Thursday, September 29, 2005

Chang, the Mystical Warrior

Apparently several members of the Bush family (including Florida Gov. Jeb and former President George Sr.) are advocates of a mystical conservative warrior named Chang. Here's Jeb, in a speech naming Marco Rubio as Florida Speaker, after which he gave Marco a golden sword:
Chang is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society. I rely on Chang with great regularity in my public life. He has been by my side and sometimes I let him down. But Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down.
The Guardian article linked above also quotes Bush Sr. periodically asking during tennis matches, "Should I unleash Chang?" (Thanks to Jack Kolb on the SKEPTIC list for this item.)

Add this to the accumulating evidence for dispensationalist Christians that George W. Bush is the Antichrist, along with his former Health and Human Services director's support for RFID tags in humans. (Tommy Thompson, like Bush, is a born-again Christian who supports "faith-based" organizations getting government money.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

How many of the most-banned books have you read?

As per Majikthise and Pharyngula: How many books on the American Library Association's most-challenged books list have you read? Apparently having children gives you quite an advantage that I lack (I haven't read any of the children's books published after the 1970s). Looks like about 25 of them for me, though some of them I didn't read all of (like William Powell's idiotic and dangerously inaccurate The Anarchist Cookbook). I'm also not sure I actually read all of the Judy Blume books listed here. Do I get any bonus points for being a contributor to a challenged book (though not one of the top 100, it was actually removed from a South Carolina public library in response to complaints)?

  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ashley Smith shared meth with captor

It's now come out (via her book) that Ashley Smith, who was taken hostage by Brian Nichols after his shooting at an Atlanta courthouse, shared her crystal meth stash with her captor in addition to sharing with him about Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Life. She says in her new book that she stopped using drugs the night before she was taken hostage, and that it was her hostage experience that persuaded her that she was a drug addict.

Rates of religious belief correlate with homicide, abortion, early mortality, and STDs

Pharyngula cites and quotes from a study in the Journal of Religion and Society which observes that
In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Why "Conservatism" is Meaningless

I don't know precisely what to call this. A sad irony? A mindless contradiction? Sickening?

Here we have a guy with a "Commies aren't cool" T-Shirt on, and yet he is engaging in the most brazen form of state-worship I could imagine - short of blowing the president, perhaps.

This is why I can't stand conservatism - "neo" or "paleo", it doesn't matter.

I wouldn't be surprised if this gentleman is in favor of anti-price-gouging legislation "for the good of the country", or that he thinks "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is one of the amendments to the Constitution. It's these kinds of mindless drones that give anti-communism a bad name.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"6 Months to Nukes"

When I read this article today, I couldn't help thinking to myself that this tune sounds a little bit familiar. Then I remembered President Bush saying this just slightly more than 3 years ago:

Today Saddam Hussein has the scientists and infrastructure for a nuclear weapons program, and has illicitly sought to purchase the equipment needed to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should his regime acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year.

"Dee doo doo doo, dee da da da" is all I want to say to you.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Home values and CPI

Don Boudreaux, chairman of the George Mason University Department of Economics, weighs in - tangentially - on the housing bubble with this entry in his blog at

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Willamette Week goes through government leaders' garbage

After the district attorney, police chief, and mayor vocally defended the Portland Police Department's practice of going through people's garbage (arguing that it becomes public property when placed out on the street for pickup), reporters for Willamette Week went through their garbage. Suddenly, the police chief and mayor changed their positions (though I suspect they were legally right in the first place, and fools for not using shredders). The mayor went so far as to threaten legal action, even though all they got was her recycling (her trash was up against her house on her property, and they chose not to risk trespass). Only the DA responded without being upset.

They got the police chief's credit card number, found that his wife is a member of Focus on the Family, a summary of his wife's investments, an email to the mayor about his application to be police chief of Los Angeles, a cigar stub, and "a handwritten note scribbled in pencil on a napkin, so personal it made us cringe."

March of the Penguins: Argument for Monogamy and Intelligent Design?

Michael Medved recently wrote that the documentary film "March of the Penguins" "passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing." Andrew Coffin writes that the movie makes "a strong case for intelligent design." These claims have been rightly ridiculed all over the blogosphere.

Ed Brayton notes that there are gay penguins, as does the Reason magazine blog.

Pharyngula notes that the penguins stand by while their eggs or children are eaten, that they get new breeding partners each season (so it's serial monogamy without long-term commitment), and their practices could only have been designed by a cruel and heartless designer.

Carl Zimmer points out that if we are going to take lessons in morality from the animal kingdom, there are even more horrific examples available, which is also pointed out in the book and British TV series Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation.

The Panda's Thumb provides a similar list of links to the above, and there are enjoyable and informative comments at each of these sites, such as one commenter on Zimmer's site who pointed to this article about Boston's lesbian swans.

The variation of deviant activity in nature is greater than it is within the human species alone. I look forward to seeing an Intelligent Design theory that attempts to explain it.

Do-it-yourself satellites

This CNet article talks about the CubeSat program, which allows students to design, build, and launch their own satellites into low earth orbit (240-360 miles). The cost is about $40,000 to build and $40,000 to launch; the article quotes a Stanford professor calling these the Apple IIs of satellites.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Phoenix City Council election

City Councilman Mike Johnson was re-elected in my district (District 8) with more than 70 percent of the vote, defeating Al Sharpton protege, teenage Reverend Jarrett Maupin. Maupin, who was featured in a recent New Times article which leveled charges of institutional racism against my alma mater, Brophy College Prep, was apparently a Republican when he was at Brophy. Today he heads Sharpton's National Action Network in Arizona and has a show on Air America in Phoenix.

UPDATE (December 22, 2006): A lot of the links above have gone bad. Confirmation that Maupin was in the Young Republicans at Brophy can be found on this Brophy graduate's blog.

"Under God" is unconstitutional in Sacramento, again

The Supreme Court left the door open for Michael Newdow to bring his case again, since they threw out his case on the basis of his lack of standing (he is not the legal guardian of his daughter) and refused to address the specifics of his case. The District Court rightly relied on the precedent of the 9th Circuit's previous ruling in his case, and entered an injunction against Elk Grove schools to prohibit the use of the "under God" language. Newdow refiled the case including two additional families as plaintiffs, where there's no issue of standing to allow the case to be thrown out on a similar technicality this time.

This will go back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which will most likely rule the same way (thus making "under God" unconstitutional throughout the 9th Circuit), then get appealed again to the U.S. Supreme Court, where we will find out what John G. Roberts really meant when he said (near the end of Day 2 of his confirmation hearings) that he believes that the First Amendment protects the rights of nonbelievers as well as one religious sect against another (unlike Scalia, who said in his dissent in McCreary that government can endorse belief over nonbelief):

DURBIN: Let me just wrap this up by asking -- I think you've alluded to this -- is it your belief that what we are trying to establish in the constitutional protection on the exercise of religion is not only to protect minorities, religious minorities, but also nonbelievers?


The court's decisions in that area are quite clear.

And I think the framers' intent was as well; that it was not their intent just to have a protection for denominational discrimination. It was their intent to leave this as an area of privacy apart -- a conscience from which the government would not intrude.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Pentagon drafts new policy on first-strike use of nuclear weapons

Today's Washington Post reports that

The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

The new doctrine has not yet been approved by Rumsfeld.

Designed for Iran and North Korea?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Rehnquist remembered, Rashomon-style

Clint Bolick and Alan Dershowitz have written two very different--yet only occasionally directly contradictory--rememberances of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Bolick, in a piece distributed by the Goldwater Institute and published in the Arizona Republic, describes Rehnquist as a conservative, moderating influence on a liberal court, advocating state's rights, school choice, and presiding over a court that has been "usually (though less frequently lately) siding with individual liberty over state power." Dershowitz, on the other hand, in a piece published on the Huffington Post, describes Rehnquist as a bigot who enjoyed racist and anti-Semitic jokes, who defended the "separate but equal" doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson as a law clerk for Justice Jackson, and who began his legal career as a Republican thug who obstructed African-American and Hispanic voters at Phoenix polling places.

Bolick gives a more nuanced view that actually addresses more of Rehnquist's work on the court (though less than I would have expected), while Dershowitz emphasizes evidence of Rehnquist's personal character which mostly derives from before he was on the Supreme Court. I was surprised that Bolick didn't mention some of the recent cases (such as Raich v. Ashcroft and Kelo v. New London) where Rehnquist voted for liberty (and was unfortunately in the minority).

Yet I have no doubt that there is accuracy in both descriptions. Bolick has in the past seen people as defenders of liberty who have done much to destroy it, such as former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Dershowitz alternatively takes courageous stands in defense of liberty and crazy stands which oppose it.

One area where I was less than impressed with Rehnquist was on religious liberty, specifically for nonbelievers. He (like the majority) went the wrong way on Elk Grove v. Newdow (the Pledge of Allegiance "under God" case) and (unlike the majority) the wrong way on the McCreary County v. ACLU case (Ten Commandments display in a Kentucky courtroom which included a written statement that the display was "in remembrance and honor of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Ethics").

Friday, September 09, 2005

Space Opera in Scientology

Tomorrow's featured article on Wikipedia is "Space Opera in Scientology Doctrine," a very well-written entry that tells you pretty much all you need to know about Scientology's cosmology. Oh, the entry on Xenu is also a good one.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

NOAA bulletin about Hurricane Katrina

The apocalyptic-sounding NOAA bulletin that was released Sunday morning which Brian Williams described on tonight's Daily Show may be found online here.

The REAL Truman Show

Chris Roller's web site (, aside from being a guided tour through a profoundly disturbed--though mostly harmless--mind, is immensely entertaining. He updates it often, so it pays to visit it every couple of months.

Especially funny is the clip he's provided of a segment (an amazingly long one, considering the ridiculous subject matter) that some Entertainment Tonight clone did on his $50,000,000 suit against David Copperfield for "using his Godly powers" without his permission. You can tell they were skirting along the edge of blatantly making fun of him.

Roller must be a real trip to be around.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Paramedics in New Orleans

Here's an interesting first-hand account of trying to get out of New Orleans from a couple of socialist paramedics from San Francisco who were attending a conference. This account is critical of both the federal and local responses, but praises spontaneous individual order that kept being stifled by the officials.

Bush Disaster

Here's a great photo, via James Redekop on the SKEPTIC mailing list.

New Orleans catastrophic hurricane disaster plan

DHS/FEMA hired a Baton Rouge company called IEM to develop a "catastrophic hurricane disaster plan for New Orleans & Southeast Louisiana" in June 2004. IEM has now edited this from their website, apparently in embarrassment.

After this was pointed out in the blogosphere, IEM restored the press release.

Internal criticism

Denyse O'Leary (an appallingly bad journalist who blogs in favor of Intelligent Design) wrote that she won't become an internal critic of ID because she opposes the "academic fascism" of ID critics. I find that an appallingly weak justification for being a propagandist. Internal criticism tends to strengthen the quality of arguments and evidence, not weaken them--unless, of course, what you're advocating is false.

Evolution and economics / Daily Show and Evolution

A couple of items from Pharyngula:

1. P.Z. wonders, citing John Allen Poulos, why there's not more affinity between economists and evolutionists. What, no mention of Rothschild's Bionomics? There are some interesting comments on this Pharyngula entry, worth the read.

2. The Daily Show is going to settle the evolution vs. creation battle once and for all with a special called "Evolution Schmevolution: A Daily Show Special Report," filling the "Daily Show" timeslot during the week of September 12. This should be a good one...

Empirical argument for billboard restrictions

The Economist reports on research from Steven Most at Yale into a condition called "emotion-induced blindness" (apparently similar to and named analogously to motion-induced blindness). Most's research shows that gory and erotic images trigger a condition which lasts for two-tenths to eight-tenths of a second during which the viewer fails to process what they see immediately afterwards. This is attributed to "an information-processing bottleneck in the brain when it is presented with important stimuli," the categories in question being relevant to avoiding dangers and reproductive success, respectively.

This phenomenon provides grounds for an argument that some content-based restrictions on visual material in certain locations (e.g., alongside highways) are justified on the basis of their potential to cause physical harm. (Or that liability should be incurred for resulting accidents by those who put such material in place.)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Photography and the Occult

The NY Metropolitan Museum of Art has an exhibition on "The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult" that appears quite interesting.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Bush vs. Reality: New Orleans disaster

Pharyngula points out this latest example of a Bush statement at odds with reality:
George W. Bush, September 2005:
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."
Scientific American, October 2001:
"New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen. The city lies below sea level, in a bowl bordered by levees that fend off Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Mississippi River to the south and west. And because of a damning confluence of factors, the city is sinking further, putting it at increasing flood risk after even minor storms. The low-lying Mississippi Delta, which buffers the city from the gulf, is also rapidly disappearing. A year from now another 25 to 30 square miles of delta marsh--an area the size of Manhattan--will have vanished. An acre disappears every 24 minutes. Each loss gives a storm surge a clearer path to wash over the delta and pour into the bowl, trapping one million people inside and another million in surrounding communities. Extensive evacuation would be impossible because the surging water would cut off the few escape routes. Scientists at Louisiana State University (L.S.U.), who have modeled hundreds of possible storm tracks on advanced computers, predict that more than 100,000 people could die. The body bags wouldn't go very far."
It seems to me there's at least as much blame to place on Louisiana state and New Orleans city government as on the feds for this one.