Bye Bye, Bachmann

She fought for our dear Constitution
Though on further inspection, we find
That Michele’s Bill of Rights
That’s for which she led fights,
Was a fantasy version that’s all in her mind

She would lecture her listeners on history
And a few finer points of the law
But her facts were all fictions
And odd contradictions
Reflecting a vision that only she saw

With muskets and pitchforks and torches
You could see she appealed to her base
She protected our right
To a more wasteful light

A conservative stance, when Michele made the case

Oh, Congress was clearly the problem
Or it was, when Michele came to call
She did her bit ending
Big government spending
By passing no new legislation at all

And now, as she rides to the sunset,
With her brief fifteen minutes long spent
Her history speaks
Of the strangest of streaks…
And we’ll all disagree about what Michele meant

I’m a bit late to this one–Ed and PZ have already noted that Michele Bachmann will not run for re-election. What’s utterly bizarre, though, is the analysis and commentary on what will be her legacy. For instance, NPR’s story (subtitled “A Trailblazer, For Better And For Worse“), seems remarkably free of anything really positive. It’s as if Bachmann is famous for being famous, not for any accomplishment. But (of course) that does not stop the handful of right-wing commenters that now call their territory from trolling the comment section singing her praises.

I don’t have any idea what her place in history will be. What I’m hoping is that this post marks the last time I will ever type her name.

Stephen King On God

You’re missing the sunrises, sunsets, and stars;
You’re missing the crops, and the bees.

You’re missing the point, Stephen King, if you think
That we’re missing the moments like these
The natural world is a beautiful place
And I find it a little bit odd
That the thing that you see when you look at the world
Is the thing you can’t see at all—God.

I choose to believe, because everything works
In a way that suggests it’s designed.

But the thing is that science knows better than this;
The suggestion is all in your mind.
Once the gods moved the heavens, the moon and the stars
And to some, maybe that’s how it looks
It’s fun to pretend that such forces exist
But life isn’t one of your books

God’s plan is peculiar; there’s stuff that seems strange;
And you know, I’m beginning to doubt.

Keep thinking; keep doubting; keep reading; keep on,
And you’ll probably figure it out.
There’s much that we know; there’s much you can read
(Though most of it isn’t in rhyme)
And maybe… a sunrise, a sunset, a star,
You could see for the very first time.

The quotes aren’t exact, but they’re actually pretty close. Stephen King has yet another book out, and NPR has an interview with him. At one point, they discussed his belief in god:

“I choose to believe it. … I mean, there’s no downside to that. If you say, ‘Well, OK, I don’t believe in God. There’s no evidence of God,’ then you’re missing the stars in the sky and you’re missing the sunrises and sunsets and you’re missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design. But, at the same time, there’s a lot of things in life where you say to yourself, ‘Well, if this is God’s plan, it’s very peculiar,’ and you have to wonder about that guy’s personality — the big guy’s personality. And the thing is — I may have told you last time that I believe in God — what I’m saying now is I choose to believe in God, but I have serious doubts and I refuse to be pinned down to something that I said 10 or 12 years ago. I’m totally inconsistent.”

Intelligent design seems to make more sense to those whose job is designing. Engineers are more likely to be ID proponents than biologists, for instance. I suppose it only makes sense that a man who creates fictitious worlds might be prepared to believe that our own world has likewise been created.

Battle Of The Prayers In Arizona Legislature

“I will not ask you bow your head
But look around the room instead”
The state rep, Johnny Mendez said,
In giving invocation.
“This is a time for us to share
With people here, and everywhere,
The fact that we’re alive, aware—
This is our dedication.”

His words, of course, were not a prayer;
He doesn’t think a god is there,
To answer, hear, or even care,
But people do exist.
It was his choice; it was his right,
But one man didn’t see it, quite—
He took it as a sinful slight
Steve Smith was truly pissed.

And this is where it should have ended;
Sometimes, Smith, one gets offended.
Church and state must not be blended
You’ve bowed your head too long.
But Christian privilege has its way
So Smith took time the very next day
To say the things he had to say—
That Mendez had it wrong.

“When given time to pray to God,
Don’t stain this room with mere façade—
A godless prayer? That’s more than odd;
This chamber must repent!
I’ll say one prayer, then one prayer more
And all must join me, I implore!
Give God his due! We must restore
Each godless minute spent!

Some thirty people—half the house—
Then prayed with Smith, the lordly louse,
Though many there do not espouse
The Christian point of view.
But Smith believes the right is his
And though he’d fail a civics quiz
I must admit, it seems it is
The Christian thing to do.

Ed reported on the initial atheist invocation delivered by Juan “Johnny” Mendez, calling it “pitch perfect”. But it seems there’s no accounting for taste; Mendez’s fellow legislator Steve Smith didn’t like Mendez’s tune, and what’s more, took offense on behalf of God, who declined to give His own opinion.

Smith then offered not one but two prayers–an invocation, and then a prayer of “repentance of yesterday” [the day of the godless invocation], and urged representatives to pray with him. About half did. Some of the others, though, were not shy to denounce the second prayer (why not the first?) as inappropriate. Representative Jamescita Peshlakai, a traditional Navajo, reminded Smith that she herself is “not Christianized”, and that his god is no more powerful than hers. She has been respectfully participating in house prayers, despite the fact that they did not represent her beliefs. I wonder if that will continue. (I suspect that it will, though I hope it will not.)

I wonder if rep. Peshlakai took any offense at Mendez’s invocation. I would have thought it was something pretty much everyone could agree with.

Guess I was wrong.


We ought, I thought (and thought I knew),
With some diseases, be all through—
There’s no excuse, I used to scoff,
To deal today with Whooping Cough.
We’ve got vaccines! And people know
It doesn’t cost a lot of dough
Compare the cost to other stuff
And really, now, it isn’t tough
To gain the health vaccines allow,
To run a shop, or push a plough…
Let’s hope vaccines again will pick-up,
And these few cases are just a hiccough.

Actually, I had a student who had had whooping cough. No excuse for it; it’s vaccine preventable, and it’s just horrible. In a classroom of students at the height of the vaccine paranoia (thanks, Wakefield), this student was a staunch advocate of vaccines. It is only a culture that is too unfamiliar with disease that has the luxury of vaccine denial.

Anyway, I also want to give a plug for my pal Kylie, who emailed me the following:

The documentary Jabbed: Love, Fear and Vaccines <>  will be airing this Sunday on Australia’s SBS and I’ll be live-blogging it for overseas interested people (I think it will be online for all eventually). In the documentary, Sonya Pemberton interviewed people world-wide on what she has said is the “conversation, not debate, we need to have”.

The new Token Skeptic podcast is a live-radio show I did with Assoc. Professor Peter Richmond, from the Vaccines Trial Group here in Perth <>  on what people can do to get the facts and even help contribute to the Meningococcal B vaccine, by taking part in trials.

More information on the Token Skeptic blog at On Vaccinations – Australia Continues To Take A Stand For Health – Token Skeptic Podcast <> .

Call Me Crazy, But…

It’s difficult, looking for just the right word,
So it’s tempting to get a bit lazy;
And critics of someone’s behavior might claim
The behavior they’re seeing is crazy.

Unless there is reason (most often, there’s not)
To suspect that the cause is insanity,
You’re dissing the mentally ill with your slight,
But the group that’s at fault is humanity

Now, why should I bother? It’s only a word—
No reason to make such a fuss—
But it matters, which people you label as them
And which ones you label as us.

Hey, maybe I’m over-reacting a bit;
Your intentions were perfectly nice
And maybe you think there’s no need to complain…
But maybe you need to think twice.

And no, I’m not telling you what prompted this.

Poisoned Baits Drive Cockroach Evolution

Evolution is cleverer than you are. Orgel’s Second Rule

A little bit of tempting treat
That smells and tastes so glucose-sweet
Is what a cockroach loves to eat
And so it will, perhaps.
But human beings, as of late,
Present the bugs a different fate
By sweetening the poisoned bait
They’re using in their traps

Appetitive behavior means
There’s coding somewhere in the genes
That link sensilla (small machines
For chemical detection)
With action—bugs approach or flee
If foods are sweet or bitter, see?
Our mixing poison now is key:
A pressure for selection!

But insect populations vary;
Roaches may or may not carry
Genes that make them glucose-wary,
Acting on their brains
If, in our anti-cockroach war
We use these sweetened poisons more,
Such genes will be selected for
Creating different strains

And so, although the people’s goal
Was ultimately pest control
It seems that nature found a hole
And made its own solution
The roaches that we tried to kill
By poisoning their sweetened swill
Outsmarted us—and always will,
Cos such is evolution!

In Science, just out today (yes, I am just that good), a story on rapid evolution of behavioral aversion to glucose in cockroaches, as a response to a strong selection pressure of sweetened poison baits. Behaviorally, these roaches are now avoiding foods with glucose. Physiologically, their gustatory response neurons have changed–sugar-GRN and bitter-GRN respond differentially to glucose and to caffeine in wild-type cockroaches, but in roach population with a history of exposure to sweetened poison baits, glucose stimulates the bitter-GRN response.

Mind you, selection takes place at the level of behavior, so this may or may not be the only proximal mechanism behind the change in behavior. Any change that selectively gets roaches to avoid poisoned baits will be strongly selected for.

We’ve seen this before–our best efforts to eliminate a pest are seen by evolution as just another selection pressure among many. And in the long run, we see time and time again… evolution is cleverer than we are.

And isn’t it beautiful?

Beck: Blitzer Was Set Up

The forces of spiritual darkness are strong,
As they plot, and they plan, and they scheme,
In support of the atheists’ ultimate plan
To destroy the American Dream

The atheists’ plan is: Pretend to be nice,
While the world goes to Hell (or to heck)
And they probably would have been able this time
If it weren’t for the work of Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck is a master of finding the truth
He’s the best at connecting the dots
Where others see nothing at all out of place
Glenn Beck and his minions see lots

When Wolf asked an atheist woman, on air,
If she’s properly thanking the Lord
Observers were mostly amused by a gaffe
But that’s not how Glenn Beck had it scored

Glenn Beck saw the bias as clear as could be—
Some producer had rigged it, of course—
Propaganda and lies to make Christians look bad,
And to show off the atheists’ force

If the Christians and heathens are equally good
Then you can’t claim religion as why
And Beck himself knows, you can’t credit at all
Some invisible guy in the sky

So it must be conspiracy! Atheists aren’t
Just as good, in the Glenn Beck world view!
This claim, that the godless are people like us…
What a horrible thing, were it true!

Via Rawstory (video at link), Beck’s take on the Wolf Blitzer gaffe:

“I think he was fed some information about the guest he had on beforehand — that’s what producers do — given some questions that he should ask, etc., etc.,” Beck explained. “Some producer, who is sympathetic to the atheist plight or just doesn’t like Christians or whatever it is, thought it was important to point out that, in the middle of the heartland in American where most people are God fearing, there are atheists there too.”

“It’s important because it informs others what they are being taught about atheists from atheism and the bully pulpit and other sources of bias that is not a correct reflection of reality in plain view,” he continued. “We are not fighting against flesh and bone, we are fighting the forces of spiritual darkness. And it doesn’t matter what people’s intent are, but I will tell you that, that was there for a reason.”

Darkness and evil! It’s a bad, bad thing to think atheists are as good as believers:

“Have I done anything this week, have you done anything that would make anyone say, ‘Wow, what is it about them? I want to be like that. I want to be able to provide hope to others in dark times,’” the radio host said. “If you haven’t done anything different than what an atheist can do this week then your light is not shining very bright at all.”

“Because, quite honestly, if there is no difference, I mean, wouldn’t you rather stay at home on Sunday? Wouldn’t you rather just go ahead and just do what you wanted to do and not listen to some invisible guy in the sky?”

Wolf: “Do You Thank The Lord?”

It’s so annoying when tornado victims don’t follow the script, isn’t it?

Wolf: “…we’re happy you’re here; you guys did a great job. And I guess you gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord? For that split-second decision?”

Survivor: “I… I… I’m actually an atheist.”

Wolf: “Oh, you are! … But you made the right call.”

Survivor: “Yep; we are here. And I don’t, I don’t blame anyone for thanking the Lord”

Wow, and she doesn’t seem at all angry at God, either. Darned atheists, don’t they know the script?

Cuttlecap tip to Anonymous, via twitter.


When disaster hit the coastline
With a hurricane and flood
And the people needed money
And the people needed blood
There were some in Oklahoma
(They were senators, no less!)
Who defiantly insisted
It was someone else’s mess
They would not support New Jersey
When the hurricane had struck;
They’re conservative Republicans:
They did not give a fuck.

Now tornadoes hit the heartland;
Oklahoma’s on the ropes
And the folks in Oklahoma
Count on others for their hopes
If the senators were assholes
(Which, without a doubt, was true)
Time to show them by example
What’s the proper thing to do.
What the people need is money
So it’s time to pass the hat
Save your prayers–they’re only wind, you know–
They’ve quite enough of that.

That link (here it is again) goes to the Foundation Beyond Belief’s “Humanist Crisis Response” site. 100% of donated money goes to the cause; FBB takes no cut at all. And they are tax deductible–which shouldn’t be a concern, but might make a difference for some folks.