29 July 2008

The implosion continues (3)

According to the latest Gallup poll, McCain now leads Obama among "likely voters", 49%-45%. Just a month ago, he was behind Obama by 44%-50%.

Older voters, especially older women, are a more dominant force in the electorate than ever before. Now, refresh my memory -- older women were a core constituency of which candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination? (Update: read this too.)

And the favorite for the coveted job of Obama's running mate is apparently Governor Timothy Kaine of Virginia, a man with no foreign-policy background, little experience, a thin record (sound familiar?), and a self-declared "faith-based" opposition to abortion.

Even the indefatigable Taylor Marsh is getting glum about Obama's prospects against McCain.

Can I say "I told you so" yet?

Oh, and there are now fewer than 100 days left until the election. That iceberg dead ahead isn't so far away any more; we're running out of time to change course.

The Potemkin metropolis

With barely a week to go before the opening of the Olympics in Beijing, a survey of the available tea leaves foreshadows a Great-Wall-sized fiasco likely to be at least as entertaining -- from a safe distance -- as the athletic events themselves.

The problem is the regime's obsession with security, which it defines considerably more broadly than normal governments do. It's a little-known (in the West) fact, but China does actually have an Islamic-terrorist problem, and obviously the risk of an attack during, or even on, the games requires that precautions be taken. But the regime is also cracking down on "Tibetan separatists, the Falun Gong spiritual movement and ordinary people with grievan-ces against the government or society", as well as just about anyone who doesn't fit in with the tightly-controlled image the leadership is trying to project to the world. Restaurants deemed "unsightly" have been closed. The city is aswarm with guards and police. On the eve of a world-class tourist event, hotels and inns stand empty as tightened visa rules and police warnings keep foreigners away. Political dissidents and "underground Christian organizers" are being expelled from Beijing. The atmosphere is as far from welcoming or festive as can be imagined. Here's an example of what happens when you put a grim, paranoid police state in charge of organizing a party:

Plainclothes security agents surprised rights campaigner Hou Wenzhuo at a cafe on May 30, putting a hood over her head and holding her in an undisclosed detention center for 17 days. Among their chief concerns during interrogations, she said, were plans for a “human rights torch relay” organized by an exiled Tiananmen Square democracy movement figure and whether Chinese at home might get involved. “The government is worried that this ‘human rights torch’ will detract attention from China” and the Olympics, Hou said. “They didn’t beat me, but there are different kinds of intimidation.”

The citizens of Beijing may be having difficulty distinguishing the security forces from the terrorists.

Throwing a good party, of course, isn't really the point:

"It's not about having people enjoy the Olympics. If nobody came that would be a successful Olympics,'' said Anne Stevenson-Yang, an American private equity consultant in Beijing. "It's theater. The foreigners are there as props but the fewer the better.''

The residents of Beijing themselves, apparently, barely qualify even as props in this Potemkin metropolis. The unlikelihood of being able to hold a "normal" Olympics in this sort of atmosphere, and the possibility that further tightening the screws on an already brutally-repressed society could actually provoke some messy eruption of public anger, are apparently risks that the regime is prepared to take. What's more baffling is that they seem to think such "theater" will impress anyone, in the modern wired world where looking behind the façades and fake scenery is standard practice, and everyone can quickly see whatever is found there.

Update: Check this out.

Actions have consequences

Earlier I posted about the Christian campaign of intimidation and threats aimed at Webster Cook and PZ Myers over the removal and planned "desecration" of a consecrated communion wafer. Well, apparently there is some justice in this world, because at least one of the miscreants has suffered some concrete payback for this disgusting behavior.

Flower-company employee Melanie Kroll used her work e-mail account (or, apparently, allowed her husband to use it) to send a threat of violence to Myers. Since Myers quite sensibly has a policy of publishing all such threats he receives, including any available details to identify the sender, the threat was quickly traced to its source. Kroll's employer, understandably alarmed at this misuse of company resources, fired her.

The message to the thugs and bullies is loud and clear: actions have consequences. Myers reports that he has been receiving far fewer death threats since Kroll's firing. (But please do read the linked posting for some entertaining and enlightening samples of the threats he has received.)

Myers, by the way, has carried out the promised desecration. You can read about it here, along with some interesting history of the role of the communion wafer in the Christian persecution of non-Christians.

Note: On my previous posting about this affair, the comments thread was basically hijacked by one hyperventilating individual who ignored the actual issue at hand and wrote comment after comment venting outrage at the victims (and at me personally). That's not going to happen with this one. If I get the same kind of comments here, I'm going to zap them in moderation. Fair warning.

28 July 2008

Link roundup for 28 July 2008

Oops! This could start a new round of false rumors about Obama.

Here's a Cthulhu Chick tract (found via Mendip).

JibJab skewers Presidential politics again, while Gerard Baker lampoons the modern Messiah in Europe. Some of Obama's followers seem unclear on the concept of freedom of expression (or worse). But maybe we just don't get him.

Could New York state be in play in November?

Wonkette presents a sampling of comments from hard-core (and semiliterate) Christians threatening to boycott McDonald's because "you have decide to support homosexually totally and their Sodom and Gomorrah life style".

Sadly No has been hot on the trail of that fake story about the American Physical Society and global warming that suckered so many right-wing bloggers -- see here, here, and here.

Jason Kuznicki challenges you to stand up for freedom and the American way -- by taking this pledge.

Barbarism strikes in Ahmedabad, India.

Saudi Arabian schoolbooks haven't changed much.

Biophysicist Gregory Stock speaks on aging.

America is starting to move forward on fuel-from-waste technology.

Fight Aging looks at progress toward brain-cell regeneration.

This discovery (sent by Blurber) implies that aging might be curable by genetic engineering.

25 July 2008

Homosexuality and religion

Questions and discussion here.

The implosion continues (2)

McCain gains strongly on Obama in four swing states -- Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin -- where we know Hillary would be trouncing any Republican if she had been the nominee. This despite Obama's "world citizen" star turn in Germany.

(Fortunately, Europeans do not get any say in US Presidential elections. We settled that in 1776.)

Voters remain uneasy with Obama and see McCain as a known quantity -- as they would have seen Hillary.

Can I say "I told you so" yet?

The latest addition to my links list

If you choose to read only one PUMA site, Cannonfire is the one. Cannonfire consistently and relentlessly lays out the real issues in our current struggle -- not for the Presidency, which is already lost this election cycle, but for the soul of the Democratic party.

Read this and this to see how Obama's own followers are oblitera-ting any chance of re-unifying the party -- including discussion of the stunningly inept and counterproductive Fowler-Germond e-mail which has already become notorious.

Cannon keeps on firing here, including the best response yet to those who claim that PUMA is Republican-funded:

I've made this suggestion before, but let's repeat it: If you really think that big GOP funders are behind the PUMA movement, put your paranoia to the test. Open up a PUMA site. If you pilfer lots of material, you can have an impressive-looking operation up and running in a few hours. Then ask Team McCain for some cash.

You won't get a dime.

If a red-meat approach to politics appeals to you, this is a blog worth following.

23 July 2008

The running-mate conundrum

Now that each party has basically chosen its Presidential nominee, the next political milestone is each nominee's choice for the VP slot. The running-mate choice will be seen as more important this year than in most election years -- in McCain's case because of his age, and in Obama's because of his inexperience. I think that the question presents McCain with an opportunity, and Obama with a conundrum.

Let's start with Obama. For whatever reason, it seems that Hillary Clinton is not under consideration (and there are good reasons why she might turn down the VP position if offered). That leaves him with two options: a woman other than Clinton, or a man.

Choosing a man would likely solidify the alienation of feminist Clinton supporters who already believe, with considerable reason, that Clinton was shoved aside in favor of a less worthy candidate due to sexism; the party would be offering "another boringly male Democratic Presidential ticket". Many of these individuals would never consider voting for Obama regardless, but however many among them are actually wavering would see it as a shut-out.

Choosing a woman other than Clinton presents its own set of problems. Feminists would be likely to interpret it as pandering -- and naive pandering at that, especially if the woman chosen were relatively centrist politically, as in the case of Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, who is regularly mentioned as a possibility. Moreover, a critical Clinton constituency which Obama needs to win over is blue-collar and rural voters in Appalachia and the Midwest (Rasmussen now shows McCain leading Obama 46%-40% in Ohio, or a startling 52%-42% if "leaners" are included). These voters were attracted to Clinton not because of her gender, but because she was better able to connect with them on economic issues and culturally than the (perceivedly) more elite, ivory-tower Obama. Choosing a woman running mate, in and of itself, would do nothing to enhance Obama's appeal to this constituency.

There's another factor which is a bit awkward to mention in polite circles, but nevertheless real. History being what it is, the US is used to white male leaders. Everyone recognizes that nominating either a black man or a woman for President would have been revolutionary. A ticket consisting of a black man and a woman might be, for some people, just a little too much revolution to swallow all at once. The number of people whose votes would actually be swayed by such feelings is probably small, but in an election where a shift of a couple of percentage points one way or the other could decide the outcome, it's a factor which Obama is doubtless considering.

In the end, I think Obama will choose a man as his running mate. Despite the drawback of further disappointing feminists, on the whole the balance of considerations favors it.

Turn we now to McCain. He has the advantage of low expectations -- being viewed as the stodgy, traditional candidate, he's expected to do the "safe" thing and choose one of the more successful of his competitors for the Republican nomination, such as Romney or (please, no!) Huckabee. Thus he has more to gain by making a bold choice.

One such bold choice would be Senator Joe Lieberman. Lieberman would be, as far as I know, the first avowed non-Christian on a major party ticket since the days of the Founders; and a Jewish candidate, unlike a Muslim or Wiccan (or perhaps even a Mormon) would not turn off any voters outside small groups of cranks and extremists. The bigger factor would be the fact that Lieberman is not a Republican; by reaching outside of his own party, McCain would steal Obama's bipartisan thunder at a stroke. (It's not out of the question, by the way, that Obama would choose a moderate Republican running mate for similar reasons -- though this would make it harder for his followers to keep scolding the PUMAs in the name of party loyalty.) Lieberman also has the advantage of being unquestionably experienced enough for the Presidency.

The other option for a bold move would be to choose a black or woman running mate. Of these, a woman would be by far the more effective at boosting support for McCain. Black voters are a solidly Democratic constituency and would be very unlikely to desert a Democratic ticket headed by a black man, regardless of who the Republican VP candidate was. But a woman running mate in a race against an all-male Democratic ticket might very well shift enough feminist PUMAs from the "won't vote" to "vote McCain" position to swing a close race. The most commonly-mentioned possibility is Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, who at 44 might seem young for the position (though it would be hard for Democrats to make this argument since Obama is only 46), but has the highest approval rating of any Governor in the US.

(If McCain wanted to make a really radical move, he'd offer the VP spot to Hillary Clinton. There is, however, almost no chance that she'd accept.)

In the end, of course, voters mostly choose on the basis of the top man on the ticket, not the running mate. Yet the two candidates' choices will tell us much about their calculations.

19 July 2008

Link roundup for 19 July 2008

Blogger MWB has some album covers proving that the 1950s were not boring, and revealing what aliens are really up to.

More fun with communion wafers, this time in Quebec (found via Handmaiden).

Also from Handmaiden: what could possibly be more disrespectful of Christianity than tacky Jesus theme parks (story here).

Black Sun Journal advocates cleansing America's public spaces of "evandalism".

This Amazonian tribe has no word for the number "one" (sent by Blurber). Well, it took us long enough to even invent the zero.....

Here's a repulsive true story about brainwashing children.

The British government has finally deigned to "give" its people a right which not even an ant would ever hesitate to assert: the right to defend themselves and their homes. Be thankful that we have the Second Amendment.

Lenin is still disturbingly fashionable in Russia. But Russian tanks are now intriguingly fashionable in Germany (found via Mendip).

Blogger Clyde assesses the current state of the Obama campaign, while Texas Darlin showcases e-mails and comments from the candidate's supporters.

There's new evidence that physical fitness helps protect the brain from Alzheimer's disease.

Israeli professor Benny Morris lays out the stark reality of the Iran situation -- in the New York Times, no less.

Reminder -- my e-mail address has changed!

The new one is "infidel753 [at] live.com" -- please make a note of this if you regularly send me e-mail. The "belay" address will stop working in a few days.

18 July 2008

The road to energy independence

Allow me to indulge in a bit of fantasy.

After the latest round of oil-price shocks and anti-Western saber-rattling by Middle Eastern gangster states, the nation finally decides to get serious about energy independence. Some effort is made to increase domestic oil production, but the centerpiece of the program is a massive investment in the development of ethanol fuel produced from home-grown crops, mainly sugar cane. Even though the government is run by conservatives, it does not hesitate to offer lavish incentives to the nation's auto-makers to produce ethanol-fueled cars, to subsidize the building of ethanol plants, and even to set mandatory targets for ethanol production and use. The development of a fully ethanol-fueled internal combustion engine proves technically difficult, and many setbacks are encountered, but the country is both confident in its technological know-how and grimly determined to free itself from bondage to foreign oil, and presses forward relentlessly.

At length the technical challenges are overcome. Eventually millions of ethanol-only cars are on the nation's roads. The public embraces them enthusiastically, especially since ethanol costs only $1 per gallon at the pump, a fraction of the cost of gasoline (and, as an added bonus, ethanol cars emit no greenhouse gases). No more oil is imported. Oil-price increases become irrelevant. China and India, well aware of their own growing energy needs, send high-level delegations to study the great success as a possible model for their own countries.

It will never happen, you may be thinking. We just can't do it. But it did happen. The nation that did it was Brazil. You can read the full story here. Brazil has achieved what the United States has failed for decades to achieve -- complete energy self-sufficiency.

Brazilians are rightly proud of the way that their country applied its technological ingenuity in a systematic, practical way to solve a major problem. Americans, by contrast, seem hopelessly mired in a "can't-do" mentality where this issue is concerned.

No problem in history has ever been solved by dwelling on all the reasons why the solution would be too difficult or inconvenient or expensive. Anyone who claims that it's impossible to kick our oil addiction while maintaining our car-based national culture, needs to explain why the United States cannot do what Brazil, with much more limited resources, was able to do. In one respect our task would actually be easier: there is no need to invest years of effort and billions of dollars in developing ethanol-burning car engines. Those engines already exist -- the Brazilians have already done the work.

And, yes, China and India have indeed sent delegations to Brazil to study the Brazilian model. China is already starting to invest in methanol, another biofuel. Will we someday be left as the only major nation still dependent on foreign oil?

15 July 2008

The purloined wafer

If a man walks out of a building with a small piece of bread, is it a hate crime? Is it as bad as kidnapping? Is it a proper occasion for death threats?

Probably pretty much everyone has heard of this story by now, but to summarize:

In the Catholic Mass, a central role is played by the "Eucharist" or communion wafer which, according to Catholic belief, is "transub-stantiated" by the presiding priest into the actual flesh of Jesus. The wafers are then consumed by the worshipers in what they presumably consider an act of ritual cannibalism (a belief with some curious implications).

Well, one day an individual named Webster Cook didn't eat his consecrated wafer, but instead took it out of the church with him. Apparently this act constituted some sort of enormous cosmic crisis, because as soon as it became known, church officials and other enraged commentators were all over the guy like priests on an altar boy. You can read about the reactions here; suffice to say that, yes, Cook's action was seriously compared to heinous crimes, and he was actually threatened with death. Eventually, and not too surprisingly, he returned the wafer to the church.

Atheist PZ Myers, author of the linked report, is apparently made of sterner stuff:

Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There's no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I'm sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I'll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won't be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart.

Myers posted these words about six and a half days ago, and the enormous cosmic etc. etc. has consequently re-erupted all over the blogosphere. With the important exception of the fact that (so far) there has been no actual violence but only threats of it, the situation seems startlingly reminiscent of the ludicrous Muslim explosion over the Danish Muhammad cartoons.

Let's be clear: the only way in which what Cook did (and Myers proposes to do) can be said to violate anyone's rights is in the sense that it constitutes removing and damaging someone else's property. And since the consecrated wafer is voluntarily given to the recipient during the ritual, even this strikes me as a grey area. If you give someone a cracker on the assumption that he's going to eat it right away, but he takes it home with him instead, is that stealing? It's far from obvious.

Yes, desecrating a consecrated host is profoundly offensive to people who believe it to be the actual flesh of their deity, but this is precisely the kind of thing that the First Amendment was meant to protect. Expression which doesn't offend anyone needs no such protection. Using such symbolic actions to express contempt for religion (or for anything else) is something a free society must tolerate, or it ceases to be a free society. For those who dislike such behavior, the proper response is to use their own freedom of expression to put forth their own views of the matter, not to try to stop Cook or Myers from using theirs.

Lest anyone think I'm being specifically insensitive to religious people, I'd say the same about a comparable form of symbolic expression which is enormously offensive to me: flag-burning. The sentiment displayed by this disgusts me, but I recognize that it too is precisely the kind of thing the First Amendment must protect. Unless the flag involved is someone else's property and was stolen by the flag-burner for the purpose, no one's rights are being violated.

The implosion continues

Current polls are showing Obama and McCain close to tied for the popular vote -- whatever happened to that 15-point lead? They're tied for popular support for their positions on (can you believe this?) Iraq. And the old warrior inspires much more confidence as commander-in-chief.

Can I say "I told you so" yet?

In an election year that was (and in general still is) shaping up to be their worst in living memory, the Republicans managed to nominate one of the two guys on their team (the other one being Giuliani) with an actual chance to win the Presidency. We had an almost unbeatable candidate, but instead we decided to nominate Gilderoy Lockhart. The results shouldn't come as a surprise.

The Democratic party leadership seems intent on demonstrating that there is no such thing as an election they can't lose, if they try hard enough.

12 July 2008

Link roundup for 12 July 2008

That proposed Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is back, largely at the urging of those two stalwart champions of traditional morality and the integrity of marriage -- Larry Craig and David Vitter. You couldn't make this stuff up.

Re-making a classic is always chancy -- but this looks interesting.

For Independence Day, Malnati's Pizzeria of Chicago delivered 2,000 pizzas -- to troops in Iraq.

Think we have economic problems? Check out what Europe is going through.

Marie Cocco reviews Obama's woman issues, while Riverdaughter elucidates the PUMA movement's disgust. Supporters Bob Herbert and Richard Blair lament the candidate's implosion. And his poll lead has evaporated.

Tanning is growing in popularity among younger women -- with predictable results.

Maverick conservative John Derbyshire denounces the Discovery Institute -- and Bobby Jindal.

Ralph Peters reminds us that the pen is, in fact, not mightier than the sword.

Here's more on resveratrol testing in mice.

Revelations of Obama

FISA.

Late-term abortion.

Faith-based initiatives.

At what point does flip-flopping cross the line into backstabbing?

When this chameleon, this empty suit pied-pipered the nomina-tion away from the solid candidate who could actually have won this thing in November, and I said "The Presidency is lost", I was called names in predictable Obamabot style.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost, and there are more on the way.

It is a curiosity that some of the most outspoken atheists I know of are stalwart Obama men. As their hero reveals his true self step by step, there is a certain sad entertainment in watching them cling forlornly to their.....faith.

Do you think this will end with the FISA vote?

He will flip-flop, he will betray, he will flounder about, and come November, he will lose.

Take it to the bank.

11 July 2008

Global warming: wrong and right approaches

Anthropogenic global warming is a serious danger*, and we need to be taking serious action to combat it. The problem is that the strategies which are absorbing most of our attention are precisely those which are least likely to be effective.

Nagging people about taking the bus more often and about what kind of light bulbs they're using is only going to have the most marginal, indeed negligible, effect on climate change. The car culture is an integral part of American culture. A car gets you where you're going more quickly, more conveniently, and more comfortably than any imaginable form of mass transit (or even a bicycle). Barring a totalitarian state, Americans will not reduce their driving substantially -- not substantially enough to have a real impact on global warming.

There are also a few billion people in China, India, Russia, Brazil,
et cetera who would very much like to have something like the standard of living that even poor Americans take for granted -- and they don't define that standard of living in the "correct" way that the arugula-latté, communitarian-"sustainability" set wants everyone to do. Noble self-denial doesn't even have much appeal in Appalachia or Detroit, never mind Wuhan or Uttar Pradesh. In the next couple of decades the number of cars in use worldwide will increase dramatically, and most of that increase will happen outside the Western nations.

Rather than nagging American suburbanites to reduce their real standard of living, or Indian slumdwellers to refrain from trying to improve theirs, we should be focusing on the power which has actually enabled us to solve problem after problem for more than a century: our power of technology.

First, we can have our cake and eat it too. It shouldn't be beyond human ingenuity to develop cars which equal present-day cars in performance but don't emit carbon dioxide. This could be done either by developing equally-efficient non-fossil-based fuels, or by developing batteries capable of delivering the same performance at a reasonable cost and weight (thus enabling cars to be run with energy generated in fixed power plants, whether hydroelectric or nuclear or whatever).

Second, we need to focus on developing technology to remove the accumulated carbon dioxide from the Earth's atmosphere on a large scale. For millions of years there was a balance between the emission of carbon dioxide from the lungs of animals and its absorption by plants. This balance has been thrown hopelessly out of whack by intensive human fossil-fuel usage, and the problem is now being exacerbated by deforestation. Most of today's defores-tation is going on in Third World countries; tragic though this is for a variety of reasons, there isn't anything we can realistically do to stop it, short of invading and occupying most of Africa, South America, and Indonesia and imposing conservationist policies by force, which is never going to happen in the real world. But it should not be beyond our ingenuity to develop technology capable of converting carbon dioxide back into free oxygen and sequesterable carbon, even on a huge scale. Yes, it would mean humanity taking control of our planet's climate, rather than leaving it to nature. But, in fact, we took control of the climate when we committed ourselves to the industrial revolution. The difference is that it will now be conscious control, conscious management.

Just look at the last 150 years. Inventing machines that do what we want is a lot easier than trying to force people to want things they don't really want.

Nagging people about how much they drive makes the naggers feel virtuous, but it won't work. Where global warming is concerned, we need to do what works. We owe our precious planet no less.

*If you're a denialist and feel an urge to regurgitate the usual denialist talking points in the comments, please refrain. They're debunked here, if anyone's interested; and I reserve the right to use comment moderation to avoid getting bogged down in pointless nonsense.

08 July 2008

A weird and most suspicious concern

It's surprising how often people who believe that homosexuality should be suppressed or discouraged make some version of this argument:

I worry about this... What if gays are allowed? Gays can't be allowed! If there are gays everywhere, they will turn other people gay and then there will be no more children born!

OK, so it's usually worded to sound a bit more sophisticated than that, but the gist of the point is still something like this:

(1) Reproduction is necessary for the survival of humanity;
(2) Homosexual activity does not lead to reproduction;
(3) Therefore, homosexual activity is a threat to the survival of humanity.

Given that only about 1% to 2% of the population is homosexual, simply leaving them alone to pursue their favored form of sexual expression would have an absolutely negligible impact on the birth rate compared with a whole host of other factors, not least among them the much larger number of people (such as myself) who engage in heterosexual activity but have taken care to ensure that it, too, will not lead to reproduction. Even the most timid national program of high-school sex education would probably have a far bigger impact on the national birth rate than anything homosexuals are doing, or rather, not doing.

The only way this "argument" has any coherence is if the usually-unspoken step explicitly mentioned in this case is included: "If there are gays everywhere, they will turn other people gay" -- that is, if homosexuality is tolerated at all, it will spread like wildfire until everyone turns gay and stops reproducing.

You really have to wonder about what's going on in the head of somebody who can believe this, even implicitly. I know there is no power on Earth that could cause me to become homosexual, and if you're a typical heterosexual, you can easily say the same. No straightforwardly heterosexual person could possibly believe that tolerating homosexuality will cause large numbers of people to become homosexual by imitation.

But a Larry Craig type might well find it credible. If you think there's a great risk that many people might yield to a certain temptation, very likely it's because you feel a little (or a lot) tempted yourself, whether you admit it to yourself or not.

The same applies to the truly bizarre yet often-advanced claim (especially by the religious) that homosexuality is a "choice" rather than an innate trait -- that homosexuals are homosexual because they chose to be so. Again, to anyone who is uncomplica-tedly heterosexual, this is obvious nonsense. I don't have the power to choose to be homosexual, any more than I have the power to choose to be a zebra. So how could I believe that those who are homosexual got that way by making such a choice?

And what does this imply about those who believe that such a choice is possible?

Are all the people who make such "arguments", or most of them, really just screwed-up closet cases? One hates to psychoanalyze, but what other explanation is there?

What have we gotten ourselves into?

Every time I think I'm going to write less about electoral politics and more about all the other subjects which actually interest me more, something new erupts from the political Bizarro World we've been living in for most of 2008 which is just too stunning to pass over.

The trump card of those Obama supporters who urge us all to vote for their man despite our misgivings has always been abortion. If McCain becomes President, he will appoint Supreme Court judges who will overturn Roe vs. Wade; thus, it's critical that a Democrat, any Democrat, become President instead. It's an argument I made myself, back in the days when this seemed like a normal election dominated by normal issues.

Well, not content with his alarming lurches on FISA and faith-based initiatives, the Presumptive Nominee now seems to be preparing a spot for at least some abortion rights in the already very crowded space under his proverbial bus:

Now, I don't think that 'mental distress' qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions.

For a detailed discussion of why this statement is so drastically at variance with established jurisprudence on the issue, see here (scroll down a bit). Some worth-reading blogger reactions here, here, and here.

Any lingering possibility that I might even consider voting for this travesty is, of course, now over and done with. (On abortion in general, I think I've made my position clear.)

Then there's this looming threat to the party platform, which we need to be watching like hawks (read the linked Salon article too).

But what about the original argument -- that whatever Obama's ambiguities, McCain is clearly worse and would definitely appoint Supreme Court judges who would endanger Roe vs. Wade? Well, that's the conventional wisdom, but in fact he may well be more moderate on the issue, and less inclined to invest political capital in a fight over it, than we think. As for Obama, it no longer seems possible to make any sort of definite statement about what his position is on anything. We don't know what he would do. But a heavily-Democratic Senate might well be more willing to block McCain's bad judges than to block Obama's bad judges. We might actually be safer with McCain.

Meanwhile, the latest CNN poll shows that the number of Clinton supporters who plan to vote for Obama has declined from 60% to 54% over the last month -- and that was before Obama dropped his abortion bombshell.

Today's Democratic party is not worthy of support. It has chosen the wrong path. It needs to be brought back on track, with new leadership. If it takes the loss of the Presidency to accomplish that, then so be it.

04 July 2008

On this day in 1776

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to the separation.....

With these words, 232 years ago, our people became a nation.

We were a small people, back then. The ragtag belt of colonies stretching from Maine to Georgia held a population of fewer than three million. The military struggle to overthrow British rule had already been raging for over a year and would continue for several years to come.

No one, back then, could have anticipated what we would achieve, how far we could come.

In less than a quarter of a millennium, that ragtag belt of colonies with fewer than three million people has grown into a continent-spanning nation of more than three hundred million. From Maine to Midway and from Barrow to Brownsville, we are the richest, mightiest, most advanced nation that the world has ever known. At times our country has fallen short of its ideals, and has chosen leaders who were not worthy of its heritage, but the genius and resilience of our system have enabled it to stay on course despite such afflictions, and the record of achievement upon achievement remains.

And it all began on this day in 1776, when the colonies finally declared openly that enough was enough and we were ready to run our own affairs, without the meddling of a distant regime in which we had no voice.

On this Independence Day, please take a few moments away from the tired vulgarity of squabbling political parties and flashy mall sales and noisy fireworks, to contemplate the true meaning of this document and all that followed from it.

03 July 2008

Link roundup for 3 July 2008

Muslims are once again outraged -- this time, over a puppy.

Spain has extended some human rights to the other four great-ape species.

James Dobson makes selective use of Leviticus, and rather belligerently too.

America is more religious than other developed countries, but at least most religious Americans are fairly tolerant.

On the other hand, people who are actually serious about mixing religion and politics risk sounding as ludicrous as this.

The murder rate in Washington DC skyrocketed during its infamous gun ban.

Obama sets a new tone in politics, but his position on Israel is disquieting and his campaign may be overconfident.

Bitterpoliticz responds to Salon on Democratic "unity". Read this too.

A new survey shows an optimistic picture of black Americans.

Is the US economy heading for a recession?

The peoples of Europe are thwarting their rulers' drive toward an un-democratic pan-European superstate.

Bruce Bawer takes an unsparingly honest look at Europe's other big problem.

The world's first satellite designed to detect and track asteroids that threaten Earth is being built -- not by the US or Russia, but by Canada.

Nano-engineering is showing promise for cartilage and bone regeneration.

Genetic technology may soon be able to make humans immune to AIDS.

A new cancer treatment which cured 100% of cancer cases in mice is about to start testing in humans.

The Methuselah Foundation is starting to get attention -- and results.

New high-resolution imaging technology has given us the most detailed map yet of the human brain.