28 February 2011

Quote for the day -- cultures can change

"And a confession. For years, like many conservatives, I had become convinced that culture truly does matter and that culture would prevent the Arab world from ever developing the kind of democracy that exists in the West. The Persians and Jews and Turks and Kurds were different, I thought. The Arabs? Too tribal; too divided; too religious. Ajami reminds us that this narrative was favored by the Arab tyrants themselves and protected their interest. It was also favored by Israel, as a buttress to its case for open-ended colonialism in its own backyard.

"What I failed to grasp is that culture changes, that the younger generation, as in Iran, were increasingly aware, thanks to the new media revolution, of how backward their own societies had become. Culture still matters, mind you; and I am not optimistic about what might end up in power in Libya, and remain wary of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. But this is a process - and it may be happening faster now than before. We have surely learned to be humbler in our generalizations.

"What took place, after all, in the cradle of democracy, Britain, before it became what it has become? (Sorry, America, but parliamentary democracy, and its core rationale, was born elsewhere). Huge religious conflict, a bloody civil war ending in the execution of the monarch, a fundamentalist dictatorship under Cromwell, another revolution in 1688, followed by three centuries of development and adjustment and war. And this was with the benefit of being on an island, with no standing domestic army and a weak royalty and strong aristocracy going back to the thirteenth century."

Andrew Sullivan

I must acknowledge a similar failing. I never thought that the Islamic world was doomed to medieval backwardness forever -- while cultural differences are very important, and the mentally- crippling effects of Islam are especially damaging, still humans everywhere are biologically the same. I was always confident that modernity, secularism, and freedom would win out all over the world eventually. But I certainly didn't expect such a spectacular step forward so soon.

26 February 2011

Link round-up for 26 February 2011

Jon Stewart looks at Qaddhafi.

This movie could actually be kind of fun.

Check out these modern bathtubs.

Ken Ham's Ark theme-park scam is running into problems.

Palin practices internet sock-puppetry.

Feel Jesus within you! (NSFW, found via Preliator pro Causa).

If your DVDs seem slow getting back to Netflix in the mail, there may be a reason.

Green Eagle suggests a new career for Qaddhafi.

Is the Facebook fad in decline?

Iris Vander Pluym explains the value of mockery.

Lady Gaga targets Target.

Again, prayer doesn't work.

Christopher Hitchens replies to the screenwriter of The King's Speech.

Yes, this ad campaign is creepy and invasive.

The head of Repent Amarillo is running for mayor (background on this harassment group here). I hope he's beaten by this opponent.

Oklahoma's legislature has rejected a creationist "science" plan for public schools (found via Republic of Gilead).

Creationists and global-warming denialists aren't the only ones who rely on faked data.

An Alaska legislator returns home by sea rather than submit to TSA security theater.

Even John Ensign can be right sometimes.

One profession harbors three times as many sex criminals per capita as the general public (found via Preliator pro Causa).

Cienna Madrid investigates the fake clinics run by anti-abortion groups.

Judge Mark Ciavarella, recently convicted of railroading teenage defendants in exchange for bribes, is confronted by the mother of one of his victims (found via Preliator pro Causa).

Federal tax revenues are now at their lowest level since 1950.

This Wednesday was a really bad day for the right wing.

Conservative blogger Patrick M looks at the CPAC straw poll.

You're not imagining it -- politics really is getting more polarized.

Some Republicans in Nebraska and Iowa want to quasi-legalize the killing of doctors.

Montana teabaggers run off the rails.

The number of hate groups grew dramatically in 2009 and 2010.

Rep. Broun's reported reaction to the "shoot Obama" question was disturbing. Keep an eye on Jerry Boykin, too.

FiveThirtyEight looks at conflicting polls about the Wisconsin fight -- as always, be wary of Rasmussen.

Five states already ban collective bargaining for public-school teachers -- and they're bottom-of-the-class in educational achievement.

Ex-arch-teabagger Mark Williams has a dishonest new plan to discredit unions.

Andrew Sullivan thinks the DOMA decision and Scott Walker's antics represent a turn of the tide against conservatism.

Walker plans no-bid sales of state-owned power plants -- an invitation to corruption.

America still needs unions.

A Saudi student has been arrested in Texas for plotting terrorism.

Volunteers in London counter a Muslim hate campaign.

Britain has new, less-discriminatory adoption guidelines.

Ireland, economically devastated by EU-imposed austerity policies, appears to have dumped its current ruling party in Friday's election.

If Prime Minister Cameron wants to reform British public services, insane police would be a good place to start (found via Mendip).

A Turkish-born sociologist and a native German journalist debate the role of Islam in Germany.

In Austria, you can be convicted of a crime for telling the truth (found via Preliator pro Causa).

The Arab rebellion confounds foreign-policy cynics ("realists").

There are encouraging signs about political reform in Egypt.

David Ignatius recalls an encounter with Qaddhafi.

Ukrainian ex-Prime-Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has a warning for the Arabs.

Authoritarians bewail "Satanic" rock music -- in Uzbekistan.

If you use public Wi-Fi hot-spots, read this.

Most of that oil that BP spilled in the Gulf last year is still there.

An ancient Roman may have invented flexible glass (found via TYWKIWDBI).

Brain-cell signaling is more complex than we thought.

Texas scientists are studying organ regeneration in mammals.

The first bio-printer for producing human organs is now available.

25 February 2011

Progressive rallies Saturday!

Rallies are planned tomorrow for cities across the country. Details here; find the one nearest you here.

The DOMA trap

President Obama's determination this week that DOMA is uncon- stitutional and the DOJ should no longer defend it has stirred up quite a hornet's nest on the right. For round-ups of conservative reactions, see Republic of Gilead, Politics Plus, and Prop 8 Trial Tracker. See also discussion at Dissenting Justice, Box Turtle Bulletin, and The Crossed Pond (libertarian). Linda Hirshman at Salon thinks Obama is luring the right into a trap.

I think they are walking into a trap in a more general sense, simply by re-affirming that this fight is so existentially important to them. Over the last few years, anti-gay prejudice has been losing ground in American society at a startling rate; from being the default viewpoint a decade or two ago, it's increasingly looking like an ugly eccentricity of cranky old blue-noses. A couple of polls have even shown support for gay marriage above 50%, and even if we're not actually there yet, it's clear we soon will be. Yet those cranky old blue-noses, a.k.a. the Christian Right, are the dominant force in right-wing politics these days; despite the efforts of secular conservatives like Mitch Daniels to shift the focus from "social" (theocratic) issues to economic ones, the Republican party cannot extricate itself from the weird obsessions which animate a key part of its base. And so it is tied to stances which increasingly alienate the mainstream, especially the young, who will not forget.

Let's hope that Obama's announcement also reminds our own side of what's at stake next year. Never forget that what happened in the 2010 election was not a swing to the right, but a collapse of voter turn-out -- too many people stayed home because they were disappointed in the Democrats or had fallen prey to the grotesque delusion that there are no real differences between Democrats and Republicans. As Obama's DOMA decision and the conservative reactions remind us, there are.

22 February 2011

Video of the week -- the voice of freedom

From Egypt. My Arabic is limited and Egyptian dialect is different from what I studied, but I can understand the chorus:

Fî kulli shâri' fî blâdî
Sowt il-horeyya bînâdî

In every street in my country
The voice of freedom is calling

21 February 2011

People power in the Arab world and beyond

The incredible wave of Arab liberal popular rebellion, which began in Tunisia barely a month ago, has spread to most of the Arabic-speaking world. Now one of the worst dictators of all may be about to topple.

Protests in Libya began in the eastern part of the country, in and around Benghazi (Libya's second-largest city), several days ago. From the start the Qaddhafi regime's response was brutal, though restrictions on the media have limited what the outside world could see of it. Security forces ruthlessly attacked demonstrators with live ammunition, artillery, and even anti-aircraft weapons. The regime reportedly brought in foreign mercenaries (believed to be from Chad), a clear sign that it did not trust its own army to fight against the people. Hospitals were swamped with horrifically-injured victims. At least two hundred people have been killed, and based on descriptions of the conflict, the real figure must be a good deal higher.

Yet Libyans have not backed down. By some reports, the rebels now actually control Benghazi and have driven away the security forces and foreign mercenaries. Protests have spread to the west of the country, including the capital, Tripoli, where a "massacre" is reportedly under way.

Several top Libyan officials, including the justice minister and the ambassador to China, have resigned to show solidarity with the rebels. Some desert tribes have joined the uprising. There are even reports of some military units switching sides or defecting.

(For an excellent background report on Libya before the uprising, see here.)

Consider the courage it takes for people to stand up to military weapons wielded by a dictator so cravenly determined to cling to power that he will sink even to bringing in foreign hired killers! How many of us would have the guts to do that?

The same courage has been shown in Tunisia and Egypt, in Yemen and Bahrain, in Algeria and Morocco. There are stirrings in Syria, Jordan, even Saudi Arabia. Something profound is happening in the Arab world -- a mass rejection of sclerotic tyranny. Most surprising of all, given the traditional death-grip of Islam on the region's culture, the uprising has not had an Islamist character, despite the efforts of embattled dictators and rightist US pundits to tar it with that brush.

Beyond the Arab world, Iranians are again taking to the streets against their ruling theocracy, and the most powerful gangster-regime on Earth is showing signs of nervousness. And who's to say that even the current mass protest for union rights in Wisconsin didn't draw at least some of its inspiration from Tahrir Square? It will be interesting to see if such mass resistance becomes a more common phenomenon in our own country.

Some of the Arab rebellions may fail -- some of the old regimes may cling to power (at least for now), or malevolent forces may impose a new autocracy in place of an old one. Yet it's hard to imagine such failures lasting indefinitely. Not after hundreds of millions of people have gained such a sense of their own power -- and not after so many Arab soldiers, in case after case, have shown such reluctance to open fire on Arab civilians when a tyrant gives the order.

Finally, my contempt for cynics and the cynical mentality seems vindicated once again. Ankle-biters who snivel that the bad guys hold all the cards and nothing can be done -- they do not achieve. Those who believe that change is possible and are willing to fight for it -- they achieve.

20 February 2011

Photo of the week -- solidarity from Egypt

Found here, via The Guardian.

19 February 2011

Link round-up for 19 February 2011

Murr Brewster looks at the latest canine luxury item.

This is impossible, but cool (found via Mendip).

If you use a library computer for anything personal, watch out for these.

In the unlikeliest place, romance blossoms (found via Republic of Gilead).

In the US, it's increasingly common that women make more money than men.

After this year's CPAC was boycotted by hard-line right-wingers because a gay conservative group participated, the next one will exclude pro-gay-rights groups.

Republic of Gilead has more on CPAC. And Ann Coulter is just confused.

A Feather Adrift looks at teabagger crackpottery nation-wide.

Robert Broadus is a cutting-edge bigot -- he's prejudiced against relationships that don't even exist yet (sent by Mendip).

Military rape victims are suing. This chaplain is no help (found via Republic of Gilead).

Republican support for the Patriot Act disappoints a conservative.

Georgia state rep Bobby Franklin is a bit nutty (found via Republic of Gilead).

Joé McKen looks at South Dakota's kill-the-doctors law.

The South Carolina legislature threatens to exceed its authority.

62% of New Hampshire residents oppose right-wing efforts to repeal their gay-marriage law.

Jack Jodell looks at changes in the Republican party.

Sign a letter to Congress to defend Planned Parenthood.

I've said it before -- Americans want socialism even if they recoil from the word.

Plutocrap looks at Obama's response to the situation in Wisconsin.

Quite a few Americans have reacted to the Lara Logan assault in an utterly repulsive way -- examples here (found via Preliator pro Causa) and here. By contrast, Egyptian activists have condemned the attack and even set up a Facebook page (found via Progressive Eruptions) for the purpose.

Mubarak used his last days in power to shift his vast wealth out of Egypt.

The regimes in Bahrain and Libya are using brutal violence against protesters, yet the revolts continue. German views of Libya here.

Demonstrations continue in Yemen and have spread to Jordan.

Bring them all down!

Something for the Middle East to consider: religion is the ultimate tyranny.

Der Spiegel looks at the guru of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (but remember, most Egyptians don't want the Brotherhood to take power).

Belgians have their own way to protest. They should be protesting this (found via The Crossed Pond).

In Britain, a bigoted health worker is rebuked (found via Republic of Gilead).

A vile man: the creator of China's internet-censorship system regrets only that it isn't more effective.

India's Dalits build a temple to the goddess of the English language.

In Iran, modernity undermines the weird religious obsession with virginity.

Bangladesh's "tiger widows" fight superstitious ostracism.

I'm not sure this will ever catch on: carnivorous furniture (found via Mendip).

This book looks worth a read.

Japan's mass-murder fleet retreats from Antarctica.

Kentucky scientists develop a new strategy for fighting macular degeneration.

17 February 2011

Quote for the day -- taking pride

"Today this country is your country. Do not litter. Don't drive through traffic lights. Don't bribe. Don't forge paperwork. Don't drive the wrong way. Don't drive quickly to be cool while putting lives at risk. Don't enter through the exit door at the metro. Don't harass women. Don't say, 'It's not my problem.' Consider God in your work. We have no excuse anymore."

Egyptian revolutionary flyer

16 February 2011

The Middle East -- the struggle continues

Demonstrations in Yemen are escaping the regime's control. A complicating factor is a separatist movement in southern Yemen, which used to be a separate country.

Libyans plan a "day of rage" against the Qaddhafi regime today, and there were clashes in the city of Benghazi yesterday, triggered by the arrest of an activist.

Vigorous protests have been under way in the small island state of Bahrain for several days now, showing that relatively-wealthy states are not immune. Bahrain has a Shiite majority but a Sunni- dominated government, but the resistance insists it works for the rights of both groups, not only Shiites.

In Algeria, the resistance has called for weekly protests until the regime steps down.

Beyond the Arab world, Iran has erupted anew.

The Guardian has live updates from several countries.

15 February 2011

Video of the week -- biomimicry

How nature is inspiring new directions for technology. The part about de-desertification towards the end is of particular interest.

13 February 2011

The secular wave

Since the Middle East was my area of academic specialization, I've naturally followed the wave of protest and rebellion sweeping the region with intense interest. The most startling feature of it, to me, has been the near-absence of Islamist slogans and ideology.

This is a region in which, historically, religion has dominated life and society to a degree almost unimaginable in the modern West. In decades past, Islamism was especially visible and influential in episodes of resistance and rebellion against the dictatorial regimes in the various countries. There was a good practical reason for this: while dictators could and did crush political opposition with all the standard tools of police-state repression, they seldom dared attack Islamic institutions in the same way. Thus Islamists were often the only well-organized opposition force left standing to take advantage of any opportunities which arose. The mullahs' seizure of power in Iran in 1979, and the Islamist victory in Algeria's 1991 election (subsequently abrogated by the military, which triggered a civil war) are examples. In Egypt, too, much attention has recently been focused on the Muslim Brotherhood, which has stood for decades as the country's most prominent opposition force.

There has long been a strain of conventional wisdom holding that democracy in the Middle East was dangerous because Islamist parties would inevitably win, exploiting the religious fervor of the uneducated masses. Better to leave rulers like Mubarak in charge than to risk state after state falling to people like the Taliban or the Iranian theocrats.

Yet no human society is totally immune to change, and there is reason to think that Islam's grip on the minds of its adherents is much more fragile than it appears to be. Islam cannot change, but Muslims can. Education and exposure to foreign culture and ideas tend to broaden the minds of human beings in general, Muslims included. Islam is far less amenable to "interpretation" to become compatible with modernity than Christianity is, and inevitably some people react to the contradictions by fleeing back into the old certainties of pure Islam (al-Qâ'idah being the best known example, but far from the only one), but others do not. The human mind has a great capacity to ignore dissonance between what it wants and what it has been taught it must believe.

Consider the response of Egyptian Muslims to the jihadist terror attack on a Christian church in Alexandria on New Year's Eve. Thousands went to churches for the Coptic Christmas services a few days later, to act as human shields -- a genuinely dangerous undertaking, since jihadists have seldom hesitated to kill Muslims they viewed as soft on infidels. Millions changed their Facebook profiles to show solidarity. It was a victory of common humanity over traditional religious intolerance.

During the uprising against Mubarak, demonstrators waved the Egyptian national flag with great enthusiasm, but in all the media coverage, I saw no sign of Islamist slogans or of ranting against Israel. It may well have been there, but if so, it wasn't prominent. According to a poll of Egyptians, only 15% approve of the Muslim brotherhood and barely 1% would vote for a Brotherhood candi- date for President; there's little interest in Sharî'ah law.

When exiled Tunisian Islamist Rached Ghannouchi returned home after his country's revolution, reaction on the streets was guarded, even critical -- and Ghannouchi himself clearly feels the need to position himself as a moderate, recently saying that Sharî'ah "has no place in Tunisia".

In yesterday's demonstrations in Algeria, many of the protesters were women -- and so were quite a few of the police.

Clearly these are no longer rigidly-Islamic societies. They surely self-identify as Muslim, but modernity has made inroads. Internet access, and perhaps the influence of increasingly-secularized Muslim minorities in Europe, make it impossible to keep out the seductive influence of new ideas.

One shouldn't set expectations too high. Few people in the Middle East are ready to accept atheism or even, perhaps, explicit secula- rism. Countries differ radically in level of cultural development; places like Yemen and Afghanistan are probably the equivalent of millennia behind Egypt, Tunisia, or Algeria. The continued preva- lence of atrocities like honor killings and clitorectomy testifies to a strain of barbarism which is far from eradicated.

But the secular character of the present wave of rebellion suggests that the situation is far more promising than would have seemed possible even ten years ago. If democracy and an open society can take root in the region's most populous country, perhaps it will get better still.

12 February 2011

Quote for the day

"Many specialists say this couldn't happen in Saudi Arabia. Yet three weeks ago, when protests overthrew a leader in Tunisia, these same specialists were saying it couldn't happen in Egypt."

Fred Kaplan


Several thousand anti-government protesters marched in Algiers today, despite an official ban on demonstrations and a massive police presence which blocked most from the city's central square. Al-Jazeera has a live-blog. As yet the movement is not on a large enough scale to threaten the regime, but time will tell if it grows; Algeria had seen substantial unrest even before Tunisia erupted.

Link round-up for 12 February 2011

I hope airport face scanners have improved since 2009.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but purses.....

Progressive Eruptions looks at Palin's gibberish.


Some things are too simple to need much technology.

A Palin impersonator sows confusion at CPAC.

If you think American politics is too un-civil, check this out.

Wander Martich knows the value of a penny (found via Mendip).

Bill O'Reilly has launched a whole new meme (found via Preliator pro Causa).

Maybe there's some justice in the world after all.

TYWKIWDBI looks at impressive libraries.

PC Airlines is hiring flight attendants with a difference.

A church in the Midwest displays Christian tolerance.

Muzzammil Hassan is not achieving his goal of refuting negative stereotypes about Muslims.

Republicans are the party of big-government nanny-statism.

Bachmann backs down from her attack on veterans' benefits (found via Papamoka).

Maybe we can learn something from the British.

Green Eagle has an update on liberal violence.

Credit where credit is due: never forget the day the Tea Partiers did the right thing (found via Preliator pro Causa) -- vote roll call is here. Keep an eye on Republican women too.

An insider describes the modus operandi at Fox News.

A foreign enterprise may be about to take over the New York Stock Exchange -- and it's not Chinese.

A worthy organization in Britain is asking for support.

British Prime Minister David Cameron isn't backing down on his call for a "muscular liberalism" in the face of theocrats. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, too, stands up for secular values.

The Muslim Brotherhood says it does not seek power in Egypt (sent by Ranch Chimp).

The Egyptian revolution is not at all Islamist in character. Marwa Maziad looks at the road ahead.

In the wake of Egypt's victory, Algerians will confront their regime today, and Libyans and Iranians may be stirring too.

Yasmine Ryan looks at where Tunisia is now.

Ancient skulls may explain the origin of the cyclops myth.

We're not quite at the bottom of the barrel.

One of the toughest animals on Earth is one you've probably never seen. Check out this strange life form too.

ARP 147 is a diadem of deadly jewels.

Let's hope the solar wind bridge becomes a reality.

British scientists have developed a flu vaccine that works on all strains of the flu.

11 February 2011

Congratulations Egypt!

Mubarak is gone. The military has assumed control. Cairo roars with celebration.

It may take time for the generals' intentions to become clear, but for now, the people have won a great victory -- and regimes from Iran to Morocco tremble.

Egypt, Friday

Not sure how much I'll be posting today -- I'll be glued to the news from Egypt, where today is already seeing the biggest and most determined protests yet. There are live blogs at The Telegraph, The Guardian, and Al-Jazeera. Within the military, there seems to be a generational split, with older officers inclining to Mubarak and younger ones to the uprising.

Across the Arabic-speaking world, people are looking to Egypt for inspiration, while rulers watch in fear. Even in some non-Arab countries, the shock waves are being felt; the Iranian theocracy is trying to block news of Egypt from reaching its people, as is the Chinese regime, which has reason to be nervous.

The Egyptians are not backing down. Vast crowds are jamming streets and squares in a dozen cities, and the Presidential Palace itself is under siege. Rumors abound that Mubarak has fled Cairo. Like the hundreds of millions in the Middle East, I, too, watch with enormous hope.

5:20 Egypt time: Tanks around the Presidential Palace turn their gun turrets away from the crowds.

6:01: Suleiman says Mubarak has left!

10 February 2011

The Pharaoh's hardened heart

Mubarak's speech today left some confusion as to how much real power, if any, he was transferring to his newly-minted Vice President -- but it was clear that the old dictator is not stepping down. It's past 1:00 AM in Egypt now, but vast crowds remain in Tahrîr Square in Cairo and in other cities. As soon as it became clear that Mubarak had not surrendered, the gathered masses erupted in fury, and by all accounts their anger has not abated.

Tomorrow could get very ugly.

Mubarak had the chance to end like Ben Ali. Now he may end like Ceauşescu.

Mubarak out?

Islamism in Egypt, and US aid

The protests in Egypt have faded somewhat from headlines in the US, but they are still continuing, and apparently escalating (note: "industrial action" is British for "strikes"). Mubarak seems to be determined to cling to power to the bitter end, and the security forces are still "disappearing" people, but it's hard to imagine the uprising quietly fading away now.

Some in the US worry about an Islamist regime coming to power in Egypt, the precedent being the Iranian revolution of 1979. In fact, Islamist, anti -West, and anti-Israel slogans and imagery have been rare during the protests, even if not totally absent. Muslim-Christian cooperation has been a constant theme. The Islamist but non-violent Muslim Brotherhood denies political ambitions. As the rebellion spreads from country to country, there is little sign of an Islamist direction.

In the end, the Egyptian military has a de facto veto power over the direction of the country's political evolution -- and it's there that US influence will be felt. Egypt is the second-biggest recipient of US foreign aid (after Israel), and most of that aid is military, amounting to $1.3 billion per year. The military is unlikely to endanger that aid flow by allowing an anti-Western Islamist regime to take power, especially since there's no sign that the Egyptian masses want such a thing.

It's often said that the US has no power to influence the direction of events in Egypt, but that's not quite true. Military aid is the exception -- a carrot, not a stick, and all the more effective for that.

There's more to the matter than that, though. If a moderate and modernizing government does emerge in Egypt, the US needs to give help and encouragement in the form of increased economic aid. Whatever price we paid for helping such a development in Egypt and the broader Arab world, it would be well worth it.

09 February 2011

Video of the week -- the illogic of deathism

ZJ responds to the bizarre illogic of the pro-death mentality (for his original video, see here). For my own posts on this topic, see here, including FAQ.

05 February 2011

Link round-up for 5 February 2011

Blogger Cyc asks for help.

Today is the birthday of a unique artist.

The space battleship Astrology should never have picked a fight with Carl Sagan (sent by Gothic Atheist).

In a world of idiots, a baby saves the day.

Republicans stand firm against more Obama nanny-statism.

Stupid Evil Bastard gets an alarming error message.

Most religious debate boils down to this kind of thing.

A new law in Malawi may clear the air.

Murr Brewster looks at the Catholic Church.

Parsley's Pics presents the roster of fishy Republicans.

The Pope's internal organs are the subject of another weird religious fetish.

Get the government out of.....

It must be divine retribution.

A Las Vegas police officer is zealous in the fight against jaywalking.

George Allen aims for a comeback (sent by Mendip).

Will Boehner be the latest Republican to be brought down by a sex scandal?

Rick Perry is a jackass (found via Preliator pro Causa).

The Heathen Republican explains why he's a secular conservative.

The Heritage Foundation admits that avoiding conservative gays was part of its reason for boycotting CPAC (found via Republic of Gilead). But the US Marines have joined the twenty-first century.

Glenn Beck's ratings are in serious trouble (found via Plutocrap).

Veterans push back against Bachmann's attack on their benefits.

Teenage pregnancy in the US is at its lowest level in 70 years, and one factor is responsible (found via Preliator pro Causa).

Republican anti-abortion mania re-defines rape (see this too).

Teabaggerdom can't be separated from the Christian Right (found via Republic of Gilead).

Nominating Palin for President would divide the Republican party -- but not nominating her might do the same.

Every day, commit a little faithicide.

The original plan for September 11 may have included a fifth plane.

The people of Sheepshead Bay, NY, score a mosque-abatement victory.

One woman fights back against media dishonesty (found via Preliator pro Causa).

A British immigration officer abuses his power.

Class consciousness played a role in the development of Australian English.

British Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron stands for "muscular liberalism" against the forces of backwardness and theocracy.

The German state of Hesse has banned the burqa for government employees.

The future of the euro currency is at stake in Spain -- whose problems were largely caused by the euro in the first place.

Here's more religious justice, from Bangladesh.

This South African woman wanted a grandchild rather too much (found via Mendip).

Afghani women are smarter than you think.

Right-wing suspicion of the Egyptian uprising is misguided.

Why do revolutions seem to come out of nowhere? Because the oppressed are afraid to speak out.

As rebellion spreads in the Arab world, David Frum thinks the most backward and repressive regime of all may be vulnerable.

Beneath China's cities lurks an underground world of poverty.

Bill Gates has the luxury of telling the truth.

Strategy Page has more on Stuxnet (found via Mendip).

The "internet kill switch" is just another fringe-right myth like death panels (see also this and this).

Media Matters analyzes the top ten Fox News lies about climate science, with data (found via Preliator pro Causa).

Stories from the dead past hold us back.

Forest cover in the developed world has been increasing for a century, and now the same is happening in Asia.

Zombie caterpillars surely don't believe in a benevolent deity.

"Something coming from nothing" happens all the time.

03 February 2011

Video of the week -- blasphemy!

How much longer must we endure such mockery of that which millions hold sacred?

Potemkin mob

The violence in Cairo escalated Wednesday when the protesters were attacked by mobs of "pro-government demonstrators". As is so often the case with such events, however, there is less here than meets the eye. As CNN reports (found via TYWKIWDBI), there's abundant evidence that the pro-Mubarak goons were in the pay of the regime -- it's a tactic that has been used against protesters before -- or were simply ordered into action, and police IDs were even found on some of them.

Nevertheless, it's a clever tactic by a regime which is rapidly running out of options. By painting the conflict as being between two opposing groups of civilians, it exploits the media tendency to present any pair of opposing positions as vaguely equivalent in legitimacy regardless of the reality of the situation (such as the media-supported impression that there are "debates" within the scientific community about the reality of evolution or anthropo- genic global warming). In this case, a mob of a few thousand becomes one "side" of a "conflict", with the other being a mass of a million who have many millions more throughout the country behind them. Kudos to CNN for digging a bit deeper.