Because apparently it’s a slow news day

My local paper, the Kennebec Journal, has an article today about ghost hunters.

Florence Drake, the Readfield Historical Society president, will be especially interested in the investigation’s outcome.

She and the historical society’s board heard an initial presentation of paranormal evidence last fall, but Drake said many of the recordings weren’t quite clear enough to discern exactly what was happening.

“Some of the spirits, or whatever they are, I’d like them to speak a little more clearly, more loudly and clearly,” Drake said, “something I could play to our members and say, ‘Here. This is going on.’ “

What a monumental waste of time. Drake didn’t hear anything because it’s all a big scam. Ghosts are as non-existent as God.

Fortunately, there’s a commenter with some good sense.

“There’s voices and stuff moving and unexplainable crap,” she said.” Such phenomena ARE explainable. Steatorrhea, for instance, is often the result of too many fries and too much fried dough with your KFC, especially if you or the kids suffer digestive problems or malabsorption syndromes. Porta-potties at state fairs are an excellent venue for investigating such paranormal occurrences.

What made me most happy about this was that it prevented me from needing to sign-in in order to leave a lengthy comment myself. But that happiness was quickly dashed when I read this:

Divinity (the first commenter), can you prove it’s NOT haunted or that spirits DON’T exist? I didn’t think so.

Oh dear. This old canard. Didn’t the Flying Spaghetti Monster answer this? Didn’t Sagan already do away with this bull? Hasn’t anyone taken a basic science class?

But no need to worry! That same user, Divinity, is to the rescue.

mdenis46 said… “Divinity, can you prove it’s NOT haunted or that spirits DON’T exist? I didn’t think so.” Remember that beautiful summer, Michael, when you had to spend the best days of it in class studying statistics while your mind was on the beach? While you were day-dreaming the instructor was explaining that you never prove the null hypothesis, i.e. similar to “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Personally, I not only believe in spirits, I like to imbibe them when socializing with kindred ghouls and ghosties. I used to love my visits to Mount Desert following those C.E. tribulations; Caspar was always friendly and could drink like a fish.

Burn.

A legal netherworld

Same-sex families suffer from the ridiculous patchwork of laws the U.S. has regulating marriage. Most states are allowed to forego the Full Faith and Credit Clause and pretend as though a couple legally married in, say, Iowa is really single. This presents massive problems in family affairs, when tax season comes around, and for basic human decency.

That’s been a problem for Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand of Mobile, Ala. They married in California in September 2008 during the brief period before same-sex marriages were banned there by a ballot measure, Proposition 8.

It was a whirlwind wedding trip, and the couple promptly returned to Alabama — a state unlikely to recognize same-sex unions without some sort of federal mandate that for now seems far away.

Even with a marriage license, Searcy has been unable to complete a second-parent adoption and is not recognized by Alabama as a legal parent of the couple’s son, Khaya, whom McKeand gave birth to in 2006. Yet despite that rebuff, there’s no talk of moving out.

“We’re from the South — this is our home,” Searcy said. “If everybody moves to states that recognize it, how are we going to change?”

Day to day in Mobile, there’s little practical benefit to being married, Searcy said, though she and McKeand enjoy referring to each other as “my wife.”

“One of the biggest things — now that Khaya is talking — he’s constantly going around telling people, ‘My mommies are married,’” Searcy said. “He’s really proud of that. Seeing that through his eyes, that’s pretty special.”

This is the most obvious blight on American history since segregation. Do read the entire article; it offers a lot of insight into the practical side of marriage, effectively rebuffing the claims of bigots that same-sex couples can just get around not being married through other legal arrangements.

Victory in Malawi

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza of Malawi were sentenced to 14 years in prison for the ‘crime’ of being gay. After Malawian Christians showed what the consequences of legislated morality look like, worldwide pressure fell upon Malawi. This has resulted in President Bingu wa Mutharika publicly correcting the evil in his nation.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were released late Saturday, hours after President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them without condition. But in giving his pardon, which he said was on “humanitarian grounds only,” Mutharika warned that homosexuality remains illegal in the conservative southern African country.

Of course, I can’t say I’m surprised he only corrected his error in judgement of good and evil for this specific couple. It’s tough for bigots to correct their fundamental problems, especially with sexual immaturity. But to be fair, Mutharika has said he pardoned the couple on humanitarian grounds, not because he approves of their acts. That’s still sexual immaturity, but it is tolerance. It’s superficial tolerance – we all know gays are still not safe from persecution in Malawi – but it’s at least a very, very slight step in the right direction.

The Gulf Coast

If the U.S. actually had a free market and if it actually followed the libertarian principles advocated by teabaggers*, then the government wouldn’t even be attempting to fix the Gulf of Mexico spill that is currently in the process of decimating marshland.

And that’s just one problem with ideology. Virtually no matter which one a person chooses, either consequences or intention will be largely ignored. Internet caricature feminism ignores intentions. Libertarianism says “Screw you!” to consequences; Egalitarianism does the same. Utilitarianism is the best at towing the line, but it still fails in many respects to what I think most people want in their ethics and morals. This consistency people seek so much tries to paint the world as black and white, and that just doesn’t work. The current crisis in the Gulf of Mexico would either be made worse or allowed to become far worse than it otherwise would if the U.S. applied an ideology to it.

*When I say teabaggers adhere to libertarian principles, I mean economic libertarian principles – and even then they aren’t that consistent (i.e., favoring publicly-funded roads). But I certainly do not mean social libertarian principles. They hate those.

Yeah, that’s probably empty

I mean, there are only billions and billions of these. I can see how it might be reasonable to presume each one is empty.

If you’re arrogant, that is.

It’s so simpy!

Instead of laying low like a good quack, Christopher Maloney has expanded his lies. He has made several sites, each one more poorly done than the last. And it’s all so perplexing. He cannot make anything better. We’ve already destroyed his web presence – “we” meaning the readers of this site, Richard Dawkins’ site, PZ Myer’s site, Respectful Insolence’s site, Dr. Novella’s site, David Colquhoun’s followers on Twitter, and the hundreds of other bloggers who picked up on the malarkey of Maloney. The best he can do is not make things worse. But fine. If he wants to keep expanding his Internet footprint (despite not really understanding how the Internet works), I’ll keep posting about him on my blog. After all, sure, I’m number 1-4 in Google for “Christopher Maloney Maine” when the quotation marks are included, but I’m only number 6 without them.

Of course, maybe this is just me making another simpy rant.

Previously, I have been bewildered by your need as individuals and as a group to attack me. But as I have come to understand you, it has become clear that you are sad and lost. Rather than engage in constructing the society that you would like to live in, you have given up hope and simpy rant from the sidelines.

I guess he’s made some progress. Instead of going to length to let all who visit his main website know that half the Internet has attacked him, he has moved everything several links away. But he loses points for directly addressing two distinct audiences on the same page.

Pharyngula: the Master Blog

Unless you happen to be interested in the opinions of the ignorant (basically internet graffiti), it is necessary to both moderate a blog and to respond to personal emails. Since PZ Myers does neither, his blog is the equivalent of a bathroom stall in terms of quality of information.

Yet if you search for replications of Myers’ blog posts, you will find several dozen individuals who are intelligent enough to copy his information but do not engage in any true evaluation. These are his “minions” people who either automatically post his ramblings or add their own profanity to his tirades.

I actually have several responses from PZ in my email. Hell, I even have a Cc response from Simon Singh during the height of his legal troubles. Maybe not everyone deserves a response about everything? Crazy, I know.

As far as moderating goes, no. Unless someone is spamming or posting something which may bring about moderation from the hosting site (e.g., porn), there ought to be free range for users. I can understand why a naturopath would be against this sort of open exchange, but Maloney is wrong on this one.

Next up, Maloney links to a number of “Myer’s Minions”, arbitrarily picking 12 (several of which I hadn’t even seen until just moments ago) and calling them “The Dirty Dozen”. I presumed they would all be “simpy” copy and paste jobs of PZ’s post. That would make sense since he apparently has excluded FTSOS from the list, right? Well, most are repeats, but a couple clearly are not. One is Dr. Novella’s post which goes to length to refute Maloney’s bull and misrepresentations. Another is A Hot Cup of Joe. This one gets cited twice, once for a recount of PZ’s post. The second time, however, goes to length to address Maloney’s malarkey.

So give this a moment’s thought (because Maloney clearly did not). He’s been trying to hammer home that everyone is just a minion or parrot of PZ’s, yet he includes sites which do no such thing. (Note, there is nothing wrong with the repeats; they’re why I’m back in business.) One wonders why, then, he would exclude the central person in the criticism of him and his profession – me.

But don’t worry! Under “Pharyngula” I finally get my mention. (Because that’s the location that makes the most sense. Sure.) I’m so flattered.

The Maine kid with an English degree who can’t read science.

First I was a freshman. Then I was 18. Then I was an English major. And now I have an English degree. Oh, and naturopaths apparently read science. Not scientific literature, raw data, or anything of that nature. They literally read science itself. It’s magical.

Here Maloney links to an old post of his which just repeats his lies and anti-vaccine positions. I’ve already addressed them.

My absolute favorite part of Maloney’s new quack outlet has to be this.

Did Myers basically turn over his blog to some Maine kid? Is he losing it? I haven’t seen a single “campaign” against the pope, child molesting priests, or specific evangelicals. I’ve been reading through Myers blog, and organizing attacks is not his style. He’s not a rabble rouser, he’s a rabble collector. More like a bar tender than a guru.

There are two possibilities here. One, Maloney is lying and he has not actually read through PZ’s site. Two, he has read it, but he just likes to lie that much. It’s tough to pick one.

When has a week gone by where PZ hasn’t attacked the pope or priests? Since when is attacking Graham and others not specific enough? Was Crackergate not a big enough “campaign”? Christ. This is such basic information about Pharyngula.

A lot of this junk has already been addressed, I know. For instance, Maloney is still insisting that he had a post which was not allowed. He has already been told several times that he triggered the spam filter because he included five links. The exact same thing would happened to him on FTSOS (and I think I’m being rather generous with how many I allow). But do any of these facts matter? Of course not.

So I will end with this final gem:

For the sake of clarity, I took on the role of Quackalicious and was clear about who I was. Almost all the posters maintain anonymity, allowing them to say things that they would never say to someone in public. The following posts should be taken within the framework of a black man walking into a KKK meeting. People were prejudiced against me from the start, and I had to keep my temper while having a deluge of profanity hurled my way.

Oh, totally. I can really see how the plight of a black man is so similar to Maloney’s. I mean, he was judged by the piss-poor content of his ideas, his lack of empirical evidence, his dishonest behavior, and his insistence on spamming up the place with his Gish Gallop routine. Really, if black people would have just stopped doing all that, well heck, we probably wouldn’t even have had a civil war.