Saturday, January 05, 2008

Observing Evolution

No Bible Thumpers

The battle of the butterflies and the ants

Parasitic caterpillars show local evolution as never before.

Daniel Cressey in Nature

I'll take this one home: an ant is tricked into caring for a butterly caterpillar.I'll take this one home: an ant is tricked into caring for a butterly caterpillar.courtesy of David Nash

Butterflies that trick ants into helping to raise their young are driving an evolutionary arms race between the two species, researchers have found. The discovery is important to the conservation of rare Alcon blue butterflies, they say.

Maculinea alcon butterflies infect the nests of Myrmica ants by hatching caterpillars nearby, hoping that the caterpillars will be ‘adopted’ and cared for by ants that mistake them for their own young. The caterpillars achieve this by mimicking the surface chemistry of the ants. Getting this chemistry right is important: if an ant doesn’t recognize a caterpillar as one of its own it will eat it, says David Nash, a zoologist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

Successfully adopted caterpillars are bad for the ant colonies, as ants may neglect their own young in favour of the intruders. But the ants are fighting back. “The ant larvae seem to be evolving as a result of being parasitized,” says Nash. “It’s an ongoing evolutionary arms race.”

More in Nature after the click ...

My comment: Just another bit of evidence for Creationists to ponder. Darwin's view of Evolution makes much more sense than the theories formulated by bronze age, cattle-sacrificing primitives who believed all the species of animals on planet Earth lived within walking distance of Noah's house.

Updating you political portfolio

If the candidates were stocks:

Mike Huckabee would be Chick-fil-A, Barack Obama would be …

By Daniel Gross in Slate

When the presidential campaign was getting started last spring, Slate published a guide for political investors, identifying which prominent stocks the top presidential candidates most closely resembled. Political markets—like financial markets—adjust swiftly, as yesterday's winners become today's losers and growth stocks emerge from nowhere. So, we're updating our recommendations to account for the results of the Iowa caucuses.

Get the rundown here ...

He who controls the past controls the future ...

House Resolution Promotes Fake "Christian Nation" Version Of American History

Is House Resolution 888 a big deal, meaning - does it have a chance ? Well, consider that, on December 11, 2007, the soft Christian nationalist "Christmas Resolution", House Resolution 847 passed on a vote of 372-9.

So, this new resolution - which I'd characterize as "hard Christian nationalist" might just have a shot because Democratic Party politicians are terrified of being tarred as "anti-Christian" and they lack the political advisers who can tell them how to effectively deflect such attacks. So, they tend to vote as, at least, "soft" Christian nationalists regardless of their personal religious views.

Introduced by Congressman Randy Forbes December 18 in the US House Of Representatives, H. Res 888 claims to be about ""Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as `American Religious History Week' for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith."

Actually, the resolution is packed with lies - American history lies to be specific.

Chris Rodda - who just joined the Daily Kos and without whose diligence we wouldn't know about this story - tells me she suspects that the following four part "resolution" that follows the dozens of history lies packed into H. Res. 888 has been designed to pave the way for some sort of legislation that would advance fake history in some devious or crafty way and I wouldn't be surprised. Here's part 2 of the "resolved" section of H. Res. 888 :

" Resolved, That the United States House of Representatives...

...(2) rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation's public buildings and educational resources"

Help help ! They're oppressing fake history ! - It sounds like a Monty Python skit but, alas - it's real.

The rest after the click ...

My comment: And which political party do you imagine Randy Forbes belongs to?

So much for the separation of Church and State that has been the bedrock of our success as a nation. Hello, Theocracy! Better get your religion straight. Soon enough there'll be a law that will help you with that.

I posted about HR 847 earlier. You don't need a crystal ball to figure out where this is going.

Thought for the day

"There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don't."

-- Robert Benchley

Republicans ...

taking pride in their ability to slime:

Did the weakest Dem candidate for the general election won tonight? I think so. By sending forth Hussein Osama out of Iowa, Democrats have unwittingly weakened their general election prospects.

Hussein’s exotic mixture of radical liberalism, Kwanzaa Socialism, antipathy towards the unborn, and weakness against his jihadi brethren will all come back to destroy him against almost any Republican opponent, even the snake-grope from Hope.

I think we as Republicans should be celebrating tonight at the coronation of Hussein, in whose presence millions of Democrat women, from elementary school teachers to journalism majors to law school grads to dykes on bikes will go weak in their knees.

As defenders of this great Republic, and of the pinnacle of Western civilization that it represents, we should all come together tonight and agree on a common strategy that will keep the White House from becoming a madrassa.

God Bless America, Land of the Free.

Shall we examin the above for truth content?

Does the use of "Hussein Osama" confuse any issues?
Is Obama really a "radical liberal"?
What is "Kwanzaa Socialism"?
"Jihadi brethren"?
"Dykes on bikes"?
"Madrassa"? Hasn't that been debunked any number of times?

Where are the facts that support the accusations and innuendos? There are none. I get a lot of e-mail; left, right and center but I don't believe I've seen another such blast of fact-free hot air.

Anyone want to defend the tactic?

Expect more e-mail slime from the the Free Republic. They claim to represent Republicans - those folks on the right who are so full of moral indignation. I guess their morality doesn't extend to truth.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Doing some RedState/BlueState math

365,000 (approx. voter turnout in Iowa)

I don't know about you but it sorta reminds me of PACMAN.

Now ... the big question is ... will the Democrats be able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? I'm certain that, if there is a way, they'll find it!

Entertainment Tonight

I don't know what you find entertaining. Personally, I find the struggle of ideas to be the best entertainment. I'm not intrigued with television plots where the answer is revealed in an hour. I much prefer a situation where I have to wrestle with the ideas and struggle with the answers.

American Jewish University presents best-selling authors Sam Harris and Rabbi David Wolpe in a debate about the existence of God and the role of religion and faith in society. Sam Harris is a renowned atheist and author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. Rabbi David Wolpe, of Sinai Temple, is the author of Teaching Your Children About God and Why Be Jewish. This debate is moderated by Los Angeles Times religion editor Steve Padilla.

Find it here ...

In my book a debate between two intelligent and learned people beats any Law and Order marathon one could ever program.

Oh, yeah ... plan on 1 hour and 44 minutes.

"The Status Quo Lost, Change Won"

from Huffington Post by Miles Mogulescu

That's how John Edwards summed it up. And although he came in second on the Democratic side, it's the message of the Iowa caucuses.

The biggest story out of Iowa is that nearly twice as many people turned out for the Democratic caucuses as turned out for the Republican caucuses (approximately 227,000 to 114,000). In effect, in winning the Democratic caucuses with 37%, Barack Obama received more than twice as many votes as Mike Huckabee received in winning the Republican caucuses. In fact, each of the three top Democrats--Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton--received substantially more votes than Mike Huckabee. That in an historically swing state which went for Al Gore by 4,000 votes in 2000 and for George W. Bush by 10,000 votes in 2004. This augers well for Democrats expanding their base, picking up the majority of independents, winning the Presidency, and increasing their margins in Congress in the fall.

More analysis after the click ...

My comment: I remember in 2004, after Bush won his second term, friends on the right sent me a red state / blue state map and crowed about the "victory" and the "man-date". I responded then with two maps that I'd found. One was a county by county breakdown that demonstrated that Bush's narrow victory didn't represent much of a mandate. On a county by county basis, it was very easy to see that Bush lost in those places where PEOPLE actually LIVED and won in the counties where they didn't. The second map that I sent colored the states in purples proportional to the balance of the red and blue votes in each state. Why, there wasn't a single red state in the Union! Those two maps seemed to have brought the conversation to an abrupt end in 2004.

I just stumbled across this map. It gives the familiar red state / blue state spread from the 2006 presidential election with the added nicety of mapping the Top 20 American Universities.

I wonder what those maps are going to look like this time around?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

God speaks to Pat ... but not to you ...

As "700 Club" co-anchor Terry Meeuwsen explained on today's installment of the popular Christian show, "Each year, just before the first part of the year, Pat (Robertson) goes off alone with the Lord and then comes back to share with us what the Lord has shown him about the coming year." Pat then brings in every New Year by delivering the Lord's message to the staffs of Christian Broadcasting Network and Regent University. This year's meeting with God brought some interesting predictions, particularly concerning China and Christianity.

Must be nice to have a direct line ...

There you go again, Mr. Swiftboater

Return of the Swift Boaters

Christopher Hayes / The Nation

More than three years after John Kerry's bitter defeat, at the dawn of what looks like a far more promising campaign cycle for the Democrats, the party is still haunted by the specter of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Once upon a time, "Swift boat" denoted an obscure military vessel, but thanks to the activities of this group it has come to represent movement conservatism's penchant for ruthlessly (and effectively) smearing any and all political opponents, from a sitting senator and war hero to an 11-year-old boy with a cranial fracture.

Research by The Nation into Federal Election Commission records of the group's top twenty donors reveals that they've been remarkably active in this cycle, contributing and bundling nearly $200,000 to presidential candidates. This does not bode well. During the last presidential campaign, the wealthy backers of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth--now rebranded as Swift Vets and POWs for Truth--didn't do their real dirty work until the general election, where as a tax-exempt 527 group they operated outside the restraints of direct campaign contributions. We may wish we were done with the Swift Boaters, but they aren't done with us.

Wonkette summs up the Romney campaign in one paragraph

File this under: Keen observations -

Lowering expectations is near and dear the to the heart of every American and an act familiar to every American political leader, who must often promise far more than thay can or intend to deliver. And so, in a tradition perhaps as old as the Republic itself, the leading candidates of both parties are letting their supporters know, “Hey, I’m not going to lose tomorrow, but if I do it’s really no big deal. It’s all just part of the plan.” After all, pumping tens of millions of dollars into a single state contest and then losing to someone with no money who nobody had heard of six weeks ago, for example, isn’t embarrassing at all.

Source: Wonkette

My comment: Lets hear it for the Hukster!

Who Do We Vote For This Time Around? A Letter from Michael Moore


A new year has begun. And before we've had a chance to break our New Year's resolutions, we find ourselves with a little more than 24 hours before the good people of Iowa tell us whom they would like to replace the man who now occupies three countries and a white house.

Twice before, we have begun the process to stop this man, and twice we have failed. Eight years of our lives as Americans will have been lost, the world left in upheaval against us... and yet now, today, we hope against hope that our moment has finally arrived, that the amazingly powerful force of the Republican Party will somehow be halted. But we know that the Democrats are experts at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and if there's a way to blow this election, they will find it and do it with gusto.

Do you feel the same as me? That the Democratic front-runners are a less-than-stellar group of candidates, and that none of them are the "slam dunk" we wish they were? Of course, there are wonderful things about each of them. Any one of them would be infinitely better than what we have now. Personally, Congressman Kucinich, more than any other candidate, shares the same positions that I have on the issues (although the UFO that picked ME up would only take me as far as Kalamazoo). But let's not waste time talking about Dennis. Even he is resigned to losing, with statements like the one he made yesterday to his supporters in Iowa to throw their support to Senator Obama as their "second choice."

So, it's Hillary, Obama, Edwards -- now what do we do?

The rest of Michael Moore's letter after the click ...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Look around you ...

notice anyone missing?

Edit: Interestingly enough the site, Rapture 2007, has been taken down BUT Google does cache those things ...

Bush's New Resume


This individual seeks an executive position. He will be available January 2009, and is willing to relocate.

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington , DC 20520

Law Enforcement - I was arrested in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1976 for driving under the influence of alcohol. I pled guilty, paid a fine, and had my driver's license suspended for 30 days. My Texas driving record has been "lost" and is not available.

College - I graduated from Yale University with a low C average. I was a cheerleader.

Military - I joined the Texas Air National Guard and went AWOL. I refused to take a drug test or answer any questions about my drug use. By joining the Texas Air National Guard, I was able to avoid combat duty in Vietnam.


I ran for U.S. Congress and lost. I began my career in the oil business in Midland, Texas, in 1975. I bought an oil company, but couldn't find any oil in Texas. The company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock.

I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money.

With the help of my father and our friends in the oil industry (including Enron CEO Ken Lay), I was elected governor of Texas.


I changed Texas pollution laws to favor power and oil companies, making Texas the most polluted state in the Union. During my tenure, Houston replaced Los Angeles as the most smog-ridden city in America.
  • I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas treasury to the tune of billions in borrowed money.
  • I set the record for the most executions by any governor in American history.
  • With the help of my brother, the governor of Florida, and my father's appointments to the Supreme Court, I became President after losing by over 500,000 votes.

I am the first President in U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record.
  • I invaded and occupied two countries at a continuing cost of over one billion dollars per week.
  • I spent the U.S. surplus and effectively bankrupted the U.S. Treasury.
  • I shattered the record for the largest annual deficit in U.S. history.
  • I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period. - I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.
  • I set the all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the U.S. stock market. In my first year in office, over 2 million Americans lost their jobs and that trend continues every month.
  • I'm proud that the members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in U.S. history. My "poorest millionaire," Condoleeza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her.
  • I set the record for most campaign fund-raising trips by a U.S. President. - I am the all-time U.S. and world record-holder for receiving the most corporate campaign donations.
  • My largest lifetime campaign contributor, and one of my best friends, Kenneth Lay, presided over the largest corporate bankruptcy fraud in U.S. History, Enron.
  • My political party used Enron private jets and corporate attorneys to assure my success with the U.S. Supreme Court during my election decision.
  • I have protected my friends at Enron and Halliburton against investigation or prosecution. More time and money was spent investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair than has been spent investigating one of the biggest corporate rip-offs in history. I presided over the biggest energy crisis in U.S. history and refused to intervene when corruption involving the oil industry was revealed.
  • I presided over the highest gasoline prices in U.S. history.
  • I changed the U.S. policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts.
  • I appointed more convicted criminals to administration than any President in U.S. history.
  • I created the Ministry of Homeland Security, the largest bureaucracy in the history of the United States government.
  • I've broken more international treaties than any President in U.S. history.
  • I am the first President in U.S. history to have the United Nations remove the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission.
  • I withdrew the U.S. from the World Court of Law.
  • I refused to allow inspector's access to U.S. "prisoners of war" detainees and thereby have refused to abide by the Geneva Convention.
  • I am the first President in history to refuse United Nations election inspectors (during the 2002 U.S. election).
  • I set the record for fewest numbers of press conferences of any President since the advent of television.
  • I set the all-time record for most days on vacation in any one-year period. After taking off the entire month of August, I presided over the worst security failure in U.S. history.
  • I garnered the most sympathy ever for the U.S. after the World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later made the U.S. the most hated country in the world, the largest failure of diplomacy in world history.
  • I have set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously protest me in public venues (15 million people), shattering the record for protests against any person in the history of mankind.
  • I am the first President in U.S. history to order an unprovoked, pre-emptive attack and the military occupation of a sovereign nation. I did so against the will of the United Nations, the majority of U.S. citizens, and the world community.
  • I have cut health care benefits for war veterans and support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops and their families in wartime.
  • In my State of the Union Address, I lied about our reasons for attacking Iraq and then blamed the lies on our British friends.
  • I am the first President in history to have a majority of Europeans (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and security.
  • I am supporting development of a nuclear "Tactical Bunker Buster," a WMD.
  • I have so far failed to fulfill my pledge to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.
  • All records of my tenure as governor of Texas are now in my father's library, sealed and unavailable for public view.
  • All records of SEC investigations into my insider trading and my bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.
  • All records or minutes from meetings that I, or my Vice-President, attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review.

My comment: Democracy was once defined by a cynic as being the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.

Predicting the Future

What’s Your Consumption Factor?

by Jared Diamond / in The New York Times

To mathematicians, 32 is an interesting number: it’s 2 raised to the fifth power, 2 times 2 times 2 times 2 times 2. To economists, 32 is even more special, because it measures the difference in lifestyles between the first world and the developing world. The average rates at which people consume resources like oil and metals, and produce wastes like plastics and greenhouse gases, are about 32 times higher in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia than they are in the developing world. That factor of 32 has big consequences.

To understand them, consider our concern with world population. Today, there are more than 6.5 billion people, and that number may grow to around 9 billion within this half-century. Several decades ago, many people considered rising population to be the main challenge facing humanity. Now we realize that it matters only insofar as people consume and produce.

If most of the world’s 6.5 billion people were in cold storage and not metabolizing or consuming, they would create no resource problem. What really matters is total world consumption, the sum of all local consumptions, which is the product of local population times the local per capita consumption rate.

The estimated one billion people who live in developed countries have a relative per capita consumption rate of 32. Most of the world’s other 5.5 billion people constitute the developing world, with relative per capita consumption rates below 32, mostly down toward 1.

The rest after the click ...

My comment: They don't hate us for our "freedom." They hate us for our "license" (see n, definitions 3, 4a and 4b).

Inequalities in consumption are stark. Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures — the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%. More specifically, the richest fifth:
  • Consume 45% of all meat and fish, the poorest fifth 5%
  • Consume 58% of total energy, the poorest fifth less than 4%
  • Have 74% of all telephone lines, the poorest fifth 1.5%
  • Consume 84% of all paper, the poorest fifth 1.1%
  • Own 87% of the world’s vehicle fleet, the poorest fifth less than 1%

My comment: We are starting to see the consequences. People in poverty aren't dumb. They're getting angry. If you're concerned about the origins of terrorism, the difference between their access to the worlds resources and our access is a good place to start looking for them. It would also be a good place to start looking for solutions. We can either continue to strengthen our military options with the unspoken goal of killing all the angry people of the world or we can start considering what we can do to eliminate the vast disparity between those who have and those who don't.

  • Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.
  • The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the poorest 48 nations (i.e. a quarter of the world’s countries) is less than the wealth of the world’s three richest people combined.
  • Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
  • Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
  • 1 billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world). 640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services. 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (or roughly 29,000 children per day).

Source: Anup Shah, Causes of Poverty,, Last updated: Monday, December 10, 2007

My comment: So, you want to maintain your lifestyle? Be careful what you wish for. In the end, it could be a disaster ... for you and for everyone around you ... to the ends of the earth.

Seeing into the future isn't that hard.

Headline fodder

"My dog is worried about the economy because Alpo is up to 99 cents a can. That's almost $7.00 in dog money."

-- Joe Weinstein

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Mother Nature is Not Our Friend

by Sam Harris / on Edge

Like many people, I once trusted in the wisdom of Nature. I imagined that there were real boundaries between the natural and the artificial, between one species and another, and thought that, with the advent of genetic engineering, we would be tinkering with life at our peril. I now believe that this romantic view of Nature is a stultifying and dangerous mythology.

Every 100 million years or so, an asteroid or comet the size of a mountain smashes into the earth, killing nearly everything that lives. If ever we needed proof of Nature's indifference to the welfare of complex organisms such as ourselves, there it is. The history of life on this planet has been one of merciless destruction and blind, lurching renewal.

The fossil record suggests that individual species survive, on average, between one and ten million years. The concept of a "species" is misleading, however, and it tempts us to think that we, as homo sapiens, have arrived at some well-defined position in the natural order. The term "species" merely designates a population of organisms that can interbreed and produce fertile offspring; it cannot be aptly applied to the boundaries between species (to what are often called "intermediate" or "transitional" forms). There was, for instance, no first member of the human species, and there are no canonical members now. Life is a continuous flux. Our nonhuman ancestors bred, generation after generation, and incrementally begat what we now deem to be the species homo sapiens — ourselves. There is nothing about our ancestral line or about our current biology that dictates how we will evolve in the future. Nothing in the natural order demands that our descendants resemble us in any particular way. Very likely, they will not resemble us. We will almost certainly transform ourselves, likely beyond recognition, in the generations to come.

The rest after the click ...


A political sidebar:

Given the heinous human rights violations of the past 7 years, a new tradition will be started in 2009. Instead of taking the oath of office, the ceremony for transferring power will begin with the new democratically elected president kicking the previous office holder in the nuts, followed by a titty twister and head butt, then grabbing the former leader by the scruff of the neck and waistband and tossing him out of the oval office, followed by the ceremonial miming of the washing of the hands, the exhortation "and stay out!" and door slam. Once returned to life as an ordinary citizen, other ordinary citizens will have to legal right to perform the same ritual on the former president at will in what will be referred to as the law's "Deserved Asskicking" rider.

More here ...

You think you know American history?

Try taking this 22 question American history quiz and let me know how you did ...

Monday, December 31, 2007

Lost: $720 Billion. If Found, Please Return to Owner, Preferably in Cash

By Steven D. Levitt / NYT Freakonomics

According to the S&P/Case-Shiller index of housing prices, home prices have fallen by about 6 percent in the United States on average over the last twelve months. By my rough calculations, that means that home owners have lost about $720 billion in wealth as a consequence. That is about $2,400 for every person in America, and $18,000 for the average homeowner.

Relative to stock market declines, however, that loss of $720 billion over the course of the year doesn’t look quite so big. The total market capitalization of U.S. stock markets is the same order of magnitude as the total value of the housing market (between $10 and $20 trillion). In one week during October of 1987, the U.S. stock market lost over 30 percent of its value.

The $720 billion figure is also about the same magnitude as the amount of money the U.S. government has spent on the war in Iraq.

If you are a homeowner, how bad do you feel about this? You should feel pretty bad, but I’m guessing you would feel a lot worse in the following scenario: home prices did not fall at all last year, but one day you took $18,000 out of the bank to pay cash for a new car, and someone then stole your wallet with the $18,000 in it. At the end of the day, your wealth would be the same (down $18,000, either from depreciation of the value of your home or because the money was stolen), but one loss is psychologically far worse than the other.

The rest after the click ...

Jesus Was a Liberal and God is a Progressive

by Kim Mance / HuffPo

I'm sure when Jesus taught His followers to "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's," He didn't mean the separation of church and state. In fact, all those years spent in Sunday school made it pretty clear to me that Jesus was a huge fan of the way the Pharisees and Sadducees oppressively ruled over politics through their interpretation of religious doctrines.

And it's rather inspirational to think back to the many Gospel stories of the sick and dying asking Jesus to heal them. But the Son of God, in all His compassion, explained that without private medical insurance coverage, there was nothing He could do for them. It just wouldn't have been fair to the wealthy, or good for the economy.

And speaking of the economy, Jesus, of course, repeatedly taught His disciples that if they could just come up with a million-shekel idea, they wouldn't have to mooch off the kindness of others anymore. He wasn't really much into sharing. "God only helps those who help themselves," He said. Well, okay, maybe He didn't say that. But I'm sure He meant to. It's just a fluke that's not in the Bible.

The rest after the click ...