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  Saturday, October 08, 2005

I was thinking of Rider Haggard the other day. I really enjoyed his books in my youth, and I guess off and on since then. This isn't one of his best, but it's still a pretty nifty view of a world that used to be and never was.

(Via Project Gutenberg New and Updated EBooks.)

6:02:51 PM    comment []

I think I linked to this page a while back, but I'm too lazy and vision-amazed to do it again. If you have an hour or more, spend it here. It's some pretty amazing and delightful stuff. The explanations are really fascinating, too.

6:01:54 PM    comment []

Sam Harris does it again:

t is worth noting that no one ever need identify himself as a non-astrologer or a non-alchemist. Consequently, we do not have words for people who deny the validity of these pseudo-disciplines. Likewise, %u201Catheism%u201D is a term that should not even exist. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make when in the presence of religious dogma. The atheist is merely a person who believes that the 260 million Americans (eighty-seven percent of the population) who claim to %u201Cnever doubt the existence of God%u201D should be obliged to present evidence for his existence -- and, indeed, for his benevolence, given the relentless destruction of innocent human beings we witness in the world each day. Only the atheist appreciates just how uncanny our situation is: most of us believe in a God that is every bit as specious as the gods of Mount Olympus; no person, whatever his or her qualifications, can seek public office in the United States without pretending to be certain that such a God exists; and much of what passes for public policy in our country conforms to religious taboos and superstitions appropriate to a medieval theocracy. Our circumstance is abject, indefensible, and terrifying. It would be hilarious if the stakes were not so high.

...As hurricane Katrina was devouring New Orleans, nearly a thousand Shiite pilgrims were trampled to death on a bridge in Iraq. There can be no doubt that these pilgrims believed mightily in the God of the Koran. Indeed, their lives were organized around the indisputable fact of his existence: their women walked veiled before him; their men regularly murdered one another over rival interpretations of his word. It would be remarkable if a single survivor of this tragedy lost his faith. More likely, the survivors imagine that they were spared through God’s grace.

Only the atheist recognizes the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved. Only the atheist realizes how morally objectionable it is for survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a loving God, while this same God drowned infants in their cribs. Because he refuses to cloak the reality of the world’s suffering in a cloying fantasy of eternal life, the atheist feels in his bones just how precious life is -- and, indeed, how unfortunate it is that millions of human beings suffer the most harrowing abridgements of their happiness for no good reason at all.

3:59:10 PM    comment []

Remember the moronic ads that suggested that using drugs was helping the terrorists? Not surprisingly, it's the other way around; drug prohibition helps the terrorists. I guess if it works for Ollie North, it should work for Osama Bin Laden.

Among the forces working to sustain extremist organizations like Al Qaeda is one that policymakers don't like to talk about in direct terms -- drug prohibition. The United Nations and leading development economists put the proceeds from Afghanistan's black market opium economy at $2.8 billion, with about $600 million going to farmers and more than $2 billion going to regional drug trafficking organizations, warlords linked to the Afghan government, and other political figures. These prohibition-derived profits are fueling corruption and distorting the political process in Afghanistan and financing Islamist radicals and nationalist insurgencies from Central Asia to the Middle East, according to a variety of sources.

3:48:49 PM    comment []

Shorter George W. Bush:

President Discusses War on Terror

  • My enemies, being evil, only love to kill, while I, being good, only kill for love.

See Also: Scott Lemieux does it too.

See Also II: julia has a longer version.

Plus: Uggabugga

suspects propaganda

and Think Progress

perceives recidivism.


(Via Busy, Busy, Busy.)

2:51:25 PM    comment []

DIY News writes "36 of an eventual herd of 350 dishes are now operational in a remote area 250 miles northeast of San Francisco. These antennas, 20 feet in diameter and the height of a football goal post, are the first installment of the Allen Telescope Array, and they are ideal for short SETI projects while the array is being built." From the articel: "The young ATA's first foray into SETI will be known by the straightforward (if not overly galvanic) name of Inner Galactic Plane Survey. The word 'survey' may surprise many who are familiar with this telescope's design. After all, it's being finely tuned to speedily examine large numbers of star systems in a so-called "targeted search". The completed array will be exceptionally nimble at such individual scrutiny, and will leave previous targeted searches in the data dust."

(Via Slashdot.)

2:44:35 PM    comment []

Yesterday, the President said:

Some observers also claim that America would be better off by cutting our losses and leaving Iraq now. This is a dangerous illusion, refuted with a simple question: Would the United States and other free nations be more safe, or less safe, with Zarqawi and bin Laden in control of Iraq, its people, and its resources?

Today, Justin Logan answers:

Can the president point to one serious analyst who thinks - whether we leave next year or not - that there is a serious prospect of OBL and Zarqawi setting up a national government in Iraq?  I mean, seriously, if the above suggestion isn't intellectually insulting to you, you may want to get that checked out.
Moreover, if you want to be really Machiavellian, wouldn't it be better if you could make the terrorists think they had won, and that they could set up a central government?  And then, you know, bomb their first meeting of the minds into the stone age?  I mean, really, THAT'D be a flypaper strategy--get 'em all to congregate in one place and then introduce them to our little friend JDAM?

How do they let him say stuff like this?  It's embarrassing.

(Via Ezra Klein.)

2:30:02 PM    comment []

Too bad this guy didn't have some scissors handy.

1:07:26 PM    comment []

AP - Leading House Republicans signaled that they will try to weaken a Senate effort to limit interrogation techniques that U.S. service members can use on terrorism suspects. Their remarks made clear that the language in the Senate-passed military spending bill faces uncertain prospects in bargaining between the Senate and House. The Senate approved the $445 billion bill 97-0 on Friday. The detainee provision, which has drawn a veto threat from the Bush administration, was sponsored by Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., himself a prisoner of war in Vietnam. It was omitted from the bill passed by the House and could spark embarrassing internal battling among Republicans. . . McCain's provision prohibits cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of anyone in U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held. It also requires that service members follow procedures in the Army Field Manual during interrogations of prisoners under the Pentagon's control.


10:21:27 AM    comment []

(Via GreatScat!.)

10:18:43 AM    comment []

Three years ago today, President Bush visited Cincinnati to deliver a major address outlining the reasons for war, just as Congress was considering whether to vote in favor of giving Bush the authorization to attack Iraq. On October 7, 2002, Bush made a number of misleading and exaggerated statements about the Iraqi threat.

We’ve conducted a line-by-line debunking of Bush’s 2002 speech that demonstrates how the American public was misled into the Iraq war. See the full report here.

(Via Think Progress.)

10:09:26 AM    comment []

Thanks to Gavin M. of Sadly, No! for sending me the Creation Evidence Museum's official kids' page. It truly is a sight to behold:


Most of the kids' creationism lessons are delivered via the adventures of three stupid children named Matt, Laura and Mandi, and their pet dinosaur, Muncher (pictured above... and yes, that's really what they call him). Let's take a look at my favorite part (so far), called "KIDS' LESSON NUMBER 13: The World Before the Flood."

(Via Sadly, No!.)

10:03:56 AM    comment []

I'm not sure what compels me to read Powerline every day. I suppose it goes hand-in-hand with my affinity for the music of the Shaggs, or my love of Turkish re-makes of classic American movies. In other words, I enjoy suffering needlessly. Witness today's nugget of genius from Hindrocket:

I haven't seen a report on how many people watched Bush's speech; in fact, I'm only assuming that it was broadcast by someone. My guess is that very few either saw it or will read it in its entirety. Instead, the overwhelming majority depend on what they read about Bush's speech in the newspapers or hear on television news reports. Those articles and reports, with hardly any exceptions, will be carefully framed to minimize the speech's impact.

People used to talk about the Presidency as a "bully pulpit," but I think one lesson of the Bush years is that the President's ability to communicate effectively with the American people, outside of the context of an election campaign, is limited. The real "bully pulpit" belongs to the mainstream press, which is just about unanimously devoted to undermining the President's effort to communicate with, and thereby lead, the American people.

So there you have it: the President cannot effectively lead the American people because the press is always undermining him by fact-checking and providing context to his remarks.

(Via Sadly, No!.)

10:03:06 AM    comment []

CBS’ double standard: Network refuses to interview former Clinton administration officials for upcoming Freeh story

60 Minutes’ refusal to accept a surrogate in place of Clinton is inconsistent with the way the show handled a similar story about a book critical of President Bush. On March 21, 2004, 60 Minutes ran a segment about former National Security Council counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke’s then-upcoming book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror (Free Press, March 2004). The segment included not only an exclusive interview with Clarke but also an interview with Bush administration National Security Council official Stephen Hadley, who was given time to defend Bush from Clarke’s criticism.

A Clinton hater gets free time on prime time to attack President Clinton, with no counter of any sort. Email 60 minutes at or call 212-975-3247

(Via Oliver Willis - Like Kryptonite To Stupid.)

9:55:14 AM    comment []

When Tillman fell in Afghanistan the wheels once again started to turn. Now the narrative was perfect: "War hero and football star dies fighting terror." The Abu Ghraib scandal was about to hit the press, so the President found it especially useful to praise Tillman as "an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror." His funeral was nationally televised. Bush even went back to the bloody well during the presidential campaign, addressing his team's fans on the Arizona Cardinals' stadium Jumbotron.

We now know, of course, that this was all a brutal charade. Such callous manipulation is fueling the Tillman family's anger. As Mary Tillman said this past May, "They could have told us up front that they were suspicious that [his death] was a fratricide, but they didn't. They wanted to use him for their purposes.... They needed something that looked good, and it was appalling that they would use him like that." A growing number of military families, similarly angered, are criticizing the war in Iraq through organizations like Military Families Speak Out


9:49:07 AM    comment []

After a Wal-Mart employee turned in a high school student's anti-Bush poster to the police, the Secret Service came calling.

9:47:14 AM    comment []

Things are just getting goofier and goofier and more and more un-American in our country.

My blogging colleague Evan Derkacz at Alternet writes today on how the Salvation Army can scrutinize the religious preferences of their employees and that its workers are now “...required to both report where they go to church and that they agree with the Army's mission: 'To proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.'"

And a federal court in New York has just agreed that the Salvation Army may fire employees on that basis, despite receiving the bulk of its money from the government.

Whether it's separation of church and state or religious freedom, this is wrong on so many levels.

Read the rest of Evan's post here.

(Via Yellow Dog Blog.)

9:41:07 AM    comment []

The New York Times has a good editorial today on the "major" speech – according to White House spin -- that Bush gave on Iraq yesterday and the extent to which it was the same old, tired mantra: 9/11, 9/11 and more 9/11.


Ever since the terrorist attacks, the main thing Americans have wanted from Washington is a sense of safety. That takes more than hyperalertness to suicide bombing threats, important as that is. No matter what the terrorists are up to, it is not possible to feel safe if the federal government does not appear to know what it is doing on so many different levels.


The president's inability to grow beyond his big moment in 2001 is unnerving. But the fact that his handlers continue to encourage him to milk 9/11 is infuriating. For most of us, the memories are fresh and painful. We mourn the people who died on Sept. 11, as we mourn Daniel Pearl and other Americans, not to mention innocents from other countries, who were murdered by terrorists. The administration's penchant for using them as political cover is offensive. It threatens to turn our wounds, and our current fears, into cynical and desperate spin.

Read the rest here.

(Via Yellow Dog Blog.)

9:40:24 AM    comment []

We were hoping to take our learned colleague Max B. Sawicky's words out of context, but the goddam post just wasn't long enough:

. . . although that would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do.
But it is a fact .

(Via King of Zembla.)

9:34:42 AM    comment []

Via Zemblan patriot J.D., a few illuminating numbers plucked from the latest CBS News poll:
Right direction: 26%
Wrong track: 69%
(N.B.: The "wrong track" response is the highest since CBS News first asked the question back in 1983.)

Approve: 37%
Disapprove: 58%
(A shift of 5 or 6 points would mean that voters disapprove of Bush's performance by a two-to-one margin.)

Yes: 32%
No: 65%
(No shift needed.)

Better: 10%
Worse: 54%
Same: 34%

Stay as long as it takes: 36%
Leave as soon as possible: 59%

War in Iraq: 18%
Economy and jobs: 16%
Gas/oil crisis: 5%
President Bush: 5%
Terrorism: 4%
(Normally we'd put a joke here, but we just can't bring ourselves to swing at a pitch that fat. Where's the challenge?)
With numbers like these, which could go even farther south if Patrick Fitzgerald brings indictments in the Plame case, we can probably expect a -- oh? What's that?

Never mind.

(Via King of Zembla.)

9:21:38 AM    comment []

Well, look at that.

A controversial proposed bill to prohibit gays, lesbians and single people from using medical procedures to produce a child has been dropped by its legislative sponsor. State Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, issued a one-sentence statement Wednesday saying: "The issue has become more complex than anticipated and will be withdrawn from consideration by the Health Finance Commission."

Miller said later that the issue of regulating assisted reproduction, just as the state regulates adoption, is multifaceted. She said there was not enough time for the committee -- a panel of lawmakers that meets when the Indiana General Assembly is not in session to discuss possible legislation -- to work through all of the issues involved by its next meeting Oct. 20.

Shaula Evans reports that "Miller's office was flooded [with] calls yesterday to the point they stopped answering the phones." Go Internet! Read the links in her post, though, because she makes an important point: this is not an isolated case. The GOP proposes crazy shit like this all the time to stoke their despicable, gaybashing base. We'll see new versions of this soon enough.

(Via apostropher.)

9:04:34 AM    comment []

Not a good sign.

US-led forces have bombed eight bridges on the Euphrates River in western Iraq to stop insurgents using them. Of 12 bridges between the Syrian border and Ramadi, 110km west Baghdad, "four remain under control of the coalition forces and Iraqi forces after precision strikes on the others," he said. "We took out portions of these bridges to deny terrorists, foreign fighters and insurgents the capability to cross north to south or south to north across the Euphrates River."

This is what it has come to: we're blowing up the infrastructure of a country that we're occupying and supposedly rebuilding. To the entire "the media isn't reporting our successes" contingent, let me repeat that for you slowly. We're blowing up the infrastructure of a country that we're occupying and supposedly rebuilding.

If you need a clearer sign than that that we have already lost this war, I can't imagine what it would be.

(Via apostropher.)

9:03:29 AM    comment []

If you read All the President's Spin closely, you'll be astonished at the Bush administration's love for straw men. Here's a great example from President Bush's speech on Iraq yesterday:

Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001 -- and al Qaeda attacked us anyway. The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse.

As Matthew Yglesias points out, this is a ludicrous argument:

The president takes an accurate statement ("extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq"), rephrases it in straw-man form ("our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of the radicals"), and then rebuts the straw-man ("we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001") and goes home. Obviously, there were radicals before the Iraq War. But as the CIA has pointed out, there are now even more radicals thanks to it. That Bush inherited a pre-existing bad situation is hardly an excuse for making it worse.

(Via Brendan Nyhan.)

9:03:20 AM    comment []

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