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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I'm Sorry

UPDATED: Her name was Abeer Qasim Hamza, and she was reportedly only 15 years old.

Abeer told her mother again and again in her last days that the soldiers had made advances toward her, a neighbor, Omar Janabi, said this weekend, recounting a conversation he said he had with the girl's mother, Fakhriyah, on March 10.
Fakhriyah feared the Americans might come for her daughter at night, at their home. She asked her neighbor if Abeer might sleep at his house, with the women there.
Janabi said he agreed.
Then, "I tried to reassure her, remove some of her fear," Janabi said. "I told her, the Americans would not do such a thing."

UPDATED: The contortions that African-American men go through so that they don't scare white people would send me to an insane asylum within a month! Do you know how many times I just started yakking at some guy in the elevator or on the street, only to get a shocked look and the question, "You aren't afraid of me?" No--why should I be? This country has never truly dealt with the legacy of slavery, of which this fear of black men is a part. It's time that white people just got over their stupid fears (they might make a lot of friends that way).

First Haditha, then Hamdania, now Maumoudiya with a particularly horrifying twist: the victim was allegedly raped before she and her family were killed. Words cannot describe how sick I am of this filthy war, and of the shame being heaped upon our nation and its soldiers (the majority of whom I believe serve with honor and professionalism) by a rogue administration blind to the spiraling problems. Oh, and what would John Kerry have sent our military personnel to fight with: spitballs? Remember that statement? So what's the damn hold-up on body armor, Zell Miller? Huh? Got more wisdom for us coming out of your big mouth, you great patriot, you?

What a travesty. On the Fourth of July, I'll remember a nation that once was independent, and could be again.
The marine who appeared in Fahrenheit 911 is killed by a roadside bomb. I know that Staff Sgt. Raymond J. Plouhar did not approve of the film's message when he ultimately saw it. His father says:

"I'm devastated, sad and proud," Plouhar said. "This just makes me devoted even more to his belief that people need help in Iraq, and he felt that he was helping."

I'm sorry for your loss, Mr. Plouhar. I understand your devotion to your son's belief. I wish that our President was worth believing in. I see no evidence that he is.

Patsy Ramsey dies never seeing her child's killer brought to justice. She didn't do it, people. I, too, thought she was guilty, at least until they trotted out that blanket-in-the-dryer nonsense and the grand jury refused to return an indictment. Then I saw the actual evidence, including the--so help me--crime scene photos. I am sorry, Patsy Ramsey, for believing stories planted in the press by the police in an effort to get you or John, or both, to "confess." I truly apologize also to John Ramsey. What a pity that the police botched the investigation and focused on pop psychology instead of legitimate methods of gathering physical evidence.

Evidence. That's what the pro-war apologists mean by "intelligence." Evidence and the theories that describe it are what keep us making intelligent decisions.

We don't hear the word "evidence" enough in the press.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Your Choice: An Ape's Cousin, or a Dog's Life

UPDATED: According to a recent poll conservatives believe you are going to hell, but that they're not.

The Panda's Thumb has an excellent post on Ann Coulter's latest kook book: Clueless.

Coulter's tome repeats all the long-refuted creationist lies known to weary scholars, in an effort to confuse the uninformed public about evolutionary theory. Look, everyone, I'm going to make this very simple:

We are being groomed by her and the other media sock puppets of rich creationist conservatives for a new American order, one in which the U.S. health care system is for shit! Okay? In lieu of basic health services we are going to be given prayer and preaching and personal guilt, and to accomplish this, these cretins need to rewrite the whole history of science--the most precious thing that we have--in order to push supernaturalism. They who control the past will control the future. Is that clear?

Already, a significant portion of Americans do not have health insurance, and the number of employers who don't offer this basic right are growing. One-fifth of all children live in poverty. Television is killing literacy in this country. And the same Americans who revile Bush for getting us into the Iraq War are the ones who will not step up to the plate and accept responsibility for pushing superstition into our nation's schools. These people have no right to whine about Bush while simultaneously siding with his minions who would teach little kids that the eye was intelligently designed and that people get sick because of "sin."

Whether or not George W. Bush stole the (or both) election(s), we are all responsible for not stealing legitimate science from the next generation of schoolchildren. If we lose the next generation of scientists, it will be our tragedy and our fault, not Bush's. That means that American students must learn evolutionary theory, not the latest supernaturalist garbage. That means that you, dear reader, cannot in any way support the teaching of Intelligent Design or Biblical or Koranic or whatever-have-you creationism in public schools. Facts are facts.

That means if you're a Democrat, you need get your head together and realize that this nation cannot stand mostly hating Bush and mostly denying evolution--and that's exactly what the poll numbers show many of you (far too many) are doing. When you ride with creationism, you ride with Bush & Co. Coulter drew the line that I did not want to draw, so now I will draw it:

Either you accept the fact that evolution is true, that we and the apes had a common ancestor, and that scientific knowledge and the scientific method are worth fighting for--hell, at least worth being called nasty names for--or you accept the role that the creationists want for you: namely, as a slave, a good soldier, an anonymous runner in a race to the bottom of an unenlightened abyss of superstitious fear. It's your choice.

We are, as Dawkins says, a species of ape, and we share a common origin with every living creature on this planet. I don't know how that could offend anyone, being that it is also a beautiful and an elegant concept, but I would say to those that it inexplicably does offend: life as a naked ape is much better than a dog's life, that being a figure of speech meaning, in this context, a life of endless work for increasingly devalued pay, a life filled with fear and humiliation, a life in which health care, clean water, clean air, and adequate food are increasingly hard to attain--the life of being kicked around like a dog.

We are being prepared for that kind of life. I'm not kidding. Not when a best-selling book by a front-girl for invisible, evil monied interests asserts that "biologists are not scientists." Holy crap, that happened in the U.S.S.R. during the Stalin era! All we need now is a head of the Department of Agriculture to assert that grafting will boost crop yield.

We are becoming the Soviet Union, but I'm not going to be a good Party member like little Orphan Annie Coulter. I'm not scared of her or of anyone else who can hurl invective (yes, that goes for you, too, Karl Rove!). She's so dense that she bends light. She's wrong, the puppet-masters behind her are wrong, Rove is wrong, Bush is wrong, and the creationists (Dembski, Behe, Wells, Johnson) are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Take it from a Harley: Evolve or die!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

In Memoriam: William L. Williams

My mother's cousin, William L. Williams, who was a biochemist at the University of Georgia in Athens, died suddenly last April. On June 14, his birthday, the University held a memorial service for Bill Williams.

Bill was Research Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, the department that he helped found, and was awarded the University's first Inventor of the Year Award in 1991, and was Georgia's Scientist of the Year in 1968. Among his many accomplishments was his pioneering work in the study of mammalian reproduction and in the effects of vitamin B12.

To my regret, I saw him only once; I met him two years ago at his 85th birthday party in Georgia. Before I ever met him I heard a million stories about Cousin Bill and his banjo playing, his love of reading, his adventurous spirit, his wacky sense of humor, and the fact that he introduced my mom to my dad. He was a kind, funny, unpretentious, and brilliant man, and I wish that I could have gotten to know him better. He did so much in his field that benefited the lives of others, and in his personal life he was a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather--and cousin. We will miss him.

A sampling of his work in collaboration:

"Inhibition of Growth of Lactobacillus bulgaricus by Purine Deoxyribonucleotides"
by George K. Morris and William L. Williams

"Effect of hypophysectomy and replacement therapy on fatty acid metabolism in the rat testis"
by Ajit Goswami and William L. Williams

"Unidentified Growth Factor for a Lactic Acid Bacterium"
by Donald E. Weinman, George K. Morris, and William L. Williams

Friday, June 09, 2006

My Reply to Ann Coulter

There are many parents--far too many parents, now--in the United States who have lost a son or daughter to the Iraq War. If because of their conservative/Republican leanings these mothers and fathers see their children as symbols of courage in the face of a war worth waging, that is their right. Symbols of courage their children indeed are--I would take that as an objective statement of fact--even though I do not agree with them about the cost of or the motivations for this stinking war.

I think that the Iraq War is a hideous, greed-inspired, and criminal fraud perpetrated on the American people and upon those who willingly went to serve in Iraq, but I would never question the motivation of any parent who, as Coulter states in her comments regarding some 9-11 widows, "used their personal tragedy" to advance their views. They have a right to their personal tragedy and to their views.

I just wish that their views were right. I don't think they are.

Anyone who sincerely believes that waging this war in Iraq is the right thing to do (and I don't know how they can believe that) is still a decent American who has my respect and sympathy for his/her loss, and is someone that I believe deserves a much better spokesperson than Ann Coulter. Ms. Coulter also has a right to her views, but she cannot see that she is, in her bellicose hysteria, never right.

I must say that, whatever she may think of the "pleasure" we liberals allegedly take in being "victims," I personally take no pleasure in seeing a human being psychologically decline in this manner. I have seen this bitter, righteous, shrieking spiral into psychosis before. If anyone is a victim, it is Ann Coulter, of herself.

Ann, since you call yourself a Christian, I call myself proud to be godless.

In a way, I am grateful to Ann Coulter! I was not willing to draw the creationism vs. evolutionary theory line in the sand as also being a line between liberals and conservatives, but now she did it. She drew that line between science and superstition as a line also between liberals and conservatives, nonbelievers and believers. Good. Let's have it out, then, Ann Coulter. It's on.

I'll just sit back and watch the conservatives and the believers desert her side for my godless side. It's inevitable, now. Maybe it won't happen tomorrow, but it will happen, because eventually Americans will recognize that science is the only way, truth, and light for this nation's future, and that my positive lack of religion is far more spiritual and optimistic than Coulter's sad nihilism.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


UPDATED: The anti-Christ? This millipede has 666 legs!

In the bruhaha about this being 6-6-06, did anyone remember that it's also (also!) D-Day?

You know, the day that the Allies landed on Omaha, Utah, and Gold Beach on the coast of France to fight the Nazis?

My father was a WWII veteran. I realize that this probably sounds humanistic and materialistic and naturalistic, but I think that while people are going berzerk about the devil and 666 and all that crap, they could take a second to remember the Normandy Invasion.

Just an idea.

Friday, June 02, 2006

An Angel in My P-O-C-K-E-T

Spelling bee winner Katherine Close credits her win to her lucky angel pendant.

Um. Okay, maybe not everyone else knows Christians who believe that Tarot cards, Oujia boards, and crystals are evil (I just think they're bogus), but...her “lucky” angel pendant?

Aside from my disappointment that this girl has obviously never learned anything really worth knowing (i.e., that winning a spelling bee, whatever knowledge that truly displays—and that’s up for debate—is achieved through hard work and study, not luck), since when, even in the most irrational religious doctrine, have angels been bringers of luck? Isn't that, uh, mixing your irrationalities?

This reminds me of an intriguing book that I saw online:

Theological Incorrectness : Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn't

This book does not examine why people have religious beliefs, but why they would subscribe to other irrational beliefs (like lucky charms or saints) that contradict their stated religious beliefs (like Christianity or Islam—yes, even though they're not supposed to, some Muslims revere saints).

Mike Celizic weighs in on the popularity of spelling bees:

The geography bee involves actual useful knowledge; your friendly word processing program may tell you that you’ve misspelled Tuscaloosa, but won’t object in the least if you put the town in Idaho or Uzbekistan. And if you intend to travel to Tuscaloosa, it might be helpful to know it’s in Alabama.

But the public doesn’t care. [Me: no shit!] More than half of Americans can’t find Iraq on a map of the Middle East. Fewer still can even identify all of the states by their shapes. But ignorance doesn’t explain the fact that the spelling bee is a prime-time event and the geography bee isn’t. The number of people who are competent spellers is probably no greater than the number who know even the basics about geography.

The difference has to be that Americans don’t think geography is important. But spelling is.

But the sad thing really is that Americans attribute academic excellence (which I’m not sure a spelling bee measures, rather than aping ability) to lucky charms and inherited geekiness.