Why ID is not science …

Ed Brayton has an excellent essay on Dispatches from the Culture Wars explaining why intelligent design and creationism are not real sciences. If you know any creationists or ID supporters, refer them to this essay. It minces no words.

Oh, for Pete’s sake! It’s just a movie.

Superman in his latest incarnation is a box office smash, a suitable homage to the late Christopher Reeve’s version with a 21st century twist. Amazingly, some conservative bloggers find fault with the movie, for purely socio-political reasons. Chief among them is self-promoting expert on everything Debbie Schlussel. Who is Debbie Schlussel? Well, I didn’t know either until I started blogging. Schlussel is a sharp-tongued critic of everything to the left of her far-right agenda, especially Hollywood stars who she believes suck up to Arab ass too much. Like all conservative pundits, Schlussel takes everything in popular culture seriously, as if each song lyric, film premise or TV show spells the end of civilization as we know it. Schlussel is a Jewish Ann Coulter, if you will. Anyway, Schlussel pops up on TV and radio every once in awhile to spout her special kind of invective. On MSNBC and on her own blog, she lambasts some of the plotline of Superman Returns. I will attempt to summarize, but the links to her post and to the MSNBC transcript are below if you want the news directly from the horse’s mouth. Superman is a wimp because he leaves Earth for five years ...

Do they wash windshields, too?

Two members of the Space Shuttle Discovery crew spent nearly seven hours repairing the International Space Station, accompanying their hard work with some goodnatured repartee. Like the helpful service station attendants of yore, British astronaut Piers Sellers and US astronaut Michael Fossum joked, while they fixed a cable reel necessary for the operation of a railcar attached to the ISS. The railcar enables expansion of the ISS. They swapped a defective reel with a new one brought aboard the shuttle; each one weighs 330 pounds on Earth. In orbit, they still have substantial mass and inertia, so there were a few tense moments while Sellers, like an orbital “weight lifter,” held one in each hand. The two also learned that for space mechanics, elbow grease still works just as well as for earthbound ones. To get the reels swapped, they had to twist harder with a wrench to loosen stubborn bolts. CNN has an account of the repairs and spacewalk. Discovery is scheduled to return to Earth on the 17th. Riding Rockets : The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut Space Shuttle: The First 20 Years — The Astronauts’ Experiences in Their Own Words

Blocked blogger files lawsuit against Gov. Fletcher

Mark Nickolas, whose site BluegrassReports.org state administrators have blocked from state-owned computers, filed a suit today in US District Court, contending that Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher has violated Constitutional guarantees of equal protection and free expression. State web blocking software allowed state employees access to mainstream news sites and many conservative blogs, but prevented employees from accessing Nickolas’ site and other less conservative blogs. BluegrassReports.org has been sharply critical of the beleaguered Fletcher, whose administration has been sullied by accusations of preferential and discriminatory hiring practices. State GOP leaders have recently distanced themselves from Fletcher, who intends to run for re-election next year. Details about the lawsuit and the events leading up to it are here.

Bush’s eloquency — not!

For a Yale graduate, our prexy seems to express important ideas paradoxically like a 14-year-old. Witness this comment from his press conference in Chicago this week: “And it’s, kind of — you know, it’s kind of painful in a way for some to watch, because it takes a while to get people on the same page,” Bush said. “Not everybody thinks the exact same way we think. Different words mean different things to different people. And the diplomatic processes can be slow and cumbersome.” Yup. That’s true, but could we have expressed it with somewhat more erudition?

Now that the Shuttle is in orbit … 2

Despite all the media frenzy about the risks to the crew, Discovery successfully made orbit Tuesday and docked with the International Space Station this morning. So far the mission of STS-121 is so routine as to be boring. And that’s good. The big issue in media reports centered around the foam insulation surrounding the external fuel tank – the rusty-red cylinder carrying the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen “fuel” for the shuttle’s main engines. The insulation is necessary to keep the liquified gases cold. It also has a tendency to fall off during launch. A large chunk of insulation hit the Shuttle Columbia on takeoff, damaging its protective, heat resistant tiles. The Columbia disintegrated on re-entry on Feb. 1,  2003, as a result of the damage. Atmospheric friction burned holes through the metal skin of the spaceplane, killing all on board. NASA officials, not known for their eloquence, reported that inspection of Discovery‘s external fuel tank had revealed some fracturing or loosening of the foam insulation, but that the faults would not endanger the mission. They said nothing about endangering the crew, although it is probably what they meant. The media nearly went ape-shit, claiming NASA officials were more worried ...

Amid defensive bluster, rightwingers remove address of Jewish family

After The Daily Kos and Unclaimed Territory jumped all over them, Stop the ACLU Coalition removed from its website the address of a Jewish family in the Indian River School District in Delaware. The family was one of the plaintiffs in a suit against the school district, alleging the schools there were pushing a Christian agenda in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The family has since moved, but there is some debate whether they moved before or after the website published their address and phone. The leftwing blogosphere condemned the STACLU tactic as a fascist tactic reminiscent of white supremacist groups targeting their enemies or presumed enemies. STACLU, with its typical anti-left bluster, has since pulled the offensive post, saying it was on the advice of its attorneys. Like a schoolyard bully, it throws taunts at the left as it leaves the playground after being thrashed in a fight. Regardless of its reasons, the whole affair demonstrates not only the power of the “pen,” but the self-correcting nature of the internet. STACLU went too far. Wiser minds prevailed.

Shuttle Discovery a ‘go’ for launch at 2:38 pm EDT today

After threatening weather scrubbed Discovery’s July 1 takeoff, NASA postponed the first shuttle launch in months until (perhaps symbolically) July 4. I’m planning a more detailed post once the shuttle (shown here on the launch pad) is actually safely in orbit.

It’s the end of civility as we know it

Apparently, the latest rightwing tactic in its battle for “truth, justice and the American way” is to intimidate private citizens. Case 1. A Jewish family in Delaware has filed suit against the Indian River School District, alleging school officials of heavily pushing Christianity and alleging harassment of Jewish children. The Delaware ACLU has taken on the case, prompting a leading anti-ACLU group to post the family’s name, address and telephone number on its website. The family has since moved, fearing for its safety. The Stop the ACLU Coalition advises its readers of the rules for this new “outing the plaintiffs” program: If it’s a 10 Commandments, cross or religious symbols case, you may call only if you live in the jurisdiction. If the suit is against a county, you may call if you reside in that county. If the suit is against a city, you may call only if you live in that city. If it’s a school that’s involved such as in this one, you may call if you live in the district or have a student attending the school there or if you have a family member working there. If #s 1 and 2 do not apply, please ...

Yikes! Another graduation lawsuit!

The latest development in the continuing battle between free speech and the Establishment clause is a lawsuit brought by a high school senior against her school in Everett, Wash. Kathryn Nurre, 18, contends in a suit filed last Monday in U.S. District Court that the superintendent of her school district violated her free speech rights when he vetoed her wind ensemble’s graduation musical selection. Nurre, a sax player, and the other 16 members of the ensemble had chosen an instrumental arrangement of Ave Maria. The Everett School District superintendent,  Dr. Carol Whitehead,  believed the selection had too overt a religious theme, despite having no lyrics. She changed the graduation piece to one by Gustav Holst. Nurre claims she and her fellow musicians had no intention of making a religious statement. They chose the arrangement, which the ensemble had already performed in 2004, on its musical merits. Ave Maria, for the Latin-challenged, is “Hail Mary,” the beginning of the annunciation in Luke 1, in which the Angel Gabriel informs Mary of her unique position among women. It is a traditional Catholic prayer, taken from the Latin Vulgate Bible. Scores of musicians have set the text to music since the early Renaissance. ...

A mournful July 4th: have my ancestors’ dreams been squandered? 5

As we near the 230th “birthday” of the United States, or at least of the colonial resistance, I have been reflecting on whether I am proud of my country or ashamed of the direction it has taken these last several years. The United States of 2006 is not my image of a nation that I have lived in for a half century. Rather, USA-2006’s image merges with other, less palatable images of totalitarian countries and theocratic societies, both real and fictional. Today’s USA seem remote from the picture of the democratic, pluralistic nation the 18th century colonists worked so hard to create. About a quarter of my ancestors were among those colonists, immigrants from the British Isles seeking freedom from a nation that was oppressive socially, economically and theologically. Biographical information about those ancestors are now lost in the dim mists of time, but from the available data I can paint a rough sketch of their motivations for risking a dangerous transatlantic voyage. Undoubtedly they were mostly farmers. Some were whalers. Others sailors and fishermen. One branch consisted of Baptists, the other Quakers. We can assume that they came to the American colonies (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Long Island and western ...

Statistics tell the truth; there is no “war on Christians” 2

In the wake of the Nevada graduation speech  tempest, rightwing pundits, like Sean Hannity, are once again declaiming there is a “war on Christianity.”  It’s just a lot of hot air. Christians run afoul of the Constitution and the legal system, not because they are some kind of special group, but because they are simply the loudest and most obtrusive group. In other words, it’s the squeaky wheel  that gets the oil. Suppose we take a sample of 100 individuals representative of the US population. According to the statistics at this site, of that sample, there would be 84 Christians, two Jews, two Muslims and one Buddhist. The rest would presumably be “other,” Hindus, wiccans, pagans, atheists and what have you. Of the Christians, we could expect 52 to be Protestant, 24 to be Catholic and 2 to be Mormons. I’m not sure where eastern Orthodox would fit in. Now, let’s analyze this population sample. Of these 100 individuals, who would be most likely to proselytize, insist their religious practices should be public events, and demand their beliefs achieve primacy in US law and US schools. The Buddhist? Nope. Buddhists are pretty mellow. Ditto Hindus, if you make the possible ...
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