How to perpetuate the “arrogant scientist” stereotype.

In a comment on Janet Stemwedel’s blog entry concerning sexism on Slashdot, the increasingly ubiquitous PZ Myers wrote:

biology actually is a real science, unlike that code bashing the desk jockies (sic) do

I note that, without such code bashing, Myers would not have his bully pulpit from which to disparage other people’s professions and beliefs.
I’ll note further that real scientists do research. Try “Myers PZ” on PubMed some time: nothing since ’98, one paper since ’93. (He did stop sneering long enough to get a dinky little paper out of computer methodology, back in ’91.)
It makes me weep for my profession to think that this arrogant jerk is fast becoming one of its more public faces. It’s particularly galling to have him spout about what is or is not science, when he doesn’t do any.

genocide IS news

From a recent addition to my blogroll, Thoughts from Kansas (“Progressive politics, neat biology, and whackings of wackos”, what could be better?), comes Be A Witness:

Genocide is the ultimate crime against humanity. And a government-backed genocide is unfolding in the Darfur region of the Sudan. As the horror in Darfur continues, our major television news networks are largely missing in action.
During June 2005, CNN, FOXNews, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur.
Whether it is coverage of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s, the Ethiopian famine in the 1980s, or recent coverage of the tsunami, television news can help stop grave injustices and end human suffering. Increased television coverage of the genocide in Darfur has the power to spur the action required to stop a devastating crime against humanity.

There follows a web form with which you can send a letter to the major networks; a form letter is filled in but you can edit it. The site also includes a good brief background on the issue and plenty of links to more information and more actions you can take.
Here’s my letter:

According to, whose web form I am using to send you this letter, during June 2005 CNN, FOXNews, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur. The data are available for perusal on the homepage.
You are not asking yourself “what genocide?”, are you? You know what I’m talking about. The minimal coverage we have seen has reached as far as media professionals like you, who have decided NOT TO GIVE THE ISSUE ANY FURTHER COVERAGE.
Why? Why have you done this?
You don’t need me to tell you the power that broadcast media have to influence public opinion and political action, any more than you need me to tell you what’s happening in Darfur. And of all broadcast media, television is unquestionably the most powerful.
Why are you hiding from the responsibility that accompanies such power?
Are you truly more concerned to exercise that power in the pursuit of profit than in defense of innocent lives? Do you honestly believe you have no greater responsibility than to pander to the lowest common denominator?
What the fuck is wrong with you?

Astute readers will note some hypocrisy here: this is the first time I’ve mentioned Darfur. I can say “I can’t write about everything” and “I’m not a major media outlet”, but the fact remains that I do try to use this site to cover important events in human need and in politics, and I feel bad that I haven’t talked about Darfur by now. By way of easing my conscience, I’ll come back in a later post to the other actions that Be A Witness lists.

protest Bolton

From Barbara Boxer (whose PAC For A Change you really should check out), an opportunity to protest Preznit Dumbass’ recess appointment of John Bolton:

On Monday, despite widespread opposition from Senators of both parties, as well as the American people, President Bush appointed John Bolton as UN Ambassador. By using the rarely utilized “recess appointment” while Congress is away over the month of August, the White House effectively thumbed its nose at the Senate, bypassing our Constitutional responsibility to “advise and consent” on such a nomination.

Here’s the body of the letter from me that Smirky the Killer Clown will never read:

It is a sad irony that John Bolton is the perfect person to represent the US to the world at the United Nations. He has a history of abusing his subordinates and steamrolling over inconvenient facts in his determination to make the world answer to his ideology. He is a known liar who presented false information to the Senate in preparation for his hearings. He is a thoroughgoing hypocrite who has made plain his contempt for the UN and a hubris laden fool who now expects that body to take him seriously. He is plainly unqualified for the position, and will only take it up as a result of extraordinary interventions on his behalf.
In his new capacity, then, Bolton is a faithful reflection of his master in the oval office.
This is a sad day for the United States.

Postcards from Buster

buster.gif PBS has decided not to distribute the “Sugartown!” episode of the children’s animated series Postcards from Buster because it features a family with two female parents. Individual affiliate stations can decide for themselves whether or not to run the episode. You can find your local PBS station here; for me, it’s Oregon Public Broadcasting. They do run Postcards from Buster, but it appears they won’t be running “Sugartown!”. My letter:

Dear OPB,
I am writing to ask you to air the “Sugartown!” episode of “Postcards from Buster”, over which Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has created an absurd controversy. (I searched both the OPB site and the TV schedule and could not find evidence that you plan to run that episode.)
I am a PBS subscriber for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I believe I can rely on PBS to promote diversity and tolerance, and to be a voice for minority groups. This is particularly important in children’s programs. A hateful but vocal minority in this country would like to see broadcast media reflexively self-censoring all mention of gay issues. Please do not let that happen. Please continue to send, particularly to our children, a message of inclusion and tolerance. Please air “Sugartown!”.
Sincerely, etc.

spellings.jpgMargaret Spellings is BushCo’s brand-new Secretary of Education. According to the LA Times, last Tuesday she wrote to PBS asking them to consider removing her department’s logo and returning public money spent on “Sugartown!”. Hatefilled nutjob and self-confessed dachsund abuser James Dobson thinks that’s just peachy, and his Focus Obsessively and Exclusively on the Straight, White, Evangelical Christian Family Foundation has provided a handy web form for use in patting Ms Spellings on the back. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I put it to better use:

Dear Ms Spellings,
I write to protest your recent complaints over the “Sugartown!” episode of the PBS children’s program “Postcards from Buster”. The positive portrayal of gay characters is in no way at odds with the educational goals that inform the public funding of such programming. According to the 2000 Census, same-sex couples make up about 1% of all US couples, and over 400,000 children live with same-sex parents. Gays and lesbians are a significant thread in the rich tapestry of American society, and the Education Dept should strongly support children’s programming which reflects that fact.
You wrote that “many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in this episode”, and that is certainly true. Those parents are (perhaps unwittingly) harming their children, who will only suffer by taking on a regressive and intolerant outlook. It is not the job of the Education Dept to reinforce the preferences (or prejudices) of any particular group of parents. Rather, the nation relies on you to ensure that programs like “Sugartown!” are available to parents who want their children to value diversity and tolerance.
Sincerely, etc.

So, where did I hear about all this? SpeakSpeak, a website (and a 501(c)?) for those of us who are fed up with the lunatic fringe dominating public discourse:

SpeakSpeak will campaign for those of us who feel we

I think it’s clear what happened. I hope I’m wrong.

The Not In Our Name project has had a setback:

We had planned for the new Not In Our Name statement of conscience to run on Friday, January 21, in the New York Times. We had a contract and a confirmation number. This ad was to be our answer to the inauguration, and it was timed to appear in the middle of the inauguration news coverage.
The ad did not run. The advertising department were themselves deeply surprised by this, and have not been able to explain what happened. In fact, we were told that to their knowledge this had never happened before.
At the same time, the Times lead editorial said that this should be a time of legitimacy and acceptance for the President — and that this was especially something that the opposition has to come to terms with.
It is unacceptable that we do not yet know why something that “has never happened before” happened — a full page paid ad, accepted and slotted in, did not run. This is especially so when the content of the ad, the need to resist the course that this administration has set, is so important to the people of this country and the world. There needs to be an investigation of what went wrong and why. If it was just an honest mistake, we expect that the Times itself would want to know why in order to prevent it from occurring again.
The Times has given us a new ad reservation number and assured us that the ad will now run on this Sunday. However, there is the danger of it being buried in the back of the first section. This would be another way of marginalizing and rendering relatively invisible the voice of conscience and dissent.
We urge signers and supporters of the statement to e-mail the Times to demand that the ad run in the Sunday Week in Review section (where there will be summation of the inauguration) or in the first 10 pages of the first section. Send to the President and General Manager of the Times at and to the advertising department at

You can read the statement here and sign it here. My letter, which I also sent to the NYT Ombudsman Daniel Okrent ( is as follows.

Dear Sir/Madam,
it has come to my attention that, for reasons as yet unexplained, the full-page advertisement taken out by the Not In Our Name project and scheduled to run on Friday Jan 21, did not run. The ad was accepted and a confirmation number was issued, putting the Times in clear breach of contract. Since its timing was particularly crucial to the effectiveness of the ad in question, the Times has a great deal of explaining and compensating to do.
Moreover, on the day on which the ad was scheduled to run, a Times editorial emphasized “legitimacy and acceptance” of the president and called for those who did not vote for Mr Bush to “wait for another day” to criticize him. The implication is very clear, and if the Times wants to retain public trust there must be a full, unfettered investigation into the reasons for the breach, the results of which investigation should promptly be made public. In addition, the Times must do everything possible to repair the damage done: specifically, the ad, which is now scheduled for Sunday, should run together with the inaugural coverage in the Week in Review section, or within the first ten pages of the front section. Finally, next to the ad the Times should run an apology to the Not In Our Name project.
Anything less will leave in the public mind a very strong impression that the NYT actively suppresses political dissent.
Sincerely, etc.

(via Sisyphus Shrugged)
Update 050131: Okrent replied, essentially, that it was just a screwup. I still don’t know whether the ad ran in the organisation’s second-choice position as requested.

enough is enough

Amid all the Schadenfreude and slapping of Jon Stewart’s back over CNN’s decision to axe Crossfire and cut ties with Tucker Carlson, it appears to have gone unnoticed that the loathesome lying little weasel now has his own show on PBS.
Every time the regressives whine about liberal media bias, the cowards in the mainstream media move further right in an attempt to placate the implacable. Now this. PBS won’t give you an email address to write to, but they provide a “feedback form”. This is what I fed them:
Dear PBS,
You call yourselves a “trusted community resource” and claim to “enrich the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services” — and then you give Tucker Carlson his own show. Carlson is an embarrassment to journalism, a prolific liar and an enthusiastic, if unimaginative, amplifier of right-wing talking points. What possible purpose could you have in providing him with a platform for his intellectually dishonest partisan schtick? Sadly, the first two reasons that spring to mind are exactly what I have looked to PBS to avoid: pandering to the lowest common audience denominator and running scared from the howls of “liberal bias” that permeate the rest of the mainstream media. If you wanted to join the broadcast arm of the Republican Party you couldn’t have made a better hire.
I want to say that you will never see another penny of my money, but that’s probably not true. PBS remains the only broadcaster that offers anything resembling worthwhile news coverage or balanced commentary. I will probably continue to subscribe, at least until and unless the balance tips further in the Tucker Carlson direction. I am, however, sorely disappointed. Renewing my subscription is no longer automatic and a pleasure; instead I now find myself wondering “do they still do more good than harm?”.
Sincerely, etc.

free Roadsworth!

stencil art by Montreal artist Roadsworth
Dear Mayor Tremblay:
I am writing to ask you to intervene in the legal proceedings against a resident of your city, the stencil artist known as Roadsworth. Don’t prosecute the man, hire him! His work in no way detracts from the function of the road markings he embellishes, and in fact adds to them the many serious and important functions of public art. He adds to the daily lives of Montreal’s pedestrians a touch of whimsy, an opportunity for reflection, a little beauty in the midst of the mundane: surely this is a public good, not the public mischief with which the artist is charged. I understand that one cannot declare the streets an open canvas, but I am certain that a compromise can be reached in the case of an artist whose work is of real value to the city, and is entirely without malice.
Sincerely, etc.
Background here, profile of Roadsworth here, more of his work here and here.

can’t hurt to point it out

Dear Atrios,
I’ve been reading your site pretty much since you started, and I think you are performing an invaluable service; I only wish the mainstream media did such a good job of political reporting. That’s why I’m writing to ask: what is with this “Mars, bitches” stuff? I cringe every time I see it; it’s a jarring note on an otherwise excellent site. I know it started with Bush mangling the space program, and I’m sure the intent is humor. Nonetheless, it’s a highly public use of sexist language, and inherently damaging in a culture that still treats women as second class citizens in many ways.
I hope you’ll think about ditching that particular expression.
Sincerely, etc.

i’d rather they didn’t (can dan, that is)

Dear CBS,
there is apparently a campaign under way to get you to sack Dan Rather. Don’t do it! Mistakes happen; Dan got punk’d, no one got killed and he owned up — when will GWB admit even one of his many, far more costly, mistakes? If unscrupulous liar Lisa Myers still has a job, honest Dan should get to keep his.
Don’t can Dan!
Feedback to CBS via the link at the bottom of this page; the above is the letter I sent them.
(I seem to be recycling a lot of links from the spousal unit lately.)