Friday, June 30, 2006

Some More Good News


Ever since NASA's chief determined that the Hubble would be left to crash to Earth in a degenerating orbit, I've wondered just how much more science they'd be able to get out of it first.

When news came that the main camera had lost power, I was pretty damn bummed at the apparent answer. Since that meteoric death-dive is still a few years off, this really is great news.
NASA revives main Hubble telescope camera
By ALEX DOMINGUEZ, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 6 minutes ago

BALTIMORE - The main camera on the Hubble Space Telescope came back to life Friday for the first time in nearly two weeks after NASA engineers switched to a backup power system, the space agency announced.


The Advanced Camera for Surveys shut down June 19 after voltage readings exceeded the acceptable range. The switchover to the backup system began Thursday afternoon and was completed Friday morning, NASA said.
While the Agency has stated that they're giving serious consideration to methods of extending the space telescope's life-span in orbit, the fact remains that such a complex artifact really does have a necessarily limited mission capability. That's just the "nature" of the materials from which it's manufactured, coupled with the expenses of sending folk to maintain it and replace parts as needed.

That's why I'm in complete concurrence with Ed Ruitberg's opinion and encouraged by his prognosis.

"This is the best possible news," said Ed Ruitberg, deputy associate director for the Astrophysics Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. "We were confident we could work through the camera issue, and now we can get back to doing more incredible science with the camera."

Justice Is (Actually!) Served

Justices, 5-3, Broadly Reject Bush Plan to Try Detainees
By LINDA GREENHOUSE
Published: June 30, 2006

WASHINGTON, June 29 — The Supreme Court on Thursday repudiated the Bush administration's plan to put Guantánamo detainees on trial before military commissions, ruling broadly that the commissions were unauthorized by federal statute and violated international law.

"The executive is bound to comply with the rule of law that prevails in this jurisdiction," Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the 5-to-3 majority, said at the end of a 73-page opinion that in sober tones shredded each of the administration's arguments, including the assertion that Congress had stripped the court of jurisdiction to decide the case.

A principal flaw the court found in the commissions was that the president had established them without Congressional authorization.

The decision was such a sweeping and categorical defeat for the administration that it left human rights lawyers who have pressed this and other cases on behalf of Guantánamo detainees almost speechless with surprise and delight, using words like "fantastic," "amazing" and "remarkable."

From my perspective, perhaps the most relevant point was made by Stevens. The emphasis is mine.

Justice Stevens said the historical origin of military commissions was in their use as a "tribunal of necessity" under wartime conditions. "Exigency lent the commission its legitimacy," he said, "but did not further justify the wholesale jettisoning of procedural protections."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Who Needs the Line Item Veto . .

. . when you can just ignore the entire principle of Checks and Balances?

Bush Ignores Laws He Inks, Vexing Congress
By LAURIE KELLMAN The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 27, 2006; 2:25 PM

WASHINGTON -- The White House on Tuesday defended President Bush's frequent use of special statements that claim authority to limit the effects of bills he signs, saying the statements help him uphold the Constitution and defend national security.

Senators weren't so sure.

"It's a challenge to the plain language of the Constitution," said Arlen Specter, a Republican whose Senate Judiciary Committee opened hearings on the issue. "There is a sense that the president has taken signing statements far beyond the customary purview."
[a lotta talk and no action ...]

Monday, June 26, 2006

Queen of the Rabid Lambs

Oh mi amiga!

Blue Girl has returned from her Kossakian Hajj* and has the story of her meeting with our Licentious
** Liberal Leader.

The room went silent.

We awaited the word of Kos.

I could not look directly at him. You look directly into the sun, you get burned. So I allowed my eyes to fall somewhere around the soles of his Hush Puppies until I heard his response.

He rose from his chair. Bloggers, mere squadrons of rabid lambs, gasped.

You! You can have pie!

Relieved, everyone exhaled.

But...you!

Oh! But I cannae possibly convey the conditions of the Hallowed Moment which next transpired on my own. Please, oh please, do to be reading directly the words of this Holy Transpiration from the keyboard of Ohio's own Kossian Chosen One Herself. (Though I'm sure m'Lady has peasants to be taking her dictation on these things.)

RAmen!

(Though, now that think about it, I may be forbidden to use that apocryphylation anymore. . . {shakin'.. just shaking...} I better go read
Kos to find out.)


Me ne frego!

(Welcome back, kid. errr, BG***. (-;)

* I wonder if we can get NYCity declared persona non grata to conservatives..? But what the hekk would us real humans do with Wall Street?


** Ehh.. I needed to alliterate and, as an ignorant Librul, what do I care whether it's accurate or will invoke the wrath of said Liberal Leader. I'm just lying and whining anyhow...

*** Great. NOW I know I'm doomed. {sighhh}
{-;

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Carnival of the Godless #43

Come one! Come all!
Carnival of the Godless
Be ready to have your thoughts provoked and your heartstrings tugged upon, for today is a ride of rides within the free and wonderful blogosphere. Today, my silly human friends, you are entering Carnival! The 43rd installation of the Carnival of the Godless!


Alright.. so I like a little
drama. {-; Still, it is to be all well and good, as we explore the thoughts and ideas of many an atheist, agnostic and apathiest* from close to home (yours and mine!) and all over world wide webbiness of the internets. But no worries, eh. All travel expenses were included in the cost of admission.

* You probably don't need to be Einstein** to figure that one out.

** It'll all make sense, eventually. {-;


Ready? Then lets go!


Our first stop takes us to New Zealand where Nonprophet warns us to
Beware the Dogma, then surprises us with the resolution to an old fundamentalist strawman in Did Einstein Believe in God? The Definitive Answer. I must say I .. well.. why don'tchya just go see for yourself, eh?
Einstein’s views on God are often debated in religious discussions. For example, I’ve had more than one Christian try to tell me he was a believer and I’ve seen the same thing slipped in to various blog posts or apologetics videos.
[Lean in Real Close, now]
---

Ay Caramba! CotG founder (and my own personal Blog Daddy-O) Brent Rasmussen takes a try at spinnin' our heads with numbers! In
Just Right, Brent does a good job of Unscrewing the Inscrutable Dr. Charles A. Coats. As I've said many times before, I am really happy that there are folk like Brent who enjoy math and numbers. If they weren't around, we'd all still be living in caves; when we're lucky enough to find one without a bear in it, that is...

Try this: Grab a deck of cards - poker cards will do nicely - shuffle them thoroughly, and then begin laying them on the table one at a time in a row.

You will begin to see a series of cards, one after another. The probability of that first card appearing first is 1 in 52, or 1/52. the probability of that exact second card appearing is 1/52 x 1/51. The third card's probability of appearing third in the sequence is 1/52 x 1/51 x 1/50! And so on - until you reach the last card in the 52-card deck.

Wow!

[Get Wowed!]

---

George Michael's infectious ditty not-with-standing, I've always been of the opinion that you don't gotta have Faith. Mi amigo, Bronze Dog, who has done an excellent job handling the unfortunate extended of absence of his co-blogger Rockstar Ryan at Rockstar's Ramblings, has built up quite an impressive primer series of posts where he skillfully deconstructs the memes utilized by web "woos" in order to evangelize their personal beliefs as God's Honest Truth®. Get yer head unspun with Doggerel #16: Faith.
So, let's review: Woos, and especially fundies use faith to arrive at their faith and have faith that they aren't wrong about their faith. Got it? No? Well, you will. Have faith.
[Go get unspun!]
---

Want an example of just how scary Faith can be? Head on over to The Greenbelt, where The Ridger shares a frightening run in with ... Opus Dei? Hhhmmm.. Maybe not, but the experience led her to wonder aloud, and quite thoughtfully, as to why some folk can't quite seem to grasp the efficacy
to religion of the concept of Separation of Church and State.
In this country, a person's religion is between himself and his god(s) and is no one else's business. Setting up blasphemy laws - even such mild ones as the Production Code - violates the firm belief of our Founders that the further government was held from religion, the better off religion would be.
[Climb Aboard!]
---

JavaElemental, proprietor of
Coffee House Poetry, has an excellent suggestion for how to help make Church on Sunday and hate-spewing religious talking heads obsolete. And it's something I've personal experience in totally enjoying!
Sure, you get some good out of religion, mostly in the form of community support and charity, but really, those things can be accomplished without religion. I mean, we could just all take Sundays off, and sit around at someone’s house and BS while eating nachos and chilling out in front of the TV. Face it: it would be more fun than church, too. If you really feel like singing, there are songs that are more fun to sing than most gospels, too. We could do that cascading “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” thing that sounds so nifty when you get it right.
[Climb a'board!]
---

For our next attraction, we take a little ride in the not-so-way back machine to 2003. Stephen W of Project Paradox posts some Thougths on Religion and what
really makes it still so attractive to an overwhelming majority of folk, all these centuries after the Age of Reason.
(A) religious person has the patronage of his or her divine agency, which affords both daily protection and spiritual immortality. As the infomercials say, “But wait! There’s more!” What if, by joining a religion, all of the people you have ever hated get tortured for all eternity? That cheating girlfriend, the guy who vandalized your house, even the man who tried to tell you that your religion was bologna… everyone who’s ever wronged or hurt you gets to burn for all of time once they die. Now, who can beat that? Protection, immortality, and revenge to boot. He who laughs last, huh?
[One Ticket Each!]
---

Historical bloggery has a twin incarnation this trip through the blogosphere. In
Religious Doctrine for Sale, the author has proferred some of his Murky Thoughts from 2004. I've personally traversed the New Age realms of reincarnationary ruminating in my past, so I found Liam's take quitely humorous, but also a not-unlikely "theory" (heheh) to find some folk taking seriously.
I just thought of a nice variant on reincarnation, which I thought I'd offer to anyone looking to start a new religion--say a disaffected Baha'i, since my understanding is they like to stay close to views of modern science. Instead of imagining individuals being reborn as other individuals, why not just say individuals are reborn "as others"? That is, an indeterminate number of others. I think this metaphor is a lot more true to how genetics works, not to mention to at least one folk notion of it ("All a them's got their grammy's eyes and uncle Jimmy's crooked nose!"). This way it becomes quite reasonable to imagine yourself as Napoleon or Cleopatra.
[Step right up and pick your past life!]
---

Talk about goin' for a ride! Francois Tremblay, of Goosing the Antithesis, seems to regularly post essays which elicit strong emotional responses from readers. This post on Lovey-Dovey Christianity -vs- Morality garnered a couple of comments to which I could really relate. Because I think that History shows people routinely dehumanizing folk of different backgrounds from their own, I found the last comment (as of my reading of the post) especially poignant. Here's a sample of Francois' setup, followed by the comment which I dug the most.
Love is, according to humanist psychology, a spontaneous affective movement towards beings or things which satisfy our values. While love is very complex, perhaps the most complex emotional phenomena, it has one thing in common : the feeling of well-being and happiness that the loved brings us, because we perceive it as being able to satisfy our values.
...
It is ... easy for me to express love towards others who belong to a different society, a different culture, simply because they are human. The affinity I feel for them can easily be destroyed on an individual basis if a particular person does something that causes me harm or pain, but the initial and preferable response is to give the person the benefit of the doubt, simply because they are human like me.

[Strap yourselves in!]
---

Ready for more controversy? Well there's nothing controversial about the data presented in our next entry. The "take" is the thing, ain't it? Any who've read my site with any regularity already know how I think on abortion. For a partial explanation of why, we'll head out to our next attraction to experience some of
The Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly and get a little medical background on How Often Human Conception Fails.
(I)f we follow the line of good conservative Catholics, evangelicals, Mormons, etc. (but not Orthodox Jews — if you read the Torah on pregnancy and from it argue to soul implantation, boys are soulless until the 40th day of a pregnancy and girls until the 80th day) God is putting souls in a lot of embryos that never make it to the fetus stage of development, let alone birth.
[Take a gander]

---

Jane Shevtsov, of
Perceiving Wholes, is a blogger after my own heart and mind. Her modus operandi is looking at as many sides of an issue as there are to see. In this post entitled Wife Swaps Leads the Way she discusses semi-celebrity The Infidel Guy's adventures in television and how tricky but wonderful it can be when two opposing extremes get together and try for a little balance and mutual understanding.
Seriously, I hope today's show starts to open a discussion of the civil rights of secular individuals. Religion is here to stay, and so is doubt. With tolerance, reason and separation of church and state, we can get along while disagreeing and build a better society for everyone.
[Tune in!]
---

Going on the rides at a Carnival is something one does at their own risk. If you decide to climb aboard the Tilt-a-Whirl and end up blow chunks all over yourself (neverminding your co-riders!) there is a reason it happened. But was there a
purpose? In Purpose and Reason in a Godless World, Coralius, of Revolvo Inritus, gives a couple of good examples of why those two things are empirically not one and the same.
That's one of the beauties of being godless, be it atheist, agnostic, secular humanist, freethinker, what-have-you. The godless know that our actions are our own. Every mistake I've ever made is mine. No one else's. I'm not proud of those mistakes, but they help to define who I am. No mischievous spirit with horns and a tail prodded me on to make them. I screwed up six ways from Sunday on my own. And I'd like to think that I learned a few things along the way. Heck, I'm still screwing up, and trying to learn.
[Scream Out Loud! It helps relieve the presuure.]
---

Every Carnival has to have a Fun House! Today's is provided by
the Neural Philosopher on his eponymously titled blog. NP provides us with Voodoo, Zombies and the Puffer Fish, the last presumably since it's gettin' near the end of the day, and I'm sure you're all gettin' a wee bit peckish.
A few days after being buried, the 'zombie' is disinterred and given another powder containing atropine and scopolamine. These are toxic and hallucinogenic compounds from the plants Datura metel and Datura stramonium (both known as the 'zombie cucumber'). This powder, when administered, puts the victim into a permanent state of delirium and disorientation in which they experience delusions and hallucinations. He or she can then be made to do menial work for those against which the crime was committed.
[Snacks anyone?]


Whew! Well my friends, unfortunately that is all we have time for this Sunday. It's been fun for me. Especially since, as is often the case with bloggery Carnivalia, I've found a few more sites which I plan on reading with some regularity.

I hope you all enjoyed yourselves and wanna encourage to you to look for the next installment of the Carnival of the Godless
two weeks from today over at Daylight Athiesm.

Oy vey! An addendum here: Apologies to those few whose entries were not used. They were ALL good ones in my opinion. I really did feel that I had run out of time.

Please do consider resubmitting them, as there are, thank time!, always more Carnivals to come.

Again, my sincere apologies. Thanks all!


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

intermission

If you stumble 'cross any groovy godless goodness, please feel free to submit them either here or here.

I'm gonna try something at which, like stopping smoking, I usually fail miserably; Gonna take a bloggin' break for a few days because I'm n... starting now.


Happy Solstice, all.

Some Folks Love to See Red

This story could've been entitled Christian Feeds Self to Lion and has got me still shakin' my head, 10 minutes after reading it. {shakin'head}

Well, that can probably be attributed, at least in part, to some of the worst baseball I've ever seen played by the Indians tonight. They gave up 8 runs in the 3rd with some insanely bad defensive decisions.


At least no one got eaten...

Thanks to Alan, of Meet An Atheist, who is slowly makin' his back into the blogosphere.

Happy Summer Solstice


I did to be forgetting!

Happy Summer Solstice!

Much grass to Blueberry, and her award winning Texas Oasis, for the reminder of the day's occasion.

Contingency

Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Abortion Rights: Dakota Plan B
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD

We're not terribly big fans of voters second-guessing representative democracy. But the legislators in South Dakota have provided the exception that proves the rule.
The point of this editorial is something which I've been thinking needs attention as well.

Voters elect folk to
represent our wishes in Legislatures. The occasional ballot initiative is fine in emergencies, or when legislation repeatedly fails to reflect societies' needs.

This initiative in South Dakota definitely fits that scenario, IMO.


I get the impression that SD's voters won't overturn the legislation. I find it heinous and, oh yes, morally irresponsible (which term I'm going to define on here, soonish.) I also think the issue is divisive enough to warrant such a break from the standard and rational Democratic protocol.


I'm heartily in camp with the PI's editors when they state:

Our preference, of course, is for the voters to toss lawmakers who supported the law out on their ears at the next election. But this will do for now.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Callin' All Godless and Simply Good Folk

As you may have read, Silly Humans will be the stage for the 43rd installment of the Carnival of the Godless. Chief Carny, Brent Rasmussen, has already forwarded a few of the rides for this event, but we're always looking for new and different entries.

I hope that I make it clear, I'm not a hater of religions in general. I don't slam on folk just for the fact that they (you?) believe in something for which I have never found any evidence. I do have fun with some of the less realistic aspects of peoples' belief. And I certainly verbally hammer on religious calls for violence and bigotry. What I mostly try to do with this blog is to expose the failures of ignorance and faith in providing efficacious and progressive methods of human cultural existence.

I've developed this focus because I was once a True Believer®. I grew up literally worshipping a dead guy I now affectionately (honest!) refer to as Jessie. I was raised a christian and was damaged both physically and emotionally by very well-intentioned folk who believed that the evils of their ancestors could somehow be good things.

Ignorance, mi amigos y 'migas, is the truest and foulest form of evil because, unlike pure hatred or instigated vengance, ignorance in the form of Faith, has no obvious or readily discernable signs which young innocents can see and retreat from by virtue of their own instinct. When it is propagated onto children from those whom they trust and upon whom they depend for their very lives, it has the potential to destroy all that is truly good and unique and wonderful within their tiny selves.

Faith may lead to good things, as when one believes in their ability to overcome some obstacle despite a lack of any indication that such is possible. That's why it is such a personal and individually realised phenomenon.

Religions offer community, it is said, and for most folk I know, this is observably true. Those same folk generally find community and meaning in their daily lives in non-religious ways even more frequently though. Sporting events. Work picnics. New Years and other non-sectarian celebrations. This Carnivalia of goodly godlessness is only one of the more recent and esoteric of those ways.

I'd like to have any of you who regularly read these posts to submit some post of an atheistic or agnostic nature that may have touched you personally. Atheism, or godlessness, is no religion my friends. (though there are always folk who would embrace anything to an extent we can't help but consider religiously) It's an absence of belief in God; a concept of an anthropomorphic creator of the universe. I've read many an awesome godless post from bloggers whom I have never seen represented in such a venue as the Carnival of the Godless. Their beliefs, or lack thereof, are indicated by the stances they take on issues of human and cultural concern. It's simply not important to them whe'er or not there is any such thing as God the Father.

I think that concept is a vacuous cul de sac for humanity's exploration of our potential in this, the only planet any of may ever hope to know. My hope, and so my humble request, is that some of you might feel up to providing input for the Sunday celebration
which will presented this weekend a' coming.

Regardless of your response (or lack thereof!) I do so love y'all on these awesome internets for the laughter, information, and thoughtful provocation you constantly supply to this very silly human.

L8!

Almost Accurate


I just think the cartoonist should've included a Dem Ass jumpin' with 'em and saying "No we don't!"

Cutting into our Technological Tissues

There are so many similarities between chemical, biological and technological evolution. In essence, it is more accurate to say that there really are very few differences. Learning more about any one of them gives us clues as to how the others actually work; what mechanisms are involved in their progressions.

When I saw the title of this article, I immediately thought of biology and how our experience is on the huge or macro, if you will, level. We've got to watch organisms as the exist in their natural states, but it's also important to take them apart and study their components. We need to learn what microscopic activities make the readily observable activities possible.

Queesy stuff there sometimes, eh. If you do that with living animals, it's called vivisection and it brings to mind thoughts of Mengele and the Dark Ages with which his "practice" was intertwined.

But if you cut into the "technological" lives of humans, you don't necessarily destroy or injure them.

Right?

Then why, when I have "nothing to hide", do I still get kinda queesy about having my "technological life" cut into whilst I'm still using it. I'm pretty sure that a big part of that is that I've no reason to trust the cutters. Even if I did, it would sure be nice to know there was something to prevent them from accidentally going too far. I'm not too sure the current cutters care about it though...

Data Mining Still Needs a Clue to Be Effective

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 19, 2006; Page A08

In the two decades or so since software scientists began "mining" computerized databases for information they were never designed to yield, the sophistication of their techniques has increased dramatically.

And although marketing companies today -- especially with the advent of the Internet -- can routinely predict who you will vote for, where you will eat dinner and, most of all, what products you will buy, experts say it is far less clear whether security agencies can sift mounds of data to track down terrorist networks -- unless they start with a useful lead.

More than a month has passed since USA Today reported that the National Security Agency had amassed a database of 2 trillion telephone calls since 2001, ostensibly as a tool to hunt al-Qaeda operatives.

Details of the NSA's activities remain unclear, but data mining experts say they are puzzled about how the information might be used. It would work best, they say, when investigators can trace telephone numbers of known suspects and build a web of contacts, in much the same way police use phone records to track drug traffickers.

But to discern suspicious call patterns from lists of dialed numbers, they will have to dig past the raw data into callers' identities, and, in the vast majority of cases, will find they have simply tapped into networks of law-abiding people involved in daily routines. This approach, several experts said, raises privacy questions even as it wastes time.

[Read the rest]


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Don't Even Think About It!



Oy freakin' Vey!!

The thing of it is, is; why the
hekk did I have to go to Wankette's in order to see this?!

Not that I'm ashamed o' bein' my own man, or anything like that, but I just need to point out that I got to her site via Skippy the Bush Kangaroo's.

Ahhh... There. Now I cannae be considered a traitor to my Libruality. {-;

T-Bone: Medium Raucous!

Whoa! Very cool...

Kevin Wolf posted this new T-Bone Burnett song called Blinded by the Darkness. I've replayed it 4 or 5 times now. If I wasn't headed out for a few, I'd play it again.

Later. Definately later.

Bill Gates Reboots

Bob was just bitchin' at Bill 'bout Bill's broken Windows. Bill's taking the hint and refocusing his efforts on helping folk.

Good job, Bob! Bill does philanthropy better anyway.
Chairman to devote more time to charitable works.
By Amanda Cantrell, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Microsoft announced Thursday that chairman and co-founder Bill Gates will transition out of a day-to-day role at the company, effective July 2008, to spend more time working on his charitable foundation.

Gates will then work part-time at Microsoft (up $0.19 to $22.07, Charts) as chairman and technical adviser and will work full time for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the organization he founded with his wife, which focuses on global health and education.

"I've decided that two years from today, I will reorganize my personal priorities," Gates said during a news conference, adding,"I have one of the best jobs in the world."

"I believe with great wealth comes great responsibility - the responsibility to give back to society and make sure those resources are given back in the best possible way, to those in need," he said. Gates added, "It's not a retirement, it's a reordering of my priorities."

(Special Report: Goodbye, Mr. Gates, stories from CNNMoney,com, FORTUNE, FORTUNE Small Business, Business 2.0)

The company's chief technical officer, Ray Ozzie, will immediately assume the title of chief software architect and begin working side by side with Gates on all technical architecture and product oversight responsibilities. Ozzie became chief technical officer of Microsoft in April 2005, when Microsoft bought Groove Networks, the company Ozzie founded.

Craig Mundie, the current chief technical officer, will take the new role of chief research and strategy officer, also effective immediately. Mundie will work closely with Gates to assume his responsibility for the company's research and incubation efforts, Microsoft said. Mundie also will partner with the company's general counsel Brad Smith to guide Microsoft's intellectual property and technology policy efforts. Mundie, 56, joined Microsoft in 1992.

Ozzie and Mundie will continue to report to Gates until the transition is complete, when they will begin reporting to Ballmer.

Shares of Microsoft fell slightly, by about 0.4 percent, in after-hours trading.

"They really did give a very long lead time in terms of prepping investors for his departure, and it's only a partial departure at that," said Michael Cohen, director of research at Pacific American Securities. "I think that was good in terms of muting the effect on the stock."

"It's been my privilege to work shoulder to shoulder with a true visionary... who has now headed, in my opinion, one of the greatest philanthropies of all time," said Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer during the conference.

Gates co-founded Microsoft, which makes the ubiquitous Windows operating system, with Paul Allen in 1975, and took the company public in 1986. He remained CEO of the company until 2000, when Ballmer took the reins.

That year, Gates formed his charitable foundation, which now has $29.1 billion in assets. For their work with the foundation, Gates and his wife were chosen, along with rock singer Bono, as one of Time Magazine's Persons of the Year in 2005.

Gates himself is ranked as the world's richest man by Forbes magazine, which estimated his net worth at $50 billion in its 2006 ranking. That was up an estimated $46.5 billion net worth a year earlier. He owned just over 1 billion shares of Microsoft, as of Sept. 9, 2005, according to the company's most recent filing detailing those ownerships. That amounts to 9.6 percent of shares outstanding.

Cohen does not own shares of Microsoft, and his firm has no banking ties to the company.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Rats!

Or: You stink! Good for you!

There's a wonderful nutter whom I used to adore for his message of Love. Leo Buscaglia suggested that Westen civilization detests its own oily emanations so much, its folk have
cleansed ourselves beyond the ability to know what we really smell like. Ie, we wash away our true selves.

Since then, I've made it a yearly habit to give myself a few days
sans showering just to be able to tell when I'm just not right. (LOL! No comments there, peanut gallery! There's an extremely valid point a'comin'. {-;)

The following story suggest that my altie buddy was really onto something.


Uh, just remember; moderation in all things, so your friends and loved ones won't be holding their noses everytime you come in the room, eh.

Rat study shows dirty better than clean
By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Fri Jun 16, 10:56 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Gritty rats and mice living in sewers and farms seem to have healthier immune systems than their squeaky clean cousins that frolic in cushy antiseptic labs, two studies indicate. The lesson for humans: Clean living may make us sick.


The studies give more weight to a 17-year-old theory that the sanitized Western world may be partly to blame for soaring rates of human allergy and asthma cases and some autoimmune diseases, such as Type I diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. The theory, called the hygiene hypothesis, figures that people's immune systems aren't being challenged by disease and dirt early in life, so the body's natural defenses overreact to small irritants such as pollen.


The new studies, one of which was published Friday in the peer reviewed Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, found significant differences in the immune systems between euthanized wild and lab rodents.


[
Read the rest]

Pay Attention God-Boy!


Action Albert's pump monkey appears disinterested in his work.

Maybe he should take up preachin'...

(Just a little prep-post for my hosting of the 43rd Carnival of the Godless on June 25th. Hope to have y'all there.)

PR and Advertising


Does this remind you of anyone you know?

I'm not thinkin' of anyone in particular, but I bet that some of you will.

Be Not Afraid

From Hank Fox, whom I read fairly often, but just now realized was not on my side-bar.
(W)e owe it to the larger world to do some small thing to counteract the mass mental illness of religion. That Pat Robertson can spout bugf*ck crazy stuff on national TV is a good sign for the freedom of speech. But that nobody can get equal time on that same medium and in an equivalent time slot to say "Pat Robertson is crazy as a roach on a hotplate" is a very bad sign for that same freedom.
Ideas operate alot like gravity. The larger their mass of support, they more influence they have on real world events. Since money and popularity operate as magnets of influential potential, people who have amassed large amounts of either (or frequently both) of these wonderful and efficacious things need to be observed and recorded in order to measure their influence and effects on our human societies. The larger their power, the more need for observation and, potentially, regulation.

There is nothing inherently wrong with individuals (or even Corporations) gaining more power and influence than the competition. That's an inevitability of existence. To a great extent, the bigger a thing is, the bigger it will get. It is a very natural situation.

But, as Bronze Dog nicely illustrates, Natural™ is not necessarily healthy for living organisms such as humans. (Take two snake-bites and call me in the morning...)

I don't want my government to decide - even on the basis of overwhelming popularity - what should or should not be broadcast over the Air Waves or Cables. I want my government to study the effects which Products and Programming have on our society. I want a rational and dispassionate evaluation of the most influential and powerful in our society and for that information to be highlighted and disseminated with regularity to all folk, so that we can make decisions with all the facts in front of us, not just the information given by some choice few who can afford to repeatedly and loudly force their superficially attractive ideas onto us.

Those ideas may be entertaining or emotionally satisfying, but if they are devisive to the point of violence and bigotry; if they are forceful without respect for rational thought, then they need to checked and balanced by an objective and Umpirical ({-;) government.

Democracy can easily degenerate into Mob Rules. Once that happens, the Mob inevitably loses it's control to individuals who are adept at filling the vacuum of concentrated power, and ignorance provides for dominance by whomever is brutal enough to take advantage; regardless of what is actually most needed for a healthy and progressive society.

Friday, June 16, 2006

For Love of Liberty and Personal Responsibilty

My (overly long?) letter to the Editors of these Ohio newspapers.

dsowd@thebeaconjournal.com, info@athensmessenger.com, letters@theblade.com, gaznews@nncogannett.com, smorgan@enquirer.com, postedits@cincypost.com, Letters@dispatch.com, edletter@daytondailynews.com, editor@cleveland.com, regforum@sanduskyregister.com, letters@sentinel-tribune.com, news@tribune-chroncle.com, letters@vindy.com
To the Editor

This week the Ohio House Health Committee held a hearing on HB 228, a bill that would completely outlaw abortion in Ohio. This bill is so reactionary and immoral that it would even make abortion illegal if it were to be performed to save a woman’s life or if she had gotten pregnant from a rape. It would even put a person in jail for 15 years simply for driving a woman to another state to get an abortion.

I am not a woman. I don't have the physical capacity to gestate a part of my body to viability. I may provide (one can go ahead and assume enjoyably) some DNA to get the occurrence initiated, but once it's started, it is up to her to allow the process of gestation to run it's course, or not. It is HER body; Not mine; Not anyone else's. My right over my DNA ends after I've made a decision to merge with hers. From that point forward, my right is to assure that her wishes are met and my responsibility hinges upon her decisions. MY decision has been made.

People who want control over this process within other people's bodies are morally irrational. They should either remain Publicly silent about such perverse desires, or seek psychiatric assistance to overcome them. If it is not your body, or you've not personally contributed, in open agreement as to the end results, then there is no conceivable reason for you to have any say in whether the process is terminated or gestated to the state of the birth of a new human infant.

If a human's religion tells them otherwise, then they are sadly out of luck. Our United States' Constitution prohibits our 50 individual States, and the millions of folk living here-in, from creating Laws which promote or inhibit religious ends. This injunction protects us all from the irrational - even if well-intentioned - desires of any group who would force others to live life according to their own beliefs, desires and superstitions.

Pregnancy is indeed New Life. It is life brought to viability due to a decision of the woman who is creating it. It is her right, and hers only, to decide whether or not to use her body to create that potential human being. This, like old age, is our fate as biological critters, regardless of whether we like or not.

Dislike or despise, or pity or ignore her, as you will. Having our feelings about it is the extent of our rights in regard to what occurs within her body.

Sincerely

Michael Bains
University Heights, OH

--
a personally evolving organism @ http://sillyhumans.blogspot.com

For science, God is not a valid category because God is by definition a reality beyond time and space and therefore does not belong to the world of our scientific experience. -- Hans Kueng

In case you're interested but don't get NARAL's newsletter, here's what lead to my letter writing.
First I would like to say THANK YOU to everyone who came down to the Ohio State house on Tuesday to show your opposition to the Ohio Abortion ban. Hundreds of Pro-Choice supporters packed room 313 in the Ohio Statehouse as well as the Atrium overflow room to show their opposition to this dangerous bill. We greatly outnumbered the supporters of the bill and it was a wonderful sight to see!

I wanted to let everyone know what happened at the hearing. The predetermined format was that the sponsor of the bill (Rep. Brinkman, R-Cincinnati) would be allowed to testify, followed by 2 panels (9 people) of anti-choice representatives speaking in favor of the bill, and then 2 panels (9 people) of pro-choice people speaking against the bill. After those panels, the speaker would open the hearing to public testimony. He set out ground rules saying that people would be limited to a "reasonable" amount of time on the panels, and 3 minutes for public testimony, and that he would limit the number of questions directed at each witness to 2 per committee member.

But, that was not what happened. Some of the anti-choice witnesses spoke for over 20 minutes, and committee members were allowed to ask question after question, even when they were just repeating themselves. So the panels did not end until well after 4:00 pm. After the panels only one person was allowed to speak, a representative from Ohio Right to Life. When she was done with her testimony (which lasted about 40 minutes including questions), Chairman White announced that since the hour was late (it was about 5:00 pm) and there were 60 people still waiting to testify he was closing the hearing.

Over 50 pro-choice people had traveled from all over the state to have their voices heard against this dangerous bill, and never got a chance to testify. The way that the hearing was run, was totally slanted in support of the anti-choice supporters of the abortion ban. This was especially obvious when the Chairman of the committee selected Ohio Right to Life as the only public testimony that it heard.

This summer is going to be a busy one. One thing was made completely clear in that hearing room. The majority of Ohioans are Pro-Choice, and the people that represent us do not represent our pro-choice views. We need your help this summer and fall to make sure that we elect pro-choice people so that our voices will be represented in Ohio's state government. Sign up to volunteer today and give your time to help us protect a woman's right to choose!

Currently, no further hearings are scheduled on the Ohio Abortion Ban. However, this legislation is likely to return during the lame duck legislative session in November and December after the election. We will make sure that we let you know what is happening on this bill and the other anti-choice bills that have been introduced in the Ohio House during this session. We will also keep you updated about the Ohio Prevention First Act, the real way to reduce the number of abortions in our state.

Thank you again for all of your help through this hearing process and please write a letter to the editor and sign up to volunteer today and help us protect the right to choose in Ohio.

For Choice,
Jaime Miracle
Outreach and Field Director

Iraq War: Immoral and Illegal

He's not the first soldier to say it. Just the first* to officially and professionally stand against it whilst still in service.

Salut

Soldier's duty: Say no to illegal war

By MICHAEL HONEY
GUEST COLUMNIST

Lost in the media frenzy over the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, First Lt. Ehren Watada, of Fort Lewis, opened another front in the conflict over President Bush's war of choice in Iraq. At a news conference in Tacoma a few hours before al-Zarqawi's death, Watada announced his refusal of orders to deploy to Iraq on grounds that the war is illegal as well as immoral.

"An order to take part in an illegal war is illegal in itself," he said. "I felt it was my obligation as a leader to speak out against the willful misconduct at the highest level of the chain of command."


Watada is the first soldier to resist the war based on the Nuremburg Principles pioneered by U.S. prosecutors during Nazi war crimes trials after World War II and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (and the United States) in 1950.


Those principles hold soldiers, as well as heads of state, liable for "crimes against peace" (planning, preparing, initiating or waging a war of aggression or conspiring to do so), war crimes (violating "the laws or customs" of war) and crimes against humanity. A key phrase reads: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relive him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."


As a 28-year-old from Hawaii and a college graduate, Watada signed up to bear arms for his country in March 2003. He went to officer training school, spent a year in Korea and then came to Fort Lewis last summer. He is not a conscientious objector to war and says he would go to Afghanistan if deployed there to find Osama bin Laden and fight the Taliban. Despite his doubts about the invasion of Iraq, as many did, he gave Bush the benefit of the doubt when he argued that overriding dangers required intervention.


Watada says the Army trains officers to take responsibility for their actions and to understand their missions. When assigned to be a leader of the Stryker Brigade based at Ft. Lewis, he began to study the war and was shocked at what he found. Based on constitutional and international law as well as exposes of atrocities committed against Iraqi civilians, "I concluded that not only is the war in Iraq morally wrong, but it is in fact, illegal." He says Bush committed "a betrayal and deception of the American people," ignored his obligations under international law and has perpetrated disastrous effects on Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers.


"I refuse to be silent any longer," he told reporters in Tacoma. "I refuse to watch families torn apart, while the president tells us to 'stay the course.' I refuse to be party to an illegal and immoral war against people who did nothing to deserve our aggression. I wanted to be there for my fellow troops. But the best way was not to help drop artillery and cause more death and destruction. It is to help oppose this war and end it so that all soldiers can come home."


Not surprising, some condemn Watada as a coward or derelict in his duty as a soldier or even as guilty of sedition and treason and deserving of execution. Despite threats of court martial and prison, Bush's war of choice forced him, as he put it, to "choose the hard right over the easy wrong (and) to have the strength and the courage to do what is right for America."


At a community meeting in a Tacoma church recently, hundreds of people, including military veterans, gave Watada a standing ovation.


Soldiers do not give up their citizenship when they join the military, and their oath of allegiance to the U.S. Constitution binds them to a high standard of conduct. It is true for all of us, within and outside the military: it is time to stand up for the rule of law against a lawless commander in chief.


Michael Honey is a professor of labor and ethnic studies and American history at the University of Washington, Tacoma. For information on Watada's case, see www.thankyoult.org.

* As Stardust points out in the comment, he's one of the first military personnel to do so.

Thanks, Lady.

Suicide Solutions

Sure. And don't let Moms know that Breast-Feeding is healthy, either.

Errrhggg... I'm sorry. This kinda crap is simply the nadir of Political Correctness and I DO take it too personally sometimes.

TEST THEM! TELL THEM!! LOVE THEM!!!


And utterly humiliate the folks who misuse the information to denigrate folks for whom it's not appropriate.


Public Health
has to be a generalized concept. It will NEVER be completely comprehensive because we simply are not identically duplicated automatonic folk. We're human. Deal with it, and the tests will become more accurate and lives will saved.
Suicide-Risk Tests for Teens Debated
By Shankar Vedantam

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 16, 2006; Page A03

A growing number of U.S. schools are screening teenagers for suicidal tendencies or signs of mental illness, triggering a debate between those who seek to reduce the toll of youthful suicides and others who say the tests are unreliable and intrude on family privacy.

The trend is being aggressively promoted by those who say screening can reduce the tragedy of the more than 1,700 suicides committed by children and adolescents each year in the United States. Many of the most passionate supporters have lost children to suicide -- among them Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), whose son Garrett died in 2003.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Listen: I know this is picky . .

. . but really, you'd think since he knows the guy's name, he'd also know that he's blind.

I actually think it's kind of a typical and
cute human mistake. The kind that should get Georgie boy to acknowledge that he really is allowed to admit when he screws up!

Eh... Sometimes, I expect too much.
Check it out if you've nae yet seen it. Like I said, it's kinda cute, though I wanted to hear Dub's response to Wallstein's Carl-Question. And the guy who posted it thinks the Shrub should avoid humor in these instances. Not sure if I agree with him there, but I could see his point. {-;

Via
Lya via Frankie. Thanks my godless compadres.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Transcending Politics

True justice transcends politics

JENNY DURKAN and J. VANDER STOEP
GUEST COLUMNISTS

A year ago we were in Wenatchee during the governor election trial. One of us was there fighting for Christine Gregoire and the other for Dino Rossi. We hardly agree on the time of day.

However, there is something fundamental about which we do agree.

Our country's system of justice should be not be driven by partisan politics. The rules of the law should apply equally to every citizen and those rules should be applied by judges who do not hold their office to help any particular party, person or special interest.

Every day, tens of thousands of people throughout the country walk into courthouses seeking justice. They bring with them their most personal, difficult and important issues and rely on complete strangers to resolve them. They do so because they have faith that honesty, integrity and the rule of law will govern. They do it because they trust that every person is entitled to and can receive justice.

They have a right to trust that the judge who hears their case will make a decision based upon the rules of law and not based upon the judge's politics or ideology.

Our system is not perfect. It never will be perfect. But we believe it is the best system of justice anywhere. It is still a primary reason that people from throughout the globe come to our shores, seeking a better life.

There is a growing politicization surrounding the selection of judges. It is a dangerous trend that is bad for the courts and bad for the people. If courts are viewed as just another political branch, people will lose trust. Justice and the rule of law must transcend the politics of the day, if our system of democracy is to endure.

Our elected leaders are not strangers to rough-and-tumble politics and the selection of federal judges for our region has had its share of professional chokeholds.

However, while other areas of the country have become deadlocked in selecting judges, Washington state has settled into a system that could serve as a model for the country.

About 10 years ago then-Sen. Slade Gorton, Sen. Patty Murray and the Clinton White House agreed to allow a bipartisan panel of citizens from Washington state to interview and recommend candidates to serve on the federal bench. The panel uses a merit selection process to vet applicants for all federal trial court openings in the state.

The committee interviews applicants and recommend up to three qualified candidates for any opening. To get on the list, a majority of the committee must agree.

Since then the selection of federal judges in this state has followed that model. Now, Rep. Doc Hastings, our delegation's senior Republican, has selected three panel members, with the other three selected together by Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell.

Neither the White House nor the senators are formally bound to the committee's recommended list but all have supported the process. In fact, the federal judges appointed from here over the past 10 years have all come through this process. This is one reason we have an outstanding federal bench here.

U.S. District Judges Ricardo Martinez, James Robarts, Robert Lasnik and Marsha Pechman of Seattle were selected through merit-based, bipartisan committees. U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton of Tacoma went through a similar process, and a nominee for retiring Judge Franklin Burgess in Tacoma should come soon.

It is everyone's hope President Bush will nominate and the senators will support someone who is on the list recommended by the committee. If so, unlike nominees from other regions, confirmation should be swift.

Right now, we are honored to serve as co-chairs for a committee seeking a replacement for U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour. Each committee member is committed to a merit-based, nonpartisan process to recommend the most qualified individuals.

To get superior judges, however, we need superior candidates. If you know someone who should apply, we urge you to support them in doing so. Act now.

We need to continue the tradition of excellence in our courts. For information on application deadlines and requirements, please visit the Washington State Bar Association Web site, www.wsba.org
Jenny A. Durkan is a Seattle attorney who served as counsel to the Gregoire campaign and the Washington State Democrats. J. Vander Stoep, a Chehalis attorney, was chief of staff for Sen. Slade Gorton.

Dammit! Now I Gotta Find a New Line!


And I was really thinkin' I'd have some success with this one, too.

{shakin'head}

Unfortunately (heheheh) The Fat Lady Sings like a canary... {-;

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Sherrod's Looking Good in the Polls

This is what Loyalty to an insane ideologue will getchya, Mike.

You can't support fascism in the United States. Not even for religious reasons. It'll simply bite ya in the backside come election day.

Whether Brown is a hekk of a lot better or not, isn't the question (I think he's better by a lot on Social Issues anyhow.) The fact that Ohioans don't like spying and lying from their President is what is gonna cost our Junior Senator his gig in the District.

If these numbers hold up come November, he will have earned his retirement from the Congress by not leading the charge against IDiocy in Public Office. It's kind of too bad because, despite some socially reactionary tendencies, this past year and a half have taught me that Mike DeWine isn't quite the villain I'd thought him before.

Live and Learn; one can hope...

Note the BIG BOLD bit (emphasis added by moi.) Now Blackwell IS a villain in my book. So Three Cheers for now! And let's hope it holds and grows!

A statewide poll released today reported that Sherrod is leading incumbent Republican Mike DeWine by 9 points in the race for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.

We are in such a strong position today thanks to all the hard work of people like you.

WKYC-TV in Cleveland reports:

"In an election for United States Senator from Ohio today, June 13, Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown ousts Republican incumbent Mike DeWine, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted for WCPO-TV Cincinnati, WKYC-TV Cleveland, and WYTV-TV Youngstown."

"Brown, who represents Ohio's 13th District in Congress, wins by 9 points, 48% to 39%. Brown gets 85% of Democrat votes. DeWine gets 73% of Republican votes. Brown wins by 14 points among Independents. Brown wins by 2:1 in Eastern Ohio."

These results clearly show Ohioans across the state want change. Ohio families are tired of the play-to-play system in Washington that runs unchecked by politicians like Mike DeWine.

Ohioans want new leadership that stands up for them, not for the special interests of oil, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies.

The poll also showed Rep. Ted Strickland leading Ken Blackwell by 16 points in the Ohio governor's race.

We are encouraged by the results of this latest statewide poll, but it is important to remember that the only poll that really counts is on Election Day.

We must continue to work hard in every part of the state. We can't take any vote for granted to win in November.

Click here to tell your friends about the campaign.

Click here to contribute.

Thank you for all that you do.

Sincerely,

John W. Ryan
Campaign Manager