31 January 2007

Goodbye and good riddance

.....to January 2007, easily the nastiest month I've had in several years. Between bouts of the flu and the flare-up of an old tendon-inflammation problem, I've had maybe three or four days total this month when I actually felt anything like healthy. Now if I can just get through this last day without attracting any meteors.....

Up Helly Aa

Impressive photos of the Viking-themed "fire festival" of Up Helly Aa in Lerwick in the Shetland Islands north of Scotland. Note the participation of the area's MP ("Member of Parliament", roughly equivalent to a Congressman), evidently undeterred by the event's obvious pagan undertones.


The oppression of Christians

An illustration of how secularism persecutes and disrespects Christians.

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30 January 2007

Climate change watch

American scientists report pressure from the administration to downplay global warming.

29 January 2007

So it has come to this again

A wounded veteran has been spat at by "anti-war" demonstrators.

As far as I'm concerned, the worth and credibility of the "anti-war" crowd stands or falls by whether or not they condemn this behavior, without hedging or equivocation, and without "on-the-other-hand"-type dodges.


Fermi's paradox

The flying saucer article linked in the posting below mentions "Fermi's paradox" a reference which may take some explaining for those who are not familiar with it.

"Fermi's paradox" is the question: given that the conventional wisdom (based on formulations such as the Drake equation) is that technological civilizations are probably fairly abundant in the universe, why is it that we have seen no sign whatsoever of their existence? There have been no radio or other signals which suggest intelligent origin, no visits to Earth by alien spaceships or probes, no archeological evidence of such visitations at any previous time in our planet's history. How can this be?

A large part of the answer is probably provided by the Rare Earth hypothesis, which asserts that Earth's astronomical situation is actually extremely unusual -- our whole solar system is a freak case, in fact -- and that environments which could allow the development of multicellular life forms are very rare in the universe. Having read the book for which the hypothesis is named, I find the case for it to be strong.

With or without the Rare Earth hypothesis, however, the solution to Fermi's paradox has always struck me as rather obvious (in fact, I'm sure others have already made this argument). Technological progress works much faster than biological evolution, especially since it tends to accelerate exponentially, a trend visible through the whole span of recorded human history. This acceleration effect becomes far more significant with the prospect of the Technological Singularity, culminating in the full integration of machine data-processing power into human intelligence, so that individual humans become vastly more intelligent than they are today -- a development which Ray Kurzweil projects will likely happen as soon as forty years from now. The rate and character of further progress after the Singularity is, by definition, beyond the ability of present-day humans to imagine.

However many planets there are in the universe which have the innate capacity to evolve an intelligent species at some point, some one planet will be the first to do so. Once this happens and a technological civilization appears, intelligence will diffuse outward from that planet and saturate the rest of the physical universe in far less time than it would take biological evolution to produce any other intelligent species anywhere else. That is, the first technological civilization to appear in the universe will be the only one. We just happened to be first. If we hadn't been the first, we wouldn't exist at all.


Flying saucers

A rather good article on UFO mania, noting a point which has often occurred to me -- that the most distinctive thing about the whole UFO concept is really its utter unimaginativeness. When one considers how advanced an alien civilization capable of interstellar travel would have to be, the vision of it which the UFO enthusiasts and their stories offer is stunningly small-minded and dull.

What really strikes me about this posting, however, is the discussion thread following it. Most of the comments are by UFO believers attacking the article. In their tone, rhetoric, illogic, distortions, ad hominem hectoring, personal insults, evasions of the real issues, etc., etc., etc., these comments closely replicate the range of Christian responses which a posting affirming an atheist viewpoint typically draws. It seems that emotional commitment to an irrational belief works in similar ways regardless of which particular irrational belief it is that is being defended.


Russian consumer-product design

It's not just cardboard double-breasted suits any more.

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What's the point?

What purpose is supposed to be served by praying? I mean, I genuinely don't understand it, from a logical perspective. God is supposed to be omniscient, right? That means he already knows what you want, and how badly you want it, and whether or not you deserve to get it. What possible difference can it make to ask him for it? Do you think you're going to make him aware of some aspect of your wish that he had previously overlooked?


Prague panty statue

Evidently the standards for public art over there are, shall we say, a little less stuffy than here. Well, it beats all those old paintings of ramrod-stiff people sitting on tractors and gazing heroically at nothing.

Found via Blue Gal.

(While we're on the subject, what is it with public art in the West these days? Why does it all have to be abstract? Even an occasional throwback like one of those statues of a general on horseback would come as a relief. I'd even settle for a tractor! At least with those you can tell what it's supposed to be.)

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27 January 2007

Tragic consequences of superstition

Murder to provide "ghost brides" for the dead.

Exploiting and tormenting the desperate (after watching, read this).

Rejecting vaccination for the sake of ignorant taboos.

Debating religion

Andrew Sullivan has been engaging in an internet debate with Sam Harris on the merits of religious belief. He has also been posting e-mails and quotes from other writers in defense of religion. What is striking about these testimonials (for typical examples see here, here, and here) is that they ultimately depend not on any hard evidence supporting the truth of religion, but rather on the emotional need to believe, as an antidote to despair in the face of the inevitability of death, or of the supposed meaninglessness of life which some people apparently feel follows from the absence of a deity. The following is typical of the spirit of these offerings:

There came a point in my life when I just chose to believe, because living without faith, hope, and love was something I just couldn't do. Was it psychologically weak? Intellectually dishonest? Maybe, but I don't care.

This is a standard of evaluation which Sullivan, like any intelligent person, rightly rejects when any type of belief other than a religious one is under discussion -- he has regularly denounced other writers for believing what they wanted to believe about politics or the Iraq conflict, when those beliefs were contrary to the evidence.

Here is a clarifying and well-written response from an atheist blogger.

I have a lot of respect for Andrew Sullivan; he is his own man and doesn't slavishly follow any party line, and on issues other than religion he always has solid reasons for taking whatever position he does, even if I disagree with him. But like many people, he somehow manages to set religion off in a separate compartment in which it is exempted from evaluation by the standards of evidence and logic which apply to everything else.


25 January 2007

More Russian technology

Video of a Sukhoi Su-37 "Terminator" fighter plane displaying its maneuverability.

Found via Samizdata.

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Space Center

A collection of photos from the Russian Space Center near Moscow. As dominant as the US now is in space exploration, it is worth remembering that it was actually the USSR that launched the first artificial satellites and put the first man in space -- achievements which caused some alarm in the West at the time, since they seemed to suggest that the USSR was pulling ahead of the West technologically. The USSR also participated in the later exploration of the rest of the solar system using unmanned probes (though on a smaller scale than the US did), and Russia still has an active space program.

On a related note, in 2002 I visited the equivalent American institution, the Johnson Space Center in Houston TX, and it is well worth the trip if you are at all interested in space travel.

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Islamic imperialism

Why take my word for it? Read about Islam's real nature and objectives in this Islamist essay, exhaustively supported with excerpts from the sacred texts themselves. None of it will be surprising to those who have a thorough background knowledge of Islam, but to those who were brought up to think that all religions are fundamentally similar, it should be an eye-opener.

You can't afford to ignore this or gloss it over. This is what we are confronting right now. It isn't going to go away or change just because we don't want to believe that it is what it is.

David Frum re-posts most of it here, in case the original article disappears.


24 January 2007


How the heck did they do that? And I thought I'd seen weird driving in Portland!

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In Greece, a few people are standing up for indigenous European religion against the intolerant cult from the Middle East which has infiltrated the country.

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Protesting for pay

Could this be the solution to western Europe's unemployment problems? The work seems easily doable even by unskilled people if they have plenty of free time, and especially on that continent, the demand for the service is potentially enormous.

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Fighting for the right to discriminate

In Britain, a minority religion of Middle Eastern origin is demanding that the government exempt it from equal-rights laws which apply to everyone else in the country -- and the government looks likely to cave to their demands.

Those confounded Muslims! Oh, wait.....

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Western Europe's overlooked success

Which western European country has the longest life expectancy and highest birthrate on that continent, with its population projected to increase more than 20% by mid-century (and not because of Muslim residents, either), while every measurable indicator shows religious belief declining precipitously? The answer might surprise you. Don't believe everything you read from the Europe-is-doomed crowd.


Where even the vodka freezes

Some cool (in more than one sense) photos of a trip across Siberia.


21 January 2007

So Hillary Clinton is running

I stand by what I said about this in September.


Post-Soviet life

An entertaining posting on housing options in the town of Tartu, Estonia, by a man who is moving there soon.

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Do not go gentle

The Fight Aging site has a posting up about vitrification.

Here's the website of Alcor, a company which already offers this service.

I freely admit that I do not have the specialized expertise to know how plausible it is that vitrification, or cryonics more generally, can achieve what its proponents claim. For myself personally, I am only 46 years old and in good general health, and I think my chances of living long enough to benefit from the technological eradication of aging and natural death are quite good. But if you are older than 60 or in poor health, I would strongly advise you to look into cryonics. You have nothing to lose by finding out what you can.


The romance of evil

A plain and simple fact

Any argument against an airstrike on the Iranian nuclear program is an argument in favor of a second Holocaust.


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20 January 2007

Putin backing down -- and wising up?

The Russian government is abandoning its campaign to pressure Georgia and bring down its increasingly pro-Western President, Mikhail Saakashvili.

This could be a positive sign, if it means that Putin is starting to recognize that Russia's efforts to assert hegemony over its neighbors are backfiring and actually driving them to assert their independence (as Ukraine and the EU are doing, as the article mentions), leaving Russia isolated.

Now all we need is for him to realize that antagonizing the US by arming Iran is similarly contrary to Russia's real interests.


The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

"But I tell you, the nature of the dragon is to eat humans, and our own species-specified nature is truly and nobly fulfilled only by getting eaten by it...”

Think no one could ever really feel that way? Read the story.


400-pound hailstones?

One more thing to worry about.....


Dominance and subordination

Itching for Eestimaa, a site about Estonia, has an interesting discussion of the psychological aftereffects of the dominance of Russians over Estonians during the period of Soviet rule. One could probably make similar observations about many ex-colonies, but the Soviets were more thorough than most empire-builders at destroying the self-pride and confidence of the peoples they subjugated.


Why you shouldn't go to the zoo while drunk

This guy almost became an example of "natural selection in action".

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19 January 2007

The ultimate slacker

Everyone goofs off during work time now and then, but this may be the first person ever to get her fifteen minutes of fame purely for the sheer exuberant chutzpah of her non-workingness. And remember, what goes on the internet lasts forever. She may well find that the idleness she craves becomes her permanent condition -- would you want to employ her?

Found via The News Blog.


If I should die before I wake.....

Freezing people until a future time when presently-irreversible metabolic damage ("death") can be repaired is so twentieth-century. The new word in cryonics is vitrification.


Robot surgery

A team of scientists in Australia is developing a robot small enough to travel through human blood vessels and perform delicate small-scale surgery much more safely than can be done with existing technology. It's expected to be fully operational by 2009.


The Duke false-rape case: not unique

I hope that the high profile of the Duke case will lead to more attention being given to the frighteningly large number of cases like this. Far too many innocent people have spent years in prison before being exonerated.

Imagining the future

Anne C. at Existence Is Wonderful has a posting up about "Yesterday's Future" -- that is, what prognosticators decades ago thought the future would look like. Since we are now living in the future they tried to anticipate, how accurate were their predictions?

A point which has always struck me about such old predictions is that they were fairly close to the mark on many aspects of technological progress (though I don't think anyone anticipated how important computers would become), but totally missed anticipating how culture would develop. Anne's posting mentions several examples. In these old visions of the future, women are depicted as "archetypal aproned housewives" still primarily occupied with domestic tasks, even though using (correctly-predicted) cooking and cleaning techniques more advanced than those available when the articles were written. The continued predominance of the nuclear family is taken for granted. And I'd hazard a guess that all those old sketches depicting the high-tech society of the future (our present) rarely, if ever, show non-white people participating as full equals. (The original Star Trek was considered startlingly visionary in this regard, but actually the upheaval in racial attitudes was already well under way when it was being made.)

The simple fact is that technological developments are easier to predict than cultural ones. This is especially true today, when the price-performance of data processing is increasing according to a fairly consistent exponential pattern and we can anticipate a near future where almost everything important will be reducible to data processing. But cultural change is very hard to predict, even when in hindsight one can see where the cultural change has followed from technology. Star Trek's hand-held "communicator" more or less anticipated the cell phone, but its writers never anticipated the real-world cultural effects of the cell phone.

The struggle against racial discrimination, the tremendous broadening of the range of life options available to women (and for that matter to men), the overthrow of one sexual taboo after another, the battle to preserve and extend these gains in the face of an upsurge in reactionary religious fundamentalism, the ways the internet has changed social and political interaction, the rise of serious moral conflicts over medical experimentation on the higher animals, the problems posed by large-scale Third World immigration into the developed countries -- none of this seems to have been anticipated. The idea seems to have been that life would go on according to pretty much the same pattern as in the writer's own time, just with cleverer and cleverer gadgets.

I often wonder what aspects of our present culture, which we take for granted and never even think about, will be looked back upon as silly or even as disgusting and barbaric just a few decades from now.

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My take on "the surge"

The proposed change in tactics is probably more important than the increase in troop numbers, though both are crucial. Should we do it? That depends on the key point: Will it work? If there is any realistic hope of defeating the insurgency and stabilizing the country, it’s worth trying. If there’s no hope of that, then it serves no purpose to keep any troops there at all. A US withdrawal at this point would probably lead to an intensified civil war ending in brutal subjugation of the Sunni minority and rule by an authoritarian Shiite regime. The only question then would be whether we could prevent that regime from aligning with Iran. If we could, then as bad as this result would be, it would still be better than the situation under Saddam, and probably the best we can hope for.

I've managed to reconcile myself to such an outcome. But I don’t think we should give up and let that happen if there is any real hope that “the surge” would lead to a better result. That’s something I can’t judge, and I don’t believe the average man in the street — or the average Congressman — can judge it either. I certainly don’t trust Bush’s judgment on the subject. I supported the Iraq invasion and still think the original strategy was a good one. But the administration’s hideously inept planning and execution have brought an operation that might have worked to the brink of failure.

Most likely the best people to judge whether Bush’s new plan has any hope of success are the generals — and they aren’t in a position to state openly what they think.

So what makes me think that there is some real hope of the new plan being successful?

(1) The stated willingness to get confrontational with Iran and Syria if they keep stirring things up (and I hope the same warning has been delivered, if privately, to Saudi Arabia).

(2) The assertion, if true, that the Maliki government is ready to follow through and not treat the Shiite terror groups with kid gloves. Some people have gone so far as to claim that Maliki’s government is a mere puppet of men like Muqtada al-Sadr. If this is not the case, now is the time for him to prove it.

(3) The assertion, if true, that the extra 17,500 troops in Baghdad will be able to hold and police urban territory after it is cleared of insurgents. I frankly doubt the increase will be enough, but I am no military expert.

(4) 4,000 Marines to Anbar province will make a difference if the gloves come off and they can really fight. Anbar is the heart of the insurgency.

My gut feeling is to try. I can’t stomach the thought of abandoning Iraq when we might have had a chance to win.

Bear in mind that it has always been the appearance of Western weakness that has emboldened jihadism. This is what worries me about the idea of withdrawing without winning. Bin Laden’s own writings before the Sept. 11 attack always emphasized the idea of the US as a “paper tiger” — he dwelt on the US retreats after the Beirut Marine barracks bombing and the Mogadishu fiasco. He argued that a sufficiently bold attack would lead to a moral collapse and total retreat of the US. Hence the Sept. 11 attack. Our tough military response proved him wrong and bought us a few years of respite with no further attacks, while Europe, which never hits back militarily, continued to suffer them. But if we pull out of Iraq in what is perceived as a humiliating defeat, many jihadists will argue that bin Laden was right after all — and the danger to our own territory will increase drastically. If there is any chance of avoiding this outcome, we must pursue it.

(Note: I originally wrote this in the comments thread here, and the whole discussion is well worth reading. But I thought it deserved its own posting.)

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Using the term "propaganda" to refer to this Canadian TV show may seem harsh, but it is clearly intended to use entertainment to put across a particular viewpoint while disparaging other viewpoints. Based on the review, it repeatedly presents Westerners' alert and cautious reactions to suspicious Muslim behavior (the kind of vigilance for possible enemy activity which was praised and encouraged during World War II) as absurd and paranoid, invariably mis-interpretations of perfectly harmless Muslim words or actions. Indeed, the show's creator Zarqa Nawaz explicitly compares it with All in the Family, implying that suspicion toward Muslims is equivalent to the racism and other forms of bigotry lampooned on that show, and should likewise be combated through ridicule.

The message is clear: if you overhear someone whose appearance suggests he is Muslim talking about, say, bombs on the subway, don't call the FBI. If you're on a plane and you notice such a person doing something odd with his shoe, don't bother to inform the cabin crew. You're just being paranoid. There's probably some perfectly harmless explanation which you're too ignorant of Muslim culture to think of.

Even the backward imam character quoted in the first two paragraphs of the review is presented as a mere buffoon, rather silly but nothing to be alarmed about. Meanwhile, here's the latest in the recent string of revelations of what Muslim clerics in the West are actually preaching.


18 January 2007

The risks of artificial intelligence

Cox & Forkum sound the alarm.

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A conservative looks at "the surge"

Conservative writer Robert Novak is pessimistic about Bush's new Iraq strategy, due to reports that the Maliki government is not committed to cracking down on sectarian violence in Baghdad.

But to me, the most striking thing about the article (prominently linked from the National Review website) is its partisan emphasis, seeming to assess the entire issue on the basis of its impact on the interests of the Republican party rather than on those of the United States (or of our troops). "Republicans can only hope that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her sidekick, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, overplay their hands by cutting off funds to U.S. troops in the field." Hope?

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Half measures

Cox & Forkum illustrate how we could most likely fail in Iraq.


Thought for the day

Most people who oppose abortion or experimentation with embryonic stem cells claim that the basis for their opposition is a belief that embryos are the moral equivalent of human beings and that destroying an embryo is the moral equivalent of murder. But do they really believe this?

If such a person were in a room in a hospital which was burning down, and the room contained one five-day-old baby and a freezer holding 100 five-day-old (microscopic) embryos, and he was able to save only the baby or the embryos but not both, which do you think he would save?

Make anything you want out of sunlight and dirt

"Molecular manufacturing" -- using nanotechnology to assemble any desired product molecule by molecule -- "is coming soon — almost certainly within 20 years, and perhaps in less than a decade", according to this article. Its potential for improving human existence is immense. There are also significant risks, of course, but as the article points out, trying to prevent or delay the development of the technology would be the most dangerous thing we could do (since this would merely allow unsavory countries or groups to get ahead of us in the field, while preventing us from developing the technology base we would need to counter whatever malevolent use they might make of it). The Fight Aging site has a posting up on the implications for human longevity and health.

And, of course, for this and other reasons, everyone should read this book.


Climate change watch

Stephen Hawking, widely considered one of the world's most brilliant physicists, speaks out.

Snow, with flakes

If the Portland area suffers from the presence of numerous people who refuse to take snow seriously and consequently paralyze the city with car wrecks during our rare flurries (see posting below), it appears that the Washington DC area has the opposite problem. Mendip sends this item on his city's "winter wonderland".


16 January 2007

Snow time!

The Portland area was blanketed with snow today -- I just got home, and brrr, is it cold out there! It seems to be about three to four inches deep in most places.

The stuff makes driving pretty hazardous, of course. Here is some video supplied to a local news station by a man who filmed fifteen car crashes just from his own home.

Now, some of you living in parts of the country with more bracing weather may be thinking, "Three inches of snow? What's the big deal?" The reason it's a problem is that this typically only happens here for two or three days at a time, every two or three years -- you'll notice on the video that the newsreader mentions 2004, the last year we had conditions comparable to this (in fact, that was worse, with freezing rain and slippery ice -- where I lived at the time, even the mail and daily newspaper were not delivered for three days). Because "snow days" are so rare, people do not have a chance to get used to them and get familiar with how to drive safely under such conditions. Today even buses were sliding around, and I saw at least a dozen empty ones about town which had either stalled or been abandoned as too dangerous to drive. If we get freezing rain again, the city will be essentially paralyzed. I've seen it before.

So I'm staying home as much as possible until it melts. Leave the streets to the macho ding-dongs who somehow thinks the laws of physics don't apply to them.

15 January 2007

Islamic marital advice

A Muslim preacher exhorts his flock to embrace the practice of wife-beating as a "wondrous" dispensation from God.

"We shouldn't be ashamed before the nations of the world, who are still in their days of ignorance [jâhiliyyah -- that is, non-Muslim], to admit that these beatings are part of our religious law." So there.


Godless common sense

A wide-ranging interview with atheist conservative Heather Mac Donald. Excerpts:

I also wondered at the narcissism of believers who credit their good fortune to God. A cancer survivor who claims that God cured him implies that his worthiness is so obvious that God had to act. It never occurs to him to ask what this explanation for his deliverance says about the cancer victim in the hospital bed next to his, who, despite the fervent prayers of her family, died anyway.

I find it depressing that every organ of conservative opinion reflexively cheers on creationism and intelligent design, while delivering snide pot shots at the Enlightenment. Which of the astounding fruits of empiricism would these Enlightenment-bashers dispense with: the conquest of cholera and other infectious diseases, emergency room medicine, jet travel, or the internet, to name just a handful of the millions of human triumphs that we take for granted?

When multiculturalism hit the academy (several years after I had graduated), I was appalled that barely literate students were allowed to trash the most astounding creations of Western civilization before which we should all be on our knees.

I have to recognize that this is the best of all possible times to be alive. I don't know how many of us would give up our astounding array of choices, despite their costs above all in family stability, to go back to a time of more restricted individual autonomy.

Up to half of the conservative writers and thinkers whom I know are non-believers. And yet because of the rule that one may never ever question claims made on behalf of faith, they remain in the closet. At some point, however, they may emerge to challenge the idea that without religion, personal and social anarchy looms.

Read the entire interview -- it's well worth it.

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14 January 2007

Hats -- gateway to Sodom and Gomorrah!

A hilarious Muslim rant on the evolution of women's clothing styles in the Western world, displaying an ignorance of the primate nature of humans which would be worthy of any purse-lipped Christian Right scold. And don't miss his lengthy list of sexual practices allegedly characteristic of the modern West, including "navel books sex", "nude colony sex", "private part tattoo sex", "man acting as lesbian" (???), "Church Elects Gay Bishop sex", and "billboard sign sex", among many others, not to mention his raising of the question "could bikini cause incest?", a point which I must admit had never occurred to me before. I wish I had known all along that being a Westerner was supposed to be this exciting! Of course, Muslims never engage in such disgusting perversions, being content with such morally lofty activities as flogging, stoning, hand-chopping, clitorectomy, beheading, honor killing, and suicide bombing.

Found via Slaying Dragons.

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Credit where credit is due

The secular Turkish government has launched a campaign against "honor killings".


Cultural appeasement

A meme that has been making the rounds in the wackier far reaches of the right ever since September 11 is that cultural liberalism was to blame for the attack -- that is, that our society's tolerance of abortion, homosexuality, paganism, atheism, secularism, women's lib, or whatever (all, you'll notice, familiar bugaboos of the Christian Right) provoked the attack by arousing the revulsion of the Islamists. Jerry Falwell first articulated this argument (if that is the correct term for it) immediately after the attack, and Dinesh D'Souza recently wrote a book enlarging on the theme. The implication, of course, is that if the US were less tolerant of those things, our society would appear less evil in the eyes of the Islamists, and we would therefore be safer.

I call this concept "cultural appeasement". It is really a proposal to make concessions to the enemy in hopes that he will be satisfied and not commit further aggression. The concessions would have to do with the nature of our culture rather than with the borders of Czechoslovakia, but the principle is the same.

Eric Scheie has a very good rebuttal of the entire concept here.

It has occurred to me that there is one imaginable "cultural appeasement" concession which would probably actually work to prevent any more attacks. If all Americans were to convert to Islam and abandon all other religions, including Christianity, then we would no longer be "infidels" and the jihadists would indeed have no further reason to attack us. Of course, the rightists would never propose such a measure. It is only those features of American culture which they themselves dislike that they will propose to throw to the wolves.

13 January 2007

Won't anyone give these guys a room?

The radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrîr is trying to hold its "Khilâfah Conference" in Australia, but for some reason no one seems very eager to host the event. This posting tells the story -- and check out the slightly scary, yet at the same time oddly goofy, Islamist videos.


Iraq: fight or flight?

Chell's Roost is having a debate on "the surge".


The world of drugs

A photo essay on the lives of drug addicts in Ukraine. Be warned: this is not sanitized as such things tend to be in the West -- it's ugly, sordid, and graphic. But that's what people need to see.


Honor! Honor! Honor!

Pakistan must be the most honorable country in the world. Just look at the things they do for the sake of honor!

It seems that the "higher moral development" mentioned in the article linked in the posting below this one has not taken place in certain parts of the world.


12 January 2007

Accelerating toward the Singularity

Are modern people in the developed world biologically superior to people during the Middle Ages or even to the people of just a hundred years ago? It would explain a lot. And like everything else these days, the trend is speeding up.


Resisting berserk political correctness

This seems almost unbelievable. Surely if there's any group of people that's entitled to display the US flag, it's the New York Fire Department!

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The ape diet

No, this does not mean eating one chimpanzee for each meal (you'd never lose weight that way!). It means eating like an ape. Since the other great apes are so similar to us in biochemistry, it makes sense that a diet similar to what is healthy for them would also be healthy for us. The diet of wild chimpanzees (our closest relative of all) is about 70% fruit, with the rest being largely leaves and nuts (nuts, along with insects, are their main protein source).

Here is a trial case (it does not really meet the standards needed to be called an "experiment") in which nine human volunteers were put on an ape-like diet for 12 days. In some ways the diet was adjusted for human tastes; insects were not on the menu, but fish, which wild apes do not eat, were available. Root vegetables, which wild apes also do not eat but for which our hominid ancestors acquired a taste long ago, were also included. Nevertheless, the diet did broadly resemble the way apes naturally eat. Despite the short duration of the test, the health benefits were clear.

To respond to one point raised in the comments: cannibalism does exist among chimpanzees, but it is extremely rare. More commonly, chimpanzees hunt other animals for meat, but they still consume far less meat than most modern humans, partly because they are not very successful at hunting. As far as observers can tell, the other three great ape species (bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans) do not eat meat at all.


Heathen site

A View from the Bog is a new site looking at the world from a "Heathen" (Germanic neo-pagan) viewpoint.


A choice -- for some

Mendip makes an interesting point about this posting on homosexuality:

You touched on something I’ve always been amused by: the constant refrain by social conservatives that sexual orientation is a “choice”. [.....] Like yourself, I find such statements to be absurd. But I also wonder if they are not revealing: I have no choice in my sexuality. I like women. I have and have had homosexual friends and acquaintances all of my adult life, and living in the DC area assures that one can access to that whole milieu should one choose to do so. And yet it’s no more a “choice” for me than breathing. For whatever reasons, guys aren’t sexually attractive to me – I have NO choice in the matter, they just aren’t. But [social conservatives] seem to exist in a different frame of reference than mine. For them, sexuality IS a choice. One apparently wakes up each morning and makes a decision whether they’ll be attracted to have sex with men or women. I can only imagine such a situation existing if one were bisexual. Otherwise it makes no sense. So I have to wonder if all the folks running around spouting off about Gays are protesting just a little too much. They view homosexuality as something seductive to them, (witness the claims that Gay marriage “threatens” their marriages – Why? How? Unless it forms a temptation for them.); I view it simply as something I have no interest in. To recap, I’d have to say that if you show me someone who says homosexuality is a “choice”, then I’ll show you someone for whom it REALLY is a choice…

Could it be that most of those agitated people inexplicably insisting that "it's a choice" are actually bisexual, deep down? It's the best explanation I've seen yet.


Religion in France

According to this poll, only 51% of the French now self-identify as Catholics -- and even half of those say they don't believe in God. As the headline proclaims, France is "no longer a Catholic country" in any real sense.

The low figure of 4% for self-identified Muslims is also interesting. France does not keep statistics on its population by religion or ethnic origin, so any figure you do see is an estimate, but the usual estimate for the number of Muslims in France is five million, which would be 8.3% of the total population. Is it possible that this figure is hugely inflated? Or could it be that many people of Muslim ethnic origin have turned away from the religion, as in Russia? Either way, it's another blow against the Europe-is-doomed-to-Islamization pessimists.

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The Boers of Anbar

Here is a good overview of the history of Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, and of how the situation today is viewed in Sunni Arab countries.

In fact, the position of the Sunni minority in Iraq today is rather analogous to that of the white minority in South Africa. The main difference is that the South African whites gave up their minority rule in a negotiated settlement, whereas the Sunni-dominated Saddam regime was brought down by an outside invasion.

If hard-line South African whites were to launch an armed uprising in an effort to overthrow South Africa's present government and reinstate apartheid, they would win very little sympathy in the West. Yet the Sunni insurgency in Iraq is very analogous.

(The international dynamics are different, of course, since the countries south, west, and north of Iraq are mainly Sunni -- this is explained well in the article linked above.)

If this aspect of the matter were better understood in the West, I suspect there would be much less concern over the Sunni Iraqis' largely self-inflicted plight.


09 January 2007

The Backstroke of the West

We need to take a little time out to appreciate the contributions of a certain category of people who bring so much light and laughter to the world. I speak, of course, of incompetent translators.

Here's one of my favorite examples. When the Star Wars film Revenge of the Sith was distributed in an early Chinese-dubbed version, it was provided with English subtitles -- but rather than being taken from the original English dialogue, they had been translated back into English from the Chinese version of the script, and the results are a wonder to behold. A collection of stills with the subtitles is here. I can kind of see how some of these happened. For example, in the Chinese movie title "The Backstroke of the West", the Chinese word xi meaning "west" does sound a bit similar to "Sith", so it must have been chosen as a translation purely for phonetic reasons -- but then, in the subtitles, it was translated back into English as "west". And "backstroke" for "revenge" makes some sense if you think of "revenge" as equivalent to "striking back". But I think these subtitles must have been produced by one of those computer "translation" programs. I can't imagine any human being, however incompetent, rendering a person's name as "Ratio Tile".

That's an old example, but the Chinese of today are still at it. Check out these examples from Beijing's official preparations for the upcoming Summer Olympics. And who knew that the drooling, steel-fanged, slime-covered monster from Alien was such a kindly and neighborly type?

And, of course, don't forget this.


08 January 2007

More on Islam in Britain

This is not a true statistical poll or survey -- People is a tabloid, after all -- but the many instances of violent Islamist rhetoric which it uncovered are nevertheless revealing.

Note: "10 Downing Street" is the official residence of the British Prime Minister, more or less equivalent to the White House.

It is ironic that the introduction speaks of "how young men spread poison to undermine their OWN country". To these particular young men, "their own country" is not the land where they were born and raised, but rather the worldwide Islamic ummah (religion-nation). We had all better get that point through our heads as quickly as possible.

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More on the execution of Saddam

The EU Referendum site has a roundup of sensible thoughts.

The end of homosexuality?

Andrew Sullivan has written a fascinating article highlighting a little-known aspect of the explosively-fast progress of modern biological science: we are closing in on an understanding of the biological basis for homosexuality.

I've always leaned toward the hormonal-imbalance-in-the-womb theory myself. Homosexuality can't be a simple gene-linked trait; any trait which has such a negative effect on an organism's chances of reproduction would be weeded out of the gene pool very quickly by natural selection if it were genetic. Nor can it be a "choice". I know for a definite fact that I could not cause myself to become homosexual by an act of will, and any other heterosexual person would say the same. So I can't believe that those who are homosexual became homosexual in that fashion. Moreover, the existence of homosexuality has been well documented in many species other than humans.

The point is, soon we won't need to argue and speculate about this question any more. We'll know.

To Sullivan, who is himself homosexual, this has some alarming implications. If the biological basis for a condition is thoroughly understood, it is theoretically possible that it could be changed (some would say "cured") -- that is, tests could be done to find out whether a fetus in the womb is going to be homosexual, and if so, hormone therapy could be applied to change its orientation to heterosexual. Or a homosexual fetus might simply be aborted. The implications of such developments would be troubling from a variety of perspectives.

In the years to come there will be a huge, bitter, complicated ethical debate about this subject, and that debate will be utterly irrelevant and pointless. Regardless of what arguments anyone makes, the therapeutic eradication of homosexuality is inevitable. Here's why.

As long as abortion remains widely available -- and it will, no matter what the Christian Right thinks -- it will be impossible to selectively prevent just those abortions which are sought for certain motives as opposed to others. We can already see proof of this in China, India, and South Korea, where a strong cultural preference for sons over daughters has led to selective abortion of female fetuses on a massive scale. At least in China, abortion for the purpose of gender selection is illegal, but that makes no difference. The technology is available, so people use it, as can be seen by the considerable imbalance of the genders already observable in the three countries. (Needless to say, a large excess of males in a society has terrible implications for future social stability, but governments are helpless to prevent the phenomenon, and the masses apparently either are too short-sighted to anticipate the future problems their behavior is creating, or simply don't care.)

In the case of homosexuality, the matter is even more clear-cut. Virtually all parents would prefer that their children not grow up to be homosexual. Even those with very socially-liberal views, who are genuinely free from any prejudice against homosexuals, still know that being homosexual greatly increases the challenges and problems a person will encounter in life, and diminishes his chances of happiness. Furthermore, most people have, to some degree, a certain feeling of disgust toward homosexuality -- even people in cultures where homosexuality has never been considered "sinful". (I believe that this feeling of disgust is rooted in the genes, but that's a subject too complex to get into here.)

Once testing for incipient homosexuality in the womb becomes widely available (whether legal or not), we will rapidly reach a point where practically the only children destined to become homosexual who are still born will be those whose parents have personal beliefs that rule out abortion. (Most such people are highly religious and therefore likely to be prejudiced against homosexuals, which will create another set of problems.) If it later becomes possible to "heterosexualize" the developing fetus using hormone therapy instead of aborting it, the number of new births of children who will grow up to be homosexual will fall to practically zero. After that, only life extension technology (enabling existing adults to live indefinitely) will prevent homsexuality from vanishing entirely. And even then, eventually a day will probably come when it is possible to change the established sexual orientation of adults (via biotechnology, not the preposterous "ex-gay ministries" which currently disfigure the discussion of this subject). Despite the fact that in the last few decades homosexuality has bizarrely evolved into a sort of quasi-ethnic identity, with "gay pride" and suchlike, I suspect that a fair number would opt for such therapy if it were available and proven effective. Being homosexual does add considerably to the problems and frustrations of life, after all.

The prospect of such an outcome would doubtless make many people unhappy. Yet it is consistent with the way humans actually tend to behave when offered new technologies to exploit.

Update: More thoughts about this issue on Sullivan's site here. One of his readers makes a very interesting point: in a present-day case somewhat parallel to this scenario about the future of homosexuality, Down's syndrome is already detectable at the fetal stage, and about 90% of fetuses which carry this defect are aborted, with the result that the syndrome is disappearing from the population. But the proportion of the US population who claim to be morally opposed to abortion, and even assert that it should be forbidden by law, is certainly much greater than 10%. So a substantial fraction of these Down's syndrome abortions are taking place among people whose stated position is that abortion should not be permitted at all. That is to say, they are utter hypocrites.


Religion in Britain

More evidence that the labels people put on themselves do not necessarily reflect what they actually believe. 63% of British people say they are "not religious" and "have no personal faith" -- and this includes "more than half of those who describe themselves as Christian."

The survey also found that 82% of the British "say they see religion as a cause of division and tension between people. Only 16% disagree."

Thus it is clearly ludicrous to describe present-day Britain as a "Christian country" (and only 17% of the British themselves agree with describing it that way). It is a secular country with various religious minorities. The same is probably true of most of the rest of Europe, both western and eastern (strongly-religious Poland being the one major exception).

Found via War of the Waves.

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The prophet speaks

Pat Robertson is off his meds again. This posting also has a good selection of quotes from his previous ravings.


Behind the façade of "moderate Islam"

A look at what the imams are really preaching to their flocks. Notice the usual tired accusations that anyone who reveals what Muslims are actually doing and saying is "intensifying" a "witch hunt" against them.

This particular example is from Britain, but I see no reason to think things are much different here.

Found via Eye on the World.

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06 January 2007

The worst album covers of all time?

I'm not sure these are the absolute worst ever, but they surely include some strong contenders.

Found via Beware of the Dogma, who points out that "religious groups appear to be overrepresented in the list."


Racing pigs!

Check out this Texas man's ingenious strategy against Muslim plans to build a mosque next door -- and drive him off the land where his family has lived for almost 200 years.

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Evolution and creationism

Here's an inexpensive book published by the University of California which assembles all the standard creationist and "intelligent design" arguments against evolution and explains the flaws in each one.

Found via Atheist Girl, who is back with new postings after a couple of months of the site being inactive.

Here's a short video displaying actual skulls ranging from 6,500,000 years ago (roughly when our ancestors split off from those of chimpanzees) to the present, showing that there is no "missing link" or sudden discontinuity in the progression from a chimpanzee-like form to the modern human.

Found via Atheist Jew, who also has an essay arguing that the internet will accelerate the collapse of the creationist case by drawing out its advocates into situations where its fallacies will be exposed. He emphasizes the target audience of "lurkers" -- undecided people who don't participate in the debate but just wait to see which side can make a better case -- as I also do below.

A vaccine against addiction?

Popular Science magazine thinks it's feasible.


The point of arguing

What real purpose is served by participating in debates on the internet? What can one hope to accomplish by doing it? One very rarely sees any cases of minds actually being changed.

Here's how I look at it. On any question where you hold a strong viewpoint, the potential audience can be divided into three groups. There are those who are already strongly in agreement with your own position, those who have already decided firmly in favor of the opposing position, and those who are undecided or at least don't have very strong feelings either way.

There's no point in preaching to the first group. They already agree with you. At best, if your arguments are especially clever or well-formulated, you may be able to show them some pointers about how they can support the cause more effectively.

Nor will preaching to the second group accomplish anything. A person who has a strong opinion about something very rarely changes in it response to a single session of logical argument or emotional appeal, no matter how skillfully presented. If a person enters the discussion with a deep and long-held conviction that abortion is immoral, or that the Koran is the word of God, or that Communism is the only possible way to build a just society, the odds are practically zero that anything you say will make him abandon this opinion. One can speculate about why such convictions are almost impossible to change, but empirical observation shows that they are.

Which leaves the third group. These are the ones who can be persuaded, because they don't already have firm convictions on whatever question is being discussed. Moreover, they can go either way.

So those people -- the undecided -- are the ones to keep in mind in a debate. On the internet, their presence is rarely detectable because they are unlikely to join in. There's not much point in posting a comment that just says "I'm not sure which of you is right." But they are often reading. I've often read comment threads which featured contention over some question on which I hadn't made up my own mind. I seldom post anything on such threads. It's more interesting to watch and see which side can present the more convincing case. At most, I'll ask an occasional question.

This is why things like tone and logic are so important. A lot of the contention one sees on the internet over controversial issues is aptly termed "flaming" -- personal insults, obscene language, sneering contempt for the opposition, all presented in a manner which suggests the person posting it actually thinks he is being clever and witty. It has the same kind of feel as a person telling ugly racist jokes in the secure privacy of a small in-group of like-minded people, knowing that nobody present will call him to account.

But on the internet, you never know who is "present" in the sense of reading. You never know what potential recruits to your own side are instead being turned off by your obnoxious language.

The same is true of extremist, purist rhetoric that damns to the outer darkness everyone who fails to support the entire agenda of the "enlightened". I've often noted how hard-line liberals trash conservatives in general, and hard-line conservatives trash liberals in general, in this way. It's utterly counterproductive. The moderate person who agrees with 90% of your ideology, but feels you are likely to insult and rail at him because he disagrees with the other 10%, is likely to decide it's best to have nothing to do with you or people like you.

In any debate, always keep the undecided reader uppermost in your thinking! You won't convince the person you are arguing with. That isn't the point. There are others reading who are comparing what you say with what he says. If he starts swearing at you and calling you names -- and on the internet, the odds are fairly good that he will -- don't descend to the same level. He's forgotten the audience and started discrediting his own position. Just leave him to it.

04 January 2007

It didn't start in 2001

Accounts of large-scale Muslim slave raids on the coasts of England, Ireland, and even Iceland as late as the early nineteenth century -- and why Thomas Jefferson owned that now-famous copy of the Koran.

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Invading Iraq, killing bin Laden

I want to respond to the comment by Chell on the posting below, but the comment format isn't really suited to a comprehensive reply, so here's a separate posting.

Ya know, the only problem I have with all of this is who we targeted and for what reason. I'm not crying over Saddam's execution. I'm just angry that we have spent so very much human life, time, money, not focusing on Osama bin Laden. Where is he?? What happened here because of him and his followers was a nightmare that many will have to live for the rest of their days.

As I see it, there were three reasons for invading Iraq:

(1) To overthrow the most brutal government in the world, for humanitarian reasons.

(2) To abort the WMD development programs which most governments at that time agreed Saddam probably had -- the disagreement was over what to do about it.

(3) To install a democratic government in a major Muslim Arab country, hopefully inspiring other Middle Eastern peoples to also create democratic, prosperous societies which would alleviate the conditions which Bush believed were responsible for the rise of terrorism.

If one accepts their own premises, (2) and (3) were certainly integral to the so-called War on Terror (a name I don't accept -- terrorism is a tactic, whereas the enemy is Islamic imperialism). Saddam was certainly supporting terrorism, even if not al-Qa'idah specifically. He was doing everything possible to give the impression that he had WMD programs (probably because he was trying to intimidate Iran). If I had been in Bush's place, knowing what he knew then, I would have invaded based on (2) and to some extent (1).

Bush and his people vastly underestimated the difficulties of (3) and never did adequate planning, a disgraceful oversight which may have doomed us to ignominious failure (though I think it's too early to say so yet). I think they were misled by the fairly easy transition to democracy in much of eastern Europe after the fall of Communism. Remove Saddam, and Iraq would stand revealed as another Poland. Well, it's not another Poland or even another Belarus. Bush's circle didn't understand Islamic culture and wouldn't listen to people who did.

As for bin Laden, killing those responsible for Sept. 11 is a lower priority than preventing another (and worse) Sept. 11, but clearly it is a priority. Remember, many other top al-Qa'idah figures have been killed. I think we came close to killing bin Laden at Tora Bora. As for why we still haven't killed him, hunting down one well-hidden individual can be difficult. Major Nazi war criminals remained at large for years after World War II. Most likely he is hiding in Pakistan and any operation with a good chance of getting him would inflict so much damage on that country that the Pakistani government would fall, something Bush does not want to risk. At any rate, he will be hunted and in constant fear of betrayal as long as he lives, and his health is said to be poor. I do not think he has gone entirely unpunished.

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03 January 2007

A tiny sample of what Saddam did

Bridget Johnson responds to the ridiculous criticisms of the monster's execution. Includes one victim's experience during the Kurdish genocide.

Islamic festival

Charming street scenes from Eid el-Adha.

Found via EU Referendum and LGF.


Somalia and Ethiopia

Another perfect Cox & Forkum cartoon. Savor this victory and take heart for the task that remains.

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The enemy within the gates

Imagine that you have an enemy who wants to destroy you. (For many of us, this is true, in one sense or another.) That enemy may or may not be able to defeat you. But sometimes it can find a powerful ally against you, an ally inside your own psyche, in fact.

This enemy within the gates is the tendency, which we all have, to dwell on the negative, to wallow in gloom and doom. Everyone's situation includes both good and bad. Even if you were the most fortunate person on Earth, it would be quite possible for you to make yourself utterly miserable if you insisted on contemplating only the unpleasant aspects of your situation (for there would still be some) while dismissing or ignoring the positive.

The reason this matters is that the way we perceive our situation can affect how we deal with our situation. Wallowing in doom and gloom leads to pessimism. Pessimism leads to despair. Despair leads to paralysis. And paralysis leads to defeat even when defeat was not inevitable. If you convince yourself that everything is hopeless, you will not take action, because you will have trapped yourself in a state of mind where you believe that taking action is futile or will even be counterproductive, regardless of the actual track record of such action in the real world. This is why the enemy within the mental gates is so dangerous.

01 January 2007

Ten important things that happened in 2006

(1) The sleeping giant of nativism began to awaken in the United States. Astonishingly-large rallies of illegal aliens and their supporters in the streets of our cities (the turnout in Los Angeles was estimated at 500,000) forced Americans to confront the sheer magnitude of a problem to which few of them had previously given much thought. The result was a wave of popular pressure, co-ordinated largely via the internet, which forced Congress to abandon plans for a de facto amnesty.

(2) The sleeping giant of nativism continued to awaken in Europe. It had already been stirring thanks to events such as the London and Madrid train bombings and the murder of Theo van Gogh, but the deranged Islamist response to the Danish Muhammad cartoons -- showing that Islamists expect even non-Muslim people in non-Muslim countries to obey Islamic taboos -- and the increasingly-violent intifadah in Paris seem to have forced the European masses to realize that they have a serious menace festering in their midst, even if most of the political establishment still refuses to address the problem.

(3) Saddam Hussein was tried and executed by his own former subjects. One can only hope that the oppressed people of Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc. are thinking about this and getting ideas of their own.

(4) North Korea's long-dreaded atom bomb test fizzled out at a pathetic half-kiloton, showing that this tinpot dictatorship can't handle a technology the US mastered 61 years ago. They didn't do so well testing ballistic missiles, either.

(5) In the US, conservatism's posture of moral superiority began to collapse in a welter of scandals, from Abramoff to Haggard to Gibson to Foley. Normal people are especially intolerant of corrupt and disgusting behavior when it comes from people who have been preaching stridently at them about God and morality and sin and so forth.

(6) Partly in reaction to (5), the American people handed Congress over to the Democrats, effectively halting the Christian Right's drive to install an anti-Roe majority on the Supreme Court.

(7) Gay marriage continued to be practiced in Massachusetts without doing any discernible harm to anything.

(8) Voters supported abortion rights everywhere in the country where they were on the ballot. South Dakota's draconian law was overturned 55%-45%, while parental-notification laws were rejected in several states. It's time for the Christian Right to recognize that on this particular issue, the debate is over. If an anti-abortion law can't win in South Dakota, it probably can't win anywhere.

(9) Voters also approved stem-cell research in Missouri, a fairly-conservative state, despite bitter opposition from the Christian Right.

(10) The US made it through another year without a major terrorist attack on our own soil.

Ten things I HOPE will happen in 2007

(1) In the US, the strident hard-line conservatives who spew hatred and contempt for liberals in general, and the strident hard-line liberals who spew hatred and contempt for conservatives in general, will both be marginalized, and more centrist figures on both sides will start to rekindle an emphasis on national unity in place of the present toxic political atmosphere.

(2) Giuliani will decide to run for President.

(3) The Russian people will tire of Mafia-style government and bring about their own Orange Revolution, finally bringing Russia into close alignment with the West, where it belongs.

(4) The US government, under pressure from public opinion, will finally adopt effective measures on illegal immigration -- tough employer sanctions and a full-length barrier at the border.

(5) Britain and Ireland will leave the European Union, encouraging several eastern European countries to follow suit.

(6) The US government will stop denying and obfuscating the issue of human-caused global warming and start leading the world toward policies and technologies to solve the problem.

(7) The North Korean government will collapse or be overthrown from within.

(8) The US will take decisive action against the Iranian nuclear program, thus saving Israel and probably the whole Middle East from catastrophe.

(9) The Iraqi government will announce that its forces are ready to deal with the insurgency on their own, allowing Western troops to go home at last.

(10) A swarm of precision-targeted, appropriate-sized meteors will simultaneously destroy every mosque and fundamentalist church on the planet. (Hey, I can dream, OK? If this actually happens, I promise to start believing in a benevolent higher power.)

Ten things LIKELY to happen in 2007

(1) The United States will get through 2007 without a major terrorist attack on its territory. Europe will suffer at least one or two attacks on the scale of the Madrid or London train bombings.

(2) At least one major new breakthrough medical treatment, involving stem cells, will be announced.

(3) In at least one major western European country (probably France or Italy, but possibly Germany), the option of abandoning the unpopular euro currency and bringing back the country's old national currency will be openly and seriously discussed, causing a worldwide crisis of confidence in the euro and a stampede back to the dollar.

(4) China will suffer some kind of catastrophic crisis, either ecological or (more likely) in its banking system.

(5) The US will try a new military strategy in Iraq, but it will ultimately fail due to inadequate planning, reliance on half measures, and continuing reluctance to confront neighboring countries about their meddling.

(6) Jean-Marie Le Pen, or someone like him, will gain a startlingly-large number of votes in the French election, forcing the political establishment to confront the problem of Muslim violence and intimidation in France.

(7) India, whose normal summer temperatures approach the limits of what the human body can endure for long periods of time, will suffer a global-warming-related heat wave severe enough to produce a death toll of over 100,000. This will lead to a diplomatic crisis between India and the United States due to the latter's record of refusing to acknowledge or deal with human-caused global warming.

(8) Nobody will do anything about the Darfur genocide.

(9) The US -- the one country with the logistical capability to destroy Iran's nuclear program with a conventional (non-nuclear) airstrike -- will take no action, instead continuing to fiddle-faddle around with UN resolutions and economic sanctions. This will force Israel to act by itself against the Iranian program -- a task for which it will have no choice but to use its own nuclear weapons.

(10) A consensus will emerge (outside the hard right) that the Bush Presidency is a failure, but he will not be impeached.