Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Eye Candy for the Believers

I've been eagerly awaiting P.Z. Myers's account of his recent tour of the Creation Museum. It's up now, and it does not disappoint. A taste—one which makes for a nice microcosm of the entire critical thinking-vs.-creationism dispute:

This is their core premise. They claim that scientists and creationists are all working from exactly the same set of facts, and the only difference is in how we interpret them…and that they have an extra source of information that scientists reject, the Bible.

Their first big exhibit is a perfect example of the principle in action. It's a model of a dinosaur dig, with two men working away at excavating the bones. There is a video accompanying it in which the two views are presented. The younger Asian fellow in front says, and I paraphrase, "This animal died about a hundred million years ago. Its body dried in the sun for several days before being slowly buried under layers of sediment in a local flood." Then the avuncular creationist says, "I see the same bones, but I believe this dinosaur was killed suddenly about 4400 years ago in a huge global flood, which buried it deeply all at once." And then he goes on to explain that see, they have the very same evidence, but he understands it in the light of God's word.

It is a profoundly dishonest display. No, they are not using the same evidence: the creationist is ignoring all but the most superficial appearances. The scientist says a few details about this particular dinosaur, but what Ken Ham hides is that every statement would have a large body of evidence in its support. This isn't two guys stating their mere beliefs in a field…it's one guy, the creationist, closing his eyes to the evidence and spouting Biblical gibberish, and one scientist stating the conclusions of substantial investigations.

The scientist does not say a particular fossil is 125 million years old simply because he feels like it. It's a conclusion built on careful observation of the geology — if you read a paleontology paper, you'll often find a substantial discussion of the details of the rocks surrounding the specimen — and by the morphology of the rocks, the history of the area, the physics of the radioisotopes present, the other animal and plant fossils found in the same plane (which, in turn, had their ages evaluated). It is the product of an impressive consilience of evidence, all of which the creationist is rejecting, or more likely, of which he is utterly ignorant.

Read it all—it's both enlightening and enjoyable. P.Z rocks.

Case in Point

Re. my griping at Chip Bok below: Think Progress notes a bunch of usual-suspect talking heads on the Sunday consent-manufacturing shows blathering about how Obama never does anything to upset "his liberals"; then, Think Progress supplies a nice long list of issues whereupon Obama has let "his liberals" down.

No doubt we worship the man because we're all masochists—and have chosen our Messiah accordingly. The burning is love.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Head Explodes with Dark Forebodings, Too

In a comment on a previous post, my friend jules asks a question which is at once funny and profound:

Deep thought: I wonder if Hitler's brownshirts ever called their political enemies Nazis?
Nah, I thought. Real brownshirts probably had too much pride to use such infantile projection as a crutch.

And that quickly became one of the most depressing thoughts I have ever had.

An Open Letter to Chip Bok

Dammit, man! A while back I admired your work (admittedly, in comparison with Chuck Asay and Glenn McCoy) but now, via Kos (h/t Attaturk), I see that you've coughed up this rancid hairball of a cartoon:

I realize that there's a proud tradition in the American corporate media of dedicated impoverishment of both intellect and imagination, and that one facet of this is the complacent assumption that any opinions even remotely to the left of corporate-friendly New Democrat centrism may simply be written off as "far left," but please: if any less thought had gone into this cartoon, I'd think that Jonah Goldberg had done it. I can guaran-damn-tee you that people who actually deserve to be called "far left" do not think of Barack Obama as a Messiah figure. On the contrary: the farther left you go, the more likely you are to find Barack Obama regarded as an untrustworthy corporatist sellout. And when you consider his thus-far resolutely corporate-friendly approaches to the economic crisis, to health care reform, etc., you might even think they're on to something. At any rate, I realize that the "must portray both extremes as equally wacky" command is deep in the corporate media's DNA, but the desire for a cheap dichotomy does not excuse the mutilation of the political spectrum.

It is pro-corporate centrists for whom Obama is a Messiah. The "far left" long since stopped thinking that one is ever likely to arise from the incestuous writhings of America's current media-political-business elite. You might at least have the decency not to tar as Obama-worshipers people for whom Obama is proving to be a huge, but not unexpected, disappointment.



Bright and early this morning, we find that the White House has put up a new website: Health Insurance Reform Reality Check. (Let us love it and squeeze it and call it HIRRC.) It's annoyingly video-heavy, but maybe that's an advantage in these days of higher bandwidths and lower attention spans. At any rate, they seem to know what they are up against:

If you've tuned into the news in the past few days, it's clear that the debate about health insurance reform has heated up as Senators and Representatives return to their home states and districts. A troubling trend has also emerged: as more people become engaged in the issue, defenders of the status quo have responded by muddying the waters with more wild rumors and scare tactics.


The road ahead will surely reveal more aggressive efforts from defenders of the status quo to confuse and scare Americans with half-truths and outright lies. We're all too familiar with the time-tested tactics that opponents of reform have used for decades to prevent the meaningful change our health insurance system needs.

A-freaking-men. There's a more reassuringly old-fashioned FAQ, too, although it could use some editing. Viz: "The savings being proposed from Medicare won’t harm patient care. In fact it will improve it." Pronouns must agree in number with antecedents; the antecedent here seems to be savings (plural), so should that be "In fact, they will improve it"? This would be more grammatically correct, and it would avoid the annoying repetition of it in the short clause. I'll toss in the comma to set off the transitional expression from the main clause for free. C'mon, elites! Did you pick up those Ivy League degrees at a yard sale?

I wonder whether this new site has anything to do with the "change" tantalizingly spoken of by the Howler this past Saturday:

Change is coming: Yesterday, we had the pleasure of taking part in a strictly top-secret training session for fourteen impressive federal managers. Our topic? “Influence of the Media on the Policy Process.” After spending three hours (minus breaks) with these managers, we will only tell you this: We suspect that major change will soon be visible all through the federal government.
I don't know, but if someone in this Democratic administration is asking Bob for advice on waging logical/rhetorical struggle in the age of Beck, Limbaugh, Milbank, Kurtz, Cokie, etc., I'd say that's a damn good sign.

Friday, August 07, 2009

File Under Cabaret, Final Scene

I've been in a bad mood all day. I'm tired and achey and slept poorly last night, but I fear that the real reason for my grump is that I read this must-must-must-read piece from Sara Robinson this morning, and it took all the dark, nagging thoughts I've had about the outbursts of right-wing mob thuggery at town hall meetings and pulled them all together into a cold hand of dread, which it then clamped firmly around my spine. From her conclusion:

It's so easy right now to look at the melee on the right and discount it as pure political theater of the most absurdly ridiculous kind. It's a freaking puppet show. These people can't be serious. Sure, they're angry -- but they're also a minority, out of power and reduced to throwing tantrums. Grown-ups need to worry about them about as much as you'd worry about a furious five-year-old threatening to hold her breath until she turned blue.

Unfortunately, all the noise and bluster actually obscures the danger. These people are as serious as a lynch mob, and have already taken the first steps toward becoming one. And they're going to walk taller and louder and prouder now that their bumbling efforts at civil disobedience are being committed with the full sanction and support of the country's most powerful people, who are cynically using them in a last-ditch effort to save their own places of profit and prestige.

We've arrived. We are now parked on the exact spot where our best experts tell us full-blown fascism is born. Every day that the conservatives in Congress, the right-wing talking heads, and their noisy minions are allowed to hold up our ability to govern the country is another day we're slowly creeping across the final line beyond which, history tells us, no country has ever been able to return.

You can't spell dread without read. Go.

"People Fear Gov't Tranny"

But enough about Mitch McConnell. (h/t Quiddity)

Monday, August 03, 2009

Categorically Recommended

Hopefully I'll get back to more regular posting soon—maybe even Daily Random Flickr Blogging again if if my mood/mojo returns—but during the meanwhile, for anyone who does RSS (sorry, RSS) or is inclined to point a browser that way, I've added a link to an RSS feed for interesting stuff that I run across in the entrails of my Feed Demon and think worth sharing.

Really Simple Syndication: faster than carrier pigeons, and with far less guano.

Bill Maher on the Birthers


Lou Dobbs has been saying recently that people are asking a lot of questions about the birth certificate. Yes, the same people who want to know where the sun goes at night.

And Lou, you're their new king.

That's why it's so important that we the few, the proud, the reality-based attack this stuff before it has a chance to fester and spread. This isn't a case of Democrats versus Republicans. It's sentient beings versus the lizard people, and it is to them I offer this deal: I'll show you Obama's birth certificate when you show me Sarah Palin's high school diploma.

(h/t Amanda Terkel)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?