News From Around The Blogosphere 6.9.11

June 10, 2011

I’ve been away for almost a week, so I’m going to have to play catch-up for the next few days.

1. New Pew Poll suggests atheists still unelectable – If the poll is accurate, atheists are less electable than a candidate who is Mormon, gay, divorced, or even an adulterer.

2. ‘Psychic’ leads Texas Rangers and FBI down dead end  – Police followed a tip by an alleged psychic who told them where to find a supposed mass grave containing dozens of dismembered bodies. Now Craig McNair, head of the county commissioners, is looking to hold her responsible for giving a false tip and creating havoc.

3. ‘Expelled’ production company expelled from existence – Premise Media Holdings LP has gone bankrupt and its shitty creationist propaganda film starring Ben Stein is going up for auction:

The high bidder will become the owner of the movie that The New York Times (2008 Apr 18) described as “[o]ne of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time … a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry … an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike” and that was denounced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for its “profound dishonesty” and condemned by the Anti-Defamation League for its “outrageous” misuse of the Holocaust to “tarnish those who promote the theory of evolution.” (NCSE’s Expelled Exposed provides a collection of reviews, commentary, and resources documenting the extensive problems with Expelled.)

4. Tennessee passes law banning images that “cause emotional distress” – Though it remains to be seen if anyone will actually try to enforce this new law signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, it’s hard to imagine a greater offense to the First Amendment.

5. Hot nun fired over lap-dancing past – Wasn’t there something in Christian mythology about turning the other cheek? Which cheeks the passage was talking about is unclear.

And on a related note…

6. Pole dancing for Jesus causes controversy – There’s a pole dancing class that allegedly is intended to help women stay in shape while simultaneously bringing them closer to God:

Set to Christian music, church-going women spin and slither around poles. But the instructor and the students say it’s not about sex.

7. South Carolina prison insist lingerie ads lead to “deviant behavior”

But the organization says the jail has gone even further in its screening of mail to inmates by banning publications that contain any level of nudity, including beachwear and underwear.

Oh, and there’s a video in the link above.


And finally…

8. Congratulations to my friend Page Van Meter, who’s been named the new president of the NYC Skeptics!


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News From Around The Blogosphere 7.23.10

July 24, 2010

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

1. Another study allegedly suggests beautiful women make men stupid

Just five minutes alone with an attractive female raise the levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, according to a study from the University of Valencia.

The effects are heightened in men who believe that the woman in question is “out of their league”.

Researchers tested 84 male students by asking each one to sit in a room and solve a Sudoku puzzle. Two strangers, one male and one female, were also in the room.

When the female stranger left the room and the two men remained sitting together, the volunteer’s stress levels did not rise. However, when the volunteer was left alone with the female stranger, his cortisol levels rose.

The researchers concluded: “In this study we considered that for most men the presence of an attractive woman may induce the perception that there is an opportunity for courtship.

I don’t know how this became a hot topic in scientific research. Maybe a few too many lonely male scientists are out to prove women are evil or will be the downfall of civilization.

2. How to create lesbian mice – That’s not what I’m personally into but apparently if one were so inclined to turn female mice into lesbians, all it takes is deleting a single gene. Of course the rodent religious right will still continue to insist that it’s just the choice to live a sinful lifestyle and reject the teachings of the mouse messiah. Why else would they call the aforementioned gene “FucM”? Mickey wants you to repent! He died for your sins.

Begin operation kill all humans.

3. Robot Ranger sets untethered walking record

A Cornell University robot named Ranger walked 14.3 miles in about 11 hours, setting an unofficial world record at Cornell’s Barton Hall early on July 6. A human — armed with nothing more than a standard remote control for toys — steered the untethered robot.

The 14.3-mile record beats the former world record set by Boston Dynamics’ BigDog, which had claimed the record at 12.8 miles.

Sure, it can walk on a track but how’d it do in the rocky terrain of Tatoine?

4. Ben Stein tells the unemployed to get a job -Here’s what Stein had to tell America’s unemployed:

The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I say “generally” because there are exceptions. But in general, as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day’s work. They are people who create either little utility or negative utility on the job.

And this was Nixon’s speech writer! I didn’t think it was possible but Stein seems to understand less about the job market than he does about biology and history.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 9.3.09

September 3, 2009

1. Israel’s richest woman now claiming to be psychic – Businesswoman Shari Arison, who’s worth $2.7 billion, is claiming she can see the future. But I actually think this is a case where she actually believes she can see the future. Here’s why:

Armed with the insight gained through work with Florida-based psychiatrist Brian Weiss, a proponent of regression therapy and the exploration of (take your pick) deep memories or past lives, she says she is ready to go public with her visions and bring together her spiritual and business goals.

Yup, you talk to some wacky past life regression guru and the next thing you know, they get you believing that your own thoughts are messages from the future. I tell ya, if I had a nickel for every time. . .

2. Ben Stein, fresh off of his being fired by the NY Times, calls gay people pedofiles:

We have … an entire party, the Democrats, whose primary constituency, besides the teachers’ unions, is homosexual men and lesbian women. I hope it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that a big part of male homosexual behavior is interest in young boys.

And hope it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that a Ben Stein holds such ignorant views on gay people. C’mon Ben. It’s 2009. You’re not fooling anyone. It’ll be okay. Just come out of the closet, Ben.

3. Iranian leaders trying to get rid of social sciences

Ayatollah Khamenei said this week that the study of social sciences “promotes doubts and uncertainty.” He urged “ardent defenders of Islam” to review the human sciences that are taught in Iran’s universities and that he said “promote secularism,” according to Iranian news services.

“Many of the humanities and liberal arts are based on philosophies whose foundations are materialism and disbelief in godly and Islamic teachings,” Ayatollah Khamenei said at a gathering of university students and professors on Sunday, according to IRNA, the state news agency. Teaching those “sciences leads to the loss of belief in godly and Islamic knowledge.”

4. Weight Watchers is in bed with Jenny McCarthy – This can only mean one thing. I won’t be discouraging people from buying Weight Watchers.

monkey-thinking5. Chimpanzees Use ‘Tool Kits’ To Catch Ants

Chimpanzees in the Congo have developed specialised ‘tool kits’ to forage for army ants, reveals new research published today in the American Journal of Primatology. This not only provides the first direct evidence of multiple tool use in this context, but suggests that chimpanzees have developed a ‘sustainable’ way of harvesting food.

6. Eyeless, fanged crustacean found

“A species of crustacean with no eyes and venom-injecting fangs has been discovered in an underwater volcanic cave in the Canary Islands off the coast of North Africa.”

That is so freakin’ cool! That’s the most interesting fauna I’ve heard about in a while. It’s been named Speleonectes atlantida.

Ben Stein cranky over being fired by NY Times

August 11, 2009

Last week, I blogged about Ben Stein’s being fired from his position as a financial columnist for the New York Times because of his moonlighting as a shill for a scam “free” credit report operation, which caused a conflict of interest and violated the NY Times’ code of conduct.

Well now Stein’s bitching about how he did nothing wrong and flinging feces at anything he can think of (and he says he’s not related to monkeys?). Of course first he tries to blame the persecution he’s endured since his mockumentary, Expelled, which he claims to have co-wrote in addition to narrating. I find this odd considering that from what I’ve heard from the interviewees on that film, Stein was a late addition to the project who wasn’t even hired yet when the first round of on-camera interviews were conducted. Later, Stein was hired and they re-shot some interviews with Stein sitting across from some of the interviewees  for wide shots and over-the-shoulder shots to give the false impression that Stein was always there and to invent the entirely made-up narrative of the film, which is Ben Stein’s unbiased investigation to find out whether Evolution was legit.

So Stein criticizes the New York Times’ own film critic who like every film critic, panned his film as hard as Roger Ebert panned The Brown Bunny. Actually, compared to Ebert’s review of Expelled, I think he let Vincent Gallo’s pretentious crap off easy. Stein even laughably inserts an absurd line about a completely different, unnamed critic from The NY Times who many moons ago, he says, panned Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Wow! That’s like twenty years ago. The NY Times must really hate Ben Stein. Way to hold onto a grudge there. That must be why they hired him to work for them.


Then Stein goes on talking about how his little mockumentary was all about being merely a plea for open discussion, blah, blah, blah. Was that before or after he blamed scientists for the Holocaust, compared scientists to Nazis, and went on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and while promoting the film, stated:

“When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.”  -Ben Stein

So of course it’s partially the atheists fault he violated the terms of his employment with the NY Times. But it’s not just the atheists he blames but also the alleged antagonists he made when he criticized the “investment bank” Goldman Sachs (his use of quotation marks, not mine).

Then he takes another shot at the evil atheists:

Meanwhile, the haters connected with atheism and neo-Darwinism continued to attack me.

Yeah, after you compared them to Nazis–go figure, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t like you.

Then he blames the bad economy and Barack Obama. No, really. He blames Barack Obama for his losing his job because he criticized him in print. I guess we should then expect to see every Republican journalist criticizing Obama to lose their jobs any day now, right Stein? You must be quite the important writer there to have such powerful enemies. Funny how I didn’t even know you were writing for the NY Times until a few weeks ago when I found out that you’d violated the terms of your employment with them. That’s power, baby! Next, I’m sure Osama bin Laden and Kim Jong Il will order their special assassins to take you out by any means necessary. . .cause you’re so important.

Oh, and never mind the fact that the NY Times did apparently let him publish at least one anti-Obama article. Stein just wants to focus on the one article they apparently nixed for. . .well, who cares what the real reason was? I’m sure Stein is 100% accurate in his assessment that it was because of the NY Times’ bias. . .even though, again, they did publish one of his anti-Obama articles.

Diabolical fiends!

Then FINALLY Stein gets to the actual reason he was fired, his advertising for the scammers at Of course Stein claims there was no conflict of interest when in fact there was.

Of course, there was no conflict of interest. I had never written one word in the Times or anywhere else about getting credit scores on line. Not a word.

As the “Everybody’s Business” columnist, he was working as a financial advice columnist while simultaneously deceiving the public by advertising a product people have to pay $29.95 for when the same  service is available for free by law. Way to protect the public’s wallets during these tough times, Stein. Yup, no conflict of interest there.

Of course, there was not one word of complaint when I did commercials for immense public companies.

Yeah, because there was no conflict of interest in your promotion of Clear Eyes, which as far as I’m aware, is a legitimate product. Though maybe not. I have no idea.

By a total coincidence, I was tossed overboard immediately after my column attacking Obama. (You can attack Obama from the left at the Times but not from the right.)

Oh, there goes the Obama blame again. It’s also a funny coincidence how, as you yourself said, they did publish at least one of your anti-Obama articles and a total coincidence that this also happened right after, as you yourself stated four paragraphs earlier, your evil “Darwinist” adversaries informed the NY Times of your conflict of interest:

This commercial was red meat for the Ben Stein haters left over from the Expelled days. They bombarded the Times with letters. They confused (or some of them seemingly confused ) FreeScore with other companies that did not have FreeScore’s unblemished record with consumer protection agencies. (FreeScore has a perfect record.) They demanded of the high pooh-bahs at the Times that they fire me because of what they called a conflict of interest.

So which is it, Stein? Is it not a coincidence because you just wrote a piece criticizing the president or was it not a coincidence because your intellectual superiors in the science world exposed your hypocrasy?

And, I really mean this, I will pray for those who use me despitefully, even if the neo-Darwinists think that’s a waste of time. It’s not.

Maybe instead you should pray for the NY Times to give you your job back and see how effective prayer really is, huh? That truly would be compelling evidence that prayer really worked.

But you know, I guess Stein’s not all bad though. It’s not like he compared his persecution to that of the greatest songwriter of all time, right?

The whole subject reminds me of a conversation Bob Dylan had long ago with a reporter who asked him what he thought about how much criticism he was getting for going from acoustic to electric guitar. “There are a lot of people who have knives and forks,” he said, “and they have nothing on their plates, so they have to cut something.”

Son of a bitch!

New York Times fires Ben Stein

August 6, 2009

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Ben Stein’s latest deceptive venture as spokesperson for the scam web site, which sells “free” credit reports to people for $29.95 when the reports are REALLY free at, a site advertisers are required by law to inform consumers about. But Stein is also writes as the “Everybody’s Business” columnist, and as I mentioned in that previous blog, Stein’s role as spokesperson for this site seemed to be a clear violation of the New York Time’s own ethics guidelines.

Well, the NY Times has finally acted and has fired Ben Stein as their Sunday business columnist because of his involvement with

According to Times spokesperson Catherine Mathis:

Ben Stein’s fine work for us as a columnist for Sunday Business had to end, we told him, after we learned that he had become a commercial spokesman for FreeScore, a financial services company. Ben didn’t understand when he signed on with FreeScore that this might pose a potential conflict for him as a contributing columnist for the Times, because he hadn’t written about credit scores or this company. But, we decided that being a commercial spokesman for FreeScore while writing his column wouldn’t be appropriate.

We are sorry to lose him as a columnist, and appreciate his work for the Times over the years.

Awwww! Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person.

Ben Stein selling ‘free’ credit reports for $29.95

July 16, 2009

That’s right. Ben Stein is now hawking FREE credit reports for $29.95. Man, the interest just kills ya every time, doesn’t it?

Stein is now the spokesman for, and in addition to appearing in annoying ads on the web like the one here to the right, he’s doing commercials:

“I went to and found out my score for free”, says Ben, while an annoying squirrel holds up a sign with the word “FREE” in some horrible brush-script font.

A few points are worth noting here. First, the score itself is not very useful to consumers. What’s useful is the report — if there’s an error on the report, then the consumer can try to rectify it. Secondly, and much more importantly, if you want a free credit report, there’s only one place to go: That’s the place where the big three credit-rating agencies will give you a genuinely free copy of your credit report once a year, as required by federal law.

You won’t be surprised to hear that is not free: in order to get any information out of them at all, you have to authorize them to charge you a $29.95 monthly fee. They even extract a dollar out of you up front, just to make sure that money is there.

Stein, here, has become a predatory bait-and-switch merchant, dangling a “free” credit report in front of people so that he can sock them with a massive monthly fee for, essentially, doing nothing at all. Naturally, the people who take him up on this offer will be those who can least afford it.

Well defrauding the public is Stein’s specialty. This is also grounds for dismissal at the NY Times, where Stein writes as the “Everybody’s Business” columnist, not only because of the hypocrisy of working as a financial advice columnist while simultaneously deceiving the public  into paying for a service that’s available for free, but also for being a paid shill for that very product, which is the very definition of a conflict of interest.Oh, and then there’s this:

Update: Ryan Chittum notes that the new credit card act requires advertisers to inform consumers that the only place for a free credit report is; they will also be required to include a   statement that “This is not the free credit report provided for by Federal law.” When does this act come into force?

Update 2: It’s also worth quoting the NYT’s own ethics guidelines:

40. It is an inherent conflict for a journalist to perform public relations work, paid or unpaid.

44. Staff members may not engage in financial counseling (except through the articles they write). They may not manage money for others, offer investment advice, or help operate an investment company of any sort, with or without pay.

Stein isn’t a staff member. But the NYT generally holds its columnists to the same ethical standards.

Further, is allegedly a subsidiary of Vertrue Inc., which has a long history of  deceptive business practices.

Well, as a character in a movie once said, “We all wear masks, metaphorically speaking.” (Can’t believe Cameron Diaz turned out to be the only sane one in that movie).

So if you want a free credit report that REALLY is FREE, go to and accept no substitute. It’s the only one that’s federally mandated:

Expelled’s little book of quotes

February 5, 2009

Apparently now the Expelled DVD comes with a “book of quotes.” That book is reviewed here along with a detailed description of what it means to quote mine something. The classic example of quote mining, when creationists try to alter the intent by taking it out of context is Darwin’s discussion of the evolution of the eye. The quote mine is this:

“To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.”

Creationists like to point to this quote and say, see Evolutionists, even Darwin admits that the eye couldn’t have evolved by chance. The other of the review linked to above explains the error here:

This quote is from the sixth chapter of The Origin of Species. Immediately after this quote, Darwin goes into great detail describing just how the eye could in fact have formed by natural selection. This is thus an excellent example of a quote mine; it is both out of context and relies on an argument from authority. Like many quote mines, the authority in question is poor; in this case, Darwin died over a century ago. Given the nature of scientific progress, it is laughable that this 100 year old quote is persuasive evidence.

So onto the Expelled “book of quotes.” First of all, it seems like it’s not much of a book:

The book, entitled, “The Wonder of the Universe,” is more of a small pamphlet than an actual book. Each page has a single quote in the middle of the page with the rest of the page blank. The entire content could fit on a single sheet of 8 ½ by 11 paper if both sides are used. The quotes are poorly formatted with occasional errors of punctuation and no details of citation other than the author’s name.

What is really interesting is the authors of the quotes and their content. Slightly under half of the quotes in the book come from the Founding Fathers of the United States or from other respected US politicians such as Abraham Lincoln. There is a dearth of quotes from scientists. The most modern scientist quoted, Steinmetz, died in 1923. He is in fact the most recent author cited.

The quotes themselves fall primarily into two broad categories, quotes trumpeting the importance of free exchange and quotes arguing for the existence of God using the standard argument that “X is complicated so X must have been designed by God.”

Yeah, it seems this is as profound as creationism gets, quoting non-scientists about science. Good thinking! Or rather should I say, “god thinking.” That at least explains the lack of even internal consistency:

I’m forced to conclude that Stein or whichever of Stein’s colleagues compiled this book thinks that the Founders of the United States were so intelligent and saintly that ideas held by them must be given special weight. This is a bit odd since the book also includes the standard quote from Galileo that “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.”

Ben: Please make up your mind. Do authorities matter or does reasoning?

There’s a lot more in the review. It’s definitely worth a read since if you’re a creationist you’ll have something new to piss you off and if you’re sane to get a good laugh at the transparency of the poorly designed propaganda.

Ben Stein whines about UVM controversy

February 3, 2009

Stein, who opted to back out of being the commencement speaker at and receive an honorary degree from the University of Vermont after the University’s president received hundreds of complaints is now calling the controversy “laughable” and “pathetic.”

Stein also insists he’s not not anti-science:

He said he was by no means “anti-science,” as some of his critics have described him.

“I am far more pro-science than the Darwinists,” Stein said later in an e-mail. “I want all scientific inquiry to happen — not just what the ruling clique calls science.”

Hmm, I wonder why anyone would think he was anti-science:

When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. [PZ] Myers, talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed.” – Ben Stein

I can’t imagine. My favorite quotes from this article about Stein’s tantrum are:

Stein called the university’s response to the furor “chicken sh**, and you can quote me on that.”

As for the commencement speech, he said, “I didn’t really want to do it in the first place.”

My sources tell me Stein then took his ball back and went crying to mommy.

Oh, and then there was this bit of understatement:

Stein said the Holocaust references probably resulted from “Expelled,” a film he worked on that came out about 10 months ago. “In the movie, we visited a Nazi killing center called Hadamar,” Stein said. The center’s victims had included people with developmental disabilities. “I asked the curator, ‘Why did they do this?’ and was told ‘Darwinism.’ That was in the film, and that’s what was said.” To portray Stein as “anti-scientific” on that basis is “a joke,” he said, “nonsense,” “just someone’s delusion.”

Could this anti-science label have come about because of Expelled? Ya think?

Why Ben Stein won’t be speaking at UVM

February 2, 2009

Yesterday I posted that Ben Stein will not be the commencement speaking at the University of Vermont as originally planned along with an email exchange between University’s President Fogel and Richard Dawkins. Well, 1 of my readers sent me a link to a site with President Fogel’s detailed responses to questions concerning this controversy. I for one am very happy with his responses and I would like to thank UVM President Fogel for his candor and for standing up for the academic community. Clearly, he respects science and understands how ignorant Ben Stein is with regards to science. And I even get the sense that he’s actually a sincere fan of Richard Dawkins. So my opinion is that the University of Vermont is fortunate to have Fogel respresenting their interests.

Ben Stein backs out of UVM commencement address

February 1, 2009

I blogged a few days ago about Ben Stein being chosen as the commencement speaker at the University of Vermont. Well, according to President Fogel’s response letter to Richard Dawkins, Stein will neither be receiving an honorary degree nor be speaking at the school’s commencement. Here’s the exchange, beginning with President Fogel’s response to Dawkins:

Dear Professor Dawkins,

As one who has been deeply instructed by your work and who applauds your scientific leadership, I was honored to find a personal email from you in my inbox, but very sorry indeed that the occasion was the decision to invite Ben Stein to be a Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient. Although we have recently learned that Mr. Stein will be unable to receive the honorary degree here or to serve as Commencement speaker, please know that it was our expectation that his remarks would address the global economic crisis and that he would speak from his widely acknowledged area of expertise on the economy. We regret that he will be unable to do so.

With thanks again for writing, with admiration, and with every good wish–Daniel Mark Fogel, President, The University of Vermont

And here’s Dawkins’ response to that response:

Dear President Fogel

Thank you very much indeed for your extremely gracious letter.

I cannot disguise my gladness that Ben Stein will not be going to Vermont. Thank you very much for letting me know. I wish you, and your great university all good fortune. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

With my very best wishes, and thanks again for your letter

Yours sincerely

Richard Dawkins