Thursday, June 28, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards skewers Ann Coulter

This is priceless.

Elizabeth Edwards v. Ann Coulter

From NBC's Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro
The wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards called into MSNBC’s “Hardball” on Tuesday to confront Ann Coulter on her personal attacks on her husband and family.

Coulter, the controversial conservative commentator, appeared on an outdoor set with host Chris Matthews -- and also with dozens of supporters and detractors waiting to ask questions. But there was another person waiting to pose a question to Coulter: Elizabeth Edwards.

According to an Edwards campaign aide, Elizabeth Edwards wanted to call into the show when she heard that Coulter would be taking questions, and she called a Hardball producer to get the phone number needed to dial into the show. The result is the exchange below:

Chris Matthews: You know who's on the line? Somebody to respond to what you said Edwards yesterday morning -- Elizabeth Edwards. She wanted to call in today we said she could. Elizabeth Edwards go on the line you're on the line with Ann Coulter

Elizabeth Edwards: Hello, Chris.

CM: You wanna say something directly to the person who's with me?

EE: I'm calling you … in the south when we -- when someone does something that displeases us, we wanna ask them politely to stop doing it. Uh - I'd like to ask Ann Coulter -- if she wants to debate on issues, on positions -- we certainly disagree with nearly everything she said on your show today -- um but uh it's quite another matter for these personal attacks that the things she has said over the years not just about John but about other candidates -- it lowers our political dialogue precisely at the time that we need to raise it. So I want to use the opportunity … to ask her politely stop the personal attacks.

Ann Coulter: OK, so I made a joke -- let's see six months ago -- and as you point out they've been raising money off of it for six months since then.

CM: This is yesterday morning, what you said about him.

AC: I didn't say anything about him actually either time.

EE: Ann, you know that's not true. And once more its been going on for sometime.

AC: I don't mind you trying to raise money. I mean it's better this than giving $50,000 speeches to the poor.

EE: I'm asking you

AC: Just to use my name on the Web pages…

EE: I'm asking you politely…

AC: … but as for a debate with me, um yeah, sure. Yeah, we'll have a debate

EE: I'm asking you politely to stop personal attacks.

AC: How bout you stop raising money on the Web page then?

EE: It didn't start it did not

AC: No you don't have cause I don't mind

EE: It did not start with that you had a column a number of years ago

AC: OK, great the wife of a presidential candidate is calling in asking me to stop speaking

CM: Let her finish the point...

AC: You're asking me to stop speaking stop writing your columns, stop writing your books.

CM: OK, Ann. Please.


EE: You wrote a column a couple years ago which made fun of the moment of Charlie Dean's death, and suggested that my husband had a bumper sticker on the back of his car that said ask me about my dead son. This is not legitimate political dialogue.

AC: That's now three years ago

EE: It debases political dialogue. It drives people away from the process. We can't have a debate about issues if you're using this kind of language.

AC: Yeah why isn't John Edwards making this call?

CM: Well do you want to respond and we'll end this conversation?

EE: I haven't talked to John about his call.

AC: This is just another attempt for –

EE: I'm making this call as a mother. I'm the mother of that boy who died. My children participate -- these young people behind you are the age of my children. You're asking them to participate in a dialogue that's based on hatefulness and ugliness instead of on the issues and I don't think that's serving them or this country very well.


CM: Thank you very much Elizabeth Edwards. Do you want to -- you have all the time in the world to respond.

AC: I think we heard all we need to hear. The wife of a presidential candidate is asking me to stop speaking. No.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I hear this a lot

Tomcat subscribes to Family Handyman and, oh I don't know, a couple of other magazines like that. When he looks through a new issue, sometimes he'll start snickering. I'll look over to see him read a little further in the article, and then he'll begin cackling, his face turning red, tears squeezing out from the corners of his eyes, knee slapping - the whole bit. That's when he'll show me an article like, for example, "how you, too, can build a tri-level deck combination spa/hottub/compost maker in just one weekend." Except, Tomcat points out, they left out one tiny little step in the plans, the one where it says, "and then, a miracle occurs."

That's one reason I got him this for Christmas.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ya Think?

GOP senator says Iraq plan not working
By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Sen. Richard Lugar, a senior Republican and a reliable vote for President Bush on the war, said Monday that Bush's Iraq strategy was not working and that the U.S. should downsize the military's role.

The unusually blunt assessment deals a political blow to Bush, who has relied heavily on GOP support to stave off anti-war legislation.

It also comes as a surprise. Most Republicans have said they were willing to wait until September to see if Bush's recently ordered troop buildup in Iraq was working.

"In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved," Lugar, R-Ind., said in a Senate floor speech. "Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term."

Only a few Republicans have broken ranks and called for a change in course or embraced Democratic proposals ordering troops home by a certain date. As the top Republican and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lugar's critique could provide political cover for more Republicans wanting to challenge Bush on the war.

Lugar's spokesman Andy Fisher said the senator wanted to express his concerns publicly before Bush reviews his Iraq strategy in September.

"They've known his position on this for quite a while," Fisher said of the White House.

However, Fisher said the speech does not mean Lugar would switch his vote on the war or embrace Democratic measures setting a deadline for troop withdrawals.

In January, Lugar voted against a resolution opposing the troop buildup, contending that the nonbinding measure would have no practical effect. In spring, he voted against a Democratic bill that would have triggered troop withdrawals by Oct. 1 with the goal of completing the pull out in six months.

Next month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to force votes on several anti-war proposals as amendments to a 2008 defense policy bill. Members will decide whether to cut off money for combat, demand troop withdrawals start in four months, restrict the length of combat tours and rescind Congress' 2002 authorization of Iraqi invasion.

Expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass controversial legislation, the proposals are intended to increase pressure on Bush and play up to voters frustrated with the war.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Elephants being nosy

Two elephants play with their trunks in the Wuppertal Zoo June 24, 2007. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender (GERMANY)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Richard Dawkins launches social network; StumbleUpon

I was pleased to learn that Richard Dawkins just launched a Social Network for like-minded people to share their ideas. After creating a Profile page, there were several tabs I could explore right away. I clicked on "Articles" and found this gem, a YouTube recording of Kirk Cameron's appearance on Bill O'Reilly's show, with superb commentary. Enjoy.

Also, I stumbled upon StumbleUpon, which allows you to surf sites keyed to your specific areas of interest. StumbleUpon will learn your likes and dislikes as you go along. Any time you see a website you like, you click on the thumbs-up icon that comes free with the download. The site gets recorded on your Profile page, and your fellow Stumblers can (if you allow it) see the pages you have recommended. If you StumbleUpon a website you can't stand, then clicking on the thumbs-down icon will tell StumbleUpon to spare you stuff like that in the future. Like the Dawkins network, you can also join groups and meet people whose interests you share.

Of interest to bloggers: you can put a StumbleUpon button on your blog posts, as I have, so that if someone StumblesUpon one of your posts and they like it, they can click on the button and recommend your post to other Stumblers (about two million peeps as of today.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Scruffybutt sez

Scruffybutt sez ...
Mommy needs to be seen to.

On Monday, Scruffybutt and I went in for estimates - she to the groomer's, and I to the salons (nail and hair.) I consider this pampering, but she thinks it's torture. To make up for it, yesterday I took her with me to the local burger biggie, just so she won't always associate car trips with "bad" things.

So, there I was, driving home with a sack full of burger and fries on my lap, Scruffybutt next to me in her little car seat - the one that lets her sit up high enough to see out the windows - and I've got one hand on the steering wheel, and the other holding a very hot french fry in front of the cold air blasting from the air-conditioner vent. To cool it off. You know. So it won't be too hot for her little mouthie.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Why is science so threatening to (some) religionists?

Here's yet another nail in the creationist coffin, this one from MSNBC-Newsweek Lab Talk:

'Irreducible Complexity' is Reducible Afterall
Wednesday, June 06, 2007 7:49 AM
By Sharon Begley

Now that evolution has become an issue in the presidential campaign (in the May 3 debate among Republican presidential hopefuls, when moderator Chris Matthews asked if any candidates did not “believe in” evolution, three hands—Tom Tancredo’s, Sam Brownback’s and Mike Huckabee’s—shot up), it is always amusing when biologists put another brick in the solid wall that is evolution. The latest comes from a study in which researchers discovered clues to the evolutionary origins of the nervous system.

For anyone who just arrived from Neptune, the “nuanced” stance against evolution—that is, the one that doesn’t make you look like a complete Neanderthal—is to note that of course you know that microevolution occurs, with bacteria evolving resistance to antibiotics and mosquitoes to pesticides, for instance. It’s macroevolution—in which one species evolves into another—that gives you pause since, after all, who has seen such a thing?

The intelligent design camp also argues that some biological structures are just too darn sophisticated to have evolved through random mutation and natural selection. They must therefore have been designed by an intelligent agent. In particular, since complex structures have lots of components, how could the components have been just hanging around for eons waiting for the final component to emerge? Think of it this way: if you don’t already have all the other components of a mousetrap, why would you keep a spring around? A spring is only useful if you also have the base, the bar and the rest. This is the argument called “irreducible complexity,” and it has proved very persuasive to the public.

It’s always dangerous to base your argument on some version of “scientists have never found X” (with X in this case being components of a complex structure existing and serving a function before the rest of the components showed up). That’s because those darn scientists keep making discoveries. If you want to say they “have never found . . . ,” you’d better understand that what you really mean is “they haven’t found it yet.”

Which brings us to the latest discovery in evolution: DNA needed to make synapses, the sophisticated junctions between neurons, in none other than the lowly sea sponge. Considered among the most primitive and ancient of all animals, sea sponges have no nervous system (or internal organs of any kind, for that matter), notes Todd Oakley, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. But, he adds, they “have most of the genetic components of synapses.”

The first neurons and synapses appeared something like 600 million years ago, in a group of animals called cnidarians which, today, include hydra, sea anemones and jellyfish. Sea sponges are even older. “We look at the evolutionary period between sponges and cnidarians as the period when the nervous system came into existence, about 600 million years ago,” says Ken Kosik, co-director of UCSB’s Neuroscience Research Institute.

He, Oakley and the rest of the team listed all the genes known to be operative in synapses in the human nervous system. They then examined the sponge genome. “That was when the surprise hit,” said Kosik. “We found a lot of genes to make a nervous system present in the sponge.”

What were genes for synapses doing in a sponge, which has no neurons and therefore no synapses? This is where the irreducible-complexity crowd makes a fatal error: they assume that whatever the function of a biological component (gene, protein, biochemical pathway . . . ) today must have been its function in the past. Maybe you noticed that my mouse trap example above wasn’t very persuasive; even without a base and a bar, a spring can be a useful little device. So it goes with biological systems. For instance, of the 42 proteins known to make up the bacterial flagellum, 40 have been found to serve as ion channels or something else in bacteria. It is therefore perfectly plausible that they really were hanging around—serving some function that would have allowed evolution and natural selection to keep them around generation after generation—until they all got together and formed a flagellum.

So it seems to be with the genes for synapses. The sea sponge did not use them for their current purpose, but that doesn’t mean the genes had no use. “We found this mysterious unknown structure in the sponge, and it is clear that evolution was able to take this entire structure and, with small modifications, direct its use toward a new function,” said Kosik. “Evolution can take these ‘off the shelf’ components and put them together in new and interesting ways.”

Read it for yourself at the open-access journal PLoS ONE

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

We live in a Decidership

A form of government with one person exercising absolute power and unrestricted control in a government who regularly disregards opinions, petitions or mandates of the people or elected representatives.

The misguided War On Terrorism has turned the United States of America from a Democracy to a Decidership.

This is from the Urban Dictionary. Isn't it perfect? Even though we live in a Decidership, you still get to vote - on whether or not you think this is a brilliant word and definition. So please, click on the link now and VOTE!

Tell your friends.

Carry on.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It's Even Worse Than We Thought

I kept hearing about the Creation Museum* being built in Kentucky. Then, there was a lot of buzz about it's upcoming opening. Then, there were emails flying about the Rally For Reason endorsed by American Atheists.

Well, they had the rally and the museum opened and I yawned. I gave it all a sort of mental shrug. What, me worry? Wasn't this just another example of the inexplicable nonsense we've come to expect at a time when the President of the United States thinks his god** told him to invade the Middle East?

I should have paid more attention. A lot more attention, folks. You have got to read this for yourselves.

Fun at the Creation Museum!!!! (my field trip to Crazyland)
-Daily Kos, June 9, 2007

* whose unscientific motto is, Prepare to Believe

** when of course, as everyone knows, the only one true god and creator of the universe is the Flying Spaghetti Monster, who told him to do no such thing.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Deja Vu

One of my blog pals, Dr. Deb Serani, wrote a post one time about the phenomenon of deja vu.* That's something I'm interested in because it is a side effect of ECT (electro-convulsive therapy), which I had a year and a half ago for severe depression. Today, I found an article saying that they've discovered where, exactly, in the brain, this phenomenon occurs.

Origin of Deja Vu Pinpointed
-Dave Mosher, LiveScience Staff Writer

The brain cranks out memories near its center, in a looped wishbone of tissue called the hippocampus. But a new study suggests only a small chunk of it, called the dentate gyrus, is responsible for “episodic” memories—information that allows us to tell similar places and situations apart.

The finding helps explain where déjà vu originates in the brain, and why it happens more frequently with increasing age and with brain-disease patients, said MIT neuroscientist Susumu Tonegawa. The study is detailed today in the online version of the journal Science.

(Click on the article's title to read the rest of it.)

If that's not fascinating enough, then you might enjoy reading this:

Top 10 mysteries of the mind

10. Sweet Dreams (what are dreams?)

9. Slumber Sleuth (why do we need sleep?)

8. Phantom Feelings (experienced by amputees)

7. Mission Control (biological clock)

6. Memory Lane (how do we remember?)

5. Brain Teaser (what is laughter?)

4. Nature vs. Nurture (which has the most influence?)

3. Mortal Mystery (why do we age?)

2. Deep Freeze (cryonics - would it work?)

1. Consciousness (what is it?)

The mystery of consciousness, it seems, is finally coming to the attention of (some) physicists. In the blurb about consciousness on the preceding list, there's a link on this phrase, "... scientists have managed to develop a great list of questions... ." The link takes you to this fascinating article:

Why great minds can't grasp consciousness
By Ker Than, LiveScience Staff Writer
(08 August 2005)
At a physics meeting last October, Nobel laureate David Gross outlined 25 questions in science that he thought physics might help answer. Nestled among queries about black holes and the nature of dark matter and dark energy were questions that wandered beyond the traditional bounds of physics to venture into areas typically associated with the life sciences.
One of the Gross's questions involved human consciousness.

He wondered whether scientists would ever be able to measure the onset consciousness in infants and speculated that consciousness might be similar to what physicists call a "phase transition," an abrupt and sudden large-scale transformation resulting from several microscopic changes. The emergence of superconductivity in certain metals when cooled below a critical temperature is an example of a phase transition.

Gross isn't the only physicist with ideas about consciousness.

Beyond the mystics

Roger Penrose, a mathematical physicist at Oxford University, believes that if a "theory of everything" is ever developed in physics to explain all the known phenomena in the universe, it should at least partially account for consciousness.

Penrose also believes that quantum mechanics, the rules governing the physical world at the subatomic level, might play an important role in consciousness.

Ah! Now this is very interesting: ... quantum mechanics ... might play an important role in consciousness." This seems to be what "the Ancients," those long-ago mystics of the great Eastern philosophies, were talking about all along.

What if science finds that consciousness doesn't play just "an important role," but plays THE role? What if ... consciousness is the substance of the universe? What if ... it's really true what John Lennon famously wrote, paraphrasing Eastern philosophers, "I am he and you are me and we are all together." What if ... everything and everyone in the universe is connected, intertwined, like unto a ... network?

Oh wait, this seems familiar. I think I've blogged about this before. Haven't I?

*Deb, I couldn't find the post you did on that, even though I used the search feature on your blog. If you have the link, please let me know so I can update this.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Doorbell Ready?

You know the expression, "company-ready." That means you've busted your butt to get the house looking good enough for company to see it. I don't have that problem because I have a lady who cleans the house for me. I know, I'm spoiled, you hate me, get over it.

No, the problem I have is getting myself doorbell ready. I like to putz around in the mornings in my jammies. If the doorbell rings, I can answer it without embarrassment - usually - because my jammies are PG rated. I mean, it's not like that's what I sleep in. Ahem. And besides, I've already run my hands through my hair so it looks more like fashionable faux bedhead than real bedhead, and I've had coffee and can thus focus my eyeballs. It's on days like this, and on days where I've actually dressed early and have my makeup on that the doorbell almost never rings.

But for those rare (ahem) mornings that I want to sleep in because I've been up late the night before working at my computer (ahem), that's when, invariably, someone decides to ring my doorbell. No wait - if all my PG rated jammies are in the dirty clothes hamper AND I'm sleeping late - that's when it rings. It's much easier to grab clean jammies from the dresser drawer and put them on, albeit hopping around on one foot and then the other to get them on, then pulling the top over my head (usually inside-out) on the way down the stairs, than to go to the closet and try to put an outfit together in ten seconds flat.

Know what I mean?

So now I'm thinking what I really need to do is prepare (now THERE's a concept) for such contingencies. Remember that episode of the Dick Van Dyke show when Laura was preggers, and Rob wanted to be certain, absolutely certain, that he would be ready to get her to the hospital in case her labor began in the middle of the night? He practiced getting out of bed and getting his hat and coat on in seconds flat. He was already wearing his suit and tie. The problem was the hat and coat.

Especially the hat. In those olden TV-land days, married couples "slept" in twin beds with a nightstand sentinel between them. There was skinny Rob, laying ramrod straight on his back on that skinny little bed, timing himself on how fast he could get his hat on when The Moment arrived. He placed it on the headboard and adjusted and readjusted it until he could reach up behind him, grab his hat, and have it on his head before his feet hit the floor. I know everyone will remember that classic comedic scene.

This is planning at its finest. Of course, when The Moment arrived for Rob and Laura Petrie, nothing went off as planned. But I digress. I'm going to make a plan for doorbell readiness. My plan will not include a hat. Just so you know.

Now, if I could just find out how to keep my doorbell from ringing every time someone rings the neighbor's bell...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The advice I've gotten is that writers should have their own website, whether they're published yet or not. When unpublished, the writer puts the link on the letterhead, then prospective agents and/or publishers could take a look at it, and when a writer is published, then hopefully the zillions of fans will have a place to find them. Ahem.


Lavender Dawn made a website for me, and I love how it looks.
Please stop by to see it, and sign my guestbook while you're there, okay?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Friday, June 01, 2007

Mad King George

Don't We Have a Constitution, Not a King?

By Marjorie Cohn, AlterNet. Posted June 1, 2007.

Bush has issued a directive that would place all governmental powers in his hands in the case of a catastrophic emergency. If a terrorist attack happens before the 2008 election, could Bush and Cheney use this to avoid relinquishing power to a successor administration?

Read the full article here.
(and try to have a nice weekend, anyway)