Saturday, February 28, 2009

Down the Drain, And Not Even Swirling

TBogg looks at the current state of "Joe" the "Plumber."

The whole WaPo piece he excerpts is worth a read, too. A good example of the facts showing their well-known liberal bias.

Jon Swift on Curtis Sliwa's Radio Show

The Web's most reasonable conservative hits the big time!

(alt. video link)

Go visit Jon for the full story, including reactions.

On Reading Wingnuts

… Rod Dreher, bedeviled by Dirty Hippies, 60s Division; CPAC attendees and commentators, bedeviled by the Librul Media; and Professor Reynolds, bedeviled by free enterprise, as personified by the Rocky Mountain News, R.I.P.

As usual, the interest is not in hearing what these people have to say but in charting which direction their melted brains are flowing this week.

Let's say that should we have unexpectedly acquired the habit of brevity overnight we'd note here that Phil Gramm was right about the nation of whiners, and merely wrong in the direction he was pointing, and leave it at that.
-- Doghouse Riley

Fortunately, no such habit was acquired. Go.

Cackling Break

"Christianists and Porn."

Any guesses about the correlation?


Political junkies won't exactly be shocked to hear me say that The Politico is fast turning into Fox News Online, but their complicity in the damage control efforts as Exorcist Bobby Jindal tries to spin his head way out of being caught lying in his last big speech is nothing short of embarrassing.

(h/t: Jim Newell/Wonkette)

WaPo Descent Watch: Cartoon Edition

Or rather, suppression of cartoon edition.

(h/t: Juli Weiner/Wonkabout)

Friday, February 27, 2009


If you're ever trapped in a debate with a glibertarian who insists that The Free Market is always, always, always the bestest way to handle everything ever, and you know he's wrong but you're having trouble saying why, crisply, then read Paul Krugman's post, "What should government do? A Jindal meditation."

Part of it is bashing Bobby Jindal, which is fun, but the other benefit is some clear language, which I've bolded:

What is the appropriate role of government?

Traditionally, the division between conservatives and liberals has been over the role and size of the welfare state: liberals think that the government should play a large role in sanding off the market economy’s rough edges, conservatives believe that time and chance happen to us all, and that’s that.

But both sides, I thought, agreed that the government should provide public goods — goods that are nonrival (they benefit everyone) and nonexcludable (there’s no way to restrict the benefits to people who pay.) The classic examples are things like lighthouses and national defense, but there are many others. For example, knowing when a volcano is likely to erupt can save many lives; but there’s no private incentive to spend money on monitoring, since even people who didn’t contribute to maintaining the monitoring system can still benefit from the warning. So that’s the sort of activity that should be undertaken by government.

h/t: Atrios, who reemphasizes nicely:

... volcano monitoring is a public good, something with a precise definition in the world of economics (as opposed to a publicly provided good, which is just anything the government happens to fund).

Maybe you already knew these terms, but I didn't.

Accountability Now

Atrios says:

Does Not Compute

Read this story from the NYT about Accountability Now and then read the Sam Stein story on the same subject. The latter is much more accurate.

There's a difference between Democrats from more conservative districts who, while not representing my political views, do manage to represent their constituents' views, and Democrats who engage in "centrist" wankery despite representing liberal districts, or Democrats who use the conservative tilt of their district as an excuse to get on board with anything the Chamber of Commerce supports.

Maybe I'm not as critical a reader, but I don't find much difference between the two articles. Sam Stein's is more detailed, so assuming he's got his facts right (safe bet), I guess his is more accurate in that sense. Maybe the NYT piece's throwaway line, not matched in Stein's piece …

But it also illuminates a deepening wrinkle for President Obama, whose attempt to build a broad governing coalition — often by tempering some of his more liberal positions — has already angered some of his supporters on the left.

… could be what be what irked Atrios. Such gratuitous "some say" padding, whether to achieve faux-balance or to heighten the all-important Conflict! aspect that the MSM seems to need in every last political analysis story, is annoying, although by now, I read right over such content-free fluff.

Anyway, no dispute with Atrios's second paragraph, and it sounds like Accountability Now has about the same philosophy. I do like the idea of beefing up the left -- or what Howard Dean famously called "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" -- and getting rid of people like Holy Joe Lieberman and some of the Blue Dogs who threw so much sand into the recent stimulus bill negotiations, but I must confess I feel a bit of a chill here. Three words always lurk when contemplating the Dems, especially when they're in power: Circular. Firing. Squad.

This is not an argument against Accountability Now by any means. Just me being a worrywart. It sounds from the stories Atrios linked to that this organization is going to be something to watch, and the odds are, I'm going to agree with most of their goals. Lord knows the definition of "the center" has been pushed way to the right over the past three decades, with concomitant shifting by the Democratic Party, and we could use a strong push back to the left. As long as this doesn't turn into the sort of purity purge currently being pushed by some conservatards on their side, and it sounds like the AN founders are well aware of how stupid that would be, I'm all for it.

(I'm sure they'll be relieved to hear that.)

The Hits Keep Coming

Bad as Bobby Jindal's post-Obama response speech was, it looks like it's just gotten worse. His big story? About standing shoulder-to-shoulder with that sheriff against the horrible liberal Washington bureaucrats (from the Bush Administration, but never mind that!)? Turns out Jindal was lying.

Eric Boehlert wonders if this means, according to Villager rules, Section Al Gore, that he's now disqualified from being president. Of course we know the answer to that: IOKIYAR!

More Popcorn, Please!

In recent days, Republican leaders were called cheesy, off-putting, disastrous, untrustworthy, and inconsequential, not by Democrats, but by their party's own members, from high-profile commentators to Governors.
-- Paul Jenkins

The whole thing is a delight to read.

Good Rant

Perhaps it resonated because of that cartoon I just posted, but the latest of Charles Pierce's weekly letters to Eric Alterman struck me as teh awesome.

Doubling Down

Zachary Roth of TPM reports that in his next column, George Will will defend the global warming denialism he set forth in a column that ran two weeks ago.

Roth also reports WaPo editor Fred Hiatt is standing by his refusal to run any corrections to Will's first column, which has been thoroughly torn to shreds. (Links that I've gathered up on that here.)

[Added] More on Hiatt here and here. Short version: he's trying to spin this as a "debate." Shall we expect pro-Creationist columns coming soon to a WaPo page near you, Fred? Teach us the controversy, please do!

(h/t: County Fair)

[UPDATE] Don't miss Dan winning the Internet in the Comments.

Pardon the Appeal to Authority, But ...

... if Paul Krugman likes Obama's budget, I'm happy.

Cartoon of the Day

Cartoon by Chan Lowe(enlarge image)

Actually, this is only part of the larger original cartoon by Chan Lowe. This bit seemed more timeless, and sharper, to me.

(h/t: Comics Curmudgeon/Wonkette)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hey, Nate Silver ...

... you can't be too happy about this, can you?

And yeah, I checked: is already taken. Bastards.

(h/t: Jim Newell/Wonkette)

Flash Security Update

Adobe has released a security update for its Flash player, which you almost certainly have if you've ever watched any video or animated image online. The update patches five potential security holes. You'll want to do this right away -- some of the flaws are rated "critical."

The latest version number, for Windows, Mac, and Linux, is To check which version of Flash you currently have installed, visit:

Assuming you need an update, visit the link labeled Player Download Center, right on that same page (or by clicking my link.

Important: You'll have to do the upgrade separately if you use different browsers, once for Firefox/Opera/Safari and once for Internet Explorer. (I don't know if Chrome is included in the first group or not.) Just revisit the above links.

Also note: the Internet Explorer update is done in place, and you'll be offered the chance to install the Google Toolbar at the same time. Uncheck that box before proceeding. The update for Firefox, et al, is done by downloading an installer file, closing your browser, and double-clicking the downloaded file.

In both cases, for me, the update was painless and only took about a minute per browser.

Brian Krebs has details, if you want them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Glad To See ...

... someone else is bothered by that besides I.

Monday, February 23, 2009

How Far Are We From Peak Wingnut Again, John?

John Cole, 13 October 2008:

As I look around the blogosphere, and view memeorandum, it occurred to me that we may have hit and passed Peak Wingnut.

In his defense, he quickly recognized the error of being optimistic about that bunch.

John Cole, 29 October 2008:

My Peak Wingnut theory has got to be an early front runner for the von Hoffman award of the year.

(NB: The von Hoffman award is not a Good Thing.)

The election came and went, as did Inauguration Day, and the snarky comments piled up, prompted, of course, by external events.

John Cole, 28 Jan 2009:

I think I need to delete my peak wingnut post before it is used against me every day for the rest of my life.

John's a good man, so of course he wouldn't. Still, it's hard not to keep teasing him, especially when today, I'm trying to decide which is the wingnuttiest thing I've read in the last five minutes: Alan Keys saying, "Stop Obama or the US will cease to exist," or Glenn Beck and a panel of Fox News-hired military shills, "wargaming" the looming civil war. Yes, in this country.

SCLM Watch

DougJ reports: "CBS becomes even more liberal."

Yeah. It's sarcastic.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wingnuts In High Places

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama)Richard Shelby, "sometimes known as Dick Shelby, is the senior U.S. Senator from Alabama. Originally elected to the Senate as a Democrat, Shelby switched to the Republican Party in 1994 when it gained the majority in Congress."

Okay, so Wikipedia lets us know he's a scumbag. What else?

Well, there's this: Steve Benen reports it appears that he's joined the Cult of the COLB.

(pic. source)

[Added] Ben Smith's post (via Steve's) has now been updated with a little blame for the newspaper that originally quoted him backpedaling.

[Update 2009-02-23 14:55] The paper reporting Shelby's COLB talk stands by its reporting. (via, via)

[Added] Here's an update, direct from the Cullman Times, the paper originally reporting.

Been A Long Time Since I Wanted A T-Shirt With Anything Printed On It

However ...

Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock(enlarge image)

That's right! It's Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock!

Video explanation:

(alt. video link)

(h/t: Jay Garmon | pic. source)

[Update 2011-11-18] New embed, alt. video link.

Poster of the Day

Darwin Change Poster(enlarge image)

You can see more, and buy copies with proceeds going to a good cause, at

(h/t: claymisher)

NB: Commenters lobbying on behalf of punctuated equilibrium will be banned.

A Pleasant Dream

From Paul Krugman, via Attaturk.

Added: More data from Atrios.

New (to me) Word: Bathetic

I've seen bathetic before and not always thought it a typo, but this time, since I saw it among Roy Edroso's other words reviewing Milk, I bothered to look it up. It means, especially in the way Roy used it, a weak, cheap, or insincere portrayal of emotion, or a similarly bad attempt to draw or convey emotion.

Also, now we can add bathos to hathos on a list of rhymes for poetry we hope never to write.

P.S. I know it's my fault for mentioning the movie, but please keep all bathhouse jokes to yourself.


While reading an article about a French petroleum company operating in Yemen, I not too surprisingly came across the word audace, which made the apophthegm "l'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!" pop into my head. (And yeah, I'm in a consonant-wasting mood this morning. Thanks for noticing.)

I Googled the phrase and the consensus seems to be that Frederick the Great said it but probably it originated with Georges Danton, and further, that Danton's original line was "Il nous faut de l'audace, et encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace."

However, I can't shake the feeling that the first version is what I heard, and where I heard it was in reference to a mathematician, for the boldness of a proof or conjecture. Fre the Gre did patronize (was a patron to, I mean -- I'm pretty sure he treated him with respect) Euler, among other eggheads, though if I had to describe Euler with one adjective, I'd prefer prolific to audacious. On the other hand, it must be said that raising e to the pie-eye, adding one, and calling the whole thing nothing does take a certain amount of huevos.

Anyway, anyone ever heard of this saying uttered in the sense that I remember it? Maybe there were two mathematicians at court, and one said it about the other, as a way of both delivering a compliment and letting the boss know they paid attention when he spoke?

Afterthought: I do recall that F the G also sponsored Lagrange for a time, but the only other thing I know about that guy, when I can remember that he didn't write Mécanique Céleste, is that ZZ Top named a whorehouse after him, which if nothing else certainly can't be said to be a place where one boldly goes where no man has gone before.

(alt. video link)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

OTM Reacts to the Geert Wilders News

A few days ago, I posted several times on the topic of Geert Wilders. (See here, here, here, and here.)

This week's On The Media noted the story, too, and decided to re-run a segment they did last year. Here's their blurb:

War of the Worlds

February 20, 2009

Earlier this month, right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders was denied entry into the United Kingdom to screen his controversial film about Islam. The British government's decision sparked the ongoing debate about free speech, xenophobia, and a clash of cultures when it comes to Muslim immigrants in western societies.

In a piece that aired last April, Bob talked with some of the main players in the struggle to define the future of free speech in Europe.

Here is the audio (after the usual forty second long NPR promotional intro):

(alt. audio link, where direct download (MP3) is also available)

Our Automated Keyword-Based Matching Algorithm Ensures Your Ad Appears Next To The Articles Your Customers Read!

Seen on one of the computer security blogs I regularly read:

Bad ad placement for Adobe(enlarge image)

Cheap laughs aside, the security flaw in Adobe Reader and Acrobat sounds worrisome. There is no patch for it yet. There is a minor band-aid type thing you can do until an update is made available -- follow the link for details.

A better option: use the free FoxIt Reader instead -- smaller, faster, and according to Brian Krebs, believed not to be suffering the same vulnerability.

For Your Consideration

Tasteful background image you picked out for your Twitter page there, Malkin.

Michelle Malkin's Twitter page(enlarge image)

You wouldn't be suggesting any sort of connection, now, would you?

[UPDATE 2009-02-23 13:05] Looks like she changed it. I'd like to think I was a contributing factor, but probably not.

Doghouse Is Cranky

Meaning: anyone who can read wins.

Smackdown! Bad Astronomer vs. Parasite Rex!

Phil Plait and Carl Zimmer do this week's Science Saturday diavlog on

Surely you don't need me to tell you how great that is. Go! Go!

Truth in advertising disclaimer: Actually, there isn't any fighting.

Eric Holder's Speech On Race

Here is the Attorney General of the United States addressing an audience at the Department of Justice -- and obviously, the rest of the nation as well -- this past Wednesday, 18 February 2009. The speech is about 16 minutes long. [Added: transcript here.]

(alt. video link)

Ta-Nehisi Coates, from whom I swiped this video, called this "Eric Holder's Boring-Ass Speech On Race." He also called it "unremarkable and vague." I do not share these views. While it wasn't the greatest thing I've ever heard on the subject (pretty tough to beat Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union," obviously), I thought it was a solid speech.

I suppose I can see what Ta-Nehisi was getting at, but I think he made the mistake of assuming everyone else listening to this speech would have spent as much time thinking about these issues as he has, or finds them as easy to talk about as he does. I think Holder said some things that a lot of people would have heard for the first time, or at least, could certainly stand to be reminded of. The comments under Ta-Nehisi's post, which come from an above-average online community in my judgment, bear this out without question. Check the pig-headed statements, check the hypersensitivity, check the honestly puzzled questions and sincere groping for responses.

Maybe Ta-Nehisi was speaking partly tongue in cheek, especially regarding his post title, since the only thing the MSM seems to have reported about this speech was the phrase nation of cowards, which of course, led to no end of hysteria.

Whatever Ta-Nehesi really meant, I think Eric Holder is correct in his assessment, even though the appellation of course does not apply to every last individual, and I salute him for his directness. We have more than enough euphemisms, especially when it comes to dealing with (or not) the issue of race relations.


Charles M. Blow has a good column in which he reflects on That Phrase.

[Added] Leonard Pitts Jr. has another. (h/t: grits-n-gravy)


Little too preachy and earnest for you?

Fair enough. Here is something from a little over a year ago that should help, one of my all-time favorite segments from one of my all-time favorite shows:

(alt. video link)

"To The Fullest Extent Possible"

The push against the WaPo for running George Will's global warming denial column continues. Here are two good posts from that finest of science writers, Carl Zimmer: "George Will: Liberated From the Burden of Fact-Checking" and "The Sea Ice Affair, Continued."

I liked the way Zimmer finished up the latter one:

It’s easy to think of fact-checking as a luxury of old-time journalism, akin to three-martini lunches and business class flights. But if fact-checking is done right, it can make newspapers and magazines reliable and trusted–a distinction that may help them survive in these competitive times.

I've believed this for years -- the biggest selling point the newspapers will have going for them in this era of media transitions is the quality of their content, same as every other site online. I wish they'd stop thinking exclusively in terms of cost-cutting.

By the way, the title for this post is from the weasel-word-rich response from the WaPo's ombudsman, as noted by Zimmer, extracted and reported by Think Progress's Brad Johnson. Let it become the next Internet meme.

(h/t: Nate)


My previous posts on this topic, if you missed them: here, here, here, and here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Buttars' Worth

Christ, you have to be a pretty avant-garde wingnut to say something so terrible about the gays that the Utah Republican party delivers a punishment!
-- Jim Newell

Tired Of Hearing About Rick Santelli?

Here's a five-minute cure: Wonkette presents Robert Gibbs.

Just Sayin'

For a few months, probably since Nov. 5th at least, I've been kicking around the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission approach to looking into possible (he says politely) crimes committed by the Bush Administration. My thinking on this has been driven by a small amount of sympathy for those who were in charge being understandably panicked right after 9/11, plus a large feeling that it could bring progress on all of our problems in the here and now to a standstill, plus a feeling of about the same size that you can't just let the last eight years get swept under the rug. The T&RC approach seems like a way to duck the worst of the witch hunt! accusations that, say, a special prosecutor investigation would provoke. And really, at this point, momentary fantasies of W cutting brush, for real, on a chain gang, for a lot longer than it takes to take a picture aside, I'm not out for vengeance so much as I just want to know what happened so we can know what we have to fix.

I'm happy to see the idea actually getting brought up by some Dems with clout, but I'm going to hold off on looking into it seriously until I get the sense there's a little more there there. (I remain occasionally allergic to hope.) But I couldn't help but noticing that as soon as the Dems started making a little noise in this direction, the vast right wing noise machine revved right up.

Case in point: Atrios says:

Every village has an idiot -- but what if the entire village is rife with them?

Apparently, their names go into Fred Hiatt's speed dial directory.

Yeah, that Fred Hiatt. WaPo editor (cf.).

One of the op-eds Atrios linked to was about the possible T&RC idea, one of those Very Serious thumbsuckers Warning Of Consequences, by two guys I never heard of, David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey. Scrolled down to the bottom after I could get my eyes to stop rolling from reading the first few paragraphs …

The writers are Washington lawyers who served in the Justice Department during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Next question?

Obama Causes Deficit To Balloon Even More!!!1!

And really, that's a good thing.

Gonna be rough keeping this from becoming Wingnuttia's favorite new shiny object, but it also provides a way of separating out the possibly not completely useless from the rest, much in the way Sarah Palin did last October.

Bonehead Idea of the Day Month

(Updated below)

I'm with Atrios on this one: the idea of a mileage tax for vehicles, calculated by a government-readable tracking chip implanted in everyone's car, is ridiculous. It sounds like something you'd make up if you were a Republican trying to parody the Democratic Party.

The only plausible argument I can make on behalf of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is that this is a fake trial balloon, launched solely to gain a little bit of an edge for a proposal to raise taxes on gasoline. (Which I'd support.) Anything other than that, someone needs a dope slap.

Including you, Ezra. This is not how your mama wants you to wonk me out.

[Update] Looks like I'm an hour behind the news cycle. MSNBC says: "LaHood's talk of mileage tax nixed."

Oops. Shoulda Googled first. Or maybe … my bloggy powers are not even limited by the arrow of time!

Will. Not. Correct.

Following up on something I posted yesterday …

Zachary Roth beats his head against the WaPo Wall of Denial, trying to get George Will or editor Fred Hiatt to say why they won't address the errors in Will's global warming denialist column that ran last weekend.

Good for Roth for sticking with it. Something else for Will and Hiatt, obvs., but I don't know any bad enough words.

(h/t: Matt Corley, via Atrios)

[Added] Another snippet from DougJ/Balloon Juice.


Despite recent assurances from White House spokesman Ben LaBolt that President Obama has no interest in reviving the Fairness Doctrine, the paranoia rages on among the hysterical right. Maybe it had something to do with this statement being reported by Fox News? Do even they know, deep down, not to trust that source?

No, that can't be it. Much as I'd like to think so.

Anyway, Blue Texan reports on Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SoClueless) and his latest efforts to keep the base whipped to a froth: a recent announcement "that he will force a vote next week on a bill that prevents the Federal Communications Commission from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine."

A quick check of DeMint's official Senate website confirms this, and also informs us that a House version of the bill has been introduced by Rep. Reps. Pence and Walden. We've heard from this bunch before.

Leaving aside how realistic the idea is that a minority party can force a vote on a bill in Congress (because I don't want to think about Harry Reid and his less than steely spine), I now drift off into real dreamland: What would happen if the Dems just grabbed the bill, said, yes, let's do this right now, and voted unanimously to approve a law banning the Fairness Doctrine forevermore?

Sure is fun to think about taking the wind right out of the GOP's sails. Could even be spun as a win for (everybody genuflect, now) bipartisanship! Hell, really stick it to them show them how much you're with them by naming it the

Right to Utter Stuff However Lame It Might Be And Ugly it Gets, Hurray

for free speech Act.

Part of me is enjoying the thought of so many heads exploding at once. Part of me is serious -- why not? Toss the GOP this bone, say, okay, we've worked with you to speed through something you're apparently very concerned about, it's done, now let's address some real problems, how's that?

And part of me wants to see the Dems do this just because I think the Republicans are so hard-wired to oppose anything the Dems propose that it could make for real hilarity, as all of DeMint's co-sponsors withdraw their support and start babbling about this being the Worst Idea Ever.

Now That's Pedantry I Can Believe In!

If you know me, you'll be unsurprised that this footnote from Daniel Davies amuses me to no end:

[12] Which is as good an opportunity as any to make my periodic plea about “comparing apples with oranges”. Apples and oranges are really very similar things indeed. If I’ve got three apples and you’ve got two oranges, who out of us has got the most fruit? The answer is “it’s me”, isn’t it, not “who can say, you can’t compare apples with oranges”. They’re roughly the same size, roughly the same calorific value and roughly the same price. You can compare apples to oranges, in as much as you can make comparisons at all. Also, the darkest hour is not just before dawn.

[Update] Science!

Usage, Andrew, Usage!

Andrew Sullivan notifies:

Hathos Alert

Insta and Malkin debate the stimulus on PJTV.

Hathos, yeah. That's a good word. But debate? Seriously? What are they gonna argue about?

I hate it more! … No, I do!! … No, I do!!1! … I called it "porkulus" first! … No, I did! … Did not! … Did so! … 

Perhaps this belabors the obvious, but I will not be finding out for myself.

Never Too Early To Start Building The Oppo Research File

Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast asks:

Why does Sarah Palin hate America? Why does she desecrate Our Flag?

She has evidence, boy, evidence!

More Up is Down:
Wingnuttia Halfheartedly Weighs In

It appears that Vicki Iseman dropping her lawsuit hasn't left Greater Wingnuttia with much to say, but there are a few feeble attempts.

Hindrocket says:

In discovery, however, facts embarrassing to the Times likely would have come to light. That's most likely what drove the "settlement."

Yeah. The Times paid no money, retracted nothing, and virtually danced about it in their paper today. Clearly, they were "driven." And what sounds like chortling and high-fiving to me is actually wails of reluctance, right, Hindy?

Jules Crittenden complains, and no one could have predicted this, about bias:

At arm’s length, nose held, NYT brings you, “Statement From Iseman’s Lawyers,” shoved back in “Media and Advertising.” [...]

Not fair! Bill Ayers got to call his NYT anti-media screed “The Real Bill Ayers.” Then again, he and NYT didn’t exactly have an adversarial relationship.*

The footnote reads:

* In fairness, Ayers was shoved back on the op-ed page, and didn’t make NYT’s “Terrorists and Mountebanks,” the special section that caters to the international terrorism and charlatan industry. Usually located on the front page.

And showing his utter obliviousness, in another post, he blames the outcome on:

... liberal U.S. libel law ...

Sergeant, Crittenden, you've got a lotta damn gall, is all I can say. Without this evil liberal system whose protections you enjoy, you'd have been sued into oblivion years ago. (cf., cf., cf.).

Courageous Don Surber takes a page from Instapundit's playbook, by dropping a hint and then rather than defending his assertion himself, hurriedly supplies a link to a dubious source who has less to lose than he does, before rushing on to the next topic:

Question: Speaking of apologies, has the New York Times apologized for implying that Vicky Iseman had an affair with Republican Sen. John McCain?

Answer: Sorta. Jules Crittenden has the details.

I invite anyone to show me where the Times came even remotely close to apologizing. And no, grabbing the last paragraph from a Crittenden post, which points to another blogger who claims that Iseman sent her an email claiming that the NYT apologized off the record will not cut it.

Dan Reihl follows suit by pointing to Crittenden, and adds his own baseless speculation:

Jules has a round up on the Times settlement. I wonder how much she made?

That post is timestamped "Thursday, February 19, 2009 at 10:51 PM." So far, no updates, although one commenter tried to be helpful.

[ADDED} Instapundit weighs in, saying (his caps, not mine):


and then linking to The Plum Line post I mentioned in my last, that makes Iseman's lawyer sound like an idiot. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, I ask. Safest bet: he only read the title of that post.

Up Is Down Watch:
The Iseman Foldeth = "Complete Vindication"

Opening of a memo to staff from Dean Baquet, the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, as obtained by Politico:

Vicki Iseman has dropped her lawsuit [warning: giant PDF --bjk] against The Times, just weeks after it was filed. We paid no money. We did not apologize. We did not retract one word of the story, which was a compelling chapter in the tale of Senator John McCain and his political rise.

Opening of a statement by executive editor Bill Keller, published in today's Times:

The commentary by Mssrs. Smolla and Allen [two of Iseman's lawyers --bjk] gives readers a general sense of the case they would have attempted to make if their lawsuit had proceeded. But the first point to make is, the case did not proceed. It was settled without money changing hands, and without The Times backing away from the story. In the joint statement we are releasing today and in a "Note to Readers," we reiterate what we have said since the story was published: that article did not allege an affair or unethical behavior on Ms. Iseman's part. We stand by our coverage, and we are proud of it.

So much for the reality-based community. Now, let's hear from the side that believes, among other things, that maintaining unanimous opposition while losing a vote in Congress means victory. Greg Sargent at The Plum Line reports:

... I just got off the phone with Iseman’s lawyer, and he claims that she won this battle — and that she didn’t drop the suit at all. He’s claiming “complete vindication.”


[Said Allen:] “We’re pleased that the lawsuit was able to be resolved successfully, with the complete vindication that Ms. Iseman sought in filing the lawsuit.”

Actually, looking all the way back to the last days of 2008, what Iseman sought was $27 million for "defamation" that caused "serious damage to her professional reputation," contending that "the paper acted with 'actual malice' -- a 'reckless disregard' for the truth."

All we need now is someone like Mark Halperin to tell us how this is actually great news for John McCain.

[Added] Props to Roger Ailes (the trustworthy one) for succinctness.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Your Moment of Conservapedia

From the entry about that guy whose birthday we just kinda celebrated:

The archetype of Washington as the republican champion has become part of America's collective idealization of faith-based citizenship …

This MUST Become a Meme

Emph. added to proposed new meme:

“A democracy could not exist because Mohammed already made the perfect law,” Santorum said. “The Quran is perfect just the way it is, that’s why it is only written in Islamic.”

Yeah, that Rick Santorum.

How (Not) To Talk To A Creationist

PZ has copies of emails from a professor of biology at UVM responding to an IDiot from the Discovery Institute trying to wangle a debate. Pretty sweet.

(h/t: marindenver/Rumproast)


P.S. Just in case you're wondering, "Why not debate?", the short answer is this: Been there, done that, and too many times already. Creationism is not science, "intelligent design" is not anything but creationism rebranded (remember the Wedge Document?), and all the creationists are looking for is credibility by association.

Richard Dawkins has an essay called "Why I Won't Debate Creationists" if you'd like to read a clear and detailed explanation.


[Added] It turns out there was an additional wrinkle here. The professor, Nick Gotelli, had earlier written a commentary, published in the Burlington Free Press, explaining why the initial selection of Ben Stein as commencement speaker at UVM had been met with such disapproval. The IDiot was possibly trying to pick a fight, and certainly trying to play on this, since Gotelli had distinguished in his article between a commencement speaker and just having a controversial lecture given somewhere on campus. He had no problem with the latter, obviously.

The IDiots play this "free speech" card all the time these days ("teach the controversy" having met its Waterloo Dover back in 2005), trying to create the impressions that religious dogma is just as good as facts and scientific theory, and that lack of patience for superstitions in the science classroom equals censorship. Sadly, this snow job sometimes works.

You Know What's Pretty Hilarious?

Watching Greater Wingnuttia sputtering about how that dead chimpanzee cartoon is TOTALLY NOT RACIST.

It's not even worth pulling quotes from them, because they're all saying the same thing: Pelosi is the author of the bill and she's white!!! What about when liberals called Bush a chimp??? Sam Stein/Huffington Post/Al Sharpton/death of free speech blaahhhhgrllllhpmrrrmph!!1!

There really are some things that you only make worse by denying.

TBogg's shorter about covers it.

Something Tells Me, Though ...

... that Rick (previous post) has a long way to go. Here are two thoughts from Andrew Sullivan that support this: doings in Arkansas, and the US, falling behind the world in yet another way.

Maybe The Sign Worked

Get a brain, morans!(enlarge image)

This actually sounds pretty smart, given the source:

The theme of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) should be “Cocooning our way to Irrelevancy” or perhaps “How to lose the next 5 elections in 10 easy steps.”

From my point of view, it really is that bad. With the exception of some effort to bring conservatism into the 21st century communications-wise, the program appears to be an excellent panacea for what ailed conservatism in about 1980. It’s as if the debacles of 2006 and 2008 never happened. Does it matter that the very same people who helped get us clobbered the last two election cycles are running seminars and roundtables at the conference? Not if you’re a movement still in denial that it will take more than “message tweaking” and better utilization of the internet to bring conservatism back and make it relevant to a large portion of Americans again.


Alright…so. My idea of “reform” is probably a helluva lot different than most conservatives. But maybe we could start with the recognition that in elections, the way you win is by getting one more vote than the other side. And no matter how you want to add up the numbers, the 30% of so of the nation that identifies itself as “conservative” will always fall short of 50% + 1. I hate to break this news to my fellow conservatives; you can use any kind of mathematical hocus pocus you wish but there just aren’t enough of us to only allow “true conservatives” a place at the table.
-- Rick Moran

(h/t: Andrew Sullivan)

You Know, At Least at the Times, It Was Bill "Correction Appended" Kristol

Yglesias vents about George Will's denialist column in the WaPo.

My earlier posts on this matter here and here, if you missed them.

This Makes Me Wish I'd Never Used The Word Recommend Before

Zadie SmithHendrik Hertzberg begins a recent post:

Please, I beg you: drop whatever you’re doing and read “Speaking In Tongues,” Zadie Smith’s brilliant meditation on Barack Obama. The only thing that could make this wonderful essay better would be for it to be available as a podcast, too. That way, one could have the pleasure of enjoying it in both of the author’s beautiful voices, the speaking as well as the writing one.

I've been trying to decide how to tell you what happened next, because in some ways, I want you to travel the same road I did, which started like this: After I read another few sentences, I decided I'd respect his opening plea, stopped reading the post, and followed the link on over. And it is a really good read. And then I came back and read the rest of his post. So, maybe you want to do that.

Smith's piece is longish and demands a little attention. It is the farthest thing from a struggle to get through, I assure you. But still, if you're not in the mood to read something long right now, and you doubt you'll come back to it later, there is an option in the Comments.

(pic. source)

A Second Look at Bipartisanship

Following up from my last post, I also want to recommend Hendrik Hertzberg's assessment of the whole process of getting the stimulus bill passed. He makes a good case that in a lot of ways, leaving aside the Congress and the usual howler monkeys, Obama did achieve significant bipartisan support (among Republican and independent voters, and Republican governors) and additionally, was able to use the concept of bipartisanship, saying, "… even if it fails as a tactic for compromise, [it] can succeed as a tonal strategy: once the other side makes itself appear intransigently, destructively partisan, the game is half won."

(h/t: DougJ/Balloon Juice)

He'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again

Thomas Frank has a nice op-ed in the WSJ, taking the Villagers to task for their obsession with the magical bipartisanship pony and their disdain for, you know, every issue of policy and substance.

One quibble. When Frank says ...

It is supposed to be high-minded stuff, this longing for a bipartisan golden age. But in some ways it is the most cynical stance possible. It takes no idea seriously, since everything is up for compromise. The role of the political parties is merely to cancel each other out, so that only the glorious centrists remain, triangulating majestically between obnoxious extremes.

... I can only think of what an unkillable meme it was last decade among the chattering classes to dismiss Bill Clinton as a "triangulator."

'Course, that means I'm implying that they're consistent and not hypocritical. My bad.

Frank's conclusion is money, though:

What's more, bipartisanship's boosters can't even discern friend from foe. The Republican caucus in the House of Representatives, which seems to be growing even more conservative as its numbers shrink, has clearly resumed the strategies of the early Gingrich era -- obstruction, bomb-throwing and more obstruction. But to the mainstream media, the angry Republican pols seem to mainly discredit Mr. Obama, who failed to win over the GOP. Which will, of course, encourage the bitter-enders to obstruct even more.

Never has Beltway orthodoxy looked as clueless and futile as it does today. Confronted with the greatest failure of economic ideas in decades, it demands that the president make common cause with people for whom those failed ideas are still sacred. To think we can solve our problems in this way is like hoping to chart a route to the moon by water.

(h/t: DougJ/Balloon Juice)

Line of the Day: 2009-02-19

… Shlaes--or, as I like to refer to her, Joe the Plumber for Republicans Who Know Which One's The Dessert Spoon-- …
-- Doghouse Riley

Some Good Jokes ...

... mostly band-related, on Mick Shrimpton's Twitter page, via Roy Edroso, who has other jokes, even funnier.

Don't worry, kyklops Rick, they're not all about drummers.

[Added] One of Mick's tweets points and asks, "Best resumé ever?" Pretty damned close, I'd say.

"Growing up Black on the Internet"

I just happened across a pretty cool post in the Something Awful forums. The author, who goes by the handle Fish Steer a Dhow, describes himself as follows.

I was born in Southern Sudan and my people are Dinka … When I was 8 or so (I don't actually know my birthdate or my exact age) I was taken by a missionary with the Episcopalian church to the United States and given to a foster family who I think of as my family, call mom and dad etc. And yeah he does look a lot like Kurt Vonnegut.

Most of the post describes a trip he took a few years ago, introduced thus:

The mission that brought me over kept track of my family as best they could and they actually ended up in northwest Kenya, having been driven from Sudan into Ethiopia, then out of Ethiopia. My mother may be dead or she may have returned to Sudan, we're not really certain, but in 2004 I was given a graduation present of a trip to Kenya to visit my father and brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts along with a bunch of cousins I have never met, all those who had travelled together to the Kakuma area where they were living.

No attempts are made at deep or profound insights. It's more of a just-the-facts, here's-who-I-am piece, and it succeeds with that approach. Sure held my attention, anyway. Plus, some really good pictures, especially the one of the minister of the local church.

You might also be interested in Fish Steer a Dhow's responses to comments on his original post. (Scroll down past the original post, which is reposted at the top of the page.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Update Your Feeds

John McWhorter has a new blog, hosted on The New Republic's web site. It has its own RSS feed.

(h/t: nikkibong)

News From The Upper One

We here in the Lower 48 have not heard much about everybody's favorite first line of defense against Putin's head. Thus, I am happy to pass along reports that daughter Bristol went off the reservation, particularly on the abstinence-only front, the governor herself is the latest tax non-payer to get busted, and of course, everybody is still playing gotcha, also.

Good Thing That Whole "54-40 or Fight" Thing Never Worked Out

Otherwise, it would probably mean five more songs.

Kidding! Kidding! You know I have the highest respect …


Steve M. observes that the recent "big" rightwing protests against the stimulus bill recapitulate the worst aspects of protests by DFHs in decades past.

However, Steve fails to account for the possibility that some of those Real Americans™ may well have been Twittering, so naturally, his entire argument collapses.

Your Moment of Bérubé

From his Tuesday potluck:

Speaking of sports, the William Henry Harrison Appreciation Society is upset about the new AP rankings, which place their man three spots below George W. Bush.  “What did ‘H’ ever do to deserve this?” asked William Benjamin Henry George Harrison IV, secretary-treasurer of the society.  “The poor guy died a month into office, long before he could start any illegal wars or detain and torture anyone.” Moreover, Harrison noted, the national debt increased only $1.12 during Harrison’s tenure, “and much of that was the fallout from the panic of 1837.” Historians reply, however, that William Henry Harrison failed to pass any tax cuts during his time in office, leaving him behind Bush in the critical “lasting achievements” category.

Resist Socialism! By Supporting Wingnut Welfare!

Banner ad seen on various wingnut sites lately:

"Joe" the "Book Writer!"(enlarge image)

[Added] Clearly, this is the logical next step in conservative thought.

Breaking: Michele Bachmann Still a Lying Wingnut

How this woman (remember her?) ever got reelected I'll never know. I hope the good people of Minnesota are paying attention this time.

(h/t: Jim Newell/Wonkette)

Have You Driven a Ford Lately?

Shorter GM and Chrysler:

Hi, everybody! It's us again! Give us lots more money and we promise to lay off lots more workers! It's a win-win!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New NYT Thing: Article Skimmer

The NY Times's web site has an interesting-looking feature up that's called Article Skimmer. Apparently, it's in beta, but from a quick glance, it appears to work all right. If you read by visiting various sections' home pages, it should appeal to you. Another selling point -- it loads a lot faster than do the standard NYT pages.

It might look like a static page (and interestingly, it reformats itself so that it always fits within the browser window without any scroll bars), but click the question mark icon in the upper right corner for tips on navigation -- lots of keyboard shortcuts!

(h/t: Andrew Sullivan)

More Good Will-Hunting

Dave Roberts and especially Nate Silver rip apart George Will's denialism column that I mentioned yesterday. Nate's got a bunch of charts of historical temperature data, and although he does not say it explicitly, the charts make it easy to see why guys like Will can kinda, sorta get away with saying "there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade" -- it's because 1998 was such a warm year that a line drawn from that year to 2008 is horizontal.

Honest people, when talking about trends, show all the data. Nate Silver shows all the data.

(h/t: Andrew Sullivan)

Heartless Man In Shameless Par -

don. Pursuit of, that is.

Hey, it was in the NY Daily News. I had to try.

But never mind that. Read all about Big Dick Cheney's final days, fighting with George Bush.

[Added] Okay, so it was the Post. Sue me.

Line of the Day: 2009-02-17

Great presidents do manage to push past partisanship — not by reaching out to the other party, but by overwhelming it with a new vision.
-- James Morone

Yeah, I first read the author's name as "James Monroe," too. It's a good piece, in any case.

And along the same lines, today's column from Bob Herbert is also worth a read.

Death to High Broderism, I say.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Prospects for Bipartisanship Appear Dimmer

Sean Hannity twitters (irony meter pinned already, I know) that Teh Fairness Doctrine (not that again!) is going to be applied to the Internet, with "all accounts on all sites to be tied to drivers licenses." (He appears to have run out of characters before being able to type !!!1!.)

I'm not sure what this has to do with Fairness when it sounds more like the totalitarian surveillance socialist paradise that Obama is secretly planning, but never mind that. Hannity knows who he's feeding red meat to -- if there's one thing a look at his forums will teach you, it's that wingnuts are deathly afraid of sharing their thoughts under their real names.

In other news of not-that-again, the Tennessee GOP has joined the Cult of the COLB, firing up yet another lawsuit about the illegal alien illegally being president. "[State Rep. Stacey] Campfield said there were questions about whether the document was 'a certification, not a certificate - and there's a difference,'" reports The Knoxville News Sentinel.

I now realize I subconsciously meant "dimmer" in two ways.

Lying or Stupid? (Bowtied Twerp Edition)

George Effing Will, as one sage like to call him, denies global warming.

And yeah, cross-file this under WaPo Descent Watch, too.

The lede from Zachary Roth at TPM (via Sully):

Looks like Fred Barnes isn't the only high-profile conservative columnist still arguing that climate change doesn't really exist.

Over the weekend, the Washington Post's George Will, got in on the act. And it took us about ten minutes -- longer, it appears, than the Post's editors spent -- to figure out that Will, like Barnes, was essentially making stuff up.

Ezra Klein focuses on another glaring error in the same column. His lede:

There needs to be some sort of Godwin's Law variant for conservatives who try to argue against global warming because they remember that Newsweek dipped into pop-science in the mid-70s and touted "global cooling." Call it Will's Law, after George Will, the supposedly cerebral conservative who brings this up every time he doesn't have a better column idea.

48 Hours Follow-Up

Last week, I pointed to Steve Benen's fine post detailing how a lie about ZOMG! Government telling your doctor what to do!!1! got spread by the rightwing noise machine. Ezra Klein has a good follow-up post on the events of those two days, including video of a good Olbermann segment and several helpful links.

Of particular interest is the focus on the originator of the lie, Betsy McCaughey, and her source of wingnut welfare, the Hudson Institute.

Java Update

Sun has released an update to its Java Runtime Environment, which is what runs Java applications in your browser. The latest version is JRE 6 update 12.

[Update: actually, the latest version is now Version 6 Update 13. Sorry I have not put up a post about that yet. RSN, promise.]

To see which version you currently have installed, visit Sun's Verify Java Version page.

If you do have an out-of-date version, that same page will offer the installer for the new version for download. The installer itself downloads almost instantly. To complete the installation, close your browser and double-click the file that just downloaded. The installation process then downloads the update and installs it, and the whole thing takes several minutes.

NB: The installer offers to install the Yahoo toolbar, and this box is checked by default. Uncheck this box to avoid installing this shovelware. I think it's on the second screen shown during installation. It's fairly obvious as long as you don't just keep clicking "Next."

One hiccup: When I visited the Verify page with one of my machines, the report came back that the current version (JRE 6 update 11) was up to date, which is obviously wrong. I clicked the back button on my browser, reran the verification process, and on the second time, it correctly reported that my version was out of date. Apart from that, things went smoothly.

If you use Firefox, you'll probably see a message the next time you start Firefox, telling you that a new version of an add-on has been installed. This is the Java Quick Launch add-on, which is supposed to make Java itself launch faster when you visit a page that requires Java.

In the release notes for this update, Sun does say:

This feature release does not contain any new fixes for security vulnerabilities to its previous release, Java SE 6 Update 11. Users who have Java SE 6 Update 11 have the latest security fixes and do not need to upgrade to this release to be current on security fixes.

That is, this update fixes other bugs only. So, up to you.

(h/t: Ryan Naraine)


Sarah Palin and "Joe" the "Plumber" and "Honest" John McCain and all those smart bloggers tried to warn us, but we just wouldn't listen, would we?

This idea of nationalizing banks is not comfortable. But I think we've got so many toxic assets spread throughout the banking and financial community, throughout the world, that we're going to have to do something that no one ever envisioned a year ago, no one likes. To me, banking and housing are the root cause of this problem. I'm very much afraid any program to salvage the banks is going to require the government... I would not take off the idea of nationalizing the banks.

Oh, wait.

(h/t: Andrew Sullivan)

Lines of the Day: 2009-02-16

The President, talking to reporters aboard Air Force One, late afternoon, this past Friday:

"The last point I would make, though, is that given the urgency of the situation right now, my consistent goal throughout this process is: Are we getting the most immediate, most effective relief possible to American families who are losing their jobs, losing their homes, losing their health care?," he said. "I welcome Republican participation in that process, but ultimately I'm answerable to the American people. And my determination was to get it done, and I think that we're going to get it done."


But he did say that he thought the GOP party-line vote was a fait accompli long before it was taken. "Look," he said, "once a decision was made by the Republican leadership to have a party-line vote -- a decision that I think occurred before I met with them -- then I'm not sure that there was a whole host of things that we were going to do that was going to make a difference.


"Going forward, each and every time we've got an initiative I'm going to go to both Democrats and Republicans and I'm going to say, here's my best argument for why we need to do this."

Asked whether his experience had changed his expectations of winnable Republican support or how he might win it, he responded sagely. "You know, I am an eternal optimist," he said. "That doesn't mean I'm a sap."

A grownup in charge. What's that all about?

(h/t: Andrew Sullivan)

And on a closely related note, see Oliver Willis's great post: Yeah, He Did.

For hilarious coverage of the petulant children, see James Wolcott: Day of the Jackal, Night of the Living Dead.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oh, Snap

Their idea of a good public face for the G.O.P. is a sound-bite dispenser like the new chairman, Michael Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor. Steele’s argument against the stimulus package is that “in the history of mankind” no “federal, state or local” government has ever “created one job.” As it happens, among the millions of jobs created by the government are the federal investigators now pursuing Steele for alleged financial improprieties in his failed 2006 Senate campaign.
-- Frank Rich

The whole thing is a fun read for anyone in the reality-based community.


Earlier today, when I refreshed my podcast subscriptions listing in iTunes, I saw the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe had a new edition listed, with nothing in the description field except "Interview with Jon Ronson."

I find SGTU best when most of the show is an interview. Steven Novella is a pretty good interviewer, and they usually get good guests, so even though the name did not ring a bell, I downloaded it and started listening to it.

Just yesterday, I finished a book (gift from KK -- thanks!) called The Men Who Stare at Goats, which was pretty funny in lots of places and not a little creepy in others.

Yeah. Same guy.

Good book, good interview.

People Like Me?

Shown at right is the ad that greeted me when I logged into Facebook and visited my own profile page.

I mean, I'll be the first to brag that I do as much for a short off-the-shoulder dress as any man my age, but …

This is another in a series of happenstances that makes me think we have a long way to go before we need to worry about web tracking software being capable of profiling us accurately. Which, it must be emphasized, is the primary reason to be violently opposed to programs like TIA, or whatever they're calling it these days.

But wait. Maybe there's a happier way to look at this. What if web tracking software really is getting scary good, and that ad is not aimed at me, but at the sort of people Facebook thinks visit me?

Know hope!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

And Speaking of Stalking

Ah, the joys of ego-surfing. Just noticed that my blog appears to have been aggregated by a somewhat surprising organization:

bjkeefe the rightwing blogger(enlarge image)

The real excitement will come when I stumble across a phrase like "even known conservative blogger Brendan Keefe says …"

Preconditioning Illustrated

Just finished an article in the NYT about the problem of stalking. Next article I started, noticed on the "Most Emailed" list, is a pretty nice tribute to a comparatively unsung NBA basketball player. Perhaps that's why this line jumped out at me, maybe more than it would have otherwise:

Early on, Hoop Scoop magazine named Shane Battier the fourth-best seventh grader in the United States.

[Added] After reading farther, I want to strongly encourage every basketball fan to read the article on Shane Battier. No, check that. I think you'll like it even if you're not a fan of the game. Really well written. Nice job, Michael Lewis.

Blackwater Whitewash

Meh. I say, let's all just pronounce it so it rhymes with goatse.

The Marginal Devolution

DougJ has an interesting post up on Balloon Juice observing the failure of anti-immigration rhetoric as a campaign strategy, in both New York and Arizona, not to mention the past presidential election. He then compares this mistaken GOP thinking to how they handled the stimulus bill -- again letting themselves be driven by the howling minority within their own constituency, while ignoring what the majority of the country wants. (cf.)

And if you're going to tell me that it was purely a matter of principal (ha-ha, that was for Alastair) principle that led the House Republicans to vote unanimously against the stimulus bill, twice, I'm just going to say: honkie, please.

And Speaking of Religious Intolerance ...

… It was twenty years ago today / When Salman Rushdie taught the banned to pray …

But seriously …

From On The Media:

Twenty years ago this week, the Ayatollah Khomeini called for the death of author Salman Rushdie for insulting Islam in his book The Satanic Verses. Rushdie's lawyer Geoffrey Robertson gave Rushdie a place to hide out in those days and defended Rushdie against the crime of blasphemy. Robertson reflects back on that time.

Apologies as always for the interminable (40-second) NPR promo at the beginning.

[UPDATE] Sorry. The embedded audio plays the wrong clip, so I've removed it for the time being. Try following the link below (in error there, too, at the moment), or check back here, later. Or just go listen to the whole show.

(alt. audio link)

Glad you're still with us, Mr. Rushdie.

More Hammering on the Theme

Here's Pat Condell's latest video. If you know Pat, you knew he wasn't going to let recent events go unremarked upon.

(alt. video link)

I always think Pat goes one step farther than I would, and I sometimes think he should make a little bit more of an effort than he does to be clear that he's not speaking about Muslims in general. (Not so much the case in this one.) Nonetheless, if we ever have to choose sides, and rarely does a day go by when I don't fear that we someday will, I will stand with Pat Condell.

I mentioned in an earlier post about Geert Wilders my view that one of the consequences of suppressing criticism of religion, as with anytime that free speech is restricted, is that more extreme speech rushes in to fill the void. The demand by certain individuals that criticism of religion be silenced, especially at the hands of the state and especially by threatening violence, is just going to exacerbate matters. When you tell people to shut up, the ones most likely to obey are the polite ones, the ones most likely to be interested in give and take and in giving rebuttals an honest listen. This is something for moderates of all stripes to keep in mind, from liberals too quick to fall for claims of "persecution" to people of faith who sit silently while professional outrage junkies purport to speak on their behalf.


Visit Pat Condell's YouTube channel to see more of his videos. He also has a site where you can download audio-only versions.

[Added] If you haven't already seen it, you might gain some context by watching Geert Wilders's short film, Fitna. It's about sixteen minutes long.

Freedom of Speech Means, Especially, Freedom to Criticize

Johann Hari wrote an outstanding piece that was published in late January in the British newspaper The Independent. In it, he looked at ongoing efforts, at the UN and elsewhere, to suppress any speech that the most fanatical adherents might interpret as disrespectful of their religious beliefs. Here's how it starts:

The right to criticise religion is being slowly doused in acid. Across the world, the small, incremental gains made by secularism – giving us the space to doubt and question and make up our own minds – are being beaten back by belligerent demands that we "respect" religion. A historic marker has just been passed, showing how far we have been shoved. The UN rapporteur who is supposed to be the global guardian of free speech has had his job rewritten – to put him on the side of the religious censors.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated 60 years ago that "a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief is the highest aspiration of the common people". It was a Magna Carta for mankind – and loathed by every human rights abuser on earth. Today, the Chinese dictatorship calls it "Western", Robert Mugabe calls it "colonialist", and Dick Cheney calls it "outdated". The countries of the world have chronically failed to meet it – but the document has been held up by the United Nations as the ultimate standard against which to check ourselves. Until now.

Starting in 1999, a coalition of Islamist tyrants, led by Saudi Arabia, demanded the rules be rewritten. The demand for everyone to be able to think and speak freely failed to "respect" the "unique sensitivities" of the religious, they decided – so they issued an alternative Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. It insisted that you can only speak within "the limits set by the shariah [law]. It is not permitted to spread falsehood or disseminate that which involves encouraging abomination or forsaking the Islamic community".

In other words, you can say anything you like, as long as it precisely what the reactionary mullahs tell you to say. The declaration makes it clear there is no equality for women, gays, non-Muslims, or apostates. It has been backed by the Vatican and a bevy of Christian fundamentalists.

Incredibly, they are succeeding.

His article was later republished in The Statesman, an Indian newspaper. Riots ensued, among other hysterical overreactions. So he wrote a follow-up piece, also excellent. If I had to pick one sentence that sums it up, it would be this:

The solution to the problems of free speech – that sometimes people will say terrible things – is always and irreducibly more free speech.

I urge you to read both. He is saying a lot better than I was able when I was earlier reflecting upon questions raised by the Geert Wilders kerfuffle.*

(h/t: Andrew Sullivan)

* Who, it turns out, was prevented from entering the UK two days ago, despite originally having been invited by members of the British government to visit. Guess why.

[Added] On a related note: I blogged several times on the Geert Wilders story. The latest entry has all the links.