Friday, June 9, 2006

I Have Been Assimilated Into the Collective

I don't want to jinx, but supposedly, Friday, at noon, I will officially join ScienceBlogs (although the site might be active now?).

My new website/url will be:

In case you're in the large-type reading group, that's:

So please update your links. And in case you missed it, the link is here.

Why am I moving? Several reasons:
  1. Blogger sucks. 'Nuff said.
  2. I write so people read me. I'm hoping my traffic will increase.
  3. Blogger sucks.
  4. I like having a bunch of other science bloggers read my stuff. One of the odd functions I seem to fill is that I read a lot of political blogs, and I seem to be a (small) link between science bloggers and political bloggers. I think being at ScienceBlogs will further this.
  5. Blogger sucks.
Nonetheless, I'm a little nervous. I hope people still read me, even if I'm at a 'science' place. I also hope I don't get swallowed up by all of the good bloggers over there. And I have to figure out how that Movable Type thingee works.

It's odd--I feel a little sad about leaving the old digs....

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Note to Blond Banshee: I'm Not a Christian

First, the Shriek of Hate by Ann Coulter (aka the Blond Banshee):
In Ann Coulter's world -- as described in her new book Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum) -- Jews are Christians, but apparently Episcopalians are not.

A footnote on Page 3 of the book reads: "Throughout this book, I often refer to Christians and Christianity because I am a Christian and I have a fairly good idea of what they believe, but the term is intended to include anyone who subscribes to the Bible of the God of Abraham, including Jews and others." [emphasis added]

Yes, you read that correctly. As far as Coulter is concerned, Jews are Christians. Mazel tov!

As for Episcopalians, they might be disheartened to learn that they will not be welcoming their newly Christian Jewish friends into the brotherhood of Christ, because they don't quite measure up as a church. Coulter writes on Page 5, "Howard Dean left the Episcopal Church -- which is barely even a church -- because his church, in Montpelier, Vermont, would not cede land for a bike path." [emphasis added]

The millions of Episcopalians in America -- among whose numbers have been many presidents, including George Washington, James Madison, Franklin Roosevelt, and George H.W. Bush -- might be interested to know Coulter's view of their faith.

A story for you. Many years ago (think early Eisenhower Administration), in the loving, bucolic heartland (Omaha to be precise), my mother, after informing someone that she was not Christian, but, in fact, Jewish, was told, "We're all Christians. You're just a Jewish Christian." This was the same Omaha where one high school (Omaha Central) did not have a prom. Why no prom? Because at one dance, a black boy danced one song with a white girl. Obviously, it was necessary to cancel school dances after that. Definitely an era worth conserving (kidding).

Does Coulter even comprehend the words coming out of her mouth? In a different context (the 'blastular holocaust'), I wrote:
The other major point is that Christian conservatives gloss over the history behind the Holocaust. I rarely claim to speak for others, but I'm going to go out on a limb and do so. In my opinion, many Jews think that 1500 years of religiously based anti-Semitism based in Christian doctrine was a significant factor that led to the Holocaust. This not to say that other factors weren't important: obviously, they were. But the Holocaust was not solely due to generic Acme 'man's inhumanity to man' spontaneously arising in 1933. There was a long history of brutal oppression based on Christian doctrine predating the Holocaust.

This creates a lot of problems for conservative Christians when they speak to Jews: we see their religious fanaticism, and at some basic level, many of us recoil. Not only did most Jewish families in the country lose members in the Holocaust, but their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents often fled brutal mistreatment (not to mention rape and murder) that was spawned by religious bigotry and fanaticism. There's a reason Jews reacted so vehemently against the movie The Passion of the Christ: many pogroms happened around Easter as 'revenge' for the death of Jesus. There is a basic problem here for Christian conservatives, which is, that in the Jewish mind (and I think any honest history of the Holocaust), Christianity is not 'guilt-free.' To date, American Christian conservatives have not addressed the role Christianity played in creating the necessary preconditions for mass murder (on the other hand, Catholicism has addressed this issue rather well).
While most Jews would be polite and not bring this up, doesn't she realize that it is insulting to be called Christian, and that phrase does not fill us with warmth and fuzzy feelings? Leaving aside stark dogmatic and ideological differences, there's a lot of bad history there.

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Zarqawi Dead

According to CNN, Zarqawi, the leader of al-Queda in Iraq, was killed by an airstrike. I hope this lessens the violence. Now we'll find out just how important al-Queda was, or if most of the violence was perpetrated by indigenous people.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

News Reporting and a Technically Complex Society

From the "I meant to post this but never got around to it file":

In an excellent post on news reporting, Thoughts from Kansas writes (italics mine):
The same thing is a major part of the ongoing creationism battles. A good reporter with a background in science would not feel obliged to go to a scientist and get a quote to balance a story about creationists. Nor would such a reporter feel obliged to troll the waters for some bottom-feeding creationist to "balance" some claim about actual science.

But that's what many reporters do. And if they fail to do so, some hard-working editor will send them off to call the ID Network or the Discovery Institute. Science reporters and science editors don't do that, but political reporters, or overworked local news reporters who have to cover a couple of events every day, don't have time to be keeping track of the latest state of science. We're lucky if they have more than a high school biology class from 30 years ago. The same goes for political reporters covering economic issues with a good high school algebra class, and a vague memory of trig...
The problem is that spinmongers and PR flacks have found the cheat codes for modern journalism. Whine and send press releases if your side of every inane issue isn't given equal weight with the other side, no matter whether it deserves equal footing. Treat professionals as no more consequential than non-experts with an axe to grind. Leave it to the public to sort out the difference. Teach the controversy.
In my current job, I have to speak with reporters or advise those who do speak with reporters about complex public health and microbiological issues. In my experience, the science reporters do their homework, but too often, the 'general' reporters don't really know anything. So what the generalists do is fall back on what they do know, which is often not germane to the science at hand. That's fine–the social and political effects of science should be examined–but at the same time, the public often needs to be educated about the content of the science (e.g., don't drink out of your fish tank and worry about antibiotic use in farming. Note: I thought this story was well done and an example of good reporting). This is all the more important when elected officials, in the guise of improving a policy, gut it. To prevent that from happening, citizens need to understand the details, since that's where the devil lies.

I'm not sure how to fix this. Perhaps there's a role for the blogosphere in all of this, in that what is needed isn't stenography, but analysis and synthesis. But I think this problem will only get worse as so many issues become more and more technically complex.

An aside: often, a political 'debate' will purposely be made more complex than it needs to be by one of the sides because the confusion, and resulting belief that there is no solution to a problem, is politically advantageous.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Rubber Dildo Republicans

You might have heard of the moniker "rubber stamp Republicans", which refers to the congressional Republicans going along with every disastrous Bush policy. Now, the Republicans have proposed the God Hates Gays Marriage Protection Amendment. In its support, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) devolved into a discussion of masturbation and sodomy.

In honor of Sen. Santorum, I have come up with a new nickname for the Congressional Republicans: Rubber Dildo Republicans. (Seriously, do these guys ever think about anything other than anal penetration?)

Rubber Dildo Republicans: super creepy freaky. And not good for America.

'Evolution' of Dance

Anybody who thinks that evolution means that things improve over time, only has to watch this video...

Monday, June 5, 2006

Sen. Hutchinson's Rep. Admits She Isn't a Biblical Literalist

From AmericaBlog:
Tsk, tsk, tsk. I just got the following email from an AMERICAblog reader who just called Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's office - she's a Republican Senator from Texas who is divorced.
John, I live in Dallas and just got off the phone with Kay Bailey Hutchison's staff. The person who took my question said that even though the Bible might say that a woman who is divorced and then remarries is an adulterer, no Christian really believes that. So, the Bible is really just a quaint notion, sorta like the Geneva Conventions. I will swear under oath that KBH rep said that. When I asked about why this marriage amendment is even being considered amidst the other enormous crises we're dealing with, she said she agreed with me. So, KBH is divorced but doesn't believe what the Bible says about it.
If you live in Texas, please, I beg you, contact the good senator and ask her if she also thinks that the Bible shouldn't be taken literally when it comes to evolution and creationism.

Wedge issues are a bitch when they blow up in your face...