31 May 2007

The dinosaur vs. the talking snake

Attention ladies

What could be better than an antidepressant that's 100% natural, organic, and widely available for free?

30 May 2007

Open borders, no borders

Apologies for the lack of posts here for a while. Disruption of my normal schedule (and consequent problems with getting enough sleep) was the reason.

Here are some more good commentaries on the illegal-alien amnesty plan:

John Derbyshire on the mentality of the elite.

Heather Mac Donald on the influence of Hispanic culture.

Stanley Kurtz on the European experience.

Michelle Malkin on Bush's hypocrisy and Mexican anti-Americanism.


25 May 2007

Pop goes the world

Watching good ol' Verka Serduchka doing his thing in Helsinki reminded me that I've hardly linked to any music here in ages. Here are a few recently-found items:

Yulya by XS (Ukraine)

Lyubov Yad (Love Is Poison) by Irina Bilyk (Ukraine)

Solntse za Goroi (Sun behind Mountain) by Strelki (Russia)

Venturing somewhat further west, Banana Split by Sandra Lou (France) was recently linked by both Mendip and Dr. Zaius -- with endorsements like that, how can you go wrong?

Finally, a few older items that are worth another look:

Oi Zahrai My Muzychenku by Ruslana (Ukraine)

Gorilla by Glukoza (Russia)

Zhenikha Khotela (She Wanted a Husband) by Glukoza and Verka Serduchka

Sukariya by Roni Duani (Israel)

Moskva (Moscow) by Glukoza

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23 May 2007

Returning to sobriety

Fundamentalist horror

If this doesn't qualify as a real-life zombie story, I don't know what would.


The amnesty bill

Some good responses to the illegal-alien amnesty bill:

Froma Harrop on the betrayal of the American worker.

Thomas Sowell on disrespect for the law.

James Edwards on attrition through enforcement -- the real solution to the problem.


Depths of corruption

Contrary to what recent revelations might suggest, UN peacekeeping troops do not dedicate their time and energy excusively to child molestation. They also sell weapons to the people they are supposed to disarm.

Meanwhile, the world's other major global nest of child molesters still finds allies to help suppress the facts about its record.


An atheist-bashing hoax in Alaska

At least this provoked mostly negative reactions. What remains annoying is the newspaper's excuse for printing anti-atheist hatred when they wouldn't have printed a similar letter about blacks or Jews: "However, to be an atheist, you make a conscious choice." Er, not really, any more than disbelieving in unicorns or Santa Claus is a "conscious choice", and for the same reason.


20 May 2007

Just trying to help

Signs of reconciliation?

The new, more pro-American leadership in France and Germany is beginning to improve relations.


And our politicians won't even eat their words!

A Belgian Senate candidate attempts to attract voters' attention, probably with considerable success.

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They know what they're doing

In the wake of stories about contaminated, deadly imported Chinese ingredients in pet foods and medicines, the media are digging deeper into the problem. What they're finding is that the danger is both larger in scale and more horrifying in character than it seemed at first.

The addition of melamine to pet food (intended to cause the protein content to appear higher on tests than it actually is) has been going on for years, despite the obvious danger. Why hasn't it killed any pets in the US before now? How do we know it hasn't? Animals do get sick and die now and then. It may well be that no one noticed a pattern until recently. The point is, this is not just an isolated occurrence in an otherwise-sound Chinese industry. It's an established practice. They know what they're doing.

And it's not just animal food. Dangerous contamination of food items meant for export is common in China. It's a widespread, systematic practice caused by a combination of the desire to do everything in the cheapest way possible, an utter lack of concern for the health of potential victims in other countries, and the lack of effective regulation under a corrupt totalitarian state where bribery of officials is routine.

Notice that even in those cases where our pathetic FDA does find something dangerous, the only action taken is to return it to China -- and that the Chinese exporters then just keep shipping it to the US again until it gets through. This is with food supplies already found to be dangerous. They know what they're doing.

Perhaps most disgusting of all is this passage, attempting to explain why US control of food imports from China is so ineffective:

Dead pets and melamine-tainted food notwithstanding, change will prove difficult, policy experts say, in large part because U.S. companies have become so dependent on the Chinese economy that tighter rules on imports stand to harm the U.S. economy, too.

"So many U.S. companies are directly or indirectly involved in China now, the commercial interest of the United States these days has become to allow imports to come in as quickly and smoothly as possible," said Robert B. Cassidy, a former assistant U.S. trade representative for China and now director of international trade and services for Kelley Drye Collier Shannon, a Washington law firm.

So we have to allow flagrantly-unsafe products into the American food supply for the sake of the convenience and profitability of American companies?! By that logic, why don't we all just eat mud and dog droppings from our front yards? That way nobody will need to spend any money on food at all!

Our own food companies will not protect us. Our own government, at least under the current administration which is in the pocket of just such corporate interests and is ideologically opposed to strict regulation (except in the cases of marijuana and sexual behavior), will not protect us. We need to protect ourselves. When shopping for food, look before you buy! Where did it come from?

For that matter, I think that all Americans should avoid buying anything made in China, even non-food items. You wouldn't keep on patronizing a business which knowingly sold you a defective and unsafe product. Do you want to send your money to people who have been knowingly exporting dangerously toxic food here for years?

19 May 2007

Sites for thinking

Hark! A long call from our favorite orangutan, Dr. Zaius, resounds across the internet, naming five new recipients of the Thinking Blogger Award, myself among them. It's quite an honor to be chosen when there are so many thoughtful bloggers out there.

The participation rules are:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to five blogs that make you think.

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Optional: Proudly display the Thinking Blogger Award symbol with a link to the post that you wrote.

The hard part, of course, is paring down one's mental list of thought-provoking blogs to just five. One obvious entry, at least, must be removed from the list: I can't very well give the award to Dr. Zaius when he's just given it to me! Nevertheless, here are five blogs I read regularly which definitely keep me thinking. I don't necessarily agree with every view expressed on these sites, and not all of them will necessarily carry on propagating the award -- some formats are a better "fit" for that than others -- but they are all good reads that will make you think!

1. Sentient Developments deals with transhumanism, technology, and their philosophical implications. Conveniently, due to the site's recent five-year anniversary, it has been running a series of "retrospectives" (I, II, III, IV, V) linking to the best postings in its history. Devouring these is one of the things I'm looking forward to during my free time this weekend.

2. Enter the Jabberwock focuses on religion and politics, from an atheistic and left-wing perspective. The style of rhetoric and debate there can often be, shall we say, frank and vigorous. (I should perhaps mention that I myself occasionally write there, but the site was on my must-read list long before I was invited to do so.) Start with the Chick tract dissections, especially the older ones.

3. Fight Aging is a great blog to keep up with everything related to aging and to anti-aging technology. It covers treatments currently in development, promising lines of research, popular attitudes, philosophical implications of abolishing aging, responses to common objections, and links to relevant sites and blogs. It also frequently debunks junk science and quack nostrums in the field -- an important distinction in an area where some are inclined to clutch at any straw of hope, however implausible.

4. Exit Zero varies in focus according to the interests of its creator. Common themes include social and political issues (from an individualist viewpoint), the Middle East, the media, and photography. The photos are mostly taken by the author, who travels a lot, and many of them are exquisite.

5. Chell's Roost is almost impossible to describe. It's essentially the personal diary of a Minnesota witch (but no broomstick jokes, please). Anything and everything can come up, from Presidential politics to online quizzes to Iraq to family issues to illegal aliens to software. It often makes me think, yes, but it's a cozy and friendly place, so those with a taste for political or religious flame wars should seek them elsewhere.

Thanks again to Dr. Z for giving me the opportunity to call attention to these worthy parties.

The fountains of St. Petersburg

Yes, those are mirror balls

Here's that second-place entry from Ukraine's Verka Serduchka at the Eurovision Song Contest, Dancing Lasha Tumbai. The new face of pop culture in the ex-USSR! Not a tractor in sight! Stalin must be rolling over in his grave.

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18 May 2007


The Senate has reached agreement on an amnesty for illegal aliens.

The Bush Republicans, whom one would expect to stand up for American national sovereignty, and the Democrats, whom one would expect to stand up for the American workers who suffer most from the effects of illegal immigration, have stabbed the country in the back.

Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, always a strong voice on this issue, has all the details here and here and a report on earlier amnesties here, and will probably continue to put up new postings frequently. PJM has more here. More here, including ideas for how to the amnesty might be stopped.

It doesn't matter that the agreement includes fines, a "touchback", or various provisions for future enforcement (which experience shows are unlikely to be implemented effectively). On the key issue -- the permanent removal of illegal aliens -- the agreement is a surrender. Despite various obstacles, most of the existing illegals will eventually be offered a chance to stay in the US legally. There is no provision for harsh penalties for employers who hire current illegals, the best method for encouraging them to leave.

This problem is not beyond our inability to solve, as expressed by a commenter here:

It's not a complex problem. Build a physical fence all along the southern border. Spend enough money to condemn and purchase the necessary land, and to erect an effective fence. If that's 10-million dollars a mile, we're looking at about 20-billion total. Chump change. Make illegal entry into this country a felony. Round up and deport illegal aliens. Verification of immigration status can be made a routine part of every traffic stop. Deny federal funds to any municipality that calls itself a "sanctuary". Make knowingly employing an illegal alien a felony with mandatory prison time. When the jobs dry up, most illegals will deport themselves. Amend the constitution to end birth-right citizenship. Problem solved. All these steps are "do-able". We just need to to them. The president will need to go on television and say, "All those pictures the media is showing you of train-loads of weeping, miserable people being taken to the border? Those pictures are a great deterrent to future immigration criminals. We will persevere."

With this President, of course, we'll never see that.

There is a very broad consensus on this issue -- for views from some left-leaning bloggers, see Temple Whore and Chell (and see numerous earlier posts on her site).

Probably the only thing that can derail this monstrosity now is concerted mass action by the American people. Don't worry that you may find yourself, on this one question, on the same side as people you have nothing else in common with. This issue is more important than such differences. Send the Senate a clear message. Build the border fence. Tough employer sanctions. No amnesty.

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16 May 2007

Slavyanskoye gospodstvo!

RIA Novosti celebrates "Slavic domination" over Europe -- but don't worry, it's only the Eurovision Song Contest, where six of the seven top-rated performers were from Slavic countries.

Here's Ukraine's Verka Serduchka (Andrei Danilko), whose act I've linked to before, in second place -- glad to see he still knows how to make a spectacle of himself.

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To Losing My Religion

What happened to your site? Are you coming back?

15 May 2007

Ding, dong.....

Trust Becca at No Smoking in the Skullcave to come up with a fitting posting in honor of Jerry Falwell.

Update: Sadly No weighs in. And I'm afraid that where this evil, twisted man is concerned, no, I don't have the generosity of Andrew Sullivan.

Update 2 (16 May): Check out Jabberwock's obituary as well. And Seething Mom has a whole roundup of death notices.

Update 3 (17 May): Christopher Hitchens has his say.

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Fast track

This posting explains why our present progress on stem-cell technology is moving faster than we may think, and discusses some treatments which are already at various stages of development.

A revolution looks like a real grind when you're up close and living it. Every little thing has to be done for the first time at seemingly great expense and endeavor, every new tool and technique built from scratch. Fast forward ten years and the first decade of this new century will look like a steep, rapid climb to new heights in hindsight - but working in the trenches today can be a matter of one step after the other.

See also here and here for interesting observations on the economics of the fight against aging.


14 May 2007

Not dead, not even past

In the wake of the Bronze Soldier crisis in Estonia, the Russian government is now apparently contemplating establishing special offices in its embassies in several eastern European countries for the purpose of protecting Soviet war memorials and graves in those countries. What specific actions these offices would be expected to take to this end is unclear, but it seems inevitable that such a step will be viewed by the target countries as a threatened encroachment on their sovereignty by the former imperial power whose rule they cast off less than two decades ago. Translation of a Russian TV report here, commentary by EU Referendum here.

I can understand how strongly the Russians feel about this issue -- just imagine how Americans would feel if there were threats to American war graves in, say, France or Britain. Yet I think if that were to happen, most Americans would prefer to see the graves exhumed and the bodies reburied in the United States. Perhaps the Russians should consider such an option.

One should also keep in mind that the Soviet monuments and graves in question were not placed in their present locations purely to commemorate the dead. After the Red Army drove out the Nazis from eastern Europe, Stalin's regime (hardly less brutal than Hitler's) ruthlessly suppressed self-determination and turned the "liberated" countries into satellite states. The graves and monuments were placed there partly as a physical assertion of dominance over the conquered people -- many of them (such as the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn) in the centers of cities, where they remain an uneasy reminder of Russian rule to this day.

It's also a little-known (in the West) fact that, because Stalin's regime was so murderous, at the time of the initial German invasion of the USSR in 1941, many people in places like Ukraine and the Baltic states (and even some ethnic Russians) actually supported the Germans, feeling that they could not possibly be any worse. There were also forces such as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) which fought both the Nazis and the Soviets in the cause of Ukrainian independence. There has recently been a controversy in Ukraine over efforts, supported by President Yushchenko, to honor the UPA fighters as Ukrainian patriots; during the Soviet period they were utterly condemned in the official version of history. (Found via Mendip.)

The destruction of Nazism is an achievement of which Russia is justly proud. But Russia needs to come to terms with the dark side of that achievement and the way in which it was experienced by the rest of eastern Europe. Failure to do so will merely drive the country deeper into isolation and force its neighbors to view it as an alien threat rather than as the immensely valuable partner it could become. Yet the authoritarian Putin regime's aggressive stance, efforts to control its people's access to information, and insistence on reacting to disagreement with denunciation and intimidation, seem calculated to bring about just this result.

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12 May 2007

The Tallinn riots

More photos here. Drinkable items seemed to be a favorite with the looters. I'm not going to try to guess what the guy with half a mannequin wanted it for.

What may become the iconic comment on the riots is here.

Update (13 May): Note that the last picture in the series on the riots has Russian writing at the bottom which says "Eternal memory to the monument". Such sarcasm highlights the blatant idiocy of the whole eruption. Smashing store windows and stealing trifles -- what on Earth does that have to do with demanding respect for the dead?


11 May 2007

Giuliani shifting on abortion

In this posting, I expressed doubt about Rudy Giuliani due to his apparent willingness to countenance an erosion, albeit very marginal, of abortion rights. I'm not the only one who has been put off by Giuliani's efforts to straddle the issue; his position so far has apparently been that he favors the right to abortion, but "hates" it and would appoint "strict constructionist" Supreme Court judges (inviting rightists to take this as meaning judges who would endanger Roe vs. Wade, though in fact his wording is open to broader interpretation). Since Supreme Court appointments are the main way in which a President can influence abortion policy, there seems little point in having a pro-choice President if his judge appointments will not reflect his views. Giuliani's ambiguous position has merely succeeded in arousing suspicions among pro-choicers, while not making him much more acceptable to the hard-line fundamentalists who make abortion a litmus test -- that is, it puts him in a worse position than if he committed himself clearly to one side or the other.

Apparently realizing this, Giuliani now appears ready to ditch the studied ambiguity and come out forthrightly for what everyone knows is his real position. The assumption is that this will alienate few Christian Right voters who were not alienated already, while solidifying his appeal to secular Republicans -- and of course to centrist and liberal voters in the general election. The risks of this stance are reduced by the fact that several large states such as California and New York have moved their primaries early in 2008, reducing the importance of the activist-dominated contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Anti-abortion views remain a major factor among Republicans (according to the New York Times article, "41 percent of Republicans thought abortions should be prohibited, compared with 23 percent of Americans in general; in addition, 53 percent of Republicans said they wanted a Republican presidential nominee who would make abortions more difficult to get"), but their terror of a Democratic Presidency has made electability an even more critical issue; the fear that "a vote for Romney/Thompson/Brownback is a vote for President Hillary" may trump all other concerns.

This response by Pat Buchanan expresses the betrayal felt by the hard core of the Christian Right. It is striking, however, that he raises the specter of a foreign entity meddling in the American electoral process against Giuliani -- "the Vatican will not be silent" -- as if this were something Giuliani should fear. The Catholic hierarchy's moral authority in the US has been hugely damaged by the child-molestation scandals, and American Catholics largely disregard the Vatican's fulminations about other issues such as contraception. I doubt that Giuliani is trembling at the prospect of the Pope telling Americans not to vote for him -- any American who would be swayed by such a pronouncement probably would not have voted for him anyway.

But I expect the Christian Right to grow steadily more agitated over Giuliani. After all, if a pro-choice candidate becomes the Republican Presidential nominee and wins the election, then the anti-abortion position is very likely to become permanently marginalized in American politics -- and the Christian Right with it, since it is their signature issue. Their power depends on the claim that Republicans cannot hope to win national elections without their support. If that claim is demonstrated to be false, it's a whole new ball game.

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10 May 2007

Estonia update

Here is the new location of the Bronze Soldier statue (see here for background on the dispute). It seems to me to be dignified and respectful. Russian and Estonian delegations have already visited it there. Despite residual bad feeling on both sides, the violence, at least, appears to have died down.

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Many who seek to deny choice for others still demand it for themselves.

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This isn't good enough

The Senate and the Bush administration are discussing a plan for dealing with illegal aliens. The plan does have some positive features; it would require "legal status" for illegal aliens to wait until after substantial progress has been made on border security, and until after the present huge backlog of applications by would-be legal immigrants has been cleared (one of the most offensive aspects of legalizing illegals -- a point which needs to be shouted from the rooftops -- is that it would allow them to "jump ahead in line" of those who have been trying to immigrate by following the legal process for doing so). These could delay legalization by ten to thirteen years. The plan also imposes substantial fines and requires illegals to return to their home countries to apply for legal status.

Nevertheless, the plan is bad on the fundamentals. Any "legal status" or "path to citizenship" is an amnesty and a reward for illegal immigration, regardless of how many delays or punitive features it incorporates. The plan would still allow illegals to bring some family members into the US, creating a potential future influx of tens of millions of people whose sole claim upon this country would be the fact that a relative of theirs once violated US law by coming here illegally.

The plan utterly fails to implement the most fundamental principle of all: illegal aliens are in the US illegally and should be removed permanently from the country, period. The plan seems to lack any reference to the most effective strategy for achieving this: harsh sanctions on all those who employ illegal aliens.

An illegal alien living in Los Angeles or Boston has no more claim on any right of residency in the US than any Bangladeshi peasant who has never set foot outside his native village -- less, in fact, since the Bangladeshi peasant has at least never violated any American law.

This plan betrays and insults both the American workers harmed by illegal-alien competition and the overwhelming consensus of the American people, both left and right, that illegal immigration should not be rewarded.

I will say that I am glad that MSM articles on this subject persist in referring to illegal aliens as "undocumented immigrants". This pathetically dishonest and manipulative euphemism does not fool anyone. It makes people angry. And they need to be angry.

The people's message to Congress needs to be consistent: Build the border fence. Tough employer sanctions. No amnesty.

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09 May 2007

Saving Private Ivan

A Russian view of VE Day and World War II.

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He returns!

I think this person misunderstood the expression "coming of Jesus". (Link sent by Mendip.)


Where is it from, and what can we do?

Concerning this item, a reader writes:

This whole situation has made me throw out any food products from China that I have in my freezer. It is a pretty scary situation. The wheat gluten with plastic in it was imported into this country in bulk. We know about the pet food situation but it has also been used in other manufactured foods (the feed given to chickens, for example). We are told by our own government that the amounts involved will not be of any danger to consumers, but I still feel uneasy about it. I rarely eat out or buy prepared foods made in dodgy countries and I am going to avoid chicken for a while unless it is specifically sold as having been fed grains. I also read somewhere (but only in one place) that affected chickens have been slaughtered and discarded, so I don't quite know what to believe. I feel glad that I try to buy fresh produce only from the US and other proper places, and particularly from the North-West and California. Unfortunately, so many of the frozen veggies are now imported (mostly from China, Mexico and Chile) and, incidentally, it's often hard now on the packages to find the place where it was grown. The printing usually says something bland like "Distributed by" -- then the name of a US Company.

I hope our government is putting pressure on China to clean up its act. If US consumers were to start boycotting Chinese foods (let alone their goods), they would really feel it.

Unfortunately, laws about food labeling make it easy to obfuscate crucial information such as where food was actually produced. This has been a problem for years, because the laws on the subject are influenced by lobbying by companies that benefit from international trade (and also by agribusiness -- remember the efforts to weaken the legal definition of "organic" as it can be used on food labels). It's the same problem that leads to relaxation of the rules for Mexican truck drivers, who would not otherwise be qualified to drive on US roads.

Until we have a Democratic President appointing the heads of the federal regulatory agencies, the situation is unlikely to change (unless we have an episode of large-scale human deaths like in Panama). You could try writing your Congressman, but I doubt it would do much good -- Congress has other priorities these days. There are food companies that emphasize natural farming and voluntarily give lots of information on their labels, and you can presumably be pretty sure they aren't importing ingredients from the Third World, but their prices are probably high. As far as medicines are concerned, I've never seen them with detailed labeling about the origin of the ingredients. It's a bad situation. I don't see anything being done until large numbers of people -- not only pets -- in the US start dying from it, or until Americans start boycotting imports from countries with inadequate regulatory safeguards.


Our humane and far-sighted leaders

A new posting by me, about the benevolence and wisdom of the Bush administration, is now up at Enter the Jabberwock.


08 May 2007

What is death?

A new understanding of what exactly happens to the body's cells after a heart attack (found via Mendip).

Heart and circulatory-system repair are yet another area where stem cells are showing promise.


Quote for the day

"People attempt to say that we are fundamentalists, too. It sounds clever, but I think it's bound to fail. A fundamentalist is someone who believes in the literal truth of certain text, you're not free not to believe it. But there's not one position that any of us [atheists] hold that's remotely like that. Everything we believe in depends on everything being open to doubt and experiment. If we hold those views very strongly and say that we don't think any other views are valid — a view that isn't in favor of free inquiry and skepticism — that doesn't make us dogmatic. Our belief is in objective scrutiny and evidence — including our own."


Where is it from?

The wheat-gluten pet-food scare may be only the tip of the iceberg. Read this, and when buying food or medicine, consider: did it and its ingredients come from the United States or at least from a country which you can safely assume maintains similar standards of quality and safety? Countries ruled by corrupt gangster regimes with a reflexive preference for secrecy are unlikely to do so.

06 May 2007

Sarkozy wins

Some very good news from a place that hasn't been producing much of it lately. For the first time in decades, France has a leader who is willing to talk frankly about the country's real problems, and sounds serious about addressing them. He is also as pro-American as it's probably possible for a French politician to openly be.

Let us now hope that this popular awakening spreads to the other somnolent lands of western Europe, and that this victory leads to reconciliation with the United States after the strained relations of recent years.

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05 May 2007

France's last chance?

A view from Britain, which faced a similar choice in 1979.

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Zombie time

Zombie movies have important lessons to teach us.

And don't forget this romantic classic.

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The spur of competition

More evidence that the Russians are getting serious about nanotechnology -- especially its military potential.

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Quote for the day

"Neither extreme reflects reality of course; attitudes are complex and contradictory. Opinions depend on how you ask the question. People faun over the worthless trinkets of the "anti-aging" marketplace, looking for the silver bullet that doesn't exist, while refusing to believe that science to actually repair the damage of aging is comparatively close at hand. Folk defend the existence of death and aging, while seizing upon straws in the wind to mask their wrinkles."

"Reason" at Fight Aging


Win-win situation

Less weight, more sex -- what's not to like?


Tomorrow's election

Can Sarkozy save Europe?

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The Infidel rejoins the rat race

Hard to believe it's only a month since I quit my job. Where did April go? I must have been doing something. Unfortunately one can't pay the bills with blog posts. I finally found a temp job, which should keep me busy for a couple of months. So if posting becomes a bit less frequent and comment moderation takes a bit longer, now you know why.

02 May 2007

Things that make me mad

(1) The Pat Tillman slime job. If this doesn't make your blood boil, you're probably already a pod person and not an actual human. Look, every friendly-fire death in battle is tragic, but everyone understands that such things sometimes happen. Trying to hide the truth, and insulting his family when they insisted on pursuing it, are unforgivable. The snark about Tillman's atheism is the final straw. For videos of recent testimony in Washington, see here.

(2) Yet another round of arrogant demonstrations by people who shouldn't even be in this country but feel entitled to "demand" things. Chell explains what's wrong with this here and here; read of self-righteous religious co-conspirators here. It's time to use the internet once again to mobilize the people and lay down the law to Congress: Build the border fence. Tough employer sanctions. No amnesty.

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