Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Expelled! Experience! - Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

My journey into the depths of inanity continues...

00:12:19 - Robert J. Marks III
This dude claims that the young people of today are having to suffer at the hands of "Scientism." Stein then narrates that after this. I'm also starting to realize the futility of my endeavors here, because the National Center for Science Education has already done a masterful job of fisking Expelled! at Expelled Exposed, including the claims made by Marks. I'm going to keep going anyway. I'm watching this alone, and I need to vent to SOMEONE about all of the stupid... and lucky you, you're the one!

00:13:05 - It's a Mad House!!!
A clip from Planet of the Apes... My god, it's come to this.

00:13:30(ish) - Guillermo Gonzalez
To people (like me) who are intellectual masochists and follow the developments of the evolution vs. creationism/intelligent design battle, Guillermo Gonzalez is the stuff of legend... Gonzalez, a physicist, says that he was denied tenure at Iowa State University after he published a book, The Privileged Planet, that argued for intelligent design. Which is exactly what really happened... Oh wait, except that it isn't. Gonzalez says the following: "I have no doubt that I would have tenure now if I hadn't done any professional work on intelligent design." I actually believe he may be right on that: before coming to Iowa State, Gonzalez did indeed have a "stellar academic record." But as soon as he arrived at ISU, his academic throughput dropped of precipitously (there's a chart at the link above showing this), to the point where he producing zero academic papers as primary author during the three years leading up to the publication of his book.

00:15:15 - Anonymous Silhouette Scientists
"When you say 'Intelligent Design,' they hear 'Creationism.'"

Well, yeah: Intelligent Design is creationism: [The Wedge Document] [Full text of the written opinion of Judge John E. Jones from the Dover "Intelligent Design" trial... really a great read in its entirety.]

00:15:50 - Cavalcade of Rationality
PZ Myers! Richard Dawkins! Daniel Dennet (huh. I always thought he was British)! Guy who may or may not be Christopher Hitchens but it's hard to tell because the camera shot was too tight! Three's a parade of short clips from leading scientists, scholars and thinkers offering their out-and-out dismissals of ID. Everything they say is quite true, but of course all you hear is a two second clip designed to make them look arrogant, not their analysis of why Intelligent Design is -- by definition -- not science, and not scientific. It should be noted that the producers of Expelled! obtained these interviews through deception.

00:18:00 - Eugenie Scott
Love you, but man you have a messy desk.

00:18:15 - "I'm Lost!"
Ben Stein spends an a full minute pretending to be lost in downtown Seattle. Seriously.

00:19:15 - The Discovery Institute
Stein tours the offices of the Discovery Institute, the preeminent ID think tank and advocacy group. Stein talks to Bruce Chapman, founder and director of the Disco 'tute, who claims that Intelligent Design is "not a religious argument." This, despite the fact that the Wedge Document lays out the goals of the Discovery Institute as including the following:
  • "reverse the stifling [scientific] materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.
  • "affirm the reality of God."
  • "to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."
On which freaking planet is this not a religious argument?

00:21:45 - Joke FAIL
Ben Stein attempts a visual joke. It is not funny.

0025:00 - "We'll pin him down like a butterfly on a... butterfly board."
Ben Stein spends a full minute pretending to be lost in Redmond, Washington. Seriously.

I'm running out of steam on this... There's nothing here in this film. Nothing... I think this will end round two... There MAY be a part three, but I won't guarantee it. How's THAT for commitment to my meager goals?

Yikes. I had about 50 billion typos originally. Note to self: read your damn posts before you click "publish."

Friday, October 24, 2008

The whole ACORN nonsense...

First off, check out this brilliant article about ACORN at the Guradian. Why we have to check out British newspapers for reasoned analysis of American politics is frustrating beyond words... Anyway, this article does the best job of breaking down the disinformation and misinformation about this supposed "scandal" I've seen yet.

And now, for my thoughts.

Why the hell is our mainstream media helping to perpetuate a hoax by the GOP about ACORN?

That's a rhetorical question, of course. The answer is that because it's easy and it gets viewers. So much of "reporting" these days is repeating more or less verbatim what is read in press releases. There's good journalism out there to be sure, but SO much of what makes it to the average newspaper reader -- or worse, TV viewer -- is so devoid of any real substance.

Let's look at the ACORN situation. If you were to believe the GOP (and since the media has been remiss in presenting anything other than the GOP juggernaut of misinformation, many people do), you'd think that the largest instance of fraud perpetrated against the American electoral system was underway. Barrack "Secret Muslim" Hussein Obama, using his army of evil fraudster acolytes is going to steal the election! John McCain even brought up the ACORN "scandal" in the presidential debate. So it must be true, right? McCain even blamed ACORN, a relatively tiny community-oriented advocacy group, for the current economic meltdown. Ludicrous.

The problem is, this is no there there. There isn't even a there for there to be a there, if you follow...

The voter registration fraud -- and there has indeed been fraud -- has largely been committed against ACORN, not by it. Let's break this down. One goal of ACORN is to get out the vote among low-income communities to support the candidates it endorses, such as Barrack Obama. One method they use is to pay workers to obtain completed voter registrations. Some of the workers doing this work found that it was much easier to just fill out a bunch of forms themselves with names like "Donald Duck," or even, for the sake of argument "John Smith" (more on John Smith later). This is a legitimate problem, and perhaps calls into question the effectiveness of ACORN's strategy for gathering registrations, but that's an internal logistical issue, not a moral one.

ACORN is obligated, by federal law, to submit all voter registrations it receives. That means, If you're the guy at ACORN who sends off the Box O'Completed Registrations to the county offices and you see "Donald Duck" listed as a voter, you are committing a federal crime if you say "That can't be right, I'll just toss this one in the trash." They must turn in these registrations. Period. What ACORN has done, however, is flagged such registrations as fraudulent, giving the county workers a heads-up that this or that particular registration might not be valid. Nearly every instance of fraudulent registrations found originating from ACORN registration efforts was detected and flagged by ACORN in this way.

So, what about the case of John Smith, a hypothetical fraudulent voter registration with a real sounding name where fraud may not have been detected. First off, such fake registrations are, again, submitted to ACORN by people trying to make a buck. They're not showing up at the polls as John Smith to influence the election... But what if they were? Unfortunately for the Republican hoax machine, federal law mandates that a person be required to prove their identity when they vote for the first time, either with a photo ID, or with two forms of non-photo identifying material.

In instances where the worker creating fraudulent registrations has been identified, ACORN has complied with and supported their prosecution. Period.

So now on to the Barrack Obama connection to ACORN... ACORN has endorsed Obama for president. Not surprising, as ACORN does tend to support Democratic candidates. Obama's platform is very much in line with the objectives of ACORN, to be sure. During the Democratic primary, Obama's campaign partnered with an ACORN affiliate to help with their get-out-the-vote efforts. Also, during Obama's legal career, he once represented ACORN -- along with the freaking US Department of Justice -- in a case against the state of Illinois... And, that's it! That's all there is. Obama did not found the organization as part of an arcane cabal with Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Snidely Whiplash and Satan. He didn't serve on their board. He didn't use mind control powers to force people to fill out fake voter registrations.

Let's put all of this together: Barrack Obama is not tied to an evil election-stealing organization. Furthermore that organization isn't trying to steal any elections and what fraud there has been was committed against them. Furthermore, even if they were trying to steal the election, they couldn't. Also, ACORN did not cause the financial meltdown.

So, why? Why has this become the cause celeb of manufactured scandals? All of this ACORN noise is not about voter fraud. It's about two things.

The first is poor people. The Republicans are doing everything they can to (1) discourage or disable poor, particularly poor and black, people from voting in this year's election, as they would strongly tend to vote for Obama.

Secondly, in the event of an Obama win (which looks increasingly likely), the Republicans are trying to call into question the legitimacy of the election results. This way, they can always complain that Obama isn't REALLY the president and derogate everything he does with this nonsense hanging over his head.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Expelled! Experience! Part 1 - Live-blogging the worst documentary ever.

How best to capture Expelled!? This horrifically divisive Ben Stein documentary that is less about creationism "Intelligent Design," and more about how biologists = Hitler.

I'd been thinking I wanted to capture my thoughts, frustrations, and rebuttals to this film. Why? Because I need a project... In any event, as soon as the incredibly manipulative opening credits began, I decided I was going to live-blog this mofo. So here it is, I'll be watching this dreck, and whenever something happens worthy of my comment, I'll pause and write about it here...

Oh, And I'm featuring lots of links within to people who have written more extensively on particular topics than me, particularly the NCSE's excellend Expelled Exposed page.

HOLY SHIT! We're 40 seconds into this beast and I already want to scream! The opening credits superimpose film of the construction of the Berlin wall with the names of the film's crew. It's bleak, and though it doesn't show the holocaust itself, the shots shows are clearly meant to evoke the same sorts of reactions... The actual nazi imagery will come later. Remember: this is a movie about biologists and a model they've developed for understanding how species arise. This is outrageous.

00:02:38 - Montage-a-Rama
A few friendly faces: Dawkins, Dennet, PZ Myers, Australian mustache dude...

00:03:34 - BEN STEIN'S SPEAKS!
The first real scene in the film shows a large auditorium at Pepperdine University filled with people who have come to see Ben Stein talk about the evolution/ID "controversy." Some of these people look very much unlike the sort of people you would expect to be interested in hearing a minor 1980's celebrity, famous for his droning voice, talk about science and religion for hours... This probably due to the fact that the audience didn't show up to hear Stein talk, but rather, they showed up to get paid. They're extras, actors paid to appear interested in what Stein has to say. This is the first dishonest thing we see in Expelled!, but I assure you it's not the last.

00:04:45 Montage O'Science
Beautiful montage of all science has brought us in the last century... followed immediately by shots of police brutality with Stein's voiceover saying that "teh ebil scientists r taking away ur freedom!!!!1!1"

00:05:30 - Richard Sternberg
Poor guy. He lost his job with the Smithsonian and became destititute because he dared to publish a peer-reviewed pro-ID paper... Oh, except that's not what happened at ALL. The National Center for Science Education has put together a website called "Expelled Exposed," and this incident is addressed masterfully there. Check it out.

00:08:00 - Go Michael Shermer!
Go Michael Shermer!

00:09:38 - Go Dan Savage!
Okay, filthy-mouthed sex advice columnist Dan Savage does not appear and is not mentioned anywhere in this film... But the background music here served as the theme music for the Savage Love podcast for quite some time. Just think it's funny that the music the Expelled producers chose reminds me of frank discussions of anal fisting and pie fight fetishists.

00:09:53 - Caroline Crocker
Caroline Crocker was a professor at Geroge Mason University until she happened to mention Intelligent Design. As soon as she did, the University immediately hired her and she was blacklisted from working in any American university... Oh wait, except that's not what happened at all. My favorite part of this story is that there's a video featuring Crocker at Coral Ridge Ministries that tells a very different story, and even includes a bunch of slides from Croker's lecture where she touts creationism and ID... Also, when Crocker says her administrator called her into his office and told her "I'm going to have to discipline you," I got a little hot.

00:11:22 - Michael Egnor
Ugh. Michael Egnor. What a tool. Basically, he thinks that peeps in medical school don't need to learn about evolution, and pretty much everyone in the medical communiy disagrees with him, including some vocal bloggers. In this instance, that is indeed pretty much what happened. Anyone who follows developments in the ID movement will know of Egnor, so here's his Expelled Exposed profile.... Also, Stephen Novella, cohost of the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe (yay!) has made several eviscerating critiques of Egnor's postulations... Enjoy!

00:12:00 - "Darwinists"
Okay, seriously. Stop calling people "Darwinists." The other day, someone was talking about the revolution of the planets around the sun. I looked and them with spite in my eyes, said, "You god damn Copernercist!" and walked away in a huff. Also, that story is completely made up.

Okay, That's all I can take of this drivel for now. I'll return later with more.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I will watch Expelled! so you don't have to

I'm currently illegally downloading (no way I'd pay for this shit) Expelled!, the creationist propaganda "documentary" sensation of the year century millennium.

Rest assured, dear readers, that I will offer a scathing review shortly of what promises to be unbearable dreck, so you won't have to suffer through it yourself.

Or maybe not. As Rebecca from Skepchick points out, it did receive 4-stars with an "I love this film!" blurb on the DVD cover... Of course, the blurb is from Ben Stein, who may not be an entirely unbiased review, seeing as he hosts the friggin' film. Not quite dishonest to put that on the cover, but it is desperate and disingenuous.

Keep on your toes, for the stupid is about to start rolling in.

She has sportscasting experience!

Ugh... nothing but a barrage of videos from me, lately... Oh well. Here is proof that Sarah Palin's qualifications for the VP spot stretch way back:

I have to give her credit, she did better than the "Boom Goes the Dynamite" guy:

Does my love of schadenfreude know no bounds? The answer, of course is no. No it doesn't.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


First the vid:

Okay, I don't even know where to start. First, I suspect (though it is just a suspicion) that this horrible horrible woman is right about one thing: Obama may indeed be a lot less religious than he lets on. I get the sense that he's paying lipservice to religion... though he feigns faith a lot better than McCain does. Which is why MCain had to recruit a TRUE religious whackjob to his ticket.

Secondly, no. Just no. The last thing we need is a Huckabeean state based on "God's laws." That is what the people of these Muslim nations that this woman so fears have. True, the governments of those nations are built in the name of a slightly different version of the same imaginary sky god, but a true "Christian" nation would be no less scary.

Thirdly "I just can't imagine a president named 'Presdient Obama.'" Ugh... Reminds me of this winner:

And Fourthy: Should I really have spent so much time on this? The answer is no. These people of lame... End of story.

Obama's Radical Tax Agenda

So, I plan on writing more posts of real substance sometime soon, back like I did in "the day." Just been busy as usual...

In the meantime, brilliant post over at Sadly No! that lays out the ridiculousness of the latest attacks on Obama, labeling hima Socialist blah blah blah... The infamous "Joe the Plumber" says that Obama is a socialist because he wants to raise taxes on the rich a few percentage points, back to where they were before Bush.

Indeed, the tax rates for the most rich among us were, at various times in the last hundred years, MUCH higher than they were during Clinton or would be under Obama... For instance, at times when we were involved in wars consuming lots of our national resources, or, say, trying to recover from a massive financial crisis...

Blah blah blah, just check out the original post. It includes a chart that features Milli Vanilli, Cheney as Dath Vader, golf on the Moon, and Captain America punching Hitler.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A brief interlude on search statistics

So, my cute little blog here isn't exactly the most visited site on the internet, but I recently installed Google Analytics, so I could see what kind of traffic I am getting, and where that traffic comes from... I was looking at the most common search results leading to this site are, and am amused by at least one fo the results. The number listed is the percentage of people who reached this blog based on the noted search engine results:

25% "Bill Mahar Religiocity" (I'm guessing that these people were misspelling Maher's film Religulous)
11% "Joseph Smith Dildo" (uhhh.... No comment... 11%!)
7% "Just do it, as the Bible tells you so" (Nike's new slogan?)
3% "An account of when Joseph Smith was tarred and feathered"
3% "Difference between atheist and heathen"
3% "Doctor Who Silence in the Library watch"

I know I said no comment, but seriously... 11% of people reading this site are looking for something involving Jospeh Smith AND dildos... Now, granted, this is based on an extremely small sample size, but according to Google, they're each unique visitors with unique IP addresses... So there you go!

Spirit Academy

I hate reality television, and I'm not too hot on "psychics" either.

So when I saw the good people at Denialism Blog post a series of videos from a British reality series to find the "UK's Next Psychic Superstar," I clicked play, my groan reaction was queued up and ready to go...

Then I heard Patrick Stewart's narration, and my opinion of him plummeted. This was Captain Picard himself trying to get me to buy this bullshit? Had Professor X bought into psychic hokum? (Wait... Now that I think on it, Professor X was psychic. Never mind on that one.)

But I was quickly won over. I think Shirley Ghostman, the host of the show, may actually be the real deal. The scene where he channels Princess Diana made my heart skip a beat. Witness:

This is seriously the greatest show ever. :)

MINOR UPDATE: It appears that there are actually two different shows here, High Spirits, where Shirley Ghostman does a more straight forward TV psychic shtick, and the Spirit Academy reality show, wherein credulous participants unknowlingly make themselves look like fools for our entertainment... Check of the related videos for more fun... And can we get these here in the states PRETTY PLEASE!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In follow up to the last video I posted, here's this. Credit where credit is due: props to John McCain for helping to correct some of the vile, hate-filled rhetoric that has been dished out about Obama.

Saturday, October 11, 2008