RCimT: Stand back, I’m going to try SCIENCE!

Some science news for your daily consumption.

Scientists just accidentally the whole blue. Blue pigment has been notoriously difficult to create without using cobalt and/or other dangerous or extraordinarily expensive materials. While experimenting with manganese oxide in an unrelated experiment, scientists discovered a cheap, easy way of creating blue. I’m sure Glendon Mellow, the Flying Trilobite will love this.

More below the fold.
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RCimT: Midweek Religion Catch-up

A few religion-related, pre-Wednesday links to catch you up on.

145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration promising civil disobedience against any laws that “could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.” They even have the temerity to cite Martin Luther King Jr., because citing a black civil rights leader is a totally appropriate strategy when you’re trying to suppress women’s and homosexuals’ civil rights movements.

The Vatican plugs Twilight: New Moon, claiming it to be a “moral vacuum with a deviant message”. Um, isn’t it mostly about a sparkly fairy-vampire that refuses to bang a young girl because it would be immoral?

New proof that the Shroud of Turin is totally legit: it says so. Since that’s all the proof necessary to show the Bible is legit (you know, that it said so), the claim that the shroud says “Jesus the Nazarene” on it totally supercedes all the proof that it’s just a centuries old fraud made to dupe credulous faithful, and easily duplicable with simple techniques available to just about anyone even today.

What if Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett and Harris’ claim of being the Four Horsemen was real? I sort of have to take issue with Hitchens liberating a woman; that seems like a meta-joke and a rather low one at that, given Hitchens’ misogyny whenever he’s around Bill Maher for some reason.

I’ve talked about the Salvation Army in the past (in one of my first ever posts, in fact). Turns out there are a lot of good reasons not to do business with them, especially if you want to actually help others.

Kansas apparently has decided to “teach the controversy” — about the shape of the Earth. Okay, not really, it’s a parody, but Flat-Earthers have the same amount of evidence behind their hypothesis that Creationists do.

As though it were necessary, given the proliferation by theists of such articles as of late, here’s how to write an atheist hit-piece, by tearing down a very obvious example.

ReligionLulz asks a very pertinent question: if America’s such a “Christian Nation”, why all these fundie versions of popular sites?

FOX News prods the atheist billboard debate. And the coverage is totally fair and balanced… if you’re a theist, anyway. Always seems to be the case, doesn’t it?

And finally, the godless can quote the Bible too.

Canadians complicit in Afghanistan torture

In 2007, Amir Attaran, law professor at University of Ottawa, famously wrote an opinion piece that stated his belief that the then-new Canada-Afghanistan detainee agreement left a loophole open that would allow for torture of prisoners. Turns out, he was practically prescient even without evidence of such, and yet nobody heeded his words.

The bombshell dropped last week — a former Canadian diplomat to Afghanistan stated as much, saying “[a]ccording to our information, the likelihood is that all the Afghans we handed over were tortured. For interrogators in Kandahar, it was a standard operating procedure.”

This coupled with the fact that Canadian operatives were “taking six times as many detainees as British troops and 20 times as many as the Dutch”, and “did not monitor their conditions; took days, weeks or months to notify the Red Cross; kept poor records; and to prevent scrutiny, the Canadian Forces leadership concealed this behind ‘walls of secrecy.'” This indicates not only were Canadians complicit, they were criminally negligent in handling detainees. They were, in essence, rounding up large masses of people, turning them over to Afghan authorities, and allowing widespread torture of probably innocent people. They relied on two oversight bodies that had no jurisdiction and no power to provide oversight, specifically the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and as neither body had any real power, major abuses including apparently electrocution, open flames and extreme temperatures happened as a direct result of our actions.

You can understand my outrage over this. Canada is known internationally as primarily peacekeeping specialists. I point the finger squarely at those unnamed government officials that set these precedents, discussed these actions openly, and covered these actions up. No matter which side of the political spectrum they are on, they MUST be held accountable.

That non-partisan outrage notwithstanding, there’s a familiar refrain being played from — and this should come as no surprise to those that have been paying attention for the last three years — the Tories.

Conservative members of the committee attacked his credibility and even suggested he was playing into the hands of the Taliban by undermining Canada’s military effort in Afghanistan.

“This entire exercise of attempting to draw a link between the Canadian Forces and prison treatment without a shred of evidence is playing right into the hands of the insurgents,” Tory MP Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke) said.

Because weeding out the evil scumbags responsible for these abuses is obviously equivalent to “lending aid and comfort”.

I weep for my country, especially where we were once on higher ground with regard to our handling of the wars Bush dragged Harper into. Now our politicians are as blood-stained.

From this article at World Socialist Web Site:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other senior Conservative ministers have claimed that they knew nothing of Colvin’s reports—although he sent them to senior officials at the CAF, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and the Prime Minister’s Office—and had no reason, prior to Spring 2007, to believe that Afghan authorities were abusing detainees handed over to them by the CAF.

These claims have never been credible. The UN, the Afghan Human Rights Commission, an Afghan government body, and the US government had all said that they had evidence Afghan security forces routinely abused prisoners, including torturing them.

Regardless of this site’s political skew, I have no reason to doubt that the Conservatives in office presently and at the time of the wars would deny knowledge of these reports, despite this information being available pretty much everywhere.

Harper in March smeared his political opponents and pretty well everyone that dared to mention the brewing scandal over potential abuses:

I can understand the passion that the Leader of the Opposition and members of his party feel for Taliban prisoners. I just wish occasionally they would show the same passion for Canadian soldiers.

Mr. Harper, you are directly responsible for war crimes as Prime Minister while these war crimes were being discussed and subsequently covered up. You and your cabinet, and anyone who was complicit in these actions, must resign immediately. Especially in light of your trying to question the patriotism of those who would prefer Canada not become torturers. People who would prefer our fundamentally good nation not descend into the rabbit hole that is sacrificing our higher moral ground in the pursuit of a theocrat’s religious crusades.

I only hope we Canadians are a better people than those that allowed George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney to walk away from the bloody mess they created in the Middle East with nary a repercussion. And people wonder why I call him Bush-Lite.

The Day After Evolution Day

Being caught up in my own travails yesterday, I neglected to post as I had intended even the shortest of linking posts pointing you to other blogospheroidic luminaries on the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. It’s okay though, Greg Laden picked up the slack and linked a ton of stuff. I know most of my readers also read him, so it’s all good.

I’ll throw in a few extra links now, though. Here’s children explaining evolution, a feat we’d never managed to get our favorite now-banned troll to do.

A rare first-edition of Origin of Species was found on a bathroom bookshelf, because it makes for nice light toilet reading. Thankfully it wasn’t a fundie’s bathroom, so none of the pages were… repurposed.

And finally, Darwin goes digital — his life’s works are now online. Origin of Species has been online for quite some time as well, in case you haven’t read it. Not that you need to, to develop a good understanding of evolution — it’s just oftentimes surprising how close to the mark Darwin was, even without the benefit of knowledge of genetics or the fossil record.

Carpentry for Snakes

This is Stilgar.

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He’s 1 year and 5 months old, and approximately 3 feet 4 inches long.

This is Stilgar’s current home.

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It is approximately 1 foot 6 inches long. Can you see the problem here? What’s more, Stilgar will probably top out at around 5 1/2 to 6 feet in the next year or two. This is the reason Jason and I have recently become carpenters, or at least we are trying to be.

This is what we have so far.

Sorry about the low quality, the pic is from Jason's blackberry in crappy lighting.

Sorry about the low quality, the pic is from Jason's blackberry in crappy lighting.

This is the basic frame. It’s 42″x18″x18″ which is slightly larger than the minimum requirements for a full grown Black Rat Snake. It still needs to have edging put on the rough parts of the plywood, have holes cut for where the vents and lighting will go, and be stained on the outside. It’s also going to be lined on the inside with (most likely) waterproof showerboard, unless I can find something else better/cheaper. The seams will all be sealed with silicon so that the inside will be water tight, since the humidity inside the cage needs to be between 40% and 60%. The cubbies on the top and bottom are for lights and heat respectively (I’m actually going to have a heat panel installed on the inside for the primary heating but will have a back-up heat pad on the bottom of the ‘cold’ side for when it gets really cold in here during the winter). The openings to the cubbies will be covered with trim on the front and allow access from the back. We still need to build the door, which will be a large sheet of plexi-glass with a wooden frame that will be hinged on the bottom and will swing downward to allow full access to the cage and easy cleaning.

Phew, that’s a lot of work still to do and Stilgar seems to be going through a growth spurt so we’re on a bit of a timetable here.

Updates will be provided as we progress :)

Gender and the labeling problem

As I’ve commented on DuWayne Brayton’s most recent blog entry, it would probably be pretty uncouth of me to call him “da man” for putting together such a wonderful examination of the pitfalls inherent in gender labeling. Nonetheless, I feel the need to point you to his post.

While the choices I have made in life have certainly influenced who and what I am, I did not choose to have characteristically ambiguous gender traits. I didn’t choose to have a general sexual preference for women. I didn’t choose to empathize the way I do, listen the way I do, brute my way through discomfort the way I do or take on most of the myriad traits, or labels that make DuWayne Brayton, DuWayne Brayton. I am the sum of my genetics, environment and to some degree the choices I have made.

So are every one of us. Every fucking one.

Go read Gender Binaries, Trinaries and the problem of labels…

Sen. Buttars doesn’t want gays “stuffing it down my throat all the time”

I couldn’t make this shit up. In the process of attacking gay marriage, he gives the “you should just stay in the closet” attack vector a try… and rolls up an epic fail.

For background, US Senator Chris Buttars (R) of Utah is apparently famous for racism, homophobia, and boosting of creationism. He’s said of a bill on school funding, “[t]his baby is black, I’ll tell you. This is a dark, ugly thing.” This not long after Mitt Romney got raked across the coals for using the term “tar baby“.

The guy’s a grade-A asshat, in other words.