Friday, June 27, 2008

ANWR: In Perspective

In all the arguments about high gas prices and whether it's the fault of the Republicans or Democrats, one of the solutions being put forth is drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Take a look at this graph and try to decide whether it's going to have a big effect on anything:

Energy independence, it ain't.

UPDATE: I posted this same graphic at Illinipundit, because I figured it's Republicans that seem to be pushing the ANWR drilling, so that crowd might be interested. Instead of interest, all I got was "Liberals are teh suck!" OK, so I'm naive.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Local yokel disproves evolution?

No, just kidding. There was a letter to the editor in the News-Gazette the other day that was just so stunningly arrogant, misled, and flat-out wrong, that I couldn't resist responding here. Mr. Justin Bleich of Gibson City writes:

It has been proven many times that creationists appeal to the facts of science to support their view, while evolutionists appeal to the philosophical assumptions from outside science.

Creationists appeal to the facts of science? Um ... really? Maybe it's been proven in your Bible study group, Mr. Bleich, but among rational people, that's a load of hooey. Take this load of "proofs" for the existence of God. Go take a look through the literature sometime. You'll find lots of experiments, data, photographs, even. You won't find many creationists doing the same because they have no experiments. They have no data. They can only appeal to the ignorance and gullibility in their listeners and their religious beliefs.

When it has been proven that energy cannot be created or destroyed, how in the world would a single-celled organism, by chance, appear from nothing and eventually evolve into a multi-celled organism, like a fish?

What? Unless these single-celled organisms have internal fusion reactors, the creation or destruction of energy has nothing to do with evolution.

How, also, would this fish then evolve into a lion? Humans were not yet here to prove this.

I can't even tell if he's arguing that fish couldn't evolve into tetrapods like Tiktaalik because humans weren't around, or if he's arguing that if humans weren't around, nothing can be "proven." The latter, of course, would mean we can't know anything about astrophysics, geology, or who really built the Pyramids. After all, were you there? Did you know that it wasn't aliens with tractor beams coming out of their flying saucers?

Evolutionary scientists often use their assumptions to formulate the idea that nonliving organisms gave life to living organisms, and humans came from apes.

Um, huh? I'd love to find one of those "nonliving organisms" someday. I guess in his own incoherent way, Mr. Bleich is talking about abiogenesis, which has nothing to do with evolution.

Humans didn't evolve from apes! God, have these people learned nothing since the Scopes Monkey Trials? Mr. Bleich's assignment is to write "Humans and apes diverged from a common ancestor millions of years ago. One did not evolve from the other" one hundred times or until his crayon runs out.

Creation scientists have just as much right to our opinion as do evolutionary scientists.

No one is saying that creation scientists don't have their right to their opinion. Christian Scientists and modern geocentrists have the right to their opinion, too. They don't have the right to demand their weird beliefs taught in science classes as science.

The fact that rank ignorance survives even in this day and age frightens me. People like Mr. Bleich really want to drag us down back into the Dark Ages. And while he and his religious brethren are being so smug and self-righteous about their Godly beliefs, the rest of the world is going to pass us by in scientific knowledge.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My sympathies

I've given News-Gazette blogger Rhonda Robinson some crap over the years, but I'd like to offer my sympathies over the recent accidental death of her son.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Inconvenient ellipses

I was looking at the local Freecycle group, and noticed that this message had been posted, saying that something previously offered was no longer available. I do hope it's incomplete. (Click to embiggen.)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Something to look forward to for the next six months

I'm glad Obama got the nomination. I think he stands a pretty good chance at winning. But for the next six months (and possibly longer after that) don't expect to hear him referred to by a lot of Republicans as anything other than Barack Hussein Obama. They are going to push it relentlessly. You won't hear them refer to John Sidney McCain, however. The reasons are obvious. Racism and xenophobia. It's happening locally and at the national level.

I disagree with him on a number of issues, but Glock21 has a great post about the phenomenon.

... his name is pretty irrelevant beyond "branding" that has become such an important part of American politics. People who try to exploit that are essentially kowtowing to the worst of our society in order to win an election, and that's pretty disgusting no matter how much one wants to claim two wrongs make a right. If you don't want to be associated with the racist and prejudiced nimrods that flock to such childish reasoning when they go the ballot booth... stop using their arguments.

Friday, June 06, 2008

My God, it's full of torture!

Various people have testified in front of Congress that it's OK that we waterboard, because we've only done it to three people, and they were the worst of the worst. Well, it looks like those officials may have been "bending the truth" a bit.

A German-born Turkish citizen ... said that in 2002 in Afghanistan, U.S. interrogators subjected him to beatings, electrical shocks and, on one occasion, a technique he said was referred to as "water treatment." He said his head was held under water in a bucket while he was punched in the stomach, forcing him to inhale. On another occasion, he was hung by his arms for five days, he said.

Republicans have constantly been downplaying the extent of the torture we've been committing by referring to waterboarding as a "swimming lesson" and trivializing the pain that's caused by stress position techniques. Now we find they may have been lying all along as to the extent.

It gets even more Kafkaesque. The guy in the above passage was completely innocent of all terrorism charges. US officials even knew he was innocent, held him anyway, and it still took a personal appeal from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to get them to let him go. Think about that. It took an appeal from a head of state of one of our allies to get the US to free a torture victim from detention.

And to make matters even worse, a UK human rights group has accused the US of using ships to detain and secretly interrogate prisoners.

A British human rights organization claimed Monday that the United States had used military ships to secretly detain and interrogate terrorism suspects. U.S. officials denied using ship as prisons.

I imagine any US Navy vessel holding a prisoner would be subject to US military law. But what about a Halliburton-owned ship, in international waters, crewed by civilian contractors, registered in say, Liberia?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Brokeback Island

First there was Brokeback to the Future. Then there was Star Wars: The Empire Brokeback. Then there were a whole lot of others and the joke got old. But this is pretty good:

I can't decide if I like this one better:

Hat tip: David.