talk about going to the grave with your middle finger raised!

Book your Moon flight now!

For just $100M you too can ride a Soyuz capsule to rendezvous with the Space Station and then do a complete orbit of the moon.

Trips last 10-21 days.

No smoking. No pets. No privacy. No washrooms (that's what your expensive flight suit is for).

Now all I have to do is raise the cash....


Return of Toddzilla

I've had a couple of conversations with FUNHL GMs where I was asked what I thought about Bertuzzi being reinstated without any more games missed. One (ShadowBob) thought that he should have received at least some suspension for part of this season (5-10 games) and he further suggested that up to 20 games was in keeping with Bettman's desire to demark the 'new' NHL from the previous 'old' one.
I'll admit, I too thought (mostly because of the rampant speculation in the Vcr media) that he would get 10 games for this year.
Now, there are two ways of looking at Bertuzzi's suspension (I should say, at least two ways);

Version 1. Bettman is a softie. Suspending Bert the remainder of the season and the playoffs, and then reinstating him after the CBA is finished, doesn't seem that harsh for what is the worst on-ice incident in recent memory. This position is taken up by those who think he should have had a few more games suspension for this year, and would include presumably, Steve Moore and other sympathizers.

Version 2. Bettman is a Machiavellian genius. In this view, Bettman suspends Bert 'indefinitely' knowing the CBA will likely cost the league the season, that Bertuzzi will not be able to play hockey anywhere because of the suspension, and he then hangs Bert out to dry until the CBA is finalized, the entry draft is completed, the free agent season is underway, and most importantly, after the point where teams can cut contracts without them affecting the cap. In short, Bert loses; the end of his last season, the playoffs, a chance to play in the World Championship, and the ability to play hockey anywhere for a full year (he also lost; $500K in salary for the span of the suspension, and any salary he might have earned elsewhere during the lockout). Sure, many other NHL players (Yzerman, Blake, etc.) took the year off, but the fact remains, Toddzilla was suspended from playing for 17 months, and Vcr was effectively handcuffed to him until the reinstatement announcement was made.

I have to admit I believe more in Version 2, than 1. The NHL may have been unavailable to everyone, but hockey itself was unavailable to Bertuzzi for the full year. He had no choice, he could not play. I certainly won't equate a one quarter pay-check Euro-season with a full NHL season, but it is fair to say that his suspension was 17 months - and thus by far the longest in history. If there had been hockey last season would Bertuzzi have been allowed to play? Likely, yes, but equally likely, he would have a significant carry over of his suspension, and my guess would have been closer to the 20-40 game mark than the no games he got for this year.

Predicted Top 13 Picks

My top 12
This list is preliminary and will be revised without notification - but here is a quick guess at how things will shape up in our first round;
Bob releases Scott Niedermayer - D Van and declares that he will take a new FP (I have no inside knowledge he will do so, right now it's an educated guess based on some conversations and his acquisition of Richards-C Tbay RFA from me).

1. Dogs: Lemieux-C Pit, the Dogs need scoring help everywhere, and former FP Lemieux looks poised to take a run at the Art Ross despite being in his 40's.

2. Knights Templar: Bertuzzi-R Van, he has the biggest potential impact of any player available other than Lemieux.

3. Great Whites: Lecavalier-C Tbay. The Finheads need forwards. Recchi is safe, solid, reliable, and likely to feast on the Pens powerplay. Palffy may have more upside, but he is way more injury prone. St Louis is a possibility, but Dan prefers players with longer track records. In the end, he picks big Vince, his need at centre trumping the other possibilities.

4. Highlanders: Palffy-R Pit. Doug needs a top end player at all the forward positions except centre, and Palffy gives him a high-end presence on a wing that needs his scoring punch. With Bertuzzi gone, and no comparable quality LW in the mix, he takes Millbury's village idiot over Recchi and St Louis.

5. Bladerunners: Gonchar-D Pit. Corey will have been salivating that he would slip further, but I see no chance Gonchar leaves the top 5 unless Brian blows a gasket and bids on Richards (someone who at this point would definitely not be matched). I do see him forcing Dan's hand by bidding on Havlat so that Dan has to match in rnd 2.

6. Ramapithicines: Niedermayer-D Van. Corey takes the best D-man available, just like every other year for the past 6.

7. Severed Heads: Recchi R-Pit. And then I laugh my most evil laugh.

8. Shadowmen: Martin St Louis-R Tbay (new FP). He's just won a scoring title, and his post-season performance was superb. He's still under 30, and his team will have lots of weapons. He's good.

9. Wolves: Leetch-D Bos. The Wolves don't need forwards, and they've seen two of the best defensemen go off the board already, so they take the next best guy at that position. My list says Leetch (15 pts in 15 games with the Leafs), but he could also elect to take Blake here.

10. Personal Vendetta: Lang-C Det. Solid totals the last two years, he's in his prime, strong team, good wingers, etc., and he fits the PV's needs for a centre behind Foppa.

11. Barbarians: Weight-C St Louis. The Not-Greek's GM needs a centreman more than anything else, and Weight is the best left available. He might try a finesse, but I think he plays it safe and just takes him.

12./13. The Edge: Demitra-C LA and Fedorov-C Ana. Collin solves his weakness at pivot, and positions himself to have a strong group of scoring forwards. Sure, the common thinking is that Collin takes defensemen early, but he'll get two very decent defenders on his next wraparound at the end of 3 start of 4.

Lost in Translation

Hilarious! ROTS is tranlsated into Chinese and then back again for the subtitles.

It leads to some, uh, curious reading.

Here is a second link featuring even more scenes.

Money quotes:

Revenge of the Sith = 'Backstroke of the West'

Jedi Council = 'Presbyterian Church'

Hat tip to Ma-at for the original link.


Another theocrat rants against Darwin

The difference is that this guy is an elected representative to the US Senate.

The theocrats are making the US politics into a freak show. They have abandoned conservativism (especially fiscal), launched a pre-emptive war, and now wage war with science and education.

Highlanders give love to Buccigross

Doug writes to AR: Yup. I've been pretty busy of late but I've gone back and read some of his (Buccigross) previous columns and they were similarly amazing.

AR: Agreed. He makes the other ESPN hockey writers (especially Terry Frei and Scott Burnside) look like grade schoolers. Case in point the predictable anti-Bettman rant from Frei about the reinstatement of Bertuzzi. You can set your watch by Frei as master of the obvious article plot.

DM: So, what do we think of the new NHL landscape?

AR: I think it is the first time we've ever seen a level playing field. I have to admit, I like how it looks. A lot.

DM: Do you think the Pens have added enough firepower?

AR: The Pens can never have enough firepower. They should trade to get Jagr back.

DM: With offense versus defence the classic debate, who now is the best team in Pennsylvania?

AR: Philly. Until the Pens sign a goaltender and a stay at home defenseman they are still second fiddle to the very well balanced Flyers. Coincidentally, they too need a goalie. I see Cujo solving the Pens netminder problem in the short term, and MA Fleury doing so in the long term. How Bob Clarke handles his goaltending situaton is ALWAYS interesting, just never successful.

DM: My revised top 5 list: M.Lemieux, T.Bertuzzi, S.Gonchar, Z.Pallfy, M.Recchi.

AR: It's hard not to see Bertuzzi cracking the top 5 now that he is going to play 82 instead of 62 games. Interesting that you have Recchi ahead of St. Louis, and where is Lecavalier? Since I am at pick 7 it's nice to know that one of them will drop to me, and if Brian does the insane thing and tries to poach Richards, then I'll have two of those seven to choose from.

DM: What is P.Kariya doing in Nashville?

AR: Making up for his $1M flop season in Colorado. Word from a friend here is that Kariya was looking to stay as far away from the West coast as he could get (the rumour is negative family issues) and Nashville suits that desire for a low profile to a 'T'. He'll make Sullivan even more dangerous and with the developing defense corps in Nash, they should make the playoffs.

DM: Is Selanne desperate enough to follow him?

AR: Maybe, but Nashville isn't desperate enough to sign him. I see Selanne heading over to SJ where the weather is nice and he can add scoring punch to a contender.

DM: With Khabibulin in Chicago, will they make the playoffs?

AR: Probably. The forwards still aren't great for the Chi-Hawks, but the defense (with Aucoin) and net are now solid. The foundation is finally being set in place for them to be more than a turnstile of players for other teams.

DM: In fact, who doesn't make the playoffs? On my list are Washington, Carolina, Buffalo, Toronto, Islanders, Florida, and the NYR out east.

AR: I think Florida with their development and additions make it. I think TBay is going to find it really tough to compete with John Graham instead of Khabby. Washington is simply a disaster, and the Islanders are likely going to be even worse. New Jersey could concievably be missing both of their best defensemen (Stevens and Niedermayer), and while Brodeur is the best their is, there may not be enough offense for them to succeed if Elias is down with his Hep A battle for any length of time.

DM: In the West I'd have to say Minnesota, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Nashville, Chicago and, shockingly Calgary.

AR: You are on glue. Calgary just went to the finals and they improved themselves this off-season with the additions of Amonte and McCarty, and the re-signing of Iginla. Barring a wipe-out season by Kipper they are a real threat to get back to the finals. I see trouble for other teams; especially Detroit - who will not have a deep defense corps nor great goaltending (Osgood /Legace) moving forward - and where they are still relying on Chelios and Yzerman too much to carry the mail. Dallas could also be in trouble, they have Morrow and Turco still growing into stardom, but they also have aging legends like Guerin, Modano and Zubov and their diminishing returns may not be enough to get them back.

DM: If ALL 14 teams on my list do make the playoffs would you really be that surprised?

AR: I'd be shocked. Especially since I see Edmonton as a better bet to miss the playoffs than Calgary. Sure Pronger is a God, but they have Conklin and Markannen in net, and after Pronger the D is weak (Steve Staios? Igor Ulanov? Semenov? C'mon, they are filler at best). They also need a #1 pivot - cuz as we know, Peca is the perfect #2 (ditto for Buffalo's Drury).

DM: Any chance of you making it out for the draft now, Bob seemed to suggest it was a possible?

AR: There is an excellent chance I will be there for the Sunday. Dan has (kindly isn't a sufficient word) volunteered to pick me up at the tail end of my holidays in Fairmont and return me to Calgary, and then I will stick around for half a week to do some work for RV before flying home. So far, looks like my unblemished streak of attendance will be maintained.

DM: Are you going to answer all of my questions in turn or just redirect me to your web-site?

AR: Both! Website baby, website!

DM: Why isn't the hockey forum front and formost on your site at all times?

AR: Technically, I don't know how to preference hockey in the list of my posts, nor do I understand yet how to add 'folders' for different topics. Frankly, I'll be thrilled if I can figure out how to do a 'blogroll' at some point.

Dan Marino - Greatest QB Ever

Marino is the best QB ever to play the game, period, full stop. The one 'hole' in his resume is never having won a Superbowl, but the fact is that winning the biggest game requires having two things that Marino's squads rarely did; a reliable running game and a defense capable of stopping opponents. Did the fins ever have a 1000 yard back during his tenure?

Every other stat tells the story. He threw for more yards, more TD's, to more recievers than anyone in history. His yardage marks are the kind that generate comparisons only to players in other sports, like Gretzky's assists total He was in a class of his own, and the only tragedy is that he didn't have a team that could help him get to the big dance enough to make his mark there.

Welcome to the HOF Dan-o, you earned it!


On the virtues of Saurian Brandy

Lots of money quotes from this 'Modern Drunkard' article on alcohol in Star Trek.

"Aldeberan WhiskeyA potent green liquor that Scotty was particularly fond of. Then again, he’d be fond of tribbles if he could suck hooch out of them."

Kung Fu Monkey misses the old school Republicans

Damn funny, and a great article to boot.

Transitional Forms and Creationists

Terrific article on how fossil skulls bedevil Creationists.

They are trapped into a false dichotomy of 'Ape' or 'Man', and not surprisingly, they can't agree even among themselves which fossils belong to which category.

They are trapped in this false distinction because their belief system forces them to discount the truth - that these are intermediary steps between us and our long ago common ancestors with Apes. As with many false dichotomies, the actual answer is sometimes 'both'.

Why the US should pull out of Iraq

William Odom makes the case for the US withdrawl from Iraq.

What I think he misses out on is the obvious - the US won't back out until;

A. They can do so and still declare 'victory' - whatever happens after (increased violence/full civil war) that isn't their fault.

B. They can time it to provide the maximum advantage to their mid-term elections. Played out properly, Bush could use a reduction of forces or even an outright pull-out as means of taking the steam out of anti-war Democrats, and preserving Republican majorities in the two houses.

If the GOP has to go into the 2008 elections still embroiled in Iraq, it would likely spell the end of some senior senators and congressman from that party.


Flying Spaghetti Monsterism? Pastafarianism? The debate rages


The following reasons were given for converting to Flying Spaghetti Monsterism:

  • Flimsy moral standards.
  • Religious holiday every Friday.
  • Stripper Factory and Beer Volcano in Heaven.


The Sun: Romantic Death

Wow - this music video is smokin. Definitely file under 'Sex' as far as my blog categories go, though it does not contain any explicit content.

I might even grow to love the song.

US Judge rebuts need for increased security against terrorists

He effectively rebuts Richard B for me in the argument we've been having regarding the need for torture.


'Snuppy' the cloned puppy!

Korea does it again, this time succesfully cloning an Afghan hound.


Richard lashes back

Thanks to Richard for posting his comments below. I'm responding in the main forum because I think these are worthwhile topics to debate, but to be fair, this is further along in the thread and it may be more worthwhile to check the full text out.

RB: We're fortunate to belong to a civilization large enough and prosperous enough that we don't have to engage in 'total war' when faced with a murderous lunatic fringe. But, the Wahhabi's are very much engaged in a 'total war', and they are prepared to attack us in our hospitals, our schools, our trains and our offices in order to wipe us out.

AR: There is a fundamental difference between 'war' and 'terrorism' and there is an even greater gulf between 'total war' and 'terrorism'. They are orders of magnitude apart and shouldn't be conflated.
I will take your point that they are willing to commit atrocities we would never countenance as being true, but I fear that Bush is making that less so by opposing reasonable humane standards like the Army's previous field manual - which is coincidentally the essential part of the standards that John McCain is currently trying to get reasserted by the Senate despite a promised POTUS veto.

RB: Do you suppose that just because you draw a geographical distinction between American's arresting guerrila fighters in Iraq, and what is and isn't appropriate there and here, the Wahhabi's are going to share your point of view? Unfortunately the nastiness of war means you have to play at the level of the lowest common denominator... hockey's the same way, isn't it?

AR: 'War' does not mean playing at the lowest common denominator. Even if our water supplies were poisoned, or mustard gas was used against troops in Afghanistan, I would not surrender the high ground and endorse those tactics by our troops. Those tactics, like torture, nuclear weapons, viral, bio, and gene warfare, are beyond what can ever be endorsed.

To answer at least one of your questions directly, 'No', I don't think the Wahabi's would share my point of view. But they already don't share my point of view about anything else. They are religious fundamentalists predisposed to violence - in kind no different than those lunatics who shot abortion doctors, cowardly fringe dwellers fueled by hate from, and cloaked from guilt by, their religious movement.

RB: Moreover, while it is possible for a single sociopath to construct and execute a pipe-bomb, reality and experience tell us that this is not what we are up against. There are communities of people, developing the psychological rhetoric, designing the weapons, purchasing the materials, executing the deeds, and taking credit for them. They don't take place in isolation. people know about them, before they happen, and choose to do nothing to warn society. They also know when the next wave of attacks are coming, and again, choose to do nothing.

AR: You are verging on paranoia - which of course, is the point of terrorism, isn't it? Here are a couple of things to think about;

Three people planned the Oklahoma bombing that killed 168 people.
The FLQ had only 20-25 members guilty of conspiracy, and only 4 guilty of the murders.
Between 4-7 men planned and executed the 7/7 bombings
Just two men were charged in the Air India bombings

The actual number of people then in your 'communities' as you see them, need not be extremely large to garner a great deal of attention from their deeds. There are 52,600 Muslims in greater Vancouver alone. Only a few need to be Wahabists for their to be a potential for terrorism here - do you reccomend we round them up Japanese internment camp style? Deport them? Fear them?
I will not endorse that line of thought at all. 'They' are still 'Us'.

Increasing security measures, o reducing our rights will also prove to be ineffective. We simply cannot protect all of our vulnerable spots. Chechen rebels attacked schools, a Palestinian woman walked into a hospital and then to the maternity ward strapped with explosives, etc. So terrorism will not be stopped by stooping to their level, because their madness knows no limits at all, and it need only one sufficiently motivated person to be succesful.

Nor can we 'declare war' on it, no more than the US can coherently 'declare war on drugs' - it is nonsensical. We can however, attempt to police terrorism, which is the proper way to think about terrorists, as criminals. It does not require any special powers of authority than police currently have, nor does it require that we lose our humanity by engaging in depravity when we capture and interrogate them.

RB: If you do not believe it is appropriate to wage war against those who seek to undermine and destroy liberal western civilisation, do you subsequently not believe it is appropriate to use the means available to us through law to prosecute and prevent attacks against us in our cities? Do you defend their right to remain silent in the face of another attack killing 50 or so people?

AR: Let me be clear, I think it is very appropriate that we make the hunt for terrorists by police and military forces a priority - I have had the same position since 9-11, find those people responsible, and make the fuckers pay. But that doesn't mean I 'declare war' on them. It means they broke laws and killed people and they deserve to be brought to justice like any other violent criminals.

As for the 'communities' remaining silent in the face of the bombings, I share your concern that there appears to be less vigorous denial of these atrocities than seems apporpriate, but I also take note that Imams recently gathered to present an indictment against the violence and terrorism specifically. So there is at least an attempt by Islamic communities to formally renounce it.

RB: Well, perhaps it's just an issue between them and their maker. It's not our place to seek to bring about justice, surely, they'll face it when they eventually die.

AR: Since I don't share your belief that anyone has a maker to meet in the after-life, I'll settle for hunting them down and tossing them into a dark hole for the rest of their lives, or killing them in their apprehension.


RB: As for Bush and Education, once again, Bush didn't say anything about science class, he said: "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought, You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

AR: You are parsing him too kindly, the POTUS has just endorsed the teaching of theology in public schools - and you defend him. For shame.

RB: Liberal education requires exposure to all kinds of ideas in order to let people draw their own conclusions.

AR: Of course it does, but education is not and should not be church indoctrination. ID theory is a specifically Christian notion. It is about 'a' designer, not 'designers'. Dembski himself refers to the 'designer' as the 'Big G'. Nor is there anything to the theory other than the empty undemonstrable suggestion that there is 'design' in nature. It is therefore no more a relevant part of the educational curriculum (save perhaps in a fiction class) than astrology would be.

RB: Now, I'll admit Bush is playing semantic word games, and what he's implying is different from what he's saying. But, ultimately, you can only hold what he said against him, and frankly I suspect you'd play the exact same game, were you running the world, and owed your power in part to a group that endorsed some crazy ideas. (For example, progressive Christian leftists include a lot of people who are pro-public health, pro-welfare state, but anti-abortion. If you needed to accomodate them, I'm sure your rhetoric would include statements like "the need to ensure that every American has the opportunity to live a full and rewarding life.")

AR: I'll pass on commenting to the speculation of what I might say if I owed my status as POTUS to Christian leftists, since the notion is so absurd as to not warrant it. But I agree, Bush is playing word games - and he has been since we caught him silently high-fiving the right-wing nut crowd with his biblical nuggets in stump speaches, and the chilling 'Dred Scott /Roe V Wade' analogy.

Planet #10 discovered

So far it has the catchy name of "2003UB313", but I'm sure that will get adjusted at some point.

The pictures show it's presence in the sky over time, which were how it was eventually discovered. An interesting feature of this discovery is that it raises the philosophical question of "what is a planet"? Pluto is currently the baseline for considering an object oribting the sun as being of sufficient size to qualify, but the Kuiper belt (the halo of comets and objects far out from the sun) has several Pluto sized objects that might merit consideration as 'planets' (smaller than Pluto objects are considered 'planetoids'). This latest discovery though is of an object aprox. 1.5 to 2 x the size of Pluto, and twice again as far out from the sun.

Whatever we call it, it's still damn cool to know that there are still things to discover about our solar system as basic as how many planets it has.

An Open Letter to the Kansas School Board

Genius. Few things make my day so well as satire.

I may even get the 'I want to believe' T-shirt. Just Awesome.

Huge free agent signings

Jarome Iginla re-signs with the Flames for a three year $21M deal (close to the max as predicted). Flames fans will be dancing in the streets when this team hits the ice for a long playoff run again.

Naslund is back with the Canucks thus putting to rest the rumours that he and Forsberg were a 'pacakge deal' - though Forsberg still hasn't decided where he will play and could still end up on my coast.

Kovalev re-inks with the Canadiens, giving their offense some pop it would otherwise have been lacking.

Gonchar signs with the Pens - moving him WAY up everyone's draft board. He could be a top three pick now.

'The God' Bobby Holik is going to the Thrashers where his two-way physical game will compliment the offense of Heatley and Kovalchouk nicely. Still most likely scenario has Holik as the #2, and Savard as the nominal #1. You can't play Savard on any other line, and Holik doesn't have the necessary speed to play with the two gunners.

One of my favourite deals is Darren McCarty to the Flames. He's a PERFECT fit for the team. Bonus points: He's the lead singer for how own punk rock band 'Grinder'. Now THAT is a hockey player.

I was less enamoured of Amonte coming to the Flames, as I see him on the downswing of his career that was based in it's prime on speed he no longer has. Still, he'll bring some scoring punch to the powerplay and 2nd line.

Cory 'still-born' Stillman signs with Carolina. That the Hurricanes would be his eventual destination is fitting. He's a lazy one-way winger without a heart, and the Canes are the NHL equivalent - good enough to entertain, but not win.


More Hockey Insanity!!!

Ok here's the poop;

Pronger to Edmonton for Brewer, Lynch and Woywitka.

Analysis: Holy FREAKING COW! Edmonton?!? No confirmation on the rumours that Doug is already pitching an offer to Dan for his services - but says here it will cost him Thornton and can't be done for Jovo. In an earlier post I called for a 'Bouwemeester for Pronger' thought experiment, and in the end it was Pronger for Brewer + 2 others. Not bad. Bonus points: this is a hockey deal pure and simple. One elite defenseman for one above average and two prospects. Sweet.

Modano signs with the Stars for 5 years at $5M per.

Analysis: He should never wear another NHL jersey than the one he's had since he's been drafted. It was sad to think he would be a Bruin in his last days.

Yzerman signs a one year deal in Detroit.

Analysis: As bad as Modano leaving the Stars to play elsewhere would be, it would simply be an offense against nature for Yzerman to wear any other uniform than the winged wheel. The earth would crack, sulfur would fill the air, and Detroit would be swallowed by magma if it were otherwise.

Therien signs with Flyers

Analysis: With Hatcher, Rathje, Pitkanen, Jonnson, and Dejardins ahead of him, he steps in to become the #5/6 defender on the team. Which is exactly where he was when he left for Montreal, etc. lo, those years ago.

Demitra signs with Kings

Analysis: an injury prone, potential ppg pivot to replace the one departing in Jason Allison. At least Demitra qualifies as being 'fast' as a skater. So at least they have got that working for them.

Rangers sign; Weekes, Malik and Straka.

Analysis: Weekes will fight #1 job, Straka will re-unite with Jagr to form another 'Czech-mate' line ala the one in Pittsburgh, and Malik will fight to make the team as the #5 or 6.

Elsbery takes down Dembski

From 'Anti-evolution' by way of Panda's Thumb.

Money quote:

"Over on his weblog, William Dembski has a post making reference to an article on a means of "fingerprinting" textured surfaces, like paper. It is an interesting article. But look what Dembski has to say about it:

The Logic of Fingerprinting

Check out the following article in the July 28th, 2005 issue of Nature, which clearly indicates how improbability arguments can be used to eliminate randomness and infer design: “‘Fingerprinting’ documents and packaging: Unique surface imperfections serve as an easily identifiable feature in the fight against fraud.” I run through the logic here in the first two chapters of The Design Inference.

Well, it is a little troubling how to proceed from this point. Did Dembski fail to read the article? Is Dembski simply spouting something that ID cheerleaders can nod sagely about without regard to whether it happens to accord with reality?


Elbery then goes on to do a full dismantlement of Dembski's claims. It's sweet music, and I now have a better grip on probablistic arguments then I did before.

Quote of the day

"Suppose we've chosen the wrong god. Every time we go to church we're just making him madder and madder"

- Homer Simpson's version of Pascal's Wager

'Savage Love' dishes out a savage beatdown

Just so everyone is clear - 'Yes' I am a kinky bastard. I know this. I accept this. I don't blame my parents, my upbringing, porn, my religious background or anything else for them. They are mine, and I own them.

'No', I am not going to share with you what my own personal kinks are (though some who read this will have a good/excellent idea), except to say, that reading Savage Love regularily probably qualifies as one of them.

In this article (it's a re-print of an older one, but I hadn't read it before) he delivers a soundly deserved harangue to those who foray into the fringe areas of human sexuality and then seek to blame someone, anyone, else for their enjoyment of it.

As a bonus it's totally hilarious!