28 February 2009

Link roundup for 28 February 2009

See the amazing transparent-headed fish (found via Mendip).

Ice Princess has some questions.

I really doubt that life in the Ukrainian army is this much fun.

As if newspapers didn't already have enough problems, here's a plan for them to self-destruct completely.

Photos from the 1941-1944 siege of Leningrad are blended with pictures of the same places today, with interesting results.

It increasingly looks like the hardest-hit country in the current recession will be China. Here's more on Beijing's real-estate implosion (exacerbated by overbuilding for the Olympics).

Enough is enough -- cutting immigration is now the number-one issue for British voters (background info here). Maybe this kind of thing has something to do with it (remember that in Britain "Asian" usually means Pakistani, that is, Muslim). And I guess this is better than suicide bombing, but..... (found via Mendip).

Michael Totten has a dramatic account of Christopher Hitchens's encounter with neo-Nazis in Beirut.

The Middle East Quarterly debunks the idea that honor killings are just a form of domestic violence.

Obama's new intelligence gatekeeper is a notorious toady of the Saudi and Chinese regimes.

A positive step: the United States boycotts the Durban II "racism conference" (actually an anti-Israel hate-fest).

Valentine's Day is getting big in Iran (sent by Ranch Chimp).

The intellectual battle to rescue conservatism from its death spiral has begun. John Derbyshire denounces the growing prominence of anti-intellectual figures such as Rush Limbaugh. Daniel Larison debunks the myth of the US as a "center-right" nation; Gentleman Freddie makes related points. Liberal blogger Terrance has some worthwhile observations here and here. The virulence of many of the comments here, however, suggests that many conservatives remain mentally locked into an ideological dead end.

Under Bush, government spending rose from 35% of GNP to 40%.

The recent kerfluffle over George Will illustrates the fundamental dishonesty of global-warming denialism -- see here, here, and here (read this too). Mark Kleiman looks at denialism's possible link with Biblical literalism (the analogy with creationism has always seemed obvious to me). Science Daily clears up myths about the supposed "medieval warm period". We may have gotten rid of Bush just in time since it looks like global warming is more serious than we thought. Discussion of possible solutions here.

Aubrey de Grey heads for Moscow.

Nanotechnology creeps forward, using new folding techniques for construction (found via Mendip). One nano-device is already working. And here's an interesting look at nano-skepticism.

North Carolina researchers are modifying viruses to fight cancer. More on the technique here.

24 February 2009

Prepare to fight!

Sometimes our leaders threaten to do something so outrageous that no American worthy of the name can rest until we all feel secure that mass public fury has squelched it. Right now there are two such abominations looming on the horizon.

One of these is a recently-expressed commitment by Obama to push an amnesty for illegal aliens. Not right now, obviously -- he knows full well what a firestorm such a move would provoke in the middle of a recession. But later, when things have improved, he does intend to press the matter. Never mind the effect on the job prospects of American workers, especially the least-skilled who are already backed against the wall. Never mind the attack on the rule of law represented by amnesty for those whose very presence in the country is a crime and an act of contempt for the law. Never mind the slap in the face to all the would-be legal immigrants who are following the proper procedures and waiting in their countries of origin to be accepted, only to see these illegal interlopers shove ahead of them in line. Never mind that tough state and local action may already be starting to solve the illegal-alien problem.

Well, when Bush and a gang of craven Senators tried to force an illegal-alien amnesty on us in the middle of 2007, the American people rose up and roared and showed them who was boss. If and when the time comes, we'll show Obama who's boss too.

The other ominous proposal is being put forward by Congressional Republicans, though some democrats are supporting it too. It's a plan to require all internet service providers -- even libraries and internet cafés -- to keep detailed records on everyone who uses their services. It's unclear exactly what data would be kept, but the implication is that individuals' usage would be monitored; the records would be available to the authorities under various circumstances (easily re-defined at some point in the future on whatever pretext, once the monitoring technology was in place).

So if you happen to take an occasional interest in perusing the website of the American Communist Party, or the John Birch Society, or Dominant-Donna's-Den-of-Discipline-dot-com, or whatever, then be prepared to feel the chilling effect of some McCarthy or Hoover type invisibly peering over your shoulder. The actual monitoring (which might not even be technologically possible) isn't the point; it's that chilling effect itself that's the point. It has long been the fond dream of every miserable, nosy, agitated control freak to destroy the exuberant anonymity and uncontrollability which have made the internet such an oasis of freedom. The slimebucket kiddie-porn purveyors who are being used as a pretext for this (as they are for every proposed attack upon freedom of expression) would of course quickly master whatever technology was needed to protect their revolting business from its effects. Would you feel equally confident that you knew how to defend your privacy? Or would you, perhaps, just quit visiting sites you knew Big Brother might not like if he were watching?

Our ability to stop our government from imposing these two outrages on our country will be a test of our vitality and self-awareness as a people. I'm optimistic that we will pass that test.

It's in the Koran!

During World War II, the British enjoyed a variety of satirical songs ridiculing the Nazis. Today, in the same spirit, lampooning the latter-day enemies of civilization, we have It's in the Koran (found via Counting Cats).

22 February 2009

Quote for the day

"Religion empowers mediocrity. It gives every inadequate control freak the authority to point God's wrathful finger and to unload the poison inside their own miserable hearts onto some other poor bastard who's doing nothing wrong but is doing something different."

21 February 2009

Link roundup for 21 February 2009

This group has a novel plan to save the British economy (I don't know if it will be any less effective than our "stimulus" bill). Here's another approach to improving economic performance.

A hardened criminal is brought to justice (sent by Ranch Chimp).

The violence of the lambs: don't mess with these sheep.

Mathematicians discover the largest number ever.

Here's a video compressing 24 hours of air traffic into 72 seconds (found via Papamoka).

India doesn't have gay marriage yet, but apparently this is OK.

An Ohio man tries a new way to get an audience for the Bible (sent by Mendip).

How worried should we be about space junk?

Militant Ginger looks at a clash of two forms of bigotry.

Fred Phelps is taking his act to Britain.

Here are 16 things that legalizing marijuana is more popular than.

"Reverse migration" may be slowing Hispanic population growth.

Anti-atheist bigotry is challenged in Arkansas (found via Republic of T). Also via T: an example of the garbage they're teaching in the schools now.

Democrats are abandoning Burris as more admissions surface, but he's not their only problem.

The stimulus plan hides some nasty surprises. Call the AARP!

Rick Moran finds conservatives still in denial about why they're losing elections. Will libertarians be the next group to flee from "anti-intellectual.....superstitious fag-bashers"?

Here's why China can't stop investing in the US.

From Russia, this looks like a good sign.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus compares the undemocratic EU to the Soviet bloc. EU leaders denounce his call for free debate (more here). Well, it's hard running a "state" with 23 official languages. No wonder they're too busy to deal with their recession.

If the EU has too many languages, Israel has too many political parties. 11 days after the election, we finally know Netanyahu will be Prime Minister, but the final coalition is far from settled.

Here's the speech Geert Wilders planned to give in London. And, yes, this blogger is at risk of prosecution for expressing his views in a country with no First Amendment. More on power and free speech in Europe here. As a further example of how messed-up things are over there, one-third of Europeans blame the Jews for the economic crisis (read this too).

Nona takes an in-depth look at British boarding schools.

Exit Zero has reports on Christopher Hitchens's clash with neo-Nazis in Beirut.

Goodbye Dubai: the mirage vanishes.

Obama is escalating the war against jihadism in Pakistan. And the jihadists may be turning on each other.

In Iran, barbaric punishment for a barbaric crime (sent by Ranch Chimp). Also from Ranch Chimp: efforts against clitorectomy are making some headway in Egypt.

A rape in Saudi Arabia is punished by flogging and jail -- of course, that applies to the victim, not the rapists. This Iraqi girl "guilty" of having a boyfriend suffered the more usual honor killing.

Guadaloupe explodes in violence.

Trees make humans happy -- well, our ancestors did live in them for millions of years.

Wasps have used a version of genetic engineering for 100 million years. Does that mean it's not "unnatural"? And there maybe even weirder life forms out there.

Why do humans like slow-motion video? Related discussion here.

This humble building may not look historic, but it's where the first electronic computer was built -- and helped win World War II.

The deathists are still out there.

Nanotechnology is helping us move forward with brain emulation (found via Mendip).

A simple new treatment may help heart-attack victims recover.

In November I linked to this story of a patient apparently cured of AIDS in Germany. Two years after treatment, he's still HIV-free.

19 February 2009

The Bush debt explosion

When Bush took office at the beginning of 2001, the national debt (accumulated over the previous 224 years of American history) was $5,727,800,000,000. By the time he left office eight years later, it had grown 86%, to $10,626,900,000,000 (source) -- an increase of $4,899,100,000,000.

Here's an illustration of how much money $4,899,100,000,000 is: if you spent a million dollars per day, it would take you 13,422 years to spend that much. That's more time than has passed since the dawn of agriculture. It's more than twice as long as humans have had writing.

Here's another: if the Bush debt increase were converted into a stack of one-dollar bills, the stack would be 327,000 miles high. This is almost one and a half times the distance from Earth to the Moon.

To put it yet another way, during Bush's Presidency the average American's share of the national debt rose from $19,093 to $35,423, an increase of $16,330.

And now, Obama's grotesquely-misconceived "stimulus" plan, rammed through Congress in a few days with little discussion or public comment, is going to cost another $787,000,000,000, all presumably added on to the debt. That's another 2,156 years of million-dollar-per-day spending, or another 52,500 miles added to the stack of dollar bills, or a further rise in the debt per person from $35,423 to $38,046.

It would be nice if the Republicans still had standing to object to this on the grounds of fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, given the track record of eight years in which Republicans held the Presidency and (mostly) Congress, any pretense that they still stand for that principle is ludicrous.

17 February 2009

Burris & Blago (2)

Democratic Illinois politicians are becoming concerned about the Burris affair, and Republicans are exploiting the situation.

It's important to remember that Burris has not been accused of paying a bribe; he has only been accused of failing to mention under oath that he was asked for one (or for something which a reasonable person would interpret as one), though this may have technically constituted perjury. The story matters because it's part of the steadily-widening stain surrounding Blagojevich.

If such revelations keep coming, no doubt the hope-and-change crowd will start accusing Fitzgerald and the FBI of continuing the "old failed policy" of trying to actually catch corrupt politicians.

If you want to boycott Israel.....

.....here's how to do it properly (found via Oh...My Valve).

14 February 2009

The land of my ancestors (2)

The British national anthem, set to views of the Tower Bridge in London.

Burris & Blago

Senator Roland Burris, appointed to President Obama's former seat by then-Governor Blagojevich, now admits he was asked for money before being appointed -- which he had previously denied.

Blagogate is still out there, and it seems that nothing about this man is clean. Slowly, but exceedingly fine.

God and man (and woman) in India

Cowardice in the face of Islamic thuggery, it seems, is not confined to Europe.

British journalist Johann Hari recently penned this sensible essay observing how religious obscurantists' demands for "respect" are threatening to erode the fundamental right of free expression. That right, of course, means nothing if it does not include the right to challenge sacred cows, but the religious have lately taken to claiming that any criticism of their inane dogmas is somehow a violation of their human rights. Hari sums up the issue:

But when the religious are challenged, there is no evidence for them to consult. By definition, if you have faith, you are choosing to believe in the absence of evidence. Nobody has "faith" that fire hurts, or Australia exists; they know it, based on proof. But it is psychologically painful to be confronted with the fact that your core beliefs are based on thin air, or on the empty shells of reve-lation or contorted parodies of reason. It's easier to demand the source of the pesky doubt be silenced.

But a free society cannot be structured to soothe the hardcore faithful. It is based on a deal. You have an absolute right to voice your beliefs – but the price is that I too have a right to respond as I wish. Neither of us can set aside the rules and demand to be protected from offence.

Hari's writings are (thank goodness) widely published, and one newspaper which printed this essay was the New Statesman, based in Calcutta, India. That very night, 4,000 infuriated Muslims rioted outside the newspaper's offices (India, though predominantly Hindu, has a large Muslim minority), demanding that its editors and Hari himself be arrested. Astonishingly, the editor and publisher were indeed arrested and charged with "deliberately acting with malicious intent to outrage religious feelings". Seldom has the reaction to an essay so clearly affirmed its truth. Hari's response is here:

You do not have a right to be ring-fenced from offence. Every day, I am offended – not least by ancient religious texts filled with hate-speech. But I am glad, because I know that the price of taking offence is that I can give it too, if that is where the facts lead me. But again, the protestors propose a lop-sided world. They do not propose to stop voicing their own heinously offen-sive views about women's rights or homosexuality, but we have to shut up and take it – or we are the ones being "insulting".

India's democracy and secularism have made it an island of pluralism and tolerance in the midst of Islamic failed states and one-party thugocracies. But there, as everywhere, freedom must be defended against the intimidation of mobs, or it will erode. Be very glad, American readers, that you live in a country with a written Constitution including the First Amendment, and with judges who (mostly) actually understand what it means.

Where the authorities are too cowardly to stand up, sometimes ordinary people are not. Another blight on the face of India is a Hindu militant group, Sri Ram Sena, which opposes the increasing social independence of women and preaches that they should be pushed back into traditional roles. In January some members of the group attacked women in a bar in the city of Mangalore, an incident which gained nationwide attention. In response to the group's militancy, a self-declared "consortium of pub-going, loose and forward women" across India, organized via the internet, has settled on Valentine's Day to launch a "pink panty protest" against the moralizing killjoys:

The women said their mission was to go bar-hopping on Febru-ary 14 and send hundreds of pink knickers to Sri Ram Sena, the militant Hindu group that has said pubs are for men, and that women should stay at home and cook for their husbands.

"Girl power! Go girls, go. Show Ram Sena... who's the boss," reads one post on Facebook from Larkins Dsouza.

Growing numbers of young and independent urban women have become an easy target for religious fundamentalists and aging politicians trying to force traditional mores on an increasingly liberal, Western outlook.

Speaking of Valentine's Day, Muslim cleric Hazem Shuman gives the Islamic view here; it's a Zionist conspiracy to promote the evil of romance, apparently.

Where politicians and judges are cowards, perhaps it's women who will save secular democracy? Arguably they have the most to lose if the totalitarian theocrats win.

13 February 2009


Geert Wilders has been detained by British authorities and refused entry into Britain. (Note how the Times report describes him as "far-right", when in fact it's the Islamist totalitarians he opposes who most deserve that epithet.)

Role model up north

One major nation has escaped the worst of the global economic downturn. It's the one that didn't deregulate its finance industry.

12 February 2009

How was January?

I thought the stores have been looking just as full as ever, and January sales data support this; economists' forecasts were wrong once again. Interesting that car sales showed particularly strong growth -- hardly a sign that the public is in panic mode. Perhaps the CBO was actually being a little on the pessimistic side?

10 February 2009

Link roundup for 10 February 2009

This must be the most unfortunate toy water pistol ever.

Here's what Michael Phelps should have said.

I'll be watching for this Danish film about the substitute teacher from Hell (or maybe from someplace much worse).

The Jews are plotting to take over the world in 2012 by staging a fake alien invasion. Don't laugh, it was foretold by the prophet Muhammad. That posting also led me to this profile of David Icke, the world's foremost conspiracy theorist, who appears to have developed his world-view by watching the entire V television series while on LSD.

This jihadist met his virgins a little faster than he planned.

From the anti-abortion movement, here's a fine whine to savor.

Amy Alkon looks at our culture's weird disdain for beauty.

Roy Zimmerman revels in the torments of sleazy, hypocritical Republicans.

Uncle Sidney recalls the black soldiers who fought for segregated America during World War II.

Anna Belle has a fascinating posting about Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the awkward historical relationship between the black and female struggles for equality.

Recent events suggest that the laws the rest of us must obey don't apply to the high and mighty.

The banks now being bailed out by taxpayers aren't interested in preserving American jobs.

Dissenting Justice challenges Obama's continuation of the Bush "rendition" program (it's torture we can believe in!) and some leftists' exculpatory response to it, sparking quite a debate. Main postings are here, here, here, and here.

Public support for Obama's bloated, pork-laden "stimulus" plan is collapsing: only 37% of Americans favor it, 62% (including 42% of Democrats) think it should have more tax cuts and less spending, and Obama's own sky-high popularity is starting to suffer.

US job losses have so far been concentrated in one sector.

Biden's speech at NATO is the new administration's first major pronouncement on foreign policy. It's guardedly reassuring -- an alliance with Russia would hugely benefit us, though I doubt it's possible with the Putin regime in power -- but ambiguous.

The US gains popularity worldwide, while Russia and China sink.

Hard economic times and long-simmering resentments provoke wildcat strikes across Europe, and Europeans are learning to use technology to organize against their arrogant rulers, as we did in the struggle to stop the illegal-alien amnesty in 2007.

The Taliban now dominate Pakistan's Swat Valley, only 100 miles from the country's capital. Their behavior hasn't improved.

A schoolgirl in Britain is terrorized by a mob for being Jewish (note: in Britain, the word "Asian" usually means Pakistani, that is, Muslim). American religious bigots, at least, use more refined methods.

Judea Pearl laments the world's descent into self-deceit in the face of evil. One man who can't be accused of such a descent is this Israeli leader whose influence will grow after today's election. Also read this posting on obfuscation about Islamic misogyny.

CAIR, at least, is being exposed for what it is.

The Holocaust used other methods besides gas chambers.

The Pope continues to promote extremist nutcases.

Claims that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism were based on faked data. Read this too.

For the first time, an extinct animal has been brought back by cloning.

A longevity gene has been found.

Latin America's rain forests are coming back.

For combating global warming, the methods most likely to be effective are not those which have been getting the most attention. Black Sun Journal also has great postings on the subject here and here. And give Obama credit for recognizing that scientific reality is independent of public opinion.

The Lifeboat Foundation reviews the benefits of mind uploading -- a very worthwhile article if you ignore the rather silly pictures (if you don't know what mind uploading is, read this).

09 February 2009

The recession will end this year

I have repeatedly noted (see here and here) that the media and pundits are hugely exaggerating the seriousness of our present economic problems. The Congressional Budget Office apparently agrees; according to its forecasts, the recession will end in the second half of 2009, with unemployment peaking at 9.2% -- high by American standards but still well below the peak rate of the 1981-1982 recession. The original CBO report (PDF) is here, the relevant excerpt here. So much for the panic-mongering about a second Great Depression.

An election that matters

Tomorrow Israeli voters choose a new government, and the results are likely to resound far beyond the borders of their own small but vigorous nation.

Israel's present government is led by Kadima, the more "soft on Islam" of Israel's two major parties. Many Israelis consider the recent Gaza operation to have been mishandled; even though Western leaders' hypocritical condemnation of Israel's self-defense was actually more muted than in similar cases in the past, the government halted the attack before Hamas was completely crushed, leaving the jihadist gang in control of Gaza and likely to rebuild and threaten Israel again.

As a result, voters are likely to deliver power to the rightist Likud party and its tough and realistic leader, Binyamin Netanyahu. Herb Keinon explains.

Frankly I'm hoping Likud makes it. With jihadism as genocial in its goals as ever and the Iranian nuclear threat looming, and with Obama's intentions toward (and understanding of) the Middle East still an open question, Israelis cannot afford hopeful illusions and wishful thinking.

07 February 2009

Warriors for purity and virtue

Ever wonder how the jihadists recruit people to become suicide bombers? Well, their methods are just what we'd expect from such devout, Godly soldiers of faith -- read about it here and here.

Je suis révolutionnaire!

This guy makes me think of exploding cabbages.....

03 February 2009

The relentless carnage continues

It's a common practice among bloggers, shortly after a new year begins, to post a roundup of important events from the previous year. I am not going to do that here, but I do think it's worth calling attention to the one thing that was by far most important and most terrible calamity of 2008:

Worldwide, another forty million humans were killed by that ghastly degenerative disease that most of us have still not quite learned to see as a disease -- the aging process. Forty million -- that's more than the population of Canada, and twice as many as were felled by all other causes of death combined. Most of those people died slowly and horribly, from a gradual wasting away of all the body's systems (not dissimilar to the ways AIDS weakens and kills its victims), until the final end of existence in many cases came as a positive mercy.

And the same devastating loss of life occurred in 2007, and in 2006, and so on back. And it will happen again this year, and next year, and so on forward.

The fact that this situation does not provoke universal horror and outrage and calls to action, stems from two fundamental flaws in our thinking. The first is that we look upon death from aging as inevitable -- there is nothing we can do about it. Until recently, of course, that was true. It is no longer true. We now understand the problem and we know, at least in general outline, how to solve it. Sustained effort could eradicate this scourge from the world within, probably, fifteen to thirty years, as once-mighty killers like smallpox and polio have been eradicated, or largely so.

The other flaw in our thinking is that we regard death from aging as normal -- as being somehow qualitatively different from the other things that kill us. If a 30-year-old dies, for whatever reason, it is considered tragic; if a 90-year-old dies of old age, that's just the way things are. But until a couple of centuries ago, epidemics and famines that killed millions (of all ages) were "just the way things are" too, and were mostly accepted with the same dumb bovine passivity. We stopped thinking about them that way when our technology became sophisticated enough to protect us against them. It is no more proper or right or "normal" for a person to die just because he happens to have lived a long time, than for a child to die just because he happens to have been born HIV-positive. Both of these tragic phenomena are scientific and technological challenges, not immutable features of reality.

We need, again, to change our thinking. We need to see aging for what it is, and to free ourselves, again, from that dumb bovine passivity. There have always been pessimists and naysayers and those who said we should accept the way things were and not try to pull ourselves up out of the filth and disease and ignorance in which nature (or their God) had left us to wallow. In the end we have always ignored them, and in the end we have always won. If we ignore them now and rise to the challenge, we will win again -- and vanquish the most terrible killer of all.

01 February 2009

Unrest in Russia

While cheaper oil is helping most countries, it's also putting a crimp in the flow of money with which the Putin regime has been buying its people's support (or at least compliance) for several years. As the standard of living declines and the regime takes measures to protect special interests, Russians are taking to the streets -- with unpredictable consequences.

Burst bubble on the right

The fall of PJM's ad network and blog has evoked both acrimony and gloating, not all of the latter coming from the left. I'll kick off my tour of the mourning with Dennis the Peasant, direct and to-the-point as usual (read this too). Also weighing in are Protein Wisdom, James Wolcott, Atlas Shrugs, Donklephant, the Strata-Sphere, TBogg, and Gun Toting Liberal -- and doubtless even more commentary is being posted all over the net even as I type.