30 September 2009

Blasphemy Day 2009

In honor of Blasphemy Day International 2009, I thought I'd get away from politics for a bit and round up some dear old favorites of mine which newer readers may not have seen.

First (and my only link to myself, I promise), a book full of insight on Islam by former Muslim Ibn Warraq -- and why, in spite of appearances, it's hopeful.

The "Hank" video and Pat Condell on debating religion are in the links list, but be sure not to miss 'em!

MC Hawking, a rap act in tribute to the great physicist, performs What We Need More of Is Science and Fuck the Creationists.

Justify This presents Islam's Not for Me. And don't forget that It's in the Koran!

Bill Maher speaks out on religion and on religion in politics.

Salvatore Pertutti brings us Dieu and Sacrés Livres.

Stuck Mojo's Open Season is an exuberant response to the theocrats who want to rule the world.

Finally, since Blasphemy Day was conceived in honor of the famous Danish Muhammad cartoons, I'll close with the greatest and most truth-filled Muhammad cartoon ever.

And yes, as of today my hand finally seems to be improving a bit -- thanks entirely to the knowledge and skills of human doctors, with no prayers, faith healing, or crystals involved!

29 September 2009

Chickens home to roost

Given the near-total identity these days between the Republican party and the Christian Right, it's poetic justice that the latter have been hurting in the Bush recession.

28 September 2009

Abandoning the bipartisan delusion?

It's looking more and more like Democrats in both the House and the Senate are going to push health-care reform through on their own, with little or no Republican support -- because Republicans have relentlessly rejected all efforts at compromise, even those that would water down reform into meaninglessness.

And if it's going to be an all-Democrat show, then maybe -- just maybe -- we'll actually get real reform after all.

27 September 2009

Link roundup for 26 September 2009 (part 3)

Destroy the Satanic fag machine which has infiltrated your home!

Freedom wins one at Peet's Coffee.

Glenn Beck shows a startling misunderstanding of the Constitution (found via Oliver Willis).

The right-wing base speaks out.

Democratic politicians please read: Jack Smith issues a call to arms on the public option, and Democratic fundraising is suffering as big donors still prefer the GOP and the masses are alienated by Democrats' kowtowing and cowardice and inability to get the job done. Bill Maher lays it on the line (found via Middle of Nowhere).

Our lack of a national health system leaves us more vulnerable not only to death as individuals but also to epidemics. But maybe we can put that fact to productive use.

Dan Gilgoff suggests four ways that the growth of secularism could change American politics.

Genetic analysis sheds light on India's history. It strikes me that applying the same techniques elsewhere might demolish quite a few cherished national myths.

Elephants "talk" via low-frequency ground vibrations that humans can't hear (found via Mendip).

Science Daily has interesting info on whale evolution.

Dr. Brian Druker, head of cancer research at OHSU and developer of gleevec, is giving a lecture next month with the startling title "The end of cancer is within reach". I may go, if my hand isn't giving me too much trouble.

26 September 2009

Link roundup for 26 September 2009 (part 2)

Hmm, maybe I should enter -- it's a blasphemy contest!

Teabaggers of yesteryear? An arresting photo.

This video seems to capture the essence of the opposition so well, I almost wonder if it's a spoof.

The birth-certificatards have put out an infomercial.

Should Palin be treated like the Dixie Chicks?

New York City greets Ahmadinejad (sent by Mendip).

Here's Russia's response to the latest revelations about Iran's nuclear program.

Had it not been for the FBI, we might have just suffered another September 11 attack -- in Dallas (sent by Ranch Chimp).

Yet another right-wing effort at global-warming denialism falls flat after a bit of fact-checking.

After years of gender-selective abortion, India is now suffering a shortage of women.

More later, probably this afternoon.

Link roundup for 26 September 2009 (part 1)

We must condemn the sinister abomination.

Republican Bob McDonnell is a candidate for Governor of Virginia. His views on women sound like a better fit for Saudi Arabia.

The Crossed Pond has an interesting comparison of the degree of craziness on the right vs. on the left (I stand by what I said here).

The drop in jobless claims shows that the recovery from the Bush recession is starting to be reflected in the employment picture (found via Oliver Willis).

Liberal Values has more on how health-insurance companies abuse people.

Why can't reform get us a normal health-care system like all other developed countries have? In a word, bribery.

For this kind of guy, sorry, but "asshole" is the only right word.

In some ways, China and India are taking the lead in fighting global warming.

New technology may enable us to reverse rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.

Fight Aging addresses the canard that future anti-aging treatments will be available only to the rich.

More later today. Typing is getting easier but still a strain.

25 September 2009

Pelosi & Biden on target

Pelosi is trying to get the public option back on the table.

Biden wants to beat the Taliban by going after the real roots of the problem -- in Pakistan.

24 September 2009

Secular win

A great takedown of the latest religio-wingnut attack on Darwin.

22 September 2009


Posting will be light for a while. I had an accident this morning and broke a bone in one hand. Not as bad as it sounds, but it makes typing a chore. More later.

20 September 2009

The terrorist specter

Frank Schaeffer knows the Christian Right far better than most of us do -- he grew up within it, at the core of it. He has always been startlingly blunt and straightforward about the threat it poses to American values. But now, he is no longer just talking about its ideological or cultural challenge, but rather the growing danger of actual terrorist violence. Remember, we've already seen murders -- George Tiller and others -- and we now have whole herds of armed lunatics running around convinced that the government the American people overwhelmingly elected in 2006 and 2008 is engaged in something like a Nazi/Communist/Muslim take-over, even if they have hardly any sense of what those words mean. The worst may be yet to come.

President Obama gets thirty death threats per day, five times as many as President Bush did -- and one conservative journalist who has researched the issue believes he is in serious danger.

Dobra decyzja dla Polski?

I've had two concerns about the recent US decision to cancel the anti-missile defense system Bush planned to deploy in Poland and the Czech Republic to shield western Europe from Iranian nuclear missiles. One was the reaction of the Putin gangster regime to what it would likely interpret as a sign of American weakness; the other was how the Poles and Czechs would feel about the cancellation, after having stuck their necks out and risked Putin's wrath by sup-porting America's earlier decision to deploy the system. (Western Europe's actual security isn't an issue since there is no evidence that anti-missile defense systems work. Why Bush chose to ask the Poles and Czechs to put themselves on the line for something useless is a separate question.)

On the first concern, the jury is still out; on the second, based on this survey (whose accuracy I can't evaluate), the Polish people consider the cancellation to be a good decision for their country by 48% to 31%, a substantial although far from overwhelming plurality. Whatever the reason for that opinion, it at least implies that the people holding it don't feel betrayed.

I hope this reflects reality. The eastern European states liberated from the Soviet empire in 1989 and 1991 are among the most supportive allies the US has, and are a critical asset in dealing with the only other country on Earth which can legitimately be called a superpower. We need to make sure they never have reason to regret siding with us.

The uprising continues

While our country is besieged and bewildered by its teabagging mobs, remember that, on the other side of the world, a real mass protest movement against a real tyrannical regime continues.

In Iran, September 18 is officially Qods (Jerusalem) Day, an occa-sion for public demonstrations of hatred and rage against Israel. Large numbers of Iranians, however, are well aware that their real enemy is much closer to home. Saturday saw the return of large-scale protest against the theocracy, in Tehran and in other cities:

But witnesses reported that demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans had taken complete control of Tehran’s expansive Seventh of Tir Square. Video posted to YouTube showed thousands of others holding up green ribbons and rallying peacefully in Tehran, Esfahan and Shiraz. Late in the morning came reports of tear gas being fired into crowds in the capital, but they could not be confirmed.

A collection of videos of the protests is here; more reportage here.

Note that these people are not protesting against the prospect of an elected government limiting insurance-industry bureaucrats' sacred "liberty" to destroy individuals' health. They are protesting against a theocracy which, to the best of its ability, forces all of its subjects to conform their behavior, speech, dress, entertainment, and every other aspect of their lives to the tenets and taboos of the official religion. By protesting, they risk being arrested, raped, tortured, and murdered by the regime's thugs -- as many already have been. And their oppressors cannot even claim democratic legitimacy; Ahmadinejad may have "won" a flagrantly-rigged election, but the gang of scowling greybeards who hold the real power is not elected at all. This is what real totalitarianism looks like. And this -- what we are seeing in Iran -- is what a real struggle for freedom looks like.

19 September 2009

Link roundup for 19 September 2009

Maybe I should consider New Zealand for my next vacation.

Rita presents a bad song with a serious point.

Bob the Angry Flower has a concise sequel to Atlas Shrugged. Much more on Ayn Rand and modern conservatism here.

Sadly No schools John Hinderaker on Denmark's wind power generation (someone should look into generating power from right-wingers' hot air).

If you use a debit card, keep careful track of your balance.

Bob Fertik has more photos from the 9/12 teabaggerfest.

Don't trust Wal-Mart to develop your photos.

Texas won't give Charles Dean Hood a new trial, even though the judge in the first one was sleeping with the prosecutor.

Forever in Hell looks at poverty under Bush and Clinton.

PZ Myers is once again being barraged with death threats by a religious nutjob.

Must-watch video: Rachel Maddow talks with Frank Schaeffer about the Christian Right (YouTube version of same video here).

Rational conservatives lament the Republican party's drift to the lunatic fringe. Neal Gabler has a blunter assessment (found via Undeniable Liberalism). Rod Dreher has more.

Could Operation Rescue be going out of business? Another bunch of nuts wants to outlaw contraception in Florida.

More teenage religiosity means more teenage pregnancy. And then there's people like this guy.

Alan Street was tortured to death by a mob who thought he was a pedophile. He wasn't.

Liberal Values explains how conservatives misunderstand the Laffer curve.

73% of American doctors favor a public option. Dissenting Justice dissects the fake IBD survey on the subject.

Reconstitution 2.0 cites a real-world death panel case.

Snowe won't support even the pathetic Baucus plan, leaving the Democrats with little choice but to go it alone (and maybe achieve real reform after all).

What does 45,000 mean? This.

Factcheck dissects yet another conservative lie about the British health-care system (found via Parsley's Pics).

The US military continues to extirpate jihadist vermin. Exit Zero has a reminder about Bush's record.

This is a pretty good photo, considering the subject was 13 million trillion miles away.

Yet another health problem is traced to being exposed to other people's cigarette smoke.

The secularism of the baby-boom generation may be changing attitudes about death.

17 September 2009

The Taitz smackdown

US District Judge Clay D. Land's ruling throwing out Orly Taitz's latest "birther" lawsuit is quite entertaining, especially some of the footnotes. This is what happens when an ideological delusion runs headlong into unyielding reality.

Quote for the day

"Is there not a good argument to be made now that Obama, having failed to win any serious Republican support, should give his party what it wants: a public option or, at the very least, more generous subsidies for the middle classes this bill is designed to help? The worst outcome would be a bill that is largely unsupported on the left, reviled by the Beck right and yet too cheap to help the people it is trying to help. If the GOP insists on total opposition - and it is - Obama could consider responding by adjusting the bill to please its actual supporters. There is more to come on this long and winding road."

15 September 2009

More on the Saturday teabagger turnout claims

Right-wing bloggers have been circulating a photo showing a vast crowd in Washington. However, the photo does not show a nearby building which opened in 2004, so it must have been taken before that -- most likely in 1997 (found via Mountain Sage).

The struggle for life

Fight Aging has a collection of interesting links on the current state of anti-aging research, and makes an important point about the apparently-disappointing rate of increase in life expectancy:

At present, life expectancy is increasing at about one year for every five years that pass - only 20% of what is needed to keep our expected remaining years of life increasing at the same speed with which we age. That said, it is worth remembering that life expectancy is a statistical construct based on past data - it is a helpful measure of progress, but not necessarily an indication of where we are now. I suspect it lags present medical advances, for example, because their effects on mortality rate might not show up for a decade or more.

That is to say, conventional life-expectancy figures aren't a good guide to how long a person who is now middle-aged can actually expect to live, even assuming only present-day technology. It's more a measure of past progress. Remember also, of course, that most such figures are national averages which are pulled down by the obesity epidemic and by the shrinking but still substantial number of smokers. Realistic life expectancy for healthy people is probably much longer, and increasing faster, than conventional statistics would suggest.


There's a computer virus outbreak, apprently. Be careful.

14 September 2009

Numbers, against and for

How big was Saturday's teabaggerfest in Washington? The DC Fire Department estimated 60,000 to 70,000 people, but far higher figures have been floating around the right-wing blogosphere. FiveThirtyEight's analysis of the situation seems reasonable to me.

Meanwhile, support for health-care reform has been rising since Obama's speech on the subject, with support for a version with a public option higher (55%) than for one without it (50%).

Quote for the day

"After Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans, eight years ago on Friday, we went to war and spent hundreds of billions of dollars ensuring that this would not happen again. Yet every two months, that many people die because of our failure to provide universal insurance — and yet many members of Congress want us to do nothing?"
Read the whole column.

13 September 2009

Show of Hands

"Show of Hands" is an English folk-rock band whose songs express what might be called "cultural patriotism". Band leaders Steve Knightley and Phil Beer hail from Devon and Cornwall in south-western England, the least-urban part of the country. Their songs repay careful listening -- the lyrics are the heart of the music.

Their best song among those I've heard is, I think, Country Life, which -- well, it speaks for itself. It will resonate with you, even if you aren't English.

Their most popular song is Roots, inspired by a Christian minister who said that his "vision of Hell" was three Somerset folk singers in a pub. You'll see what I mean about "cultural patriotism".

Finally, there's Flood -- again, their songs repay careful listening. It's not just about water.

The band's own website is here.

Time to add hot water?

Well, it's a tough job, but I guess someone had to try it. Elizabeth Mika attempts to engage with the grievances (if that's the correct term for something so inchoate) of the teabagger right, and debate them rationally. It's too bad that none of them will read this. If it couldn't get through to them and make them think, nothing could.

The photos at the top of the posting show that yesterday's rally in Washington was, if anything, even further off the deep end than teabaggerdom has plunged in the past. In particular, check out the sign on the left in the second photo. Whatever you think of Obama (and I'm no fan of his), this is flat-out disgusting.

Andrew Sullivan has a cogent observation:

One wonders where these people were when Bush was massively increasing debt, spending like LBJ, detaining citizens without charges and torturing them, and nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan? I guess limited government is an elastic notion..... Here's a test: when you see as many posters lambasting Bush and Cheney and the GOP for getting us into this crisis in the first place, I will take these people seriously as genuine small government non-partisan conservatives and independents.

Finally: Wow.

Update: Oliver Willis has lots more photos.

Dating games

I've long been intrigued by the advice that women-oriented publications give their readers for dealing with men. When I saw the headline "Five dates that will drive him wild", promising ideas for "truly guy-friendly get-togethers that might just make him fall for you, and fast", I immediately thought, "Let's see what their ideas are -- would they work with me?" I'm not 100% typical -- who is? -- but I'm a guy. OK, here goes:

1. Treat Him to a Manly Dish. Dainty morsels artfully arranged on a plate just won't cut it for your hungry man, so take him out for his favorite food — the kind he can eat with his hands. Barbecue sandwiches, ribs, burgers, and pizza are all palate pleasers for the testosterone-toting sex. Pick a place where you can get as sloppy as you want (bonus points for lustily licking your fingers).

Well, I don't eat any of those kinds of food, but certainly a lot of people do. There are a lot of men who genuinely prefer things like French or Thai food to burgers or ribs, though, so you're better off asking the guy what "his favorite food" is. But wait a minute, what was that last part?

bonus points for lustily licking your fingers

YUCK! I can't offhand think of anything a woman could do while eating that would turn me off as quickly as this. Believe it or not, ladies, many of us did not learn our table manners in a pigsty -- and it's a definite plus with us if you didn't either.

2. Get on the Green. Book a few evening hours on a driving range and he'll feel luckier than Tiger Woods. Working up a sweat under the stars with you at his side ... it's hotter than anything the PGA has ever done. Don't be afraid to "putt" him in his place by wagering a bet that you can outdrive him. The loser has to soothe the winner's aching muscles.

Personally I've never had any interest in sports of any kind. It's true that a lot of guys are into sports, but golf? Surely a minority taste. Most guys who are into sports would probably prefer taking you out to a football or baseball game.

3. Do a Dive-Bar Crawl. What guy doesn't feel right at home in a laid-back bar that's dark and has permanent patrons situated on the stools? Yes, you can suck it up at least once. By hopping from one lowbrow site to another, he can sample different brews, and fortunately for you, treating him to drinks all night won't break the bank.

I've never been able to go to bars, because until recently they allowed smoking (and in most of the country they probably still do), but my impression is that they tend to be too noisy to talk in. Still, this might work for some men. Just don't expect much from him later on after all that drinking, in terms of coherent conversa-tion or otherwise. Large quantities of alcohol tend to "soften a guy up", if you get my drift.

4. Kick It Up at a Carnival. Scope out a local amusement park on a brisk autumn night and pull a gallant role-reversal by winning him a prize at the dunking booth. Then let him cling to you on the wild roller-coaster rides. Sweeten the deal with fairground treats like fried dough and cotton candy, then top it off with a make-out ride on the Ferris wheel.

Good advice, if you are Mary Kay Letourneau. I thought those places were for kids? Might appeal to some (adults), but you need to know beforehand whether he's one of them. Watch out if he shows too much enthusiasm for the dunking-booth idea.

5. Be King and Queen of the Mattress. Have him put on his pj's (you wear a sexy nightie) and stay in bed the entire evening. You can play music, sip wine, eat takeout, rent movies, give each other massages, read him a book, and play video games (well, it is a date for him) — all in the sack. Warning: Boudoir-confined activity is highly addictive, so you may have trouble taking him out on the town again.

OK, I'll give them that one. Skip the video games, though. Some of us are over 15, even mentally.

Seriously, "how to handle men" advice has the same inherent flaw as "how to handle women" advice -- every person is different. But I'll give the author here credit for at least not taking the route that most women's-magazine advice about men seems to follow -- just telling the readers what they want to hear.

12 September 2009

Link roundup for 12 September 2009

Rita ruminates on phallic obsessions both traditional and modern. Check out this too.

Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan's religion-based law school is being sabotaged by his own control-freakery. (Another religion-based law school? Didn't Pat Robertson do enough damage?)

A woman's sex life is affected by what she eats (oh, shut up, you know what I mean).

Didn't anyone look at this ad before it was published? (Found via Mendip.)

Immoral Minority has cartoons about Obama's school speech.

Middle of Nowhere offers fashion advice for wingnuts, and attracts one of the weirdest trolls ever.

Pastor Steven Anderson isn't shy about declaring his hatred for Obama (sent by Ranch Chimp).

A family-values politician finds kindred spirits to praise.

Reed Braden debunks efforts to deny Christianity's hatred of gays. More here.

Philip Pullman is writing a book about Jesus.

Religion is trying to imitate science, and just looks even stupider and more pointless than usual.

America must not sink to fifth place, but it's OK to rank 38th.

Keith Olbermann has the best and most devastating commentary on the Joe Wilson flap. Read this and this too.

Teabaggers are on the march in the name of "the people" against the government that the actual people elected in a landslide (sent by Ranch Chimp). Watch for exaggeration.

Matt Taibbi has a no-nonsense discussion of the health-care crisis and why reform is floundering (found via Middle of Nowhere).

US public debt, high as it seems, is low compared with that of other developed countries and will remain so for years to come.

Michael J. Totten has a photo-rich report from Libya, a country whose dreariness approaches North Korea's.

The difficult-to-protect shorelines of Greece's countless islands make it a gateway to the EU for illegal aliens.

Observation from space offers a way to estimate economic growth.

The BBC has discovered giant rats in New Guinea.

There's more evidence that fatty foods make you stupid.

Forty years later, two of the Apollo Moon landing sites have been photographed by India's Chandrayaan-1 probe and by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Alcor case summaries show the importance of preparation and legal issues for cryopreservation.

11 September 2009

Eight years ago

10 September 2009

Obama's speech

The best commentary on it I've seen so far is here. Main upside: he shows definite signs of being willing to confront the conservatives and actually fight to get something done instead of continuing to make a fetish of bipartisanship. Main downside: his commitment to a public option sounds as wobbly as ever.

Update: Middle of Nowhere says that the only thing that can save the public option is the public.

09 September 2009

Michael Duvall

Oh, look, it's another family-values conservative Religiopublican, just dripping with morality and virtue. More here.

Update (10 Sept.): "Hot Mike" has now resigned.

Name-calling descends into idiocy

Socialist. Communist. Marxist. These words are being thrown around a lot lately, as epithets hurled at the Democrats' efforts to reform health care or, well, to do just about anything, in practice. The words are used like amulets, like a cross brandished to ward off Dracula, with no apparent sense of what they actually mean.

First, socialism is not the same thing as Marxism or Communism. Socialism is what France and Britain and Germany have. Socialism is stuff like Social Security and Medicare. People recoil from the word, but once they have the substance of it, they like it enough to raise pluperfect Hell if anyone tries to take it away.

The definitive characteristic of Communism in the Soviet sense is state ownership of the means of production. If the Democratic party supported nationalizing every factory and farm in the US and converting all the workers in them to government employees, it would be accurate to call it Communist or Marxist. Needless to say, it does not advocate anything resembling actual Communism.

As for the occasional Nazi comparisons, they mostly rely on a different form of intellectual dishonesty, exemplified by the quote here that Obama's idea for a civilian disaster-relief corps (also previously suggested by Bush) is "exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany". For all I know, Nazi Germany may indeed have had such an organization, but to make an analogy on this basis is deceitful. I assume that schools in Nazi Germany taught that the Earth is round, and so in a certain sense (Flat-Earth Society please note) it would be technically true to say that any country where the schools teach that the Earth is round is doing the same thing that Nazi Germany did. But everybody knows that Nazi Germany's status as the epitome of evil has nothing to do with that; it stems from the Holocaust, murderously-brutal military occupation policies, large-scale use of slave labor in the twentieth century, and so on. This is what an accusation that one's opposition is "like Nazi Germany" evokes. Silly analogies based on things that normal governments could and do do are a fraudulent abuse of history.

07 September 2009

Link list update

The blogs in my links list are now separated out and alphabetized. More significantly, I've added Pat Condell's video on dealing with religion. I've directed readers to various Condell videos before, but this one conveys such an important truth that it deserves a permanent link.

What we're up against (2)

The problem we're confronting with the American right wing is not just a matter of fringe lunatic extremists living in a fantasy world (see post below). It also includes mainstream lunatic extremists living in a fantasy world.

Meet Paul Broun (R-Georgia), a member in good standing of the US House of Representatives.

Shortly after the 2008 election, Broun sounded what has become a recurring right-wing theme -- that the election opens the way to a Communist (or Nazi -- they seem hazy on the difference) take-over. "I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may -- may not, I hope not -- but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism." Of Obama's idea for a civil reserve corps to assist with disaster relief and reconstruc-tion -- an idea also proposed by Bush -- Broun said "That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did.....When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist." And further: "You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I'm not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I'm saying is there is the potential of going down that road" (source).

Broun has said that Obama "has the three things that are necessary to establish an authoritarian government," with those three things being a private army, a ban on gun ownership, and total control of the media (source) -- none of which, in fact, even remotely exists.

Broun declares anthropogenic climate change a "hoax" that has been "perpetrated out of the scientific community" (source). Paul Krugman comments: "I’d call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice."

Remember, this is not some scruffy crackpot waving a misspelled sign at a rally. This is a Republican Congressman.

(Found via Reconstitution 2.0.)

05 September 2009

What we're up against

"Society does not work apart from God and God's rules. He is the author of government. Our encouragement to America is to repent, turn back to the living God, fall on your face in humility and ask God to save your country. God will take care of health care. God will take care. The children of Israel wandered in the desert for forty years and their sandals were not even worn out."

"If Obama and the party voted not to let health care go outside of state lines, how on Earth could a health care initiative be proposed by someone who wouldn't allow the citizens of the United States to get health care, proper care, right outside their own, you know, outside with their neighbors? That's my question."

"You do your homework, you do some study, you can see he's a radical Communist. And he's a basic Muslim. And health care will just turn -- this is a stepping stone for take-over by Communism like Hitler did in Germany."

Various anti-health-care-reform protesters

Source (and much more in the same vein) here. Anyone care to attempt a rational dialogue and negotiation with that? Personally I think some of these folks are on something a bit stronger than tea.

Link roundup for 5 September 2009

Check out these cool steampunk projects (found via Mendip).

Barcelona offers an unusual tourist attraction.

When typing messages on Facebook, be careful.

In a still-slow economy, retailers will try anything to boost sales.

Donald Mills has a few choice words about stupid names.

German mathematician Adam Ries hasn't paid his TV license fee -- but he has a good reason.

I can't help it -- this is funny.

Yes, Obama is Hitler (found via Middle of Nowhere).

Stupid Evil Bastard brings us a short PSA on religion.

Sadly No takes a serious look at one issue with universal health care -- healthy people subsidizing the care of those with unhealthy lifestyles.

Here's an eyewitness report from the Thousand Oaks finger-biting incident (found via Skippy the Bush Kangaroo).

Zirgar looks at Republican opposition to the public option -- and there's a bipartisan poster, too.

Recall the 2008 primaries, and think of what could have been.

Teapot Atheist has a new Chick tract -- about Hell.

Sometimes one ad can encapsulate the differences between an earlier era and our own (found via Mendip).

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Iranian theocracy, is bothered by the large number of students majoring in the humanities -- because such studies undermine religious belief. Funny how real education tends to do that.

Iran's universities re-open on Sept. 23 -- and the theocracy is worried.

This past week was the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II in Europe -- the Nazis invaded Poland on Sept. 1 and Britain declared war on Sept. 3.

New technology enables doctors in the US to examine and treat patients in distant war zones (sent by Ranch Chimp).

Ethnicity is a matter of culture, not genes. For example, a map of a genetic trait usually doesn't show much correspondence with any national or ethnic boundaries.

Being overweight speeds up the decline of the immune system.

Neuroscientist Henry Markram believes we can reverse-engineer the human brain and build a computer model of it -- an essential step toward the Singularity -- within as little as ten years.

02 September 2009

One more state

Gay marriage came to Vermont yesterday -- and hardly anyone noticed. The concept may not be quite mainstream yet, but it has lost much of its capacity to shock.

Quote for the day

"I think the Republican Party is in the same boat the Democrats were in in the early eighties — dominated by extremists unable to see how badly their party was alienating moderates and indepen-dents. The party’s adults formed the Democratic Leadership Council to push the party back to the center and it was very successful. But there is no group like that for Republicans. That has left lunatics like Glenn Beck as the party’s de facto leaders. As long as that remains the case, I want nothing to do with the GOP. I will know that the party is on the path to recovery when someone in a position of influence reaches out to former Republicans like me. We are the most likely group among independents to vote Republican. But I see no effort to do so. All I see is pandering to the party’s crazies like the birthers . In the short run that may be enough to pick up a few congressional seats next year, but I see no way a Republican can retake the White House for the foreseeable future."
Former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett

Found via Liberal Values, which has much more on the plight of rational conservatives today.

01 September 2009

Digging in

I pointed out earlier that in any debate, it is best to target your arguments not primarily at those who strongly oppose your point of view, but rather at those who are undecided or at least are not strongly in one camp or the other. They're persuadable; people whose minds are already made up usually aren't.

There is, however, another reason to avoid head-on arguments with people who are firmly in the opposing camp.

When you attempt to argue someone out of a strongly-held belief, very often you not only will fail to do so, but will actually end up intensifying his commitment to that belief. First, because in argu-ing with you he will be forced to revisit and re-affirm whatever arguments support his position, and to seek out or think up new ones. Second, because conflict is unpleasant, and the argument will form an association in his mind between the opposing view (yours) and a nasty, hostile experience, thus causing him to viscerally recoil from such opposing viewpoints in the future.

Even people with strongly-held beliefs sometimes change them. I have. At various times in my life I've been a libertarian, a racist (by some definitions), an anti-Zionist, and even an apologist for Islam, though I'm proud to say I have never been religious. I did not abandon those viewpoints because someone subjected me to a concerted attack on them. Rather, over time my growing factual knowledge made me aware that they were contrary to evidence, hypocritical, or based on falsehoods or delusional thinking. It was a gradual process. Access to new information helped; books which made their case in a calm, thoughtful, evidence-based way helped. Confrontational arguments would not have helped; they would have been counterproductive.

Of course, some people genuinely can't change. They refuse to explore any evidence that contradicts what they already believe, or their commitment is such that it simply can't be shaken by anything. But if that's the way someone is, arguing with him isn't going to help either. All you can accomplish is to turn a vociferous opponent of your ideas into an even more vociferous one, via the "digging in the heels" effect I described.


Today is the fifth anniversary of the Muslim terrorist attack on School No. 1 in Beslan, Russia. Within two days, over 360 people had been killed. It was the second-bloodiest massacre of the modern barbarian onslaught on the non-Muslim world, after the September 11 attack itself. In one way Beslan was the most terrible case of all -- the murderers specifically targeted children.

Beslan reminds us that the West is not the only target of jihadism. Any non-Muslim society is at risk of attack -- as is further shown by mass killings in India, Thailand, southern Sudan, northern Nigeria, and elsewhere -- and thus potentially an ally of ours.