Happy Hour Announcement

Happy Hour will be unavoidably detained today. You can blame this guy:

Given the choice between more Con dumbfuckery and astrophysics with Neil deGrasse Tyson, put it like this: Con dumbfuckery is forever, but Neil’s only going to be in Seattle tonight.

There’s also apartment hunting to be done.

Back soon, my darlings.

Happy Hour Announcement

Folk Medicine We Can Believe In

You know me. You know how I feel about woo. You know that I feel like a fool every time I take goldenseal and echinacea, because while my doctor swears they help colds, scientific studies are, shall we say, inconsistent at this time. And who the fuck knows what’s actually in the capsules they sell at Target – other than the placebo effect, which is what I rely on when I start feeling sniffly.

I hear the words “folk medicine,” and my first reaction is disgust. Not because there haven’t been folk remedies that work – there’s been a few, like chicken soup, with proven benefits – but usually the people burbling about them are serving up nothing but a heaping helping of woo. And when they start talking like this:

One of my friends had some trouble today – a small thing for someone employed, but like me last year health issues have stripped him of his business and they could have killed him today. More below the fold, including a folk medicine cure you can help me make …

…I start shouting “Oh, come on!” at my computer. It’s one thing to rely on folk remedies to ease the misery of a cold. It’s quite another to rely on them to save a life. And this diary sounded like it was headed into “Hey, if you’ve lost your health insurance, it’s okay – you can cure your deadly diseases using common kitchen herbs!” territory.

So of course I read the diary to find out what the folk remedy was, just so I could have a good scream.

I learned about the friend with the serious heart condition, practially homeless in Florida, suffering this bit of outrage:

Some genius decided that cutting coverage for isosorbide would be a good way to conserve Broward County’s funds after a federal block grant ran out. I guess I’m not there so I don’t know, but nitro and heart troubles seem to me like something the county would want to keep in place – it’s probably cheaper to give it free to all homeless there than it is to patch up just one or two that show up at hospitals having heart attacks because they went without.

No fucking shit, huh? At least the diarist isn’t yapping about how groovy everything is still, cuz hey, guess what, you can mix up something just like isosorbide by boiling some herbs in a saucepan! But that threatened folk remedy looms… wait for it… wait for it…

We played a little phone tag with Walgreens, found a pharmacy tech who knew how to make it work when we’re 1,300 miles apart, and that’s that. So now I’m sitting here at work banging this out and he is on a city bus going to pick up his medication.

The hell? Bought his friend the meds… Since when does the folk-remedy woo-woo crowd promise us folk remedies and buy actual prescription drugs instead? Odd, that.

And we’re coming up on the cure…

My friend is in Broward County, and that means his Congresscritter is … Lincoln Diaz-Balart. I’ve got a folk medicine cure for what ails America, but the recipe calls for the head of a wingnut and the hide of a blue dog.

… Harf?

*reads again to ensure proper understanding*

I’ve got a folk medicine cure for what ails America, but the recipe calls for the head of a wingnut and the hide of a blue dog. If you guys can come across with some $$$ via this ActBlue link we’ll be taking a step towards bumping off Diaz-Balart in 2010.

That’s the folk remedy?


Holy fucking shit, Batman! Folk medicine I can believe in! I’d so whip that shit up in my kitchen!

OK, I feel like I’ve done my part here. We’ve only got six hundred twenty more shopping days until we get to stomp the Republican again in 2010 and our candidates are going to need every dime, so dig out those debit cards and make it happen. We have to change the system … before it kills us all.

“Six hundred twenty more shopping days.” Priceless! Someone make me a countdown widget!

And Stranded Wind’s right. This is the recipe. This is the folk medicine we can believe in. The folk are going to the polls, and we’re going to give the Cons a dose of bitter medicine indeed.

They deserve it after all the bullshit they’ve made us swallow…

Folk Medicine We Can Believe In

No Respect and No Shame

Yesterday, I told you about Ed Brayton and Todd Heywood’s experience trying to cover the Michigan Republicon Party’s convention. The saga continues, with Michigan Cons denying the intrepid independent reporters media credentials for the second straight day. But this time, the Cons are on the record with their sorry-ass excuses:

Party officials described the denial as “a consequence” of Messenger’s coverage of the Michigan Republican Party, specifically Eartha Jane Melzer’s article from last September titled “Lose your house, lose your vote.” The story cited a GOP official in Macomb County as saying the party planned on Election Day to use foreclosure lists as the basis for challenging voter eligibility.

“It [the article] wasn’t very favorable to the party, and we just chose not to give you guys credentials,” said a man who would only give his first name, Greg, and identified himself as the new media coordinator for the party.

Party spokesperson Robert Wolfe denied that the GOP was censoring the media.

“We’re in favor of allowing media into our conventions that we feel are going to give us fair coverage. Based on our previous experiences with you, we do not feel that you are such an outlet,” he said.

Apparently, the Cons define the phrase “fair coverage” the same way they define the word “bipartisanship.” They also have a rather sad grasp of censorship. When you deny reporters credentials with which to cover you because you’re afraid they’ll write something honest, you have just censored the media. It may not be the dictionary definition, but that is the effect. And it’s anathema in a democracy.

Ed is righteously pissed:

The upshot of all this is quite simple. It’s an attempt by the Republicans to intimidate news outlets into giving them favorable coverage. The message is clear: you do a story about us that we don’t like, we’ll shut you out and you won’t get any access. This has been going on for months. We’ve gotten no response at all out of Michigan Republicans, including government officials in office, virtually since the story broke.

And the most grating thing about it: they didn’t have the courage to just tell us that up front. They didn’t return our calls all week seeking credentials for the convention. And when we got there last night, they lied right to our faces and told us that we didn’t need credentials, only to find out later that we did and that they wouldn’t allow us on the convention floor. And the media coordinator refused repeatedly to tell us who made the decision so they could be held to account for it.

Not only are they corrupt, not only do they not give a damn about freedom of the press, not only are they authoritarians who seek to punish legitimate news outlets that dare to publish true stories that make them look bad – they’re also cowards to boot.

Lying, corrupt cowards – yup. That’s the GOP in a nutshell. Ed forgot the part about them being tantrum-throwing toddlers, but I guess that goes without saying by now.

Two sound thrashings didn’t work. Looks like we’ll have to throw them in kiddie boot camp next election. Prepare to proffer political pain, my poppets. And a variety of other Con-pummelling slogans that don’t necessarily employ the letter P, but come down to one thing: the only way these sons-of-motherless-goats will ever be taught the proper respect for the press and our political system is by dealing them yet another resounding electoral defeat.

Not that the third time’s the charm with fucktards this dense, but at least there won’t be so many of them around screwing things up.

No Respect and No Shame

¡Viva los Fósiles!

Ron Britton called, and many have answered. Including uno en español at La Columna de Cristal. Muchas gracias, Gen! And here’s hoping you’ll forgive my atrocious Spanish grammar.

Friend of the cantina and official Thinking Brain Dog Cujo359 did his duty.

The Gaytheist Agenda not only has the fossils, but the links.

Cognitive Dissident has more Dawkins!

Parrotlover77 links to the Tiktaalik Song.

Creationist Idiocy presents Neil Shubin on Tiktaalik.

Verbal Razors joins the revolution.

The Atheist Librarian is the one who came up with that gorgeous smack-down: “This is Tiktaalik. He is an example of a true Transitional Fossil. He has both fishy and lizardy parts. I really don’t know what more fundies want.”

Brilliant. ¡Viva los Fósiles! ¡Viva la Revolución!

But eight really isn’t enough. If you joined the revolution, let me know in comments. If you didn’t, join the revolution and let me know in comments. No excuses.

And Ron? Flattery gets you free drinks for life at the cantina. Once we figure out how to pour alcohol through the intertoobz, anyway….

¡Viva los Fósiles!

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

I look at these idiots, and the only thing I can think is “barking fucking mad:”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has said he’ll reject some of unemployment insurance from the federal stimulus package. Not to be outdone, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) said he’ll not only reject unemployment insurance, but will also “not take $42 million in funding for green buildings.”

Yes, because there’s nothing worse than paying construction crews to make buildings more energy efficient.

There’s apparently a race among some far-right Republican governors — all of whom are already eyeing the 2012 presidential race — to see who can be slightly crazier than the other. Jindal is clearly a contender, and Sarah Palin and Mississippi’s Haley Barbour are obviously in the mix, but Sanford seems especially driven to get out in front of the pack.

It’s leading him to make unusually ridiculous decisions affecting the people in his state, while making truly odd policy prescriptions.

Sanford, asked about the stimulus, said he would probably reject some of the funds. “I think it’s a bad idea,” he said of the package. “Period. Exclamation point.”

“Good medicine to the wrong patient ultimately makes the patient sicker,” Sanford continued. “What we’re dealing with here is a fundamental misdiagnosis of the problem.”

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) told the WaPo, “I think people will … understand that it’s political posturing and you’re playing with people’s lives, and that’s a very, very dangerous game.”

That’s true, but for Sanford, it’s a dangerous game he can win by losing — he “wins” by currying favor with unhinged Republican activists, while “losing” as his state’s economy deteriorates and his constituents suffer.

The shape of the Con field in 2012 is shaping up as a contest between dumb, dumber, and outright fucking insane. In the meantime, there are real people in these states who will suffer so that these fucktards can play their political games. We’ll see what that does for them.

And as if we don’t have enough insane shit to deal with, here’s another George Bush tossing his dumbshit opinions around:

Delivering a speech before the Young Republican National Federation yesterday, George P. Bush — the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — ripped current Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) for being a “D light” (Democrat light). “There’s some in our party that want to assume that government is the answer to all of our problems,” Bush said. “I’m not going to name any names,” he added, but told the crowd, “You know who I’m talking about.” He clarified later:

Afterward, Bush said he doesn’t think Crist is a fiscal conservative and that he may have hurt himself with some Republicans for his appearance with Obama and his support of the stimulus plan.

“That will be on his track record and people are going to remember that,” Bush said, adding that Crist is running the risk of falling in the “D light” category of the party.

What does the young George P. Bush think of his uncle’s “track record”? President George W. Bush presided over the greatest expansion of government spending since World War II. “As a result of all this spending, the country has gone from a $128 billion budget surplus when Mr. Bush took office” to a deficit exploding over $1 trillion when he left office.

No word on that. I’d imagine his memory is just as selective as the rest of the Cons. And he’s got political aspirations, although he wants to “obtain success in my own right” first. What the fuck ever. I’ll guarantee you that we’ll have another George Bush running for office within the next four years – as if this country hasn’t suffered enough with the first two. If previous patterns are anything to go by, this one will be more batshit insane than the second one, who was exponentially worse than the first.

And as if Zombie Bushes weren’t enough, we’ve got Mitch McConnell busy spreading zombie lies:

In his first budget, President Obama apparently plans to keep his campaign promise to let the Bush tax cuts expire for Americans making over $250,000 a year. And just as during the election, Republican leaders are falsely claiming that Obama’s proposal constitutes a tax hike on small business owners. This time, it is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell echoing John McCain and Joe the Plumber in spreading the lie.

McConnell’s myth-making came during an appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” (WMV and QT videos here.) There, he fired the first salvo against President Obama’s plan to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who need it least. Claiming that “a vast majority of American small businesses pay taxes as individual taxpayers,” McConnell thundered:

“I don’t think raising taxes is a great idea, and when our good friends on the other side of the aisle say raising the taxes on the wealthy, what they are really talking about is small business.”

Of course, they’re not talking about small business. As CNN concluded in October, “fewer than 2% of small business owners would pay more under Obama’s plan.”

As it turns out, McConnell is merely parroting the same fraud now that John McCain tried to perpetrate then. Last fall, then Republican presidential candidate McCain attacked Obama, wrongly asserting, “The small businesses that we’re talking about would receive an increase in their taxes right now.” As it turned out, McCain’s human shield and faux small business owner Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher will receive a tax cut, and not an increase, under the just passed Obama stimulus package.

But in case there was any doubt the Republicans’ deception on the point, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center quickly put it to rest. As the Obama campaign correctly claimed, 98% would see their taxes decline or remain the same…

Is there anything about reality that penetrates through their thick skulls? Any fragment, any factoid, any one fucking thing?

I didn’t think so.

And just when you think you’ve seen the limits to their insanity, they manage to find a new depth to the deep end:

Why is it so painfully difficult to take the Republican Party seriously in the 21st century? Because they haven’t quite figured out that credibility comes with a degree of political maturity. Take Sen. Richard Shelby (R) of Alabama, for example. (via Ben Smith)

Another local resident [in Cullman County, Alabama] asked Shelby [yesterday] if there was any truth to a rumor that appeared during the presidential campaign concerning Obama’s U.S. citizenship, or lack thereof.

“Well his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate,” Shelby said. “You have to be born in America to be president.”

According to the Associated Press, state officials in Hawaii checked health department records during the campaign and determined there was no doubt Obama was born in Hawaii.
The nonpartisan Web site Factcheck.org examined the original document and said it does have a raised seal and the usual evidence of a genuine document. In addition, Factcheck.org reproduced an announcement of Obama’s birth, including his parents’ address in Honolulu, that was published in the Honolulu Advertiser on Aug. 13, 1961.

This kind of stupidity took a right turn at annoying quite a while ago, and now rests comfortably in the realm of madness. When Alan Keyes launches into a ridiculous tirade about the president’s birth certificate, it’s not especially surprising — Keyes, based on all available evidence, is apparently not well. Anyone looking for lucidity from the poor man is bound to be disappointed.

It’s far more annoying to have elected Republican officials in Tennessee signing on as plaintiffs in a lawsuit “aimed at forcing” the President to “prove he is a United States citizen.”

But the Shelby example is a different magnitude of idiocy. Shelby isn’t just some random yahoo with a right-wing radio talk-show; he’s a four-term United States senator. He’s the ranking member on the Senate Banking Committee, for crying out loud. It’s incumbent on him to be somewhat coherent and conduct himself with at least a little sanity.

Apparently, such things as coherence and sanity are no longer requirements in the Republicon party. Oh, granted, someone in his office is making a weak attempt at claiming that’s not really what he meant, but how the fuck do you spin “I haven’t seen any birth certificate” into anything remotely resembling, “President Obama is an American citizen and I have no doubts as to his citizenship”?

You can’t. All you can do is marvel over how truly fucked-up these idiots have become.

Happy Hour Discurso

Sunday Sensational Science

Transitional Fossils

Ron Britton, one of the Masters o’ the Smack-o-Matic, recreated this wonderful poster that really says everything one needs to say when arguing evolution’s case. He says:

I’ve always liked this poster. The evidence for evolution goes way beyond the fossils, but this poster summarizes the fossil evidence quite well. One of the things creationists are always claiming is that there are “no transitional fossils!” Well you’re staring right at one!

All of you evilutionists should know that transitional fossil by sight. For the rest of you, we’ll be revealing its identity shortly.

If the creationists were right, I wouldn’t be able to write this post for lack of fossils. In fact, I have the exact opposite problem. Here’s a partial list of transitionals. Keep scrolling. And scrolling. And scrolling. And once you’ve finally reached the bottom of that partial list, keep something in mind: it was last modified in 2001, before many of the spectacular finds I’ll be highlighting in this post were made.

That’s a hell of a lot of transitional fossils the creationists have to pretend don’t exist, isn’t it?

I’m currently re-reading Richard Dawkins’s wonderful book The Ancestor’s Tale, and before we dive into the transitionals themselves, I want to share several insights I’ve gleaned. One of the major confusions, and the hardest thing to explain to folks who don’t know much about evolution, is how species transition from one to another. People tend to see evolution as a series of discrete steps instead of cumulative, gradual changes. That’s why you get IDiots demanding to know why there’s no cat-dog in the fossil record.

Dawkins handles this rather nicely:

It is true that when we look at living species, we expect members of different genera to be less alike than members of different species within the same genus. But it can’t work like that for fossils, if we have a continuous historical lineage in evolution. At the borderline between any fossil species and its immediate predecessor, there must be some individuals about whom it is absurd to argue, since the reductio of such an argument must be that parents of one species gave birth to the child of the other. It is even more absurd to suggest that a baby of the genus Homo was born to parents of a completely different genus, Australopithecus. These are evolutionary regions into which our zoological naming conventions were never designed to go.

When we consider transitional fossils, then, it’s best to remember that they’re capturing a moment in time. They’re like snapshots. There were plenty of individuals both before and after the transition that were shading from one thing to another.

The diagram below captures the essence of this fairly well, albeit without the shading. Notice the relationships. We’re not walking a straight line from Australopithecus to Homo erectus to Homo sapiens here.

Here’s another evolutionary fact to keep in mind. Dawkins, tracing humanity’s ancestry back to a small shrew-like mammal he calls Henry, shows how species diverge:

Long-distance ancestry, of a particular group of descendants such as the human species, is an all-or-nothing affair. Moreover, it is perfectly possible that Henry is my ancestor (and necessarily yours, given that you are human enough to be reading this book) while his brother Eric is the ancestor of, say, all the surviving aardvarks. Not only is it possible. It is a remarkable fact that there must be a moment in history when there were two animals in the same species, one of whom became the ancestor of all humans and no aardvarks, while the other became the ancestor of all aardvarks and no humans. They may have met, and may even have been brothers. You can cross out aardvark and substitute any other modern species you like, and the statement must still be true. Think it through, and you will find that it follows from the fact that all species are cousins of one another. Bear in mind when you do so that the “ancestor of all aardvarks” will also be the ancestor of lots of very different things besides aardvarks (in this case, the entire major group called Afrotheria… which includes elephants and dugongs, hyraxes and Madagascan tenrecs).

By now, you should be getting the feeling that finding a transitional fossil isn’t necessarily like filling in a gap on the family tree. The gaps in our fossil record aren’t so concise as, say, Grandmother, blank spot, granddaughter. In the case of a genealogical chart, we know there’s one and only one way to fill in that blank: with a mom. In the fossil record, it’s more like a series of “moms,” all a little bit less grandmother and getting closer to granddaughter. And, just like mothers can give birth to more than one granddaughter (or grandson), one species can give rise to several, who eventually become so different from one another that it’s hard to comprehend that they were ever related at all, even distantly. (I’m sure many of us feel that way about our distant ancestors, comes to that – I’m sure that if I ran into the cave-dwelling couple who, 20,000 years ago, started the lines that eventually led to me and, say, the Kiowa, we wouldn’t have plenty to talk about. We’d seem absolutely alien to each other. Yet, there we are – related. They’re my ancestors, while not a single Kiowa is. Interesting, eh?)

Now that you’ve been hedged about with all of the proper caveats and such, I feel comfortable showing you a pretty straightforward evolutionary line.

We were fishes once, and young. At the bottom, you see an undeniable lobe-finned fish, Eusthenopteron. These darlings had all of the necessary equipment to start us on the road to land – nostrils (in their case, internal), “a distinct humerus, ulna, and radius (in the fore-fin) and femur, tibia, and fibula (in the pelvic fin).” Those bits probably sound familiar, especially to those of you who have broken any of those bones.

Onward we go, through Panderichthys, whose fins are still very much fins but showing clear signs of headed toward tetrapod limbs, and whose spiracle, a nifty little bit of anatomy that allowed it to breathe water through the top of its head, eventally became our ear’s stirrup bone. We’re getting closer to land, and then, ZOMG, there’s a gap!!1!11!

You can see it in that red bit in the line, there. Acanthostega used to be our next fossil in line, and it had true limbs, complete with really-real toes. How the hell did we get there from the mostly-finny fins of Panderichthys? And that’s where one of the greatest demonstrations of the predictive power of evolution comes in:

The scientists who discovered Tiktaalik made a threefold prediction, based on evolutionary theory: that such a creature would exist, that it would be found in rocks in a certain location, and that it would be found in rocks of a certain age. They went to this area explicitly because other primitive tetrapods had been found there, and searched in Late Devonian strata because more fish-like creatures were known from earlier strata and more tetrapod-like creatures were known from later strata. And all three of these predictions were borne out by the evidence.

Tiktaalik, it turns out, has plenty to tell us about the transition from water to land, which is why it’s the perfect subject for Ron’s evolution poster:

Meticulous studies of the internal structure of the cranium from several fossil fishapods, T. roseae, reveal the step-wise process that morphological changes followed as terrestriality evolved in tetrapods. [snip] “The braincase, palate and gill arch skeleton of Tiktaalik have been revealed in great detail,” reports Jason Downs, a research fellow at the Academy of Natural Sciences who is the lead author of the study. “By revealing new details of the pattern of change in this part of the skeleton, we see that cranial features once associated with land-living animals were first adaptations for life in shallow water.”

Well, that’s what makes transitionals so interesting, innit? They demonstrate how we got here from there. And if we have a here without a there, we know that all we have to do is go look – there will be a there there. In fact, don’t be surprised if we find several fossils that have paleontologists arguing over whether they’re Tiktaalik or Panderichthys – there’s bound to be some hard-to-classify versions that represent transitions between the two. Many fossils have led to constant quibbling, reshuffling, redefining, and a variety of interpretations that might drive you absolutely nuts until you realize that kind of uncertainty is a good thing. Here’s Richard Dawkins again:

If you think about it, we should be worried if there
not disagreement over the divisions. On the evolutionary view of life, a continuous range of intermediates is to be expected.

Conversely, of course, we shouldn’t panic if we can’t find those intermediates right off – we’re lucky, between the vagaries of decomposition, critters scavenging other critters, and chemical and mechanical weathering, not to mention the grand finale of plate tectonics, that we have any fossils at all. There are some transitionals we may never find, simply because they didn’t get preserved. Put it like this, though: we know they lived. You wouldn’t claim you didn’t have a great-great-great-great-grandmother just because all the records about her got destroyed in fires and floods and various other mishaps, now, would you? She obviously existed – otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Same thing with the transitionals.

And there’s always the chance we’ll come across her records in unexpected places, which would leave those arguing against her existence looking rather foolish. Check out these beauties, found just within the last decade:


The latest Nature reveals a new primitive mammal fossil collected in the Mesozoic strata of the Yan mountains of China. It’s small and unprepossessing, but it has at least two noteworthy novelties, and first among them is that it represents another step in the transition from the reptilian to the mammalian jaw and ear. [snip] In us, the old articular and quadrate bones have completely lost their role in supporting the jaw as a joint and instead have become imbedded in the middle ear of mammals, suspended with the stapes between two delicate membranes to specialize in conducting sound vibrations to the inner ear. What does the hearing apparatus look like in Yanoconodon?

I’m going to be cruel and force you over to Pharyngula to find out.


Now, Matt Friedman from the University of Chicago has described a new transitional fossil that is one of the most dramatic yet. Its name is Heteronectes (meaning “different swimmer”) and it’s a flatfish, but not as you know it.

You’ve probably eaten flatfish before but tasty fillets of plaice, sole or halibut give few hints about their extraordinary physical specialisations. They are fish that live on their sides and their flat profiles make them both efficient hunters and difficult prey. For other fish, lying sideways would give one eye a useless view of sand but flatfish have adapted accordingly. Their fry resemble those of other fish but as they grow, one of their eyes makes an amazing journey to the other side of its head. The adults look like they’ve swum out of a Picasso painting.

But Heteronectes is a half-committed flatfish. Like modern representatives, its skull is asymmetrical and one eye has begun migrating to the other side of its head. But it hasn’t made it all the way round and stops near the midline without crossing to the other side. No living flatfish has eyes arranged in such a way. We couldn’t have wished for a better intermediate form – it’s a marvellous missing link between the standard fish body plan and the distorted visages of flounders and soles.

Ed Yong’s post is wonderful, but don’t stop there – click the photo for some classic snark from the University of Chicago’s news room. Take that, creationists!

There’s so much more where that came from – I mean, just a single page search on Pharyngula turns up a snake with legs, a transitional turtle, a water-going whale ancestor that gave birth on land, ancient arachnids… and that’s not even beginning to scratch the surface of what comes up when you search for transitionals on ScienceBlogs. You could fossilize a creationist underneath that strata of fossils.

So I think we’ll just end with some videos from Afarensis instead:

Not a bad haul from an evening’s digging, eh? If this post got you as excited over transitional fossils as it should have, do Ron Britton a favor – copy that wonderful Tiktaalik poster at the beginning and post it on your own blogs. It nearly went extinct, but, as Ron says, ” If we can get enough members of this species onto the internet, it will reestablish itself as a self-sustaining population.”

Conservation is always a worthy goal. Especially when the message is so damned true.

Sunday Sensational Science

Afraid of Independent Press, Are We?

I’m not sure if Ed Brayton’s experience with the Michigan Con party is more funny, pathetic, or outrageous:

On Friday night, I went with my colleague from the Michigan Messenger, Todd Heywood, to cover the Michigan Republican state convention in Lansing. We got to the convention center and stood in line at the registration desk to find out where we got our press credentials. A lady there then told us to go over to the hotel, right next door, and to a particular room.

So we go to the hotel, go to that room, and talk to the person we were told to talk to. He tells us that we don’t need any special credentials at all, we just had to sign in – so we did.

So far, so good, right? They’re in and doing what professional journalists do – i.e., acting as the watchdogs of democracy – which is where problems arise. Todd got stopped by one of Attorney General Mike Cox’s aides while trying to snap a picture for the paper.

Finally Todd asked what he was doing and the guy asked if he was media. He said yes and showed him his ID from the Michigan Messenger and the guy says no, you need a green media pass to be here. So Todd goes back to the guy who told us we didn’t need credentials and the guy told him that, in fact, he had lied to us and that the decision was made not to issue credentials to anyone from the Michigan Messenger. [emphasis exasperatedly added]

Ladies and gentlemen, the Michigan Republican Party.

Not only are they still addicted to censorship, even their minions are pathological liars. Is it any wonder I hope the Con party ends up ratfucking itself out of existence?

Afraid of Independent Press, Are We?

Adios, Socks

He made it through the Clinton era, the Bush years, and caught a glimpse of the age of Obama, but that’s as far as he goes. Cancer just caught up with Socks, the former First Cat.

It’s not many cats who’ve had such long, rich lives, or got to have their say in the White House press room. Appropriate that a superstar feline ended up in Hollywood, eh? Even if it was Hollywood, MD, not CA. He spent his final years in quiet, happy retirement, getting fed chicken dinners by Bill Clinton’s former secretary, Betty Currie, and putting in the occasional celebrity appearance to help less fortunate felines. He was an awesome cat, and he’ll be missed.

Hasta luego, muchacho. Salud.

Adios, Socks

Where Are They Now? The Mercenaries Formerly Known As Blackwater Edition

Blackwater’s stock hasn’t been rising. The company’s come under fire for firing on Iraqi civilians, and both Iraq and the State Department planted a judicious boot up their arses. What’s a band of murderous mercenaries to do but change their name? Because, like Cons, Blackwater – um, excuse me, Xe – thinks it’s all about branding rather than the product.

They maybe shoulda researched the name first:

Over at my home blog of Mercury Rising, one of my co-bloggers, MEC, noticed something a wee bit interesting about Blackwater’s name change (and, they apparently hoped, reputation change) to “Xe” — namely, that there’s already an “XE” out there and they care about their copyright:

“XE”, “XE.COM”, “UNIVERSAL CURRENCY CONVERTER”, the XE logo, the spinning currency logo, and other identifying marks of XE are and shall remain the trade-marks and trade names and exclusive property of XE CORPORATION, and any unauthorized use of these marks is unlawful.

Deary, deary me. Looks like the corporate lawyers shall be rolling up their sleeves and deploying the cease-and-desist letters. And in a battle between an army of lawyers and an army of mercs, I know who my money’s on.

If anyone wants to float some potential names for Blackwater now they’ve lost their first choice, I’ll be happy to pass them along.

Where Are They Now? The Mercenaries Formerly Known As Blackwater Edition

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Vote for the Cons in 2010 and kiss your stimulus goodbye:

It’s good to have dreams and aspirations, isn’t it? Too bad that the Republican party’s aspirations appear to be centered on destroying the country. After two decades of nearly unfettered access to run the nation, the Republicans are trying their damndest to obstruct and torpedo the stimulus bill and any success that President Obama might have.

And they actually think this will win them supporters. Astonishing. Even David Frum, who hasn’t seen a really bad idea he wouldn’t cheerlead, as long as it came out of the mouth of a Republican, thinks the GOP is “brain dead”.

Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01) goes on FOX News and vows that the Republican Party will cancel the stimulus bill if they retake the majority in 2010.

This grandstanding may play well with their shrinking base, but to retake a majority, they’ll need support from independents. And “Vote for us – we’ll stop the stimulus!” seems a slogan destined to lose with that crowd. For a party attempting to climb out of the political toilet, they’re doing a fine job of going the wrong way up the U-bend.

And there’s no sign they’ve realized their mistake:

Watching conservatives talk about the economic crisis, the arguments start to have a certain “Groundhog Day” quality.

On MSNBC, Pat Buchanan perpetuated the myth that government efforts to expand affordable housing to underserved communities caused the financial crisis, a charge that has frequently taken the form of attacks on the Community Reinvestment Act. In fact, as Fed chairman Ben Bernanke has stated: “Our own experience with CRA over more than 30 years and recent analysis of available data, including data on subprime loan performance, runs counter to the charge that CRA was at the root of, or otherwise contributed in any substantive way to, the current mortgage difficulties.”


When I saw Media Matters’ item noting Pat Buchanan blaming “minority communities” for the financial crisis, I had to triple-check the date to make sure it wasn’t a piece from last year.

Didn’t we already have this debate? Isn’t it already clear that the conservative talking points were wrong in October, and haven’t improved with age?

Steve Benen, generous soul that he is, goes on to speculate that con media mouthpieces know they’re wrong, but are stuck repeating old talking points because they haven’t yet formulated new ones. Myself, I think it’s because they’re genuinely too clueless to understand they’ve been debunked. And they’re relying on an electorate that’s just as uninformed as they are. Sadly, at least 30% of the country can be relied upon in that regard.

However, even an appreciable fraction of that 30% can, with encouragement and a few tries, think their way out of a brown paper bag. Antics like this might get a few synapses filing in the “What the fuck?!” centers of their brains:

Man, the NRCC under Pete Sessions is even more hilarious than last year’s model.

As Republicans who voted against the stimulus package (by which we mean, every single Elephant in the House) step up left and right to try to take credit for the stimulus jobs, the NRCC is busy firing off ads and robocalls targeting vulnerable Democrats for voting for the stimulus.

Which means that House Republicans hate the stimulus, voted against it, but they’re super excited about the tax cuts and jobs and infrastructure and all the mega-awesome stuff the StimPak is actually gonna do…but damn all those Democrats to hell who actually got it done!!!

That’s an impressive, if risible, series of reversals in and of itself, but as the Detroit News’ Gordon Trowbridge notes, the actual content of their robocall hitting Michigan Democrat Gary Peters is even better:

The National Republican Campaign Committee said Friday it will launch a robocall campaign targeting freshman Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, for his vote on the “wasteful spending” stimulus bill. But the research team at the NRCC might want to think a little harder about the “wasteful spending” it cites in Michigan.

Amid the smoking cessation and STD prevention programs the NRCC cites as evidence of Peters irresponsibility come “$1 Billion for Advanced Battery Loan Guarantee Program” and “$600 Million for cars for government employees.” The fact that Michigan lawmakers of both parties pushed for the advanced battery funding apparently didn’t occur to the NRCC. Nor did the fact that those cars for government employees would be build by Michigan-based manufacturers.

Wow. Just… wow. If we had to depict the above graphically, it would look something like this:

Or perhaps this:

Which may explain why the job market is a little reluctant to absorb some of these assclowns:

The Wall Street Journal reports today that “for many of the roughly 3,000 political appointees who served President George W. Bush, [f]inding work has proved a far tougher task than those appointees expected”:

Only 25% to 30% of ex-Bush officials seeking full-time jobs have succeeded, estimated Eric Vautour, a Washington recruiter at Russell Reynolds Associates Inc. That “is much, much worse” than when Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton left the White House, he said. At least half those presidents’ senior staffers landed employment within a month after the administration ended, Mr. Vautour recalled.


Paul Krugman observes, “[I]t appears that wingnut welfare is breaking down when it comes to former Bush officials.”


As for signs that the Cons may acquire a clue: if California is any indication, we’re in for a long wait:

It’s amusing to consider how the beginning of this excerpt relates to the end of this excerpt. (thanks to reader G.B. for the heads-up)

The 1,400 Republican activists heading to Sacramento this weekend for the twice-yearly GOP convention will be united by a single concern: how to lift the state party out of the deep hole it’s dug in recent years.

Reeling from their failed attempt to block tax increases in the state budget, their worst presidential defeat in decades, losing seats in the Legislature and watching party membership shrink, California Republicans know something has to be done soon if the party wants to hang on to what’s left of its statewide clout.

“We have to get out of the doldrums from the November election,” said Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette, the party’s vice chair. “We need to rally people.”

That won’t be easy. The convention opened Friday, just a day after Democrats — and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — steamrolled over GOP opposition and managed to pass a state budget plan that included tax hikes opposed by all but a handful of Republican legislators.

Convention delegates are expected to vote Sunday on a motion to censure the six Republicans who voted for the tax increases.

Punishing people for doing the right thing, driving out the few relatively sane Republicans left in the party, and campaigning simultaneously for and against the stimulus, therefore shooting their chances for political survival in both feet with a rocket launcher.

It’s probably best to stop thinking of them as a political party and start thinking of them as absurdist performance art instead.

Happy Hour Discurso