Author Archive: Dan Klarmann

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

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Apparently We Need More Accidental Criminals

June 22, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
Apparently We Need More Accidental Criminals

I was reading my usual science blogs, and came across Weekend Diversion: And now, they’re coming for me. Yeah, me. Because I write for you. at Starts With a Bang. Apparently Congress is creating new classes of felons that would have no idea they were doing anything even technically wrong.

In brief,  U.S. Senate Bill 978 (that just cleared committee) makes it a Federal Offense (felony) if you happen to embed someone’s video on your post that someday someone may claim infringed on a copyright. If I, for example, embed a video of some stranger’s birthday party on this blog, that pans briefly across a television set that happened to be playing a commercial for shoes, that has background music by the Beatles, and in five years Michael Jackson’s heirs decide that this infringed on their copyright on the music of McCartney and yank the video, I could technically be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison. Even if the creator of the video, the owners of the network, and the shoe company and its marketing agent all had approved my use.

Ethan Siegel has more details about this silliness and suggestions on his post.

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Frustrating Funeral

May 15, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More
Frustrating Funeral

I have been to quite a few funerals in the last several years. Most of them were for elderly relatives. Some few of these funerals annoyed me because the master of ceremonies was a minister who apparently knew little of the departed, and so just delivered a half hour recruiting speech for his church, and called no other witnesses.

This weekend I went to the funeral of a cousin by marriage, my own age, who suddenly dropped dead. The processional music was appropriate for the deceased: “Margaritaville.” So I was looking forward to the service. A relative stood up at the lectern and said that this was to be a celebration of life. More hope rose.

But what followed was twenty minutes of pious speech about how important it is for everyone to love Jesus, especially since this life is not the important one, but rather the next. Eventually he wound down and briefly mentioned a couple of actual details from the life nominally the topic of this occasion.

I knew that his family partook of that popular death cult, Fundamentalist Christianity. But my few conversations with the suddenly departed never led me to believe that he took that afterlife very seriously. He seemed a live-life-to-the-fullest sort who embodied the Martin Luther quote: “Who loves not wine, women and song, Remains a fool his whole life long.”

So this service by someone who knew him did not strike me as entirely appropriate. Granted, it did match the services I’d attended for his elder relatives, and did not seem to discommode his closer family. I see there is a sociological purpose to sharing ridiculous claims, and of being reassured by authority figures that these absurdities are true, especially at times of stress. It is a form of claiming kinship, of affirming loyalty to an in-group.

But to me, a funeral should be a celebration of a life, a sharing of a personality and experiences. It annoys me when the service primarily focuses on recruiting for a church, and as an aside, oh, yeah, this man also had an individual life.

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Melanoma is Sneaky

May 11, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More
Melanoma is Sneaky

Much to my surprise, I recently was diagnosed with melanoma. Fortunately, I was suspicious of a skin spot, and showed it to a dermatologist. He shrugged and said, “probably not,” but cut it off for a biopsy. A week later he called and told me to see a surgeon ASAP. I now am scheduled for minor surgery and further biopsy. The prognosis is, “Don’t worry about it.”

Then a friend from high school shared this video with me, and told me that he’s been inspired by my post to see a dermatologist to check out his spots.

What you don’t know can kill you. Had I ignored the spot, I might have lived another decade before it killed me.

I knew a fellow who had a mole burned off, a couple of times, before someone bothered to biopsy it. By then, they gave him 6 months. But he was an athletic individual who wouldn’t quit, and lived five years. But those last couple of years were hardly living, in terms of quality of life.

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Climate Denial Meltdown

May 1, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More
Climate Denial Meltdown

As we seem to be discussing conspiracy theories here lately, let’s take a look at Climate-gate, the oft repeated Fox News banner of climate change denialism.
This video is a good and detailed look at not only the emergence and initial rallying cry of Climate-gate, but also how a thoroughly disproved lie emerges again later as a new rallying cry.

It is a pity that this video does not even bother to go into the criminal activity used to gather the misleading information. The forces of anti-reason are tireless, and this is just one of many subjects in which it manifests.

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Creating Doubt in Science

April 12, 2011 | By | 9 Replies More
Creating Doubt in Science

There is currently a strong suite of Discovery Institute bills running through state legislatures to allow “alternative theories” to be taught in science classes. See list here: Antievolution Legislation Scorecard. There is not a direct link back to the Discovery Institute, but it is their wording, seen before and passed in places like Texas and Louisiana and Tennessee.

From a legal standpoint, the bills look harmless, closely resembling intellectual freedom policies. But the point is clearly to sow confusion about the difference between science and just making things up, especially in regard to evolution and climate science.

Hemant Mehta suggests that it would only be fair to show this video in churches where the churches put their books into science classes.

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Blunt Language From Missouri Senator About Abortion

April 10, 2011 | By | 22 Replies More
Blunt Language From Missouri Senator About Abortion

I fully participated in the recent campaign to prevent the move to cut funding to the the organization that prevents more abortions than any other, Planned Parenthood. Even though Republicans held to that partisan budget pittance to the point of shutting down the government, the health services for poor women provided by Planned Parenthood will continue to get that dollar per citizen for another year. Yay.

But along the way, I wrote to my Senator, Roy Blunt. Weeks later, he wrote back. Here (in part) is his response:

“Thank you for contacting me about funding for Planned Parenthood”

“I am deeply opposed to the practice of abortion and do not support federal funding for any organization that performs or promotes abortions, which includes Planned Parenthood. An unborn child is a living human being and abortion ends the life of that child. Throughout my time in the House I worked hard to protect the lives of the unborn.

“I am proud to have the highest possible pro-life voting record according to National Right to Life, and, as I begin my time in the Senate, I will continue to support efforts to make adoption more attractive for parents and prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion.”

Either he is ignorant, or tacitly lying. Three percent (3%) of Planned Parenthood’s activities are abortion related. Of those, none (0%) have ever been taxpayer supported.

The prohibition against tax money for abortions is still in effect from the 1976 Hyde Amendment. Only under very rare circumstances does this act allow any federal money to be involved in an abortion. Lawmakers can posture all they want to; it is already illegal for tax money aid poor women who must resort to that tragic choice.

I’m not a single-issue voter, nor do necessarily I oppose his position every issue. But his ignorant formula response to my request has cemented my opposition to his reelection.

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Good Ads for Bad Stuff

April 8, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More
Good Ads for Bad Stuff

I was watching a marvelous recent fundamentalist ad and my childhood training touched my consciousness. I was five when my parents first brought a TV into our house. They watched with me, and explained that any product that was worth getting didn’t need to be advertised. Basically, they implanted the idea that commercials were plugs for stuff you don’t need, or were too inadequate to sell on their own merits.

I easily absorbed this meme. Anytime I see a product on the tube, it feels like a negative review. As I grew older this gave me some trouble, because I noticed some products that I already liked being advertised. But I got over it.

Commercials these days do have some of the highest production values out there. And this one linked above is visually stunning and emotionally persuasive. But for a dark and dangerous version of the product they are selling: Prayer.

I would have embedded it, but embedding was disabled. I suspect because the ad was being panned by rationalists around the web; not their intended audience. But for visual interest, here is an ad from a few years ago that appeals to the same people, The Gathering Storm:

Really, go see the new one. Much more powerful. They are learning.

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Yes, Please Tax Us

April 6, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More
Yes, Please Tax Us

I live in an odd city. Back in 1876 the City of Saint Louis seceded from its otherwise rural county. Saint Louis was a major transportation hub (rail) and industrial center. The rural county was seen as sucking on this rich teat to enrich the farmers. So the city decided to shed its poor panhandling neighbors for its own greater glory. Then came the automobile, industrialized farming, suburbs, and ex-urbanization. Oops. By the mid 2oth century, the city had to enact an earnings tax to help cover the shortfall in revenue.

At the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the Tea Party movement managed to put an odd law up for vote in Missouri. Thus the rural majority voted to forbid cities to have the ability to assess any new earnings taxes, ever. And furthermore to require a public vote every few years on whether the people would like to continue paying for the services they receive in this way in cities that already have such taxes.

“Plunk,” goes the bond rating in the only two cities for which this clause applies, Saint Louis and Kansas City. But we dutifully held that vote this week, only five months since that new law passed.Proposition E reads:

“Shall the earnings tax of 1%, imposed by the City of St. Louis, be continued for a period of five (5) years commencing January 1 immediately following the date of this election?”

How did we do?

Passed by 7 to 1. Yay! We get to keep paying 1% of our income to support city services.

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Election Day Separation

April 5, 2011 | By | 5 Replies More
Election Day Separation

Today was a local election day. We have a new polling place in our ward. Instead of the school to which we walked for years, it is now in a nearby church basement. It seems a good use of the space on an off day.

But as I deposited my ballot, I had a creepy feeling. Suddenly Jesus was in my personal space, uninvited. How well does this mesh with the separation of church and state?

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