Calling All Captains!

(Postdated for what I hope are obvious reasons)

We’re down to the final week, and all captains appear to be having a rather fraught month. Meaning: to avoid imposing the Duty on a frantically busy Elitist Bastard, I’ve had to get creative.

So here’s what we’re gonna do.

We’ll sail from the Carnival’s blog this month. Or, more precisely, we won’t sail: we’ll do a Naval Academy/Maneuvers theme, wherein we’re back at base to train. This gives everybody some breathing room, and most importantly, allows everyone to ride the wake of PZ’s fame once he’s taken the helm in July.

Everyone who’s volunteered to captain the ship has a simple assignment: send me a one-paragraph bio by Friday. Introduce yourself to the crew. Tell us what kind of Elitist Bastard you are. Touch on your special area of expertise, say something rousing that’ll get the crew all fired up and ready to fight, tell us why you decided to volunteer to take the helm; be creative, or snarky, but above all be you.

It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be profound. And if you absolutely can’t think of anything or don’t have enough time to do so, just give me a few bits about yourself that you’d like me to whip up into a nice introduction. You’d be amazed at what I can do with a list like, “Hi, name’s Bob, software engineer, hobby’s cat shaving.”

Send it on to [email protected], and I’ll thread your bio into the narrative.

I’ll have the schedule of captains up by the end of the week. Muchos gracias to all who volunteered!

And no, for all of you who wanted to muster for this outing, it’s not too late to get your submissions in. Send them on to [email protected]. The deadline’s not until end of day Friday. We’ve got many incredible submissions, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a greedy bastard: I want more!

Right? Right. Let’s do this Elitist Bastard thing!

Calling All Captains!

Back Into the FISA Fray

Wednesday. That’s when mcjoan says we can expect the Senate to turn their loving attention to the FISA fiasco and put the final stake in the heart of our Fourth Amendment.

Man the phones, my darlings. Let the Senate know we stand squarely against this legislative poison:

The objective is to strip immunity from the bill. We need to figure out a way to
make that happen before leadership caves on this altogether. Sen. Feingold’s office has put up a handy fact sheet on the problems with the bill [see my link above]. One way to push on this is to flood the offices of Senators with calls and FAXes telling them to do just that. If they don’t hear from you, then they won’t know you are pissed — so let’s get to work…

Toll-free numbers for Congress from Katymine:

1 (800) 828 – 0498
1 (800) 459 – 1887
1 (800) 614 – 2803
1 (866) 340 – 9281
1 (866) 338 – 1015
1 (877) 851 – 6437

Several Senators could use extra contact on this — uncommitted or wavering Democrats, leadership folks, members of the Gang of 14, and a number of wavering Republicans. Tell them no telecom immunity — period. It is well past time that respect for the rule of law and the role of Congress in the balance of powers was restored…



Bayh (202) 224-5623 (202) 228-1377
Carper (202) 224-2441 (202) 228-2190
Obama (202) 224-2854 (202) 228-4260
Inouye (202) 224-3934 (202) 224-6747
Johnson (202) 224-5842 (202) 228 5765
Landrieu (202)224-5824 (202) 224-9735
McCaskill (202) 224-6154 (202) 228-6326
Mikulski (202) 224-4654 (202) 224-8858
Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274 (202) 228-2183
Clinton (202) 224-4451 (202) 228-0282
Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551 (202) 228-0012
Pryor (202) 224-2353 (202) 228-0908
Salazar (202) 224-5852 (202) 228-5036
Specter (202) 224-4254 (202) 228-1229
Feinstein (202) 224-3841 (202) 228-3954
Webb (202) 224-4024 (202) 228-6363
Warner (202) 224-2023 (202) 224-6295
Snowe (202) 224-5344 (202) 224-1946
Collins (202) 224-2523 (202) 224-2693
Sununu (202) 224-2841 (202) 228-4131
Stevens (202) 224-3004 (202) 224-2354
Byrd (202) 224-3954 (202) 228-0002
Lincoln (202)224-4843 (202)228-1371
Reid (202) 224-3542 (202) 224-7327
Coleman (202) 224-5641 (202) 224-1152
Durbin (202) 224-2152 (202) 228-0400
Smith (202) 224-3753 (202) 228-3997
Stabenow (202) 224-4822 (202) 228-0325
Kohl (202) 224-5653 (202) 224-9787
Leahy (202) 224-4242 (202) 224-3479
Schumer (202) 224-6542 (202) 228-3027

And, for extra bonus points, here is contact information for the Democratic
presidential candidate:

Sen. Barack Obama:

Phone: 312-819-2008 Toll Free: (866) 675-2008 FAX: 312-819-2088

And mcjoan adds:

In addition to the list that Christy provides…, there are some Dems who are with us but who need to know that we’ll have their back if they make this a fight. That includes Dodd and Feingold and those Senators who worked with Dodd to keep the bill from passing last December. Ask them to do it again:

Russ Feingold: Phone: (202) 224-5323, Fax: (202) 224-2725)

Chris Dodd: Phone: (202) 224-2823, Fax: (202) 224-1083)

Ron Wyden: Phone: (202) 224-5244, Fax: (202) 228-2717

Barbara Boxer: Phone: (202) 224-3553, Fax: (202) 224-0454

Sherrod Brown: Phone: (202) 224-2315, Fax: (202) 228-6321

Ted Kennedy: Phone: (202) 224-4543, Fax: (202) 224-2417

Yes, it’s a daunting list, and an even more daunting task. We’re probably going to lose this. But as Glenn Greenwald points out, “even battles that are almost certain to end in a loss are worth waging until the bitter end.”

At least we can let them know we’re not going to go down quietly. Fuck that. We’re going to roar. And if you can’t shout at every Senator on this list, at least scream at your own.

This is still a fucking democracy. Let your voices ring out: let them know you own this goverment. And you can fucking well fire their asses if they piss away our civil liberties for a security myth.

Ready? FIGHT!

Back Into the FISA Fray

I Get to Live TAM6 Vicariously Through Others, Part the First

Yeah. So while I spent my weekend losing sleep and calling politicians in a vain attempt to talk them out of FISA fuckery, some people were in Vegas having the time of their lives at TAM6. JC.

This is what did it. This is what sent me over the edge. I missed this??? I missed a presentation that included this slide? GAH!

Not to mention James Randi….

…And freakin’ Adam Savage. *sniffle*

Damn it.

That’s it.

I’m going next year. I don’t care that it’ll be TAM7 (and you all know how I feel about sevens). Until then, however, I must simply live the awesomeness vicariously through JC, who has promised me a full report. Far better than not living it at all…

I Get to Live TAM6 Vicariously Through Others, Part the First

A Favor to a Dear Friend

Paul at Cafe Philos says, “I’m Feeling Insecure Because My Blog Lacks Cat Photos.”

I see all these blogs nowadays with adorable cat photos and I’ve begun to wonder if it’s still possible to be a dedicated blogger without even a single cat photo to speak of?

Maybe I should post a cat photo? For one thing, I myself can’t resist them. Cats are cute beyond words.

Of course, I’d need to find a cat first….

My darling, my joy, I’ve got your cats right here:

Misha in a Galaxy of Bedding

Cat in the Sack

Me new brudder, Spook.

Pointed catmentary.

There’s a bajillion more where these come from. Whenever you need adorable cat photos, you just let me know. I’ve actually got one of Misha sitting on a column that has just the right note of dignity and classical grace that would compliment the artistic beauty of Cafe Philos.
And yes, in answer to your question: it is possible to be a dedicated blogger without a single cat photo. You prove that every day. You’re not only a dedicated blogger, you’re one of the most beautiful bloggers I know.
The only thing you can’t be without cat photos is a dedicated catblogger… unless you filch cats from your friends. I think that’s allowed under the bylaws of blogging.
And if not, fuck it – filch anyway!

A Favor to a Dear Friend

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

I really wish that news of corruption surprised me:

Was the State Department involved in a shoddy and potentially illegal ammo shipment that led to the arrest of a 22-year-old Miami arms dealer last week?

That’s what Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) now says. The House oversight committee says it has evidence that the U.S. embassy in Albania helped Albanian officials keep the allegedly illegal shipment of Chinese-made ammunition to Afghanistan under wraps and then failed to disclose that information when Waxman’s committee asked about it.


Waxman’s new– and potentially explosive — evidence stems from an interview by the oversight committee of Army Maj. Larry Harrison, the Chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Albania. Harrison told the committee about a previously undisclosed November meeting that included Albanian officials and U.S. Ambassador John Withers and others from the U.S. embassy in Tirana.

I just wonder, when all is said and done, if we’ll find out that anything the Bush Regime did wasn’t corrupt.

The man is the anti-Midas: everything he touches turns to solid shit. Consider the cunning plan to increase homeownership – which failed:

WASHINGTON — Driven largely by the surge in foreclosures and an unsettled housing market, Americans are renting apartments and houses at the highest level since President Bush started a campaign to expand homeownership in 2002.

The percentage of households headed by homeowners, which soared to a record 69.1 percent in 2005, fell to 67.8 percent this year, the sharpest decline in 20 years, according to census data through the end of March. By extension, the percentage of households headed by renters increased to 32.2 percent, from 30.9 percent.

The figures, while seemingly modest, reflect a significant shift in national housing trends, housing analysts say, with the notable gains in homeownership achieved under Mr. Bush all but vanishing over the last two years.

And then there’s this spectacular failure:

At first blush, there’s nothing especially wrong with the notion of the U.S. government trying to improve the nation’s image in the Middle East. After the attacks of 9/11, American officials knew we had some work to do in the region. After the fiasco in Iraq, those same officials surely noticed that the nation’s reputation had been tarnished, and was even more in need of rehabilitation.

It’s how the Bush administration went about making these improvements that’s the problem. State-sponsored news outlets are always problematic, but the administration’s Al-Hurra initiative is one of the more embarrassing propaganda efforts in recent memory.

Al-Hurra — “The Free One” in Arabic — is the centerpiece of a U.S. government campaign to spread democracy in the Middle East. Taxpayers have spent $350 million on the project. But more than four years after it began broadcasting, the station is widely regarded as a flop in the Arab world, where it has struggled to attract viewers and overcome skepticism about its mission.


Since its inception, al-Hurra has been plagued by mediocre programming, congressional interference and a succession of executives who either had little experience in television or could not speak Arabic, according to interviews with former staffers, other Arab journalists and viewers in the Middle East.

Remember: this is the same Administration that now wants to push a war with Iran. I think we all know how that’s gonna go.

The Bush Presidency: Beyond Epic Failure.

Happy Hour Discurso

What Kind of Atheist Are You?

I’m in way too mellow a mood tonight to be laying the smackdown, and I think we’re all tired from a weekend of insane politics (and beating up Ken Ham, which was just more cathartic than I can describe), so let’s do something fun together.

No, not that. Mind out of the gutter, you! Yes, you – I see you smirking there in the back.


So here’s the bone (shadupshadupshadup!) I want to throw you:

I’ve been doing a fair bit of hanging about with various and sundry atheists in non-cyberspace lately, and I’ve noticed a spectrum. I’ve not done enough hanging about with atheists to really get a clear perspective, but I’m seeing some broad categories:

The militant atheists who’d love nothing more than to stamp out the last bit of religion – verily see it as their duty to do so;

The newly-arrived atheists who’ve just come out of the soul-shredding experience of rudely losing their faith and who are starving for confirmation that there really is life after religion;

The long-term atheists who’re tremendously comfortable with their godlessness and truly enjoy poking sticks at fundies just to watch ’em howl;

The easy-going atheists who think just about everything’s a bit of a lark, especially the silly things religious people do, and love nothing more than having a good-natured laugh over it all;

The live-and-let-live atheists who have no problem with believers who aren’t viciously trying to force their belief on others;

The who-the-fuck-cares atheists who are too busy caring about other things to give religion much thought at all, despite being surrounded by frothing fuckwits like Ken Ham (yes, I just couldn’t resist another poke – he’s such an easy target);

…and many more, I’m sure.

The point is, just like you can’t label a religious person a definite way just by virtue of them being religious, you can’t know everything about an atheist just because they’re an atheist. “Atheist” is just the big-tent label that contains a huge variety of folks. I’ve even heard of conservative atheists, although how someone can be rational enough to abandon religion and yet still buy into conservative philosophy in the current climate, I still haven’t figured out. Maybe there’s a conservative atheist around here who could enlighten me.

I wish I could tell you where I fall on the atheist spectrum. Honestly, I’m still not sure. I know I’m not militant, although there are days when I just want to take every believer in the universe by the scruff of the neck and shake the faith right out of them – we all have those days, especially after dealing with Ken Ham. But religious moderates don’t actually bother me, when I stop to think about it. After all, there’s the good believers at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, who fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the secular folk in a valiant effort to keep religious fuckery out of the public sphere. There’s my many faithful friends, who believe in a wide range of God, gods, goddesses, and other assorted supernatural beings, most of whom are rational enough not to fall for woo despite the religious streak. Their faith makes them happy, it’s not something they force on a single other soul, and there’s no way I could bring myself to take it from them. So, militant I am not, despite the fed-up days.

And who the fuck needs a label, anyway? We are who we are: complicated human beings, too complex for labels to fit most of us neatly. So let’s consider it a banquet. Which atheist dishes do you heap on your plate? Do you take a heaping helping of militancy with a side of fundie-poking? Do you load up on there’s-room-for-everybody, but pick out the Ken Ham because that just ruins the flavor? Are you newly arrived and scarfing up a bit of everything while you figure out what’s most to your taste?

And how do we show the world that there’s not a single entity behind this term “atheist,” but a whole smorgasboard of godless goodness?

What Kind of Atheist Are You?

So That's Where My Smack-o-Matic Went!

Paul at Cafe Philos gives John Freshwater a sound spanking, thus saving me the necessity:

There are a lot of John Freshwater’s out there. And, intentionally or not, they are doing their best to undermine the nation’s science education.

I pity the kids who because of some fool teacher will grow up without an understanding of evolution.

I’ve given you a mere sip of the nectar. If you haven’t had time to read the full report of Freshwater’s fuckery, you owe it to yourself to get on over to Cafe Philos and see the whole saga laid out in unrelenting detail. Paul puts many of our nation’s journalists to shame.

While you’re over there, if you’re one of those who hasn’t sampled Paul’s delights, you really must. Go on. Indulge.

Then head on over to Going Down Bitter in the Hinterlands for a post on the march to war with Iran that’s guaranteed to curl your hair – and have you screaming mad. It’s one of the best examples of using others’ words against them I’ve seen in a long while. Bitter lays out each quote in chronological order like a carpenter hammering nails into a coffin – that coffin being the final resting place of any doubt that the Bush regime has been steadily driving this country to the brink of war with Iran. We’re being played like they played us into Iraq. Well, Bitter deals back.

After your blood pressure’s calmed a mite, you can troop over to Decrepit Old Fool for a sharp-eyed look at suicide and religion:

Christianity starts with the premise that we’re all unworthy sinners, who deserve to burn in hell unless we’re redeemed by the sacrificial blood of Jesus. That’s a recipe for depression, not a cure. You can’t tout salvation from guilt manufactured by your religion itself and then try to claim the high road.

I’ll give you a hint: religion doesn’t fare well. George, you see, is a kind and gentle man, but he’s the kind of critical thinker that should have fuckwits like Ken Ham shaking in their shoes. The fact that people like Ken Ham are too willfully stupid to realize their being torn to shreds is beside the point.

Finally, by way of a palatte cleanser, you’ll be delighted by what John Pieret’s brought us by way of the latest on Expelled. Yes, there’s more!

Lucky Canadians are getting a chance to see what happens to IQs when subjected to certain versions of religious belief that require that brains be put on hold so as to not get in the way. Peter McKnight of the Vancouver Sun, who I’ve found to be a reliably intelligent and sensible voice on the topic of science and religion, has a look into Stein’s misshapen stepchild and turns up some interesting — and highly amusing — tidbits.

Trust me when I say that even after all this time, there’s still supreme fucktardeness to be mined from Expelled. Oh, yes. Yes, indeedy.

For bonus fun, go enjoy yourself John’s wonderful smackdown of Ken Ham. It’s amazing what this man can do without wielding a single expletive.

So That's Where My Smack-o-Matic Went!

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

The warpaint’s being mixed as we speak:

This morning on Fox News, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton continued his drumbeat for war against Iran. Adopting Bill Kristol’s argument, Bolton suggested that an attack on Iran depends on who Americans elect as the next President:

I think if they [Israel] are to do anything, the most likely period is after our elections and before the inauguration of the next President. I don’t think they will do anything before our election because they don’t want to affect it. And they’d have to make a judgment whether to go during the remainder of President Bush’s term in office or wait for his successor.

Bolton gamed out the fallout from an attack on Iran. He claimed that Iran’s options to retaliate after being attacked are actually “less broad than people think.” He suggested that Iran would not want to escalate a conflict because 1) it still needs to export oil, 2) it would worry about “an even greater response” from Israel, 3) and it would worry about the U.S.’s response.

Coming from a man who then went on to say how secretly thrilled the Arab nations would be if we bombed the snot out of Iran, I don’t this this assessment of the benefits of said bombing is particularly trustworthy.

Does anybody else remember a time when there was a rosy picture painted of the benefits of war against a country starting with the letter “I”? Does anybody else remember that that picture turned out to be nothing but lies? It feels like 2002/2003 all over again, only worse.

And here’s William Kristol, fucktard extraordinaire, suggesting that how soon we go to war in Iran depends on who’s likely to end up winning the election:

As Bill Kristol sees it, if John McCain wins in November (or the White House believes McCain will win in November), Still-President Bush is content leaving a confrontation with Iran to the future. If Barack Obama wins, or appears poised to win, Bush may go ahead and force the issue.

They can trust McCain to carry out their plans for war and more war. They can’t think the same of Obama, because he’s not a war-hungry, power-mad, batshit insane American imperialist. So they’ll just go right ahead and pull the trigger.

Go read the whole set of Think Progress articles. Then come back here and tell me just what the fuck we’re going to do to keep America out of a third disasterous war. It’s unbelievable just how thirsty for war these fuckwits are. I’ve seen military dictators with more passion for peace. What the fuck is wrong with the right? Why do they believe that every country that shows the slightest sign of disagreeing with us should be held at the point of a gun?

Then you might want to read up on how sensitive McCain is to other countries’ desires and needs. He can’t even get Canada right:

It’s not especially unusual for presidential candidates to engage in foreign travel during the campaign, though it may be slightly counterintuitive (candidates usually want to impress voters here, instead of heading abroad). With that in mind, at first blush, John McCain’s speech to the Economic Club of Canada the other day wouldn’t seem especially interesting.

But indicative of the kind of clumsiness and unforced errors we’ve come to expect from the McCain campaign, the brief trip north of the border turned out to be more than a little problematic. McCain said his appearance in Canada had “nothing to do” with the presidential campaign. That wasn’t true.


Canadians didn’t seem especially pleased by the campaigning.

It’s rare, perhaps unprecedented, for a U.S. presidential candidate to come to Canada and deliver a political speech in the course of an American election campaign. But here comes John McCain, right on the heels of the NAFTA imbroglio that embarrassed Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

The controversy over the Canadian leak of a diplomatic note damaging to Democrat Barack Obama has been receding with time. This can only be pleasing to the Harper team. But the appearance in Ottawa of Mr. McCain, set for Friday, is a good bet to reignite the whole business, putting Ottawa’s ignoble deed
again in the mix in the race for the White House.

That’s bad for the Harper government, bad for bilateral relations. As interesting as it is to have the Republican candidate for the presidency here, better that he stay away.

McCain didn’t take the advice.

He never does. He doesn’t care who he pisses off or who he hurts. And he likes to sing a little song about bombing other countries…

We don’t need this shit.

Happy Hour Discurso

Sunday Sensational Science

There’s water on that thar planet!

There’s been a lot of talk over the years about water on Mars. But this is the first time we’ve had definitive proof of water ice, and it even melts! Check out the lower left corner of these photos, returned by Phoenix:

See there? Those white chunks that vanished – that’s water! You can see an animated version here that really makes it pop.

This is huge.

Where there is water, there is life, at least on Earth. As part of NASA’s ongoing expedition to ‘Follow the Water,’ Phoenix is looking for signs of habitable zones, not biological life per se. It does not have the equipment to look into the ice for microbial lifeforms.

Nevertheless, if any type of Martian lifeform existed that could be seen with the naked human eye, say a Martian beetle living under a rock, the lander could easily detect it and photograph it. And, there are a few intriguing rocks in the area that the scientists’ have been eyeing. “There are rocks in our vicinity and I think half the scientists here are very curious to flip one over and see if there’s anything living beneath it or if there’s a salt concentration,” acknowledged Smith.

I don’t think the general public usually thinks of scientists as a demonstrative lot – they seem to believe scientists are a bunch of Vulcans without the weird eyebrows and pointy ears – but I can guarantee you we’ll see the scientists studying this data seriously losing their composure if a bug crawls out from under a rock.

I’m just never going to hear the end of it if we find life on Mars. My father thinks life originated there – or possibly on Venus, one of the two – and I’ve tended to chuckle at him. But imagine – we’ve just found water on Mars. Future missions will equip us to look for fossils. Can you just picture the size of the crow I’m going to have to eat if it turns out that panspermia from Mars is indeed what started life on Earth?

I’ve got a full bottle of ketchup handy, and a glass of wine to toast this mission with. One day, kids are going to look at me like I’m a nut for being so exicted over this – ‘duh, there’s water on Mars, everybody knows that’ – but there’s a chance they’ll understand just how shocking, how exhilirating, it is to know for the first time.

When I was a child, water on Mars was pretty much a myth: the poles were nothing more than carbon dioxide ice, the place was barren and lifeless, everybody knew that.

Everybody except for a few scientists crunching numbers and saying, “Hmmm. You know what…”

And my dad.

And a few freaks, but we’ve always got those.

This week, we know. We’ve got the evidence, melting right before our eyes. If that doesn’t provoke a sense of wonder, I don’t know what will. Even if Phoenix doesn’t find life on Mars, hell, there’s water. Water’s all over the place. We’re finding more in the universe all the time. And like A.J.S. Rayl said, “Where there is water, there is life…”

In a few years – or tomorrow – Rayl may not have to add that “at least on Earth” caveat anymore. If not because of Mars, because of another world where life arose from the ubiquitous water.

Talk about sensational….

Sunday Sensational Science