Thugs at work

Events are off to a great start at the RNC: Amy Goodman, host of the TV/radio program Democracy Now! and a well-known activist for peace and human rights, has been arrested in St Paul by our power-mad authoritarian servants of the Rethuglican Party. Apparently, she was defending two radio producers who were being arrested on the charge of “suspicion of rioting”, which sounds dubious right there. She has been charged with “conspiracy to incite a riot”.

She’s a well-known peace activist, people. Non-violence and all that. And now the cops are claiming that she is working to incite riots? Be honest: the police are just trying to silence democratic voices.

Glenn Greenwald has more updates, and Lindsay Beyerstein reports on more harassment. You can protest by calling Chris Rider of Mayor Coleman’s office (651-266-8535) or by calling the Ramsey County Jail (651-266-9350, ext. 0).

And more:

By the way, the best place to find coverage of the police tactics in Minneapolis during the convention is a the Minnesota Independent.

PZ & Greg’s Excellent Party…update

We have a date and time — Thursday, 18 September at 7pm. We have a rough location — somewhere in the Minneapolis/St Paul area. And most importantly, we have the will to party to celebrate the one millionth comment on scienceblogs.

We also have an excess of specific venue suggestions. Now we could do a gigantic pub crawl, but that would be unseemly…besides, that’s already scheduled for 18 October, when it’s time for the Zombie Pub Crawl 4: Spawn of Death. But I digress. We need you to vote to narrow down the choices. Greg has the list, read it and vote! It’s going to be the very best geek event in Minneapolis ever, at least until ZPC4:SoD.

What Obama says

Word from the Democratic presidential candidate on the recent announcement from Sarah Palin (among other rumors):

“Let me be a clear as possible: I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people’s families are off limits, and people’s children are especially off limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin’s performance as governor, or her potential performance as a vice president.

“And so I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories. You know my mother had me when she was 18, and how a family deals with issues and, you know, teenage children, that shouldn’t be the topic of our politics and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that’s off limits.”

The issues here should not be “OMG her daughter is pregnant out of wedlock”, but “What are the candidates proposed policies for dealing with the issue of teen pregnancy?” That Palin’s daughter is pregnant should not be of any concern to either campaign; that Palin’s policies of an active maintenance of reproductive ignorance are manifest failures is.

(By the way, I notice I have something in common with Obama: my mother was also 18 when she had me!)

From the horse’s mouth

Here’s the other side: Sarah Palin made some policy statements in her run for governor, so we can see what to expect. She’s pro-ignorance and anti-civil rights all the way, opposing gay marriage, sex education, and reproductive rights for women. No surprise at all, I know. Here are some answers that jumped out at me:

2. Will you support the right of parents to opt out their children from curricula, books, classes, or surveys, which parents consider privacy-invading or offensive to their religion or conscience?Why or why not?

SP: Yes. Parents should have the ultimate control over what their children are taught.

She wants kids to be taught only what the parents believe, which is a disaster for education. It dictates that the next generation can be no wiser, barring exceptional effort from the kids themselves, than the previous. This is an angle to give religion a trump card over science, and jingo priority over history, by making it easy to prevent kids from being exposed to reality.

10. Do you support the Alaska Supreme Court’s ruling that spousal benefits for state employees should be given to same-sex couples? Why or why not?Why or why not?

SP: No, I believe spousal benefits are reserved for married citizens as defined in our constitution.

The constitution once reserved voting rights to men, and allowed people to be held as slaves. So?

And this last one is simply hilarious.

11. Are you offended by the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?

SP: Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.

See Question 2 above. Do we really want stupid people dictating what people should learn?

Here’s another answer from Palin that suddenly has more significance:

3. Will you support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?

SP: Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.

Now, are you ready to hear this?

Sarah and Todd Palin say their 17-year-old unmarried daughter is pregnant.The couple said in a statement released by John McCain’s presidential campaign that Bristol will keep her baby.

I’m flummoxed. Here’s another personal issue that is none of the voters’ business, that will distract the media from discussing the issues, yet it speaks directly to Palin’s support for bad reproductive and educational policy.

14 more reasons to vote for Obama

By now, you must have heard that ScienceDebate 2008 had submitted a list of science and technology policy questions to our presidential candidates. So for, only Obama has answered them, while McCain has been silent (maybe he’s waiting for input from his creationist VP choice). Obama’s answers are pretty darned good, although we have to keep in mind that these are campaign promises, many of the proposals look rather expensive, and with the economy going as it is, implementation may be problematic. But the attitude is positive, at least.

Obama recognizes the problem that the US is a fading star in international science, and sees that the answer requires more investment in research and in science education. He sees that global warming is real, that the country must reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that this is an economic opportunity…and a research opportunity. He sees that our national security benefits from technology. He has the right idea on the importance of genetics and stem cell research, and is going to lift the ban on creating new stem cell lines.

His answer on what he’s going to do to improve education contain many good ideas, too, including a specific education committee within the Office of Science and Technology Policy (which advises the president — we also need such an office for Congress).

I’ll give him a thumbs up on this one, with some reservations that maybe he’ll address later. In particular, I can’t help but notice that in all the general discussion about better science education, not once is a major stumbling block, evolution, mentioned. I hope this is just a small specific oversight in an admittedly general policy survey, and that there isn’t any aversion to the “e” word.

Now I really want to hear what the Republican answer to these questions might be. Perhaps after the convention this week McCain/Palin will get around to it?

Where did people come from?

It’s a common question, and it isn’t easy to explain, since much of it is complicated while the simple parts are often counter-intuitive. But here’s a
comic that tries and illustrates the problem.

Here’s the correct explanation, that actually jibes with the evidence.


Here’s the ID/creationist explanation:


Then, of course, in the competition of ideas, the two hash it out and…well, you’ll have to read the whole thing yourself. Sad to say, the ending rings true, too.