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Wednesday: Melange

A mixture of things from around the web:

1.) Charles Pierce writes that Obama’s press conference yesterday featuring Slutgate and contraception left him uneasy.  In Standing Up for Sex, Pierce writes:

Not a simple, mumbling word about the right to decent health-care, let alone the right to choose. Given a golden opportunity to say flatly that he and his administration were foursquare behind these rights, he gave the whole thing a pass. I’m sure he’s got poll numbers that tell him not to say “abortion” in public but, damn, this was disappointing.

This is what I mean when I say that this issue can only be a political winner for the Democrats if they go out and make it one. How hard would it have been for him to say, “Look, it’s probably not a good time in history to be using the war metaphor, but there’s no question that the Republican party is a vehicle in an organized campaigh to roll back women’s rights in the most personal sphere of their lives, and, as long as I’m president, that won’t happen.”?

I’m glad he called Sandra Fluke. I just wish he’d show that he appreciates the incredible political gift she gave him.

Obama thinks his party affiliation speaks for itself and we should read into his statements what his real thoughts and intentions are.  And this worked so well in 2008.  Everyone thought he was a liberal even though he didn’t embrace liberal or even Democratic or New Deal principles.  Everyone thought he was an anti-war candidate even though this was all premised upon what he *might* have done had he actually been present at the IWR vote.  Everyone thought he was a feminist, which flew in the face of hard evidence that we watched and heard with our very own senses.  In the past four years, he has shown himself to be none of the things he was assumed to be so, and, as far as I’m concerned, we should not assume or presume that he is onboard with sex being guilt free for adult women.  More likely, he has no natural empathy for women in this regard so he’s more inclined to do what’s good for him politically and not for women socially.  And right now, he thinks it is good for him politically to reach out to evangelicals and the women’s vote will just flock to him because women are assuming he is not as bad as the Republicans.

I think he is just as bad, if not worse, because his attitude encourages complacency.  It will all be taken care of, don’t you worry.  A year from now, women are going to be kicking themselves for not being more demanding of him.  You’re only going to get a commitment from him under duress and until you hear him choke it out in a high squeaky voice, don’t assume anything.

2.) Speaking of beliefs that may or may not have any basis in fact, have you checked out the Richard Dawkins Belief Scale?  Unlike women’s rights, you don’t have to commit to a god or atheism.  It’s perfectly Ok to land somewhere along the scale.  I’m a 5.78324.  Some people might round that up.  Here it is:

  1. Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.
  2. De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.
  3. Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.
  4. Pure Agnostic: God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.
  5. Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.
  6. De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.
  7. Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

Assuming that there are not as many 1’s out there as the Beanie Boys would have you think, why should we allow the 1’s to run the country based on judeo-christian biblical principles?

3.) More on belief.  Pat Robertson may have exceeded his stupidity quota.  When asked on the 700 Club about why God kills people with tornados, he had this to say:

There ya’ go, tornado victims.  Let this be a lesson to you.  Don’t buy a farm in the middle of tornado alley.  Don’t be a person who earns a living in tornado alley either.  And woe to you on the west coast in the earthquake zone.  The kinfolk say, move away from there!  Californy is NOT the place you want to be.  Also, if you are anywhere where you could be swept away by a flash flood, get caught up in a hurricane or Nor’easter, burnt to a cinder in a wildfire, trapped in a heat wave, engulfed in a blizzard, frozen in a cold snap, eaten by wild animals or poisoned by insects and plants, or irradiated by a particularly unusual and strong solar flare, well, it’s your own damn fault.  Did God promise you a rose garden?  You should have bought one of the time shares in Glenn Beck’s underground bunker cities and retreated to it with your 6 months supply of dried ravioli and Tang.

I guess Stephanie Decker, who protected her kids from the tornados with her own body and lost her legs as a result, should be thankful that God didn’t demand more of a sacrifice for living in the wrong place.  But I have faith that with the help of doctors, physical therapists and prosthesis engineers, Stephanie *will* walk again.  Hang in there Stephanie.

4.) A couple of days ago, a PR person for Chris Viehbacher tried to do a What Chris Really Meant response to Chris’s insensitive and clueless presentation of the reasons why his company was getting rid of its own scientists and turning to cheap and desperate small company scientists for potential blockbuster drugs.

Now, Viehbacher’s point seems to be that small biotechs and mid sized companies are more nimble and innovative than big behemoth pharma companies so, and here’s the logic of the bonus class in all it’s glory, big pharma scientists just aren’t as good as those in smaller biotechs and therefore deserve to have their jobs eliminated.

This ignores two things that Viehbacher is either denying or completely ignorant of.  The first is that those of us who up until recently worked in big pharma until we were dumped for working in big pharma, did not start our careers in big pharma.  Nooooo, we were in medium pharma.  The first pharma I worked at only had 3 research sites and the one I worked at in Princeton was relatively small having about 400 people total working on about 5 different therapeutic areas.  It was all self contained with chemistry, biology, animal facilities, structural biology, analytical, scale up, everything in one building.  But then came the mergers and more mergers and we added more facilities and companies and satellite research centers in different companies and then we got consultants to come in every couple of years and rejigger everyone, just to keep it light and breezy.  Every time there was a merger, work would come to a screeching halt for two years so the managers could play musical chairs and find a department headship position, usually by doing a real Julius Caesar meets Brutus in the Senate scene.  So, big was never OUR idea.  It was the bright idea of the finance guys, the consultant guys and the Viehbacher guys who got big bonuses from every merger they made.

The second thing that undermines Viehbacher’s argument is that all of those big pharma scientists that he thought were no good are now working for the small companies and acedemic groups that Viehbacher is planning to rape.  Now that they’ve been liberated from the shackles of big pharma wage slavery, they are working more nimbly and innovatively at small biotechs and university labs with vastly reduced salaries and benefits.  And this must warm the cockles of Viehbacher’s heart enormously.

5.) Finally, Titli Nihaan, my new favorite internet chef (until #1 child gets her own show), shows us how to make a Cassoulet and gives us some French lessons as a bonus!  This is the halal version.  I tried it the other night but made some even leaner substitutions.  Delicious. Er, Magnifique!

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48 Responses

  1. Sounds good! And we’re always looking for something to do with that can of spam that’s been sitting around for a couple of decades…..

    • I love her videos. She’s a natural. I wish the food network would pick her up. Er, I guess I would have to get a cable subscription for that. Hmmmm, nevermind.
      Maybe Titli can expand her videos to include meals and tours of exotic off-the-wall places.

  2. obama is terrible for women. Just recently demeaning a woman who asked about war with Iran… “young lady” comment to brush off protest . I fail to see why “sweety” or “young lady” are acceptable ways to address adult women who he doesn’t know.

    “Young lady” was what parents and teachers called us when we were kids and in trouble for something.

    • He did it to my sister a couple of weeks ago, she asked him to sign her ticket to some event and he said, “Sorry honey, if I stop to sign this, everyone’s got one” …. couldn’t have just said, “no” or “I can’t everyone’s got one” or (omg) just signed the thing?

      • Honey, sweetie, young lady? Does he think we’re all 8 years old?

        • YES. That is why everybody and their dog needs to approve what we do with our bodies – in his book.

        • ” Honey ? Sweety ? Young Lady? ” . . . it seems to me those statements plus incriminating videos can all be High Profiled, placed onto one Super-Accessible webspot, and suitably weaponized. And then launched at the target again and again and over and over again.

          I will raise the deeply scurillious possibility that he may be a deeply anti-womanitc gay man. (I have heard and read that some gay men are anti-womanitic and others are not. He could be one of the ones who is). I won’t besmear this blog with links to such politics-of-personal-destruction material, but those who want to take the initiative to find it themselves can google up various combinations of the words Obama South Side Chicago Bathhouse Gay Rahm Emmanuel in various combinations and see what they find. If there is something there, it too could be weaponized for use against the enemy.

  3. That’s weird, where did the poll go? The atheists were winning by a huge margin.

    • try reloading … I can see it.

    • The poll needs three more choices:

      8) Weak Non-Theist: I do not know whether multiple non-eternal gods and goddesses exist, but I’m inclined to be skeptical.

      9) De-facto Non-Theist: I cannot know for certain but I think multiple non-eternal gods and goddesses are very probable and I live my life under the assumption that they are there.

      10) Strong Non-Theist: I am 100% sure that there are multiple non-eternal gods and goddesses.

      • The professor did leave out the polytheists–it sounds to me like that’s what NK means by “non-theist”.

        I guess because he’s an Englishman, and there are so few polytheists left in Western culture, he simply overlooked them.

        If he hailed from the Indian subcontinent, he might have thought to include them.

        • Not just polytheist or animist. The non-eternal property is critical. It’s what fundamentally distinguishes non-theists from theists. Theists believe their god(s) are necessarily eternal. Non-theists believe that god(s) and goddess(es) are born and eventually die–or at the very least can be killed (by someone else or by accident).

          • I would think any being who can die is something less than a god.

            Also, the central purpose of religion is to find some way to maintain or renew the individual personality (aka mind, spirit, soul–it has many names) past the undeniable death of the physical body. Godlike beings who are not eternal could not grant eternal existence to my individual personality, so it hardly matters to me whether or not they exist.

          • The individual personality, like the physical body, has no permanence attached to it. It changes from moment to moment and is empty of an independent self. To seek permanence from a divine being in such a way is ultimately a futile quest, as such a divine being also changes from moment to moment and, as it came into being, will also pass away.

          • Then if I cannot have some sort of perpetual existence for my individual soul, why should I bother with any religion at all?

            If the gods or the one God cannot help me obtain immortality of the soul, if no religion or philosophy can help me obtain that goal, then why follow any of them?

            Why not just do everything I can get away with (a key phrase–one DOES want to stay out of prison) to wring what pitiful transient pleasures I can wring out of this one and only life I have?

          • “If the gods or the one God cannot help me obtain immortality of the soul, if no religion or philosophy can help me obtain that goal, then why follow any of them?”

            Because healing and inspiration and miracles and temporary heavens are worth something.

          • BL, if that’s your gods’ best, their best won’t do.

          • Why not just do everything I can get away with (a key phrase–one DOES want to stay out of prison) to wring what pitiful transient pleasures I can wring out of this one and only life I have?

            I think it was Kant who is known for positing that one does the “ethical” thing because it is the ethical thing, not because there’s a prize for doing the ethical thing, as the prize aspect negates the free will aspect. IIRC there’s an entire branch of Christianity based somewhat on this idea.

            My personal philosophy is “heaven is now.” So I’d say, go for those transient pleasures… as long as you don’t hurt anybody. Hurting others kinda negates the heaven part.

          • This reply is actually to Monster from the Id, but the sub-sub-sub nesting of reply-replies can only go so far.

            Why is the separate survival of a separate personal soul even necessary? I believe some religious systems believe in and pursue the overall survival of grand universe matter and energy pools, from which one separately emerges upon birth and into which one de-separately re-merges back into upon death. And all life serves to uphold all life.

          • RUR–I want my individual personality to survive. Becoming an oblivious part of something “greater” is not good enough for me.

          • GXM: There can be no heaven in this world. The biosphere, however orderly it might be on a purely physical level, is utterly chaotic on a moral level. Under its deceptive beauty lies an unrelenting nightmare of predation, parasitism, senseless suffering, and death. If Nature is a “Mother”, then it’s Mommie Dearest.

      • Since Riverdaughter asked…

        “9) De-facto Non-Theist: I cannot know for certain but I think multiple non-eternal gods and goddesses are very probable and I live my life under the assumption that they are there.”

        That’s still got a lot of assumptions in it. How should I know whether such beings (if they exist) are eternal or non-eternal?

        I’d say:

        “None of the major religions make much sense (and the neo-pagan religions don’t even claim to be true), but the atheists throw out too much of the evidence.”

        Very personally, I think of the Great Chain of Being: we’re way down on the ladder. We’re chipmunks at a campground: some humans feed us, other humans shoot us, most ignore us. Some are well-meaning,;some adopt us and take us home; none are omnipotent. (And a lot of important stuff goes on that we can’t understand but isn’t personal relationship either.)

  4. I rounded down to a 6. If “god” is defined as a man in the sky, then I’m an absolute 7.

    I place myself at 6.5 because although I’m pretty sure there are greater natural forces outside homo sapiens’ boundary of perception, I don’t believe those forces are necessarily conscious, or give a rat’s behind about a bunch of hairless monkeys who think they’re smarter than they actually are. The idea that humans are anything other than an outcome of chance is truly laughable IMHO. I doubt this planet and its non-humans inhabitants will be sorry when we eventually move on to that proverbial better place. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure an eviction notice is in the works.

  5. I chose 2. I would only have chosen 1 if I thought I could prove the existence of God, but I know I can’t do that.

    As for Pat Robertson, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

  6. i have an absolute belief in God. I do not want religion in my government. I think God is capable of creating a self correcting world and universe. He or She does not need the help of humankind to do His or Her will. Keep the Catholic Church or any other Church or religion out of my life. I will respect anyone’s belief as long as they respect mine.

    • Amen, sister.

      I think Christianity has remained strong in the USA because of the separation of church and state. Some of the original 13 colonies had established religions before the Bill of Rights was ratified, but the First Amendment meant that the USA had no established, corrupt, warmongering, persecuting, obscurantist state church to make the masses here cynical about faith, unlike how things happened in Europe. The Founders wanted to avoid the religious wars and persecutions that had soaked Europe in blood.

      The right-wing Christians who want to shove their (per)version of Christianity down all of our throats would only ruin Christianity in the USA if they succeed.

      • I could probably be called a fundamentalist Christian. I have a very deep faith and it is important to my life, but it is my own belief and I do not think God needs me to force my belief on others and I don’t want their beliefs forced on me and mine. Government should not take anyone’s religious belief into consideration when making laws to govern everyone. I don’t care what Obama believes as long as he does not use it to govern. I want complete separation of church and state. I want women to be considered complete human beings on their own. I want women and girls to have as many opportunities as males. I want every section of this country to be respected as part of America and not have certain sections judged by everyone else as not fully American. I want each state to be as important to the nation as every other state. This nation needs to care for all our citizens.

        • Um, there’s no doubt that you are a Christian but you are most retain,y not a fundamentalist. Noooooo, my dear (thank the intangible).
          You are a secularist, which is a good thing, even if you believe in god. But fundamentalists are absolutely opposed to secularism.

          • Maybe LSG meant “evangelical”. Often, the differences between “mainline” and “evangelical” Christianity in the USA have more to do with non-religious factors–such as social and economic class, ethnicity, even regional culture–than they have to do with specifically religious matters such as doctrine and theology.

          • Shozbot! I should have said “between mainline and evangelical Protestant Christianity in the USA”. Catholic and Orthodox Christians, AFAIK, are not divided in that particular fashion.

          • I am an old time Baptist from before the Corporate Baptist took over. I am not Protestant since Baptist existed Before Martin Luther showed up with that manifesto. I learned to believe in separation of church and state in church. I learned each person is their own priest and responsible to God for their actions. I believe in the fundamentals of Christianity that I learned in church.

      • The state churches of Western Europe may have made religious practice routine and dull, but that’s not what did Christianity in there. The slaughter and destruction of WWI and II is what did it in. The people’s faith was destroyed by it.

        We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war.–Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet On The Western Front

        • I did say “warmongering”… 🙄

          • A warmongering nature which was the natural result of the churches’ entanglement with the states, I should have added.

          • Because of the slaughter, they lost their faith in God. They recognized that, in the end, he lacked the power to save them, or chose not to. Having lost their faith in God, abandonment of Christianity was the logical next step.

            Even so, nature abhors a spiritual vacuum, and Buddhism is moving to fill that void in Western Europe.

          • I wish you joy of your faith, but from what little I know of it, it sounds to me like your faith asks too much discipline, and offers pitifully meager rewards in return.

            If I had wanted to lead a disciplined life, I would have joined the Marine Corps. 😈

          • I neglected to ask–is there proof of NK’s claim that adherence to Buddhism is increasing significantly in Europe, to the point of becoming the faith of at least, say, 10% of the population? I was thinking that Europe was mostly agnostic. 😕

          • After I made my last 2 comments, it occurred to me that they could be considered hostile, and I wish I could edit them. 😳 I meant a certain skepticism, rather than hostility.

  7. At least on some unconscious level, Obummer probably blames his mom for the fact his deadbeat dad ran out on them. I would guess much of his misogyny comes from that.

  8. The Rush story hopped the pond with a full page in Libération : “La pub n’avale plus la pilule Rush” (Advertisers can no longer swallow the Rush pill).

  9. I am a pure 4 on that Dawkins test. There is no scientific test for God or NotGod.

    Speaking of food, I have pushed my guar gum testing a little further.
    In making salad dressing I now put the aqueous fraction in the salad bowl first, then mix in some guar gum and stir it up real hard for a while and let it set a couple minutes till it thickens a little. I have noticed that putting in the guar gum FIRST and THEN putting in the whatever-oil in small amounts to taste while mixing makes the final dressing even thicker and gummier than if I had mixed the aquafraction and oil together first before the guar gum. Putting the guar gum in first lets you thicken the dressing with far less oil than otherwise . . . if oil-control is the goal.

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