From "Fanatical Apathy"

STAN: Okay. Putting the reproductive stuff so close to the waste systems is going to cause a lot of infections, see? And look at this thing, this “appendix’ - you just left that in there from your horses and whatnot and it’s not even going to do anything except occasionally explode and kill its owner, right? And I hate to harp on the upright thing, but couldn’t you have reimagined these “feet” to be a little more durable, or do you actually want their arches to collapse and the whole thing to hurt? And this whole genetic system opens the door for spontaneous and/or hereditary mutations that can cause devastating diseases and defects that can be passed down and physically or mentally cripple some of their offspring right outa the gate.


STAN: I guess what I’m saying is that with you being all-powerful and all-knowing, why would you use 98% of your chimp design and cut corners on your most important creation?

GOD: Maybe… I just work in mysterious ways. Did you ever think of that, Mr. Smartypants?


FUNHL News and Notes

First up, the new rules and how it has affected hockey this year

Old Rule: Sasquatch sized goalie pads, ‘webbing’ under the pits, massive blockers, catching gloves the size of back-hoe scoops.

New Rule: Anyone else noticed that goalies are getting beat through the 5-hole now? How about the goals scored close to the goalie? In Jagr’s first game of the season he scored twice on the powerplay from the top of the circle with rocket wrist shots – both shots beat the goalie between the armpit and body (and left no doubt in my mind that he picked that space on the goalie to shoot at) – both shots would have been gobbled up in the goalies oversized jersey in the past.

Verdict: Forcing the goalies to wear human sized pads has been a long time coming.

Old Rule: Take the man on the back check, and tie him up. Leaving your man uncovered and able to accept a pass or take a shot is worse than sin (Example A: Ken Hitchcock’s teams).

New Rule: Actually, it’s just the enforcement of the rules as they already exist – namely you cannot impede the progress of a player away from the puck.

Verdict: Revolutionary. Players away from the play can build up speed and race into the offensive zone without having to drag that 220lb defender who has a stick between their legs with them. Gone is the ‘tight checking’ of the past. Gone is the ability to slow down forwards on the rush. Gone is the responsibility for ‘tying up’ a player. The result has been dramatic. Defensive defenders are now lost in their own zone as they struggle to match the speed of players they are no longer allowed to hook, interfere with, or otherwise ‘grind’ down. Goal scoring off the rush has gone way up. Wingers are now hitting a trailer in full flight (the fact a trailer is entering the offensive zone is also notable – previously they were being coached to hang back and cover the neutral zone). Goaltenders are getting shelled. Ken Hitchcock now pines for the days when coaching made a team great by instilling a defensive responsibility in all players to find and neutralize their man – now his team has to play hockey without him, and he doesn’t like it. Good.

Old Rule: Nets moved forward from the boards.

New Rule: Nets moved back to where they belong.

Verdict: I was surprised at how dramatic a change this is. Not for the reason everyone expected either. The biggest difference is not that playmakers can return to setting up behind the net (though I note that they have, see: Turgeon-C Col), no, the biggest difference is how the longer offensive zone spreads out the defenders – creating more point shots, and greater puck movement between the points and the half boards. Goals scored from long distance, especially on the powerplay, are the real result. Al MacInnis would be proud.

Old Rule: The front of the net is ‘No-Man’s Land’, a place of horror and despair you enter at your own peril. Craig Simpson, Joe Nieuwendyk, and John LeClair have all suffered from horrible back injuries by trying to claim that space as their own in the old NHL, and being fed lumber to the spine for their troubles.

New Rule: Simple, it’s called cross-checking, and the refs are calling it. Chris Pronger is probably the worst victim in all this, as he made his rep as a crease clearer – one of those guys who spots a forward camped out in the low slot or crease, and steps up to deliver abuse the viciousness of which could have him tossed in jail – but was nevertheless legal. Now, he puts the stick on a player and goes straight to the box. Hoo-Ra!

Verdict: If you can’t destroy a player for trying to get into scoring position, more players will get into scoring position. Even Paul Kariya was seen recently visiting the slot and crease area – places he’s been loathe to go since he was bludgeoned unconscious a few years back for daring to enter that space.

The Shootout

Old rule: 5 minutes of OT played as 4-0n-4 with the winner getting an extra point.

New Rule: After OT is played three skaters per team take turns trying to score mano-a-mano with the goalie on penalty shots.

Verdict: To my surprise, I love it. I am one of those conservatives who felt that shoot outs were 'not hockey', and frankly was sceptical about how it would play out. Mea Culpa - I was wrong. Watching the prime talent of the NHL getting the opportunity to attempt unimpeded high-light reel moves for the purpose of determing the game has been little short of AWESOME.


Some random notes:

Has a team ever been ravaged by injuries so early in the season as the Edge has been this year?They not only had trouble fielding an active roster, they had trouble fielding 3 healthy players at any position! In this light the Nash trade to the Great Whites is completely understandable (5 healthy guys including Lemieux for 5 losers and Nash), but so long as the Edge hold on to Elias as their mid-season hope for a scoring burst it won't be enough.

The next FP trade not involving the Shadowmen, will centre around Chris Pronger. Just saying.

Is their any other way to look at the Fedorov trade to Columbus then as a 'salary dump'? Says here that Doug Maclean is finished - which is too bad. His team is going through something very similar to what the Edge are - massive continuous injuries to key players.

Speaking of Columbus, it would be interesting to compare the history of their 1st rnd draft pick choices to those of the Thrashers. At some point I will do up a lengthy comparison of who picked who when. The Denis vs. Lehtonen situation alone bears mentioning.

Say what you want, but I simply don't believe that at this stage of his career Vinny Prospal should lead the Bolts in scoring.

Says here that Kolzig will be a Red Wing before the playoffs.

Owen Nolan's legal situation bears watching - the Leafs could be on the hook for his full salary giving them serious cap problems. More interesting still is where he will end up. My money says San Jose (where Nolan keeps a home), but there is an outside chance Calgary can entice him to play through a frigid Ab. winter with the playoffs a realistic possibility.

Speaking of legal issues, the Russian league wants Ovechkin back. From my reading of their claim, they may have a point. AO signed a deal with Avangard Omsk that included a right to match any NHL offer he recieved, and apparently they have attempted to do just that. It smells like extortion, but it may just be a sincere attempt by the Russian Superleague to keep it's home grown talent a few years longer. This may also have implications for Evgeny Malkin.

I see Jarome Iginla woke from his offensive slumber. With him dominating defenseman down low, the carved from granite sniper still has a chance to rise back to the top of the scoring race.

Is there a bigger surprise than Eric Staal? Actually, there is - Cam Ward.

Don't be fooled by Nylander's stats - he is a single bodycheck away from missing the rest of the season. Ditto for Straka.

Why does Boston suck so hard? Anyone? Is it the D? Raycroft? What? I'm perplexed. On paper they have all the ingredients of a playoff team, but on the ice (except for Thornton) they have played like paper tigers.

Kovalchouk is out to prove that the Bossy comparisons are apt. Says here Kovie nets at least 60 this season. There simply isn't a defenseman in the league who can skate with him.

The Calder race has two obvious candidates (Crosby and Ovechkin) but several players have emerged as possible candidates should either of them falter;

1. Henrik Lundqvist - not convinced? If he backstops the Rangers into the playoffs - a team picked by many to be a candidate in the Phil Kessel sweepstakes - he belongs in the running, and could ride a dark horse all the way to the big prize.

2. Dion Phaneuf - he won't score a ppg, he won't even be the Flames top offensive blue-liner, but he may already be the teams best all-round defenseman, and he logs obscene minutes in all situations. He is the demonic body-checker as advertised, but his game is already as good as Barret Jackman's, and you should remember that BJ's was good enough to win the ROY award.

3. Steve Eminger - Lost in the blizzard of press that Ovechkin has been getting is that the teams #2 scorer is the rookie defenseman Eminger. He has no chance of winning with the higher profile Ovechkin around, but the silky smooth D-man may end up opening some eyes if he continues at his current pace.

4. Marek Svatos - Oh how linemates can make a difference for a rook. Playing with gifted puck distributors like Sakic and Turgeon has been a boon to the skill winger. He's currently at a ppg - whether he can stay there is another question. He's a long shot to get any recognition for his year, but he should continue to develop into an above average scoring winger.

5. Mike Richards - His first goal was a thing of absolute beauty - he hits the offensive zone wearing a defender, uses his body to shield the puck, drives the net and whips a backhand to the top shelf. He can check too.

6. Pavel Vorobiev - The stumpy winger is a lot like former Nordique Andrei Kovalenko - stocky, wide skating style and soft hands. On a team as lacking in natural ability as Chicago they will be motivated to play him for his offense as much as possible.

7. Jussi Jokinen - Slick, highly skilled but small framed, he has already won himself a spot on Modano's line. A future Saku Koviu?

8. Alexander Steen - He'll never score 50 goals. He won't ever be a top end playmaker. He is likely destined to be a 2nd-3rd winger who is defensively responsible. That all said, I am very impressed with his mature NHL game. He lacks the sexy upside of the guys ahead of him, but the Leafs finally have a rookie worth paying attention to.

9. Ryan Whitney - with 9 points in 11 games, the fast skating defenseman is in the same boat as Eminger - he's a highly skilled offensive rearguard playing on a team that has already annointed its rookie of the year candidate. He currently leads all rooks in ice-time, and it is only a matter of when that he becomes an All-Star.

10 (tie). Ryan Getzlaf - the reason that Fedorov was expendable is that this rugged centre/winger has already shown he has the mustard to play in the NHL. Gradually seizing his role of powerforward, he has 'Rick Tocchet' stamped all over him.

10 (tie). Petr Prucha - out of nowhere this highly skilled waterbug of a winger shows up to kickstart the Rangers offense. He may fade as the physical game gets more intense, but right now it looks like NYR GM Sather has plucked another gem from the ether.

Ratzinger shows his true colours

"A new Vatican document excludes from the priesthood most gay men, with few exceptions, banning in strong and specific language candidates "who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called 'gay culture.' "


This is but the latest in Ratzinger's attempts to return the papacy to it's medieval origins. First strike back at the atheist intellectuals by getting Cardinal Schonborn to endorse 'Intelligent Design' and then flip-flop on science and the evidence of evolution. Then on to the 'inherently disordered' gay men who might sully the reputation of the Vatican by becoming priests.

Pathetic. Not that I expect much from a church that still believes in; harbouring pedophiles, demonic possession, transubstantiation and the virginity of Mary. Not unlike the current US government, the Vatican is both corrupt to the core and intellectually bankrupt.

Quote of the Day

"When the avalanche comes, the pebbles do not get to vote"

- Kosh


Origin of the French riots?

Reason provided this thoughtful article on how the French riots can be illuminated by an examination of the classic Kubric film 'A Clockwork Orange'.

I can't say as I agree or disagree with their analysis, for me the interesting feature was the sci-fi reference - why? Because A Clockwork Orange is but one of many 'dystopian' fictions that have political themes relevant to today.

Indeed, I have long felt that the most important modern literature comes from the field of 'sci-fi' or speculative fiction, or whatever you want to call it, with other more ambitious literary genres (i.e. Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 'magical realism') being all but incoherent by comparison.

Here are some other classic texts/films that have more than their fair share of political content, and with each I give a brief outline of how the text might fit with predicting reality;

Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut jr.

Billy Pilgrim comes unstuck in time. A philosophy manual masquerading as an anti-war screed in sci-fi clothing, it is a total demolition of Cartesian 'free-will', and a defense of principled atheism.

Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut jr.

I doubt I've ever read a more cogent attack on state violence or as devestating a crtique of modernity as absurdity. Still resonates.

1984 - George Orwell

So influential it has become iconic, not just for its imagery (see Big Brother Cheney below) but also for its insight into how power corrupts language; i.e. 'The Clean Air Act', 'The Patriot Act', etc.

"We have always been at war with Eurasia"

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Attwood

Still my favourite of her works, it is a harrowing take on the theocratic impulses of the US. In it's own way, it hits even closer to the truth of today than 1984 in that she correctly foresaw the puritanical elements that would fuel the GOP of today.



Hockey fans you WANT to spill beer on...

Hat tip to Jeff D. for the pic.


God is perfect Evil

One of the traditional arguments against a Christian conception of God is the 'problem of Evil'.

Simply put, 'If God is Love (omnibenevolent) than how do you explain all the suffering in the world?'

One answer (now out of fashion) is to anthromorphize both a loving God and an evil counterpart in Satan, and ditch responsibility for the bad stuff onto Ole Scratch.

The more serious responses very across wider terrain, but can (albeit facetiously) be found satirized in the header link.

Picture of the Day

Nebulae in the Cygnus constellation

More Drury on Strauss

This is a text version of a talk Drury had on Strauss with Michael Enright of the CBC. It's worth reading in it's entirety.

Money quote:

"ME: Do you, in your studies, have you seen any impact of any evidence of Straussian influence in the political landscape of Canada?

SD: Only insofar as Strauss has influenced the Neo-Conservatives. Neo-Conservatism is a rising phenomena certainly Neo-Conservatism is the inspiration behind the Reform & Alliance Party. Now it is a component, but not the entire part, of what is now the Conservative Party in Canada. It’s an American import, Neo-Conservatism. We like to Canadianize it and call it the Calgary School, but it’s really the same old thing. Some of the Straussians in Canada, and there are a lot of Straussians in Canada, it’s a big phenomena in Canada. Whenever I travel in the States and give lectures, people always ask me how it is that a Canadian came to write the only two books that are critical of analysis of Leo Strauss. The answer is simple—Alan Bloom, who was Strauss’ most famous disciple, who wrote The Closing of the American Mind, spent most of his academic career at the University of Toronto which produces 90% of the Ph.D.’s in Canada. As a result, there are Straussians in every University in Canada."

At the U of C in my time you couldn't swing a dead hamster without clubbing a Straussian.

By my modest suspicion there are at least 5 and those are just the profs I had a reasonable suspicion of (cuz afterall, it's not like they wear signs or labels that indicate it).

The evil of Leo Strauss

Ok, I have in the past ranted about the 'Straussians' and their influence on American political thought. Rarely have I ever been able to coherently explain my fervent dislike for this cabal of intellectuals and their program.

Fortunately, we have Shadia Drury.

Now, to be fair, I was student of Drury's at U of C, and to this day I still referrence her course material more often than those of any other professor.

Drury currently plys her trade at the U of Regina.

The following is an interview she gave where she discusses the philosophical underpinnings of the Straussian movement.

Just so you kow;

Paul Wolfowitz
Irving Kristol
Richard Perle
Irving 'Scooter' Libby

and a host of others are died in the wool Straussians (my ultimate loathing is currently for William Kristol - Irving's son, and the chief apologist for the Cheney White House).

If you follow politics, especially in the US, it is vital to understand where the Straussians are coming from.

The Staggeringly Impossible Results from Ohio 2005

Yeah I know it verges on conspiracy theory looney land, but I still think that the polls were right, and that Bush actually lost Ohio (and don't get me started on Florida).

The latest results of polling vs. actual results in the recent ballot initiatives suggests that Ohio may well be under the thumb of nefarious forces.

Check out the 'Bradblog' article in the link, and then tell me I'm being paranoid.

Republicans hate Women

This time they are meddling with the FDA to prevent over the counter approval for 'Plan B' a contraceptive that is best taken immediately after (within 72 hours) of sex.

It speaks to a deep resentment of women's biological authority that the GOP would mess with contraception in this way. Sex it seems, is evil and wrong, and women who have sex shouldn't be allowed to avoid the pregnancy that could result.

To provide this contraceptive is in the minds of the GOP, a liscence for women to have sex without consequences - and Pat Robertson knows we can't have that.

I can understand the opposition to RU486, which acts to disrupt a pregnancy in it's earliest stages, on the grounds that is an 'abortafacient', which isn't to say I agree with them, just that they are consistent in their thinking.

But Plan B is not an abortafacient, and the GOP opposition is almost the equivalent of banning condoms.

Which is probably next on their list after they finish packing the supreme court.


Stupid Demon Tricks

My Spidey Sense is tingling!

From the useless information department, I bring you, Spider Sex!

Ever wondered how our arachnid friends copulate? C'mon, I know you do!

Money quote:

"Going courting for a male takes a little preparation. Those palps (hollow feelers near the male spiders mouth) are nowhere near his reproductive tract, so what he has to do is spin a tiny scrap of web and ejaculate a bit of semen onto it; he then dips his palps into it and fills a hollow channel in them. That's right, the prelude to spider mating is for the male to charge his face up with sperm. This can actually take quite a while, a half hour to several hours, so it's an important part of the process.

Another important and dangerous step is flagging down a willing female. Spiders often have elaborate courtship rituals, with fancy dancing, wig-wagging palps, and fragrant pheromones, all working to convince the female, who is a ferocious predator, that the male is friendly and conspecific and wouldn't she like a little wink-wink-nudge-nudge instead of or before eating him? I can sympathize. I remember when I first asked my wife-to-be out on a date in high school, and I was as nervous as if there were a worry that she might sink her fangs into my skull, inject my cranium with digestive enzymes, and slurp my brains out like a tasty oatmeal milkshake. With spiders, they might really do that."

AR: I'll never be able to think about filling my palps and lunging for the epigyne in quite the same way after reading this article. Seriously though, here is an example of what amounts to natural reproduction through oral sex.

Where are the fundamentalists on this? Surely this is an outrage! Oh, wait, perhaps they were designed this way. Ha!


Worst Case Scenarios

Something to give you a chill as you read.

John Ralston Saul

As interviewed in Mother Jones on the failures of 'Globalization'.


Check your Political Compass

I came out as; -5.25, -5.40
Smack dab in the middle of left wing libertarian.

The GF came out; -4.00, -7.28

More libertarian, less left wing.

Our biggest debates occured over the death penalty (she's in favour for extreme crimes, I object to it as being fundamentally barbaric), and to a degree over protectionism. In my own case, I favour restricting competition in culture industries, like our Can-con regulations, so I had to take the dive on some of the free market questions.

Take the test, it's much more interesting than a simple 'left-right' manichean dualism.


The GOP's cynical abuse of religion knows no bounds

The photo was taken at an American church where a sermon was used as part of a recruitment drive for the armed forces.

Yes, that really is Jesus superimposed on Ole Glory.

This alone is enough to make my stomache turn, and to ache for a nation that once embraced 'the separation of church and state' - but it get's worse.

Bartholomew's Notes on Religion points out that the IRS is going after an Episcopalian church and threatening their tax emempt status for suggesting that Jesus could have voted for either Kerry or Bush.

Apparently, suggesting that parishoners have an open mind about politics is an unconsionable conlfation of the public sphere with religion

What the picture above suggests is going on in the right wing churches that are not being investigated by the IRS isn't commented on.

The truth behind Sea Serpents

The mythical beast you see before you is NOT a sea serpent.

It's your run-of-the-mill horny whale.

Cheerleader Sex Crimes

The two ladies pictured here are both Carolina Panther Cheerleaders.

Last week the two women were busted for causing a disturbance with a third woman. It seems our two cheerleaders were in a local bar when they were busted by this prudish third party with a tiny bladder for the overly long amount of time they spent having sex in the ladies washroom.

Fortunately, Hustler has arrived to save the day, offering the two cheerleaders a full spread in the magazine. Ironically, the fact the two have shown such litttle interest in men, perversely makes them all that more interesting to men.

I for one, long for the day when lesbian cheerleaders are no longer stygmatized by their forbidden love, and when tiny bladdered prudes are the ones arrrested for making a disturbance.

Errors in Star Trek? NEVER!

This was a fun read, as the intrepid WinAce sets out to demonstrate that there is no such thing as an internal inconsistency in Star Trek.

On a sad note, the author who suffered from Cystic Fibrosis passed away this week.

He was all of 20 years old.

"Q takes Picard, Troi, Data and Yar to stand trial for the crimes of humanity. Why then, is Data, an android, included in the group? It makes some sense that Troi be included, being half human, but Data has no human DNA. He has no DNA, period!"

Data is an offshoot of humanity, what could be considered an artificial human. By that logic, would in-vitro fertilized humans also be unaccountable for the crimes of their forefathers??
Human society has always recognized this not to be the case, as any of a number of competing creation myths can show you. What's next - he'll be saying that Adam and Eve eating a magical fruit isn't grounds enough to condemn all their descendants to a fiery death?

RIP Allan.

Venus Express Launched

More of what is wrong with Kansas

Not only have they successfully injected the religious ID theory into their science classes, they have also neutered the definition of science itself;

"In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena."

Kansas is now officially dead to the enlightenment, as this Orwellian language game has gutted all reason from their school system. It is the elevation of ignorance to an art form.

Of course Kansas votes Republican.

Do I blame religion? Yes I do. Do I blame Christians? Well, it wasn't the Buddhist lobby that got this passed.

Positive trends

Republican Pennsylvania voted for Democrats to replace the Dover PA. schoolboard.

A sweep for the Democrats (including one of the parents who launched the anti-ID lawsuit) as they take control of the schoolboard with the promise to move ID from science classes and into an elective comparative religion course (where it really belongs).

In Maine and Virginia Democrats held both of the contested governorships.

Even better, in Maine the vote on anti-discrimination legislation easily defeated the attempts by the Christian right to have it thrown out.

Of course, in Texas the ban on gay marriage was passed - but Texas voters are always retarded compared to everywhere else (where else do they execute mentally sub-normal teenagers?, and in Kansas the schoolboard voted 6-4 to gut the science standards for textbooks to include ID, so you can't win 'em all.

That said, Canadian kids should continue to blow away the academically challenged students that emerge from the intellectual hellscape that is Kansas.


Arthur Silber vs. The Thomas Moore Law Centre

This was freaking EXCELLENT

Money quote:

From the TMLC -

At issue in the Dover lawsuit, brought by 11 parents in Federal District Court, is whether intelligent design is really religion dressed up as science, and whether teaching it in a public school violates the constitutional separation of church and state.The More center's lawyers put scientists on the witness stand who argued that intelligent design - the idea that living organisms are so complex that the best explanation is that a higher intelligence designed them - is a credible scientific theory and not religion because it never identifies God as the designer. Still religion is at the heart of the case's appeal for the center, say its lawyers and the chairman of its board. The chairman, Bowie Kuhn, the former baseball commissioner, said the board agreed that the center should take on an intelligent design case because while it is not necessarily based on religion "it is being opposed because people think it is religious." And that was enough for a group whose mission, as explained on its Web site, is "to protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square."

Arthur Silber replies with phasers set to KILL:

Let me see if I have this straight. ID is not religious in nature as long as God is never identified as the designer -- even though God (or an equivalent supernatural being or force of some kind) necessarily is. And even though ID is not religion masquerading as science -- even though it is -- religion is still "at the heart of the case's appeal for the center." Not because ID actually is based on religion, but because "it is being opposed because people think it is religious." Even though it isn't. So the center isn't pursuing the case in the name of religion, but it is. Not because it actually is about religion, but because other people think it's about religion. But it isn't.

Thankfully, before our minds completely melt trying to untangle this, we are left with the simplest basis of all on which to reject ID in its entirety, along with its advocates. That basis also possesses the invaluable virtue of being indisputably true: it's utterly unintelligible gibberish.

AR: Exactly.

The Venture Bros.!

If you've ever watched 'Johnny Quest', 'Scooby-Doo' (before Scrappy arrived to suck the life out of it), or read the 'Hardy Boys', you MUST check out 'the Venture Brothers'!

Go Team Venture!

Not as bad for you as booze!

Denver recently made possession of small amounts of pot legal.

Their reasoning was simple - it's not as bad for you as alcohol.

With something that direct and libertarian in it's conception, we may be seeing the thin edge of the wedge of legalization taking hold in the US.

Say What? II

Cardinal Schonborg released a work defending the 'ID' theory that (of course) had me climbing the walls in rage at the feeble mindedness of the Catholic church.

Now we have Cardinal Poupard reversing that stance, embracing science as a friend of religion, and touting evolution as a 'fact'.

I am sure to have further thoughts on this when my head stops spinning....

Say What?

William F. Buckley, one of the godfathers of the conservative intelligentsia, and former host of the great debate program (where have all the great debate programs gone?) 'Firing Line' makes the salient point that what the Bush Co. flunkies in the VP's office did to Valerie Plame was flat out wrong.

Money quote:

"The importance of the law against revealing the true professional identity of an agent is advertised by the draconian punishment, under the federal code, for violating it. In the swirl of the Libby affair, one loses sight of the real offense, and it becomes almost inapprehensible what it is that Cheney/Libby/Rove got themselves into. But the sacredness of the law against betraying a clandestine soldier of the republic cannot be slighted."

It's one thing for lefties to bleat about how serious it is to out an agent in time of war, it's quite another to hear it coming from someone genetically Republican.


Picture of the Day - the First Light

Photo and explanation from 'Bad Astronomy'

"In any deep image of the sky, the bright objects are of course the easiest to notice. Usually, the astronomers display the contrast in an image such that the bright things are easy to see, and anything faint is set to black. But in this case, the astronomers wanted to see the extremely faint objects. To do this, they masked out the bright objects and then upped the contrast… way up.
What pops out of the image is displayed in the bottom part of the image. The masked foreground objects are obvious enough. But what’s that fuzzy, glowing material weaving its way in the background?

According to the astronomers who took the image, most if not all of that diffuse glow comes from the very first stars ever born in the Universe."

The Sands-Yoo Debate on US use of Torture

The blog provides both an excellent precis of the debate and links to the entire debate as an audio download.

It's definitely worth a listen.


The Last Titan

the First Light

Astronomers may have detected the first light of the universe.

This may trouble some biblical literalists, since the first photons don't appear till well after the big bang, but in my books this is easily chalked up as;

'Science is WAY COOL'

The next evolution of marriage...

In Utah (it's always Utah) a judge was recently charged with having three wives.

Normally I'd go after the guy for being a Republican hypocrite, but in this case, I won't.

Now that we have stepped into the modern era by making gay marriages in Canada legal, Polygamy strikes me as the next obvious evolution of marriage (along with contractual limits i.e. 'This marriage is effective for ___ years, with the option for renewal given all parties agree to be set for ____", but I digress).

I don't mean to minimize the damage done by the polygamy practiced in Utah where the 'wives' are usually related to one another (ewww!), and where the brides face incredible pressure at far too young an age to be reasonably said to have given adult consent.

Both of those situations strike me is grounds to oppose the kind of polygamy as it is actually practiced in Utah.

Philosophically though, I'm not sure what the panic is over. If three (or more?) adult people (any arrangement of the sexes works for me) want to live, procreate, keep house together and refer to each other as married - I'm not sure I see what the problem is.

Perhaps Rich at the Lost Boys Survey has some thoughts....


Unrestrained Hilarity of the Day!

Hat tip to Ma-at who introduced me to the link!

EternalFootman: 25g of wafers and 20mL of cheap wine undergo transubstantiation and become the flesh and blood of Jesus. How many Joules of heat are released by the transformation?

LittleBunny32: if you assume that the material properties of GOD possess an infinite enthalpy, and obviously that of mortal materials are finite, then the transubstantiation process requires an infinite amount of energy and will freeze the entire universe. Alternately, if we assume they can be transmuted from the infinite creative capabilities (and energy) of GOD, then by combusting them we can receive an infinite amount of free energy and the catholic church is holding out on us


I freaking love this time of year.
It's the only time you can bury a corpse in your front yard and nobody comments.


That looks like a mosquito
I hate mosquitos
they're like the Jehovah's Witnesses of nature

And my favourite (from the 'Top 50 Favourites' section)

True story, I was happy. My girlfriend and I had been dating for over a year, and so we decided to get married.
My parents helped us in every way, my friends encouraged me, and my girlfriend? She was a dream!
There was only one thing bothering me, very much indeed, and that one thing was her younger sister.
My prospective sister-in-law was twenty years of age, wore tight mini skirts and low cut blouses. She would regularly bend down when near me and I got many a pleasant view of her underwear.
It had to be deliberate. She never did it when she was near anyone else. One day little sister called and asked me to come over to check the wedding invitations. She was alone when I arrived.
She whispered to me that soon I was to be married, and she had feelings and desires for me that she couldn't overcome and didn't really want to overcome.
She told me that she wanted to make love to me just once before I got married and committed my life to her sister.
I was in total shock and couldn't say a word.
She said, "I'm going upstairs to my bedroom, and if you want to go ahead with it just come up and get me."
I was stunned. I was frozen in shock as I watched her go up the stairs. When she reached the top she pulled down her panties and threw them down the stairs at me.
I stood there for a moment, then turned and went straight to the front door.
I opened the door and stepped out of the house. I walked straight towards my car.
My future father-in-law was standing outside.
With tears in his eyes he hugged me and said, "We are very happy that you have passed our little test.
We couldn't ask for a better man for our daughter. Welcome to the family.

The moral of this story is: "Always keep your condoms in your car"

Dembski vs. Kurzweil

Dembski (as you may know from reading previous posts here) is one of the wing-nuts working at the Discovery Institute (the Intelligent Design / 'Wedge' strategy wing-nuts), but in this article he takes issue with Kurzweil - a proponent of Artificial Intelligence, who has written about 'Spiritual Machines'.

Here's a quote from the always hilarious to read Dembski;

"How well have natural processes been able to account for intelligent agency? Cognitive scientists have achieved nothing like a full reduction. The French Enlightenment thinker Pierre Cabanis remarked: “Les nerfs—voilĂ  tout l’homme” (the nerves—that’s all there is to man). A full reduction of intelligent agency to natural causes would give a complete account of human behavior, intention, and emotion in terms of neural processes. Nothing like this has been achieved. No doubt, neural processes are correlated with behavior, intention, and emotion. But correlation is not causation."

Dembski isn't really going after Kurzweil till much later in his article (I wonder if Dembski counts this letter as a 'peer reviewed study'? snark), what he is really after is a take-down of philosophical materialism. Hence we get his strawman 'cognitive scientists have achieved nothing like full reduction'.

Well, no they haven't - cognitive neuroscience doesn't have to acheive 'full-reduction' to be succesful - it is a process of uncovering the natural processes, not the achievement of 'complete reduction' that is the hallmark of success. I doubt that 'full' or 'complete' reduction is even possible given the complexity of influences, the millions of neurons, and the infinitely complex ways they might be connected in a human brain.

For Dembski, every success of neuroscience is one more nail in the Cartesian coffin he has locked himself into. When he says 'correlation' not 'causation' it is because Dembski is wed to the notion that somehow, somewhere there exists a 'mind' - an intangible thing that 'directs' the agency of the person, something that is 'affected by the physica', but isn't 'natural processes'. So long as neuroscience continues its steady progress in explaining things without resorting to these invisible attributes (the mind, the soul, etc.) he will be against it.

In any case, the article is good for a chortle or two. But more interesting is the website that Kurtyzweil has setup.

Search for 'Transhuman', 'Cyborgs', or 'immortality'. Lots of good stuff.

Two new moons discovered around Pluto!

Astronomers ROCK! (hat tip to the Highlander for the link)

Theocrats to block anti-cancer drug because it could lead to teen sex

I'm all for respect in political discourse, but at what point do you throw up your hands and point out that these people are simply INSANE?

Money quote:

"Some people have raised the issue of whether this vaccine may be sending an overall message to teen-agers that, 'We expect you to be sexually active,' " said Reginald Finger, a doctor trained in public health who served as a medical analyst for Focus on the Family before being appointed to the ACIP in 2003.
"There are people who sense that it could cause people to feel like sexual behaviors are safer if they are vaccinated and may lead to more sexual behavior because they feel safe," said Finger.

This logic is so distorted that it boggles my mind. Treating HPV (the Human Pampilloma Virus) could lead to promiscuity - so therefore we shouldn't treat HPV? Even if there were a correlation between HPV treatments and more frequent sex, isn't the risk of CANCER more dangerous than teens getting it on safely?

Pharygula : his another take on this;

Money Quote:

"Here's a disease that kills about a third of the women who get it. It turns their reproductive tract into a nest of tumors that can spread and shut down the kidneys, metastasize to the lungs, the gut, everywhere, that sterilizes them and can cause horrible agony. The treatment involves radical hysterectomy, bilateral adnexectomy and lymphadenectomy, words I'd rather my family never even have to learn.

And it's preventable.

Yet these sick, evil people want to be able to hold this horrible disease as a threat to their daughters, their friends' daughters, their neighbors' daughters—they want to be able to say to their kids, "If you don't obey my rules, your womb will rot and dribble out your private parts, and you'll thrash in pain for a while before you die and go to hell." They like the idea of a disease that they can say is not prevented by condoms, so they can continue to preach abstinence with threats."

Andrew Sullivan also has a take on the Theocrats vs. HPV, but he goes further to inquire why it is that a microbicide gel has been developed to help women prevent HIV infection, but not gay men?