June 2008 Archives

I'm late in posting this, but I didn't want to let it slip:

Alison Bechdel has a four-page graphic essay in the latest issue (the 1000th, celebrating "The New Classics") of Entertainment Weekly. It's a nice piece on the subject of compulsory reading, which she posted here on her blog. Also interesting to fans of the graphic form is EW's list of "The 100 Best Books of the Last 25 Years." EW is generally friendly to graphic novels, and this list is no exception; here are the six that made the list:

7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)

While I've only read a smattering of the text-only books on EW's list, I'm 5-for-6 with the graphic novels (I would be batting 1.000, but I've only read parts of Sandman). EW might have considered a few others as well:

Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo)
Barefoot Gen (Keiji Nakazawa)
Black Hole (Charles Burns)
Blankets (Craig Thompson)
Bone (Jeff Smith)
Cerebus (Dave Sim/Gerhard)
Dark Knight (Frank Miller)
From Hell (Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell)
Love and Rockets (Los Bros. Hernandez)
Palestine (Joe Sacco)
Sin City (Frank Miller)
Understanding Comics (Scott McCloud)
V for Vendetta (Alan Moore/David Lloyd)
300 (Frank Miller)

What's a diehard Bushevik dead-ender to do, with the clock ticking toward noon on 20 January 2009 and the prospect of a not-so-White House as Dear Leader Dubya retires to his "ranch" in Waco? Well, such a person could choose to lament the choice of John McCain as the GOP nominee...or, better yet, write in George W. Bush for president on 4 November (h/t: Jillian at Sadly, No!):

stay the course 2008

The Q&A page answers the obvious question first:

What about "term limits?"

The important thing to understand about so-called "term limits" is that they are man's law, not God's Law. The God who parted the Red Sea is surely not worried about so-called "term limits". When you vote your faith you let Almighty God take care of the details.

Presidential term limits are not in the Bible. And they were not in our Constitution until added by an activist congress in 1951.

I wish them the best of luck in their endeavor! </snicker>

The infamous "god hates fags" asshats from the Westboro Baptist Church have announced (h/t: Friendly Atheist) their intention to picket the funeral of George Carlin, who they refer to as a "filthy blasphemer" and an "obscene potty-mouth skeptic, agnostic, and profane atheist."

Ooh, those are some really hurtful insults...if they hadn't waited until Carlin died to call him names, he would have given them a verbal smackdown from which they'd never recover! I wish they would just crawl back under whatever pew they came from, and stop spreading their ignorance and hatred.

How sad that Carlin's friends and family will now have their ceremony tainted by WBC's presence.


Price, Robert. The Reason-Drive Life: What Am I Here on Earth For? (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2006)

As a freethinker, the publications of Prometheus Books are well-represented on my bookshelves; Robert Price's The Reason-Drive Life may just be the best I've read so far. Written as "a direct rebuttal and alternative to" (p. 21) Rick Warren's best-selling The Purpose-Driven Life, Price's book is far more than a simple criticism of Warren in particular--or even of fundamentalism in general.

The Reason-Driven Life is full of interesting tidbits and mini-lessons in theology, the most interesting of which is Chapter 26, "Satan's Sunday School." In it, Price--a professor of both Biblical Criticism and Theology & Scriptural Studies--shows Christianity's debt to Zoroastrianism in the development of Satan's backstory. Much of what Christians "know" about the history and character of Satan (as with the Catholic-invented Purgatory) is either of extra-Biblical origin or the product of rather questionable Biblical interpretation.

Price weaves the stories of various Apocrypha (The Testament of Reuben, The Apocalypse of Moses) into his book, along with plenty of quotes from Eric Hoffer's The True Believer, Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, and Hugh Prather's Notes to Myself. The scholarship serves Price's goal quite well, and leads him to solid critiques of Warren's pseudo-knowledge. Here are but two examples:

...let me remind you that Rick Warren is happy to quote from no less than fifteen different translations or paraphrases of the Bible. You know what that means, don't you? They are so different that he has a lot of shopping to do before finding one that will make the Bible appear to say what he wants it to teach. (p. 28)

There is only so far one can go plumbing the depths of the Bible when one reads it in the completely ahistorical, out-of-context manner Reverend Warren does in The Purpose-Driven Life. It is apparent he is utterly innocent of even the most basic facts of criticism. [...] What an irony that the fundamentalist champions of the Bible seem to care nothing for the text, but only for those doctrines and devotional "promises" they pry out of it. And when the Bible does not actually yield the requisite slogans and the desired devotional idiom, they will rewrite the text so that it does. (p. 348)

In a similar vein, Price's comment that "Rick Warren makes Robert Schuller look like Nietzsche" (p. 106) brought a smile to my face. Lest any reader accuse Price of nefarious atheistic intent, he goes out of his way to clarify his attitude toward the Bible:

I love the Bible. I have devoted my life to the study of it. I wrote one PhD dissertation on the various evangelical theories of biblical authority, and a second one focusing on themes in Luke and Acts. None of this means my views must be correct. But it does show I do not approach this sensitive topic as an opponent of the Bible. Just the reverse. (p. 226)

Also worth pondering are Price's rebuke to Brother Lawrence about "practicing the absence of God" (p. 122) and this passage on the "spirituality of beauty," which is my Quote of the Day:

Did you know there is a spirituality of beauty? It is what many cultured, secular people cultivate instead of overtly religious worship. It fills the same need. [...] There are certain poems that are a revelatory experience for me. The spine tingles and the soul marvels that words can be so associated. Great music awakens something within and stirs it up. Art causes you to transcend yourself, and that, in religious terms, is a reaching up of the soul to God. (p. 140)

All in all, Price's The Reason-Driven Life is a great read; I recommend it both to those who have read Warren's book and to those--such as myself--who have not.


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Wordle uses Java to generate an image from whatever text you input (h/t: Yet Another Comics Blog). It's basically a tag cloud, but cooler because it's more configurable (you can change the font and the colors, vary the number of words and the layout, etc.). Here's Bertrand Russell's "Why I Am Not a Christian" all Wordle-ified:

Kudos to developer Jonathan Feinberg for generating such a delightful typographic time-sink!

We can thank the late George Carlin not only for his immortal "Seven Dirty Words" (here's the Wikipedia article and a YouTube clip from 1978) but myriad other classics over a long and celebrated career. In 2004, Comedy Central rated Carlin the second-best stand-up comedian ever, behind Richard Pryor and just ahead of Lenny Bruce.

I was fortunate enough to see Carlin live in concert several years ago, not long after his "Complaints and Grievances" CD was released in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. (I would have written this post sooner, but I had to listen to his routine again and transcribe a few bits.) Carlin had this to say about dissent over the invasion of Afghanistan (before Bush gave up hunting bin Laden and went after Saddam Hussein instead):

Here's the way it works: The primate brain says, "Give peace a chance." The mammalian brain says, "Give peace a chance, but first let's kill this motherfucker." And the reptilian brain says, "Let's just kill the motherfucker, go to the peace rally, and get laid."

Carlin excoriated parents who plaster their cars with those "My child is an honor student" bumper stickers:

Here's a bumper sticker I'd like to see: "We are the proud parents of a child whose self-esteem is sufficient that he doesn't need us promoting his minor scholastic achievements on the back of our car."

Or: "We are the proud parents of a child who has resisted his teacher's attempts to break his spirit and bend him to the will of his corporate masters."

Here's something realistic: "We have a daughter in public school who hasn't been knocked up yet."

"We have a son in public school who hasn't shot any of his classmates yet...but he does sell drugs to your honor student. Plus, he knocked up your daughter."

(I don't hear the names "Todd" and "Tucker" in quite the same way any more, either.)

Thanks for all the laughs, George...even Thomas the Tank Engine sucked a little bit less when you did the narration.

If you're a data visualization junkie like I am--if you appreciate well-designed information graphics, drool over HistoryShots posters, and worship at the altar of Edward Tufte--then you should check out the Flowing Data website. As they put it:

FlowingData explores how statisticians, designers, computer scientists, and others are using data to help us understand more about ourselves and our surroundings.

There's plenty of good design there: the kind that clarifies and enhances information, rather than distracts from it. (I added FD to my RSS reader immediately upon seeing it for the first time.)


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This triptych made be laugh, but I think Pope Ratzi is superfluous:

hope, nope, pope

The contrast between Obama and McCain is wonderful, and I would *so* buy that as a t-shirt!

Time has the text of Obama's speech on Afghanistan and the detainees (it's not on his speeches page yet). Obama's response to McBush's accusation of a "pre-9/11 mindset" is the best part:

I refuse to be lectured on national security by people who are responsible for the most disastrous set of foreign policy decisions in the recent history of the United States. The other side likes to use 9/11 as a political bludgeon. Well, let's talk about 9/11.

The people who were responsible for murdering 3,000 Americans on 9/11 have not been brought to justice. They are Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and their sponsors - the Taliban. They were in Afghanistan. And yet George Bush and John McCain decided in 2002 that we should take our eye off of Afghanistan so that we could invade and occupy a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. The case for war in Iraq was so thin that George Bush and John McCain had to hype the threat of Saddam Hussein, and make false promises that we'd be greeted as liberators. They misled the American people, and took us into a misguided war.

Here are the results of their policy. Osama bin Laden and his top leadership - the people who murdered 3000 Americans - have a safe-haven in northwest Pakistan, where they operate with such freedom of action that they can still put out hate-filled audiotapes to the outside world. That's the result of the Bush-McCain approach to the war on terrorism.


great t-shirts

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Teach the Controversy has some subtly hilarious t-shirts (h/t: Jim Downey at Unscrewing the Inscrutable and PZ Myers at Pharyngula) which parody the anti-science mentality that urges us to "teach the controversy" where none exists. This Satan-burying-fossils-to-deceive-us design is my favorite:

teach the controversy

While you're there, check out Amorphia Apparel and Science! as well; there are many more clever designs, such as this one:

i'd verb her noun

It's finally happened: the Progressive Book Club has begun operations, offering an alternative to both mainstream non-political clubs and right-wing ones such as the Conservative Book Club. PBC's book list is a little thin so far, although there are plans to expand it. There is also a philanthropic aspect to PBC:

Progressive Book Club is committed to building a powerful movement for change. That is why we work with a broad spectrum of media, political, and activist organizations - groups dedicated to the environment, human rights, literacy, and many other progressive causes - and why we support them with a substantial portion of our revenues. Unlike other booksellers, when you join Progressive Book Club, you can select a beneficiary organization to support via the books you buy as a PBC member. We will donate $2 from the purchase of each regular club-priced book ($10 or more) to the group you select.

Ross Douthat writes at The Atlantic that:

For a long time, liberals have enjoyed the advantages that flow from dominating the commanding heights of culture, and the disadvantages as well. On the one hand, the near-universal dominance of left-of-center ideas in the publishing houses and TV networks, universities and Hollywood studios has given liberals tremendous power to set the terms of national debate. On the other, the establishmentarian spirit that comes with this sort of dominance has tended to breed cocooning, sclerosis, and the inability of many liberals to take their own side in an argument, which has often left them at the mercy of the tight-knit and pugilistic insurgents of the modern Right.

Uh, Mr Douthat? I'd like to point out something that you may not have noticed, so please check your calendar. The year is 2008, not 1968. The "near-universal dominance of left-of-center ideas" of which you speak has scarcely existed during the last forty years of conservative rule, despite the GOP's perennial desire to paint itself as an insurgency.

Has he not recognized the significance of the fact that liberal groups like the PBC tend to be startups rather than forty-four-year-old institutions like the Conservative Book Club?

Don't worry, I'm only kidding...

"I'm Voting Republican" is the title of the YouTube video below. If you appreciate satire, check it out:

Ben Shapiro has penned a response of sorts, calling the video "insulting nonsense" and "tripe" before providing precisely that from the ClownHall perspective:

"the best strategy in war is defeat"

"Bin Laden is the only Islamic terrorist in the world"

"I'm voting Democrat because thought isn't one of my strong suits."

Today is Firefox Download Day, and we're trying to set a Guinness World Record for the most downloads in 24 hours!

Firefox 3

I first downloaded Firefox when it was still at one of the early 0.x releases (I forget which one) way back in 2002, and it's been my favorite web browser ever since. One of the areas where Firefox consistently trounces Microsoft's Internet Explorer is in extensibility; the range of add-ons for Firefox is spectacular. Out of the thousands available, here are a few that I've found to be useful:

Adblock Plus (self-explanatory)
Book Burro (searches libraries and bookstores)
FireFTP (FTP client)
Googlepedia (displays Wikipedia articles along with Google search results)
Greasemonkey (javascript utility)
Password Exporter (also self-explanatory)
Sage (RSS feed reader)
User Agent Switcher (masks your browser's identity)

Don't settle for Microsoft mediocrity; the web can be so much better than that, and Firefox can show you how!

(Note: The sites have been getting hammered--a good sign for a record-breaking day!--so please be patient, and try again a few minutes later if your connection times out.)

wedding belles

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Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin

Longtime partners Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were married (again) yesterday in San Francisco. Their place of honor as the first same-sex couple to be married in California after the recent CA Supreme Court decision is well-deserved; Jim Burroway provides the historical perspective over at Box Turtle Bulletin, and concludes:

You might say that they are godmothers to all of us and our movement. After all these years of their hard work and dedication to the cause of lesbian rights, it's hard to imagine a more appropriate couple to be the first to marry in San Francisco.

We not only offer our congratulations, but also our deepest thanks for all that Phyllis and Del have done, and all that they represent.

On the other side of the issue, joy and love are mirrored by fear and hatred; as Sarah Varney reported on NPR's Morning Edition, anti-marriage protesters held signs reading "Re-criminalize Sodomy" and "God Hates Lying Sinners." Andrew Sullivan linked to this despicable ad from the Family Research Council:

anti-family research center

How long will it take for them to realize that their fears are unfounded?

Why can't they recognize love when they see it?

update (1:16pm):

Some of the newlyweds were greeted with shouts of "You're going to burn in hell!" by protesters.

How charming.

Joe Brewer and Evan Frisch have an excellent piece at OpenLeft about Obama's Fight the Smears website, which I mentioned here. Brewer and Frisch ask

"What is the purpose of a smear? Every smear has a proximate goal and an ultimate goal. The proximate goal is to instill some false or misleading idea in the minds of listeners. This serves the ultimate goal of subverting the moral character of the person being attacked."

and then offer two pieces of strategic advice: "respond to the ultimate goal directly" and "respond with a focus on the moral weakness of the attacker, rather than the intended target of the original attack." As an example, they present this response to the well-known "Obama is a Muslim" email:

We need to be aware that there are people trying to use us to spread misinformation and do their dirty work for them. We live in a democracy and there are powerful interests who fear the idea of letting us choose our own leaders. Some have exploited the flaws in our democracy to get their hands on the levers of power and they don't want to let go. One of their standard tactics is to introduce an anonymous message filled with lies and distortions, trusting that we will blindly distribute it to all our friends. This is terribly destructive, not only to democracy, but to our personal lives because the tactic exploits the trust we share with those who are closest to us.

Barack Obama has devoted his life to public service. He has worked tirelessly for years to help people, like the factory workers in South Chicago who lost their jobs when work was shipped overseas (work he did through a Christian church). Whatever your political views, I'm sure you'll agree that fighting for American workers is something we can all respect.

I am happy to share with you a thoughtful speech by Obama that tells how his Christian faith has shaped his political beliefs. Weigh his lifetime of service motivated by his belief in Jesus Christ against the anonymous author spreading falsehoods through email. We need to call out the act of deception for what it is - an attempt to assassinate the character of a good man.

A question I urge you to ask yourself is why the exploiters of power who started this lie don't have the integrity to be honest with the American people? The vast majority of Americans know that the economy is not working and the country is going in the wrong direction. But a few are profiting like never before at our expense and they are afraid of policies that would respect and value the efforts of hard-working Americans. Rather than challenge such policies head on, they prefer to use us to spread their propaganda.

Smears like the one in that email are meant to draw our attention to some moral failing in our leaders. The real moral failing is in the people who concocted this smear in the first place and thought so little of us when they sought to hijack the democratic process that makes America great.

There is more I could say about attacks on a person's faith, such as the impossibility of responding to claims by an anonymous attacker that you, or a member of your family, secretly believe something other than the faith that you profess and demonstrate. But I think it is more important to point out the level of vigilance we need to practice if we want to preserve our democratic traditions. This includes a recognition of the motives held by those who would so cavalierly distort our political process to serve their selfish ends.

We're going to see more smears by these powerful elites who profit while most Americans suffer. I hope I can count on you to help alert others when they use these tactics to try to divide us in the days ahead.

While I think this response would be better at half its length, the authors have done something remarkable: debunking the smear without ever using the words "Muslim" or "Islam." Doing so, as linguist George Lakoff tells us, would only reinforce the smear's original frame. Brewer and Frisch have crafted the type of response that we should all emulate when confronted with fallacious emails.


My FAQ explains the reasoning behind naming this blog "cognitive dissident," but the phrase still shows up frequently among the top search words. Accordingly, I decided to re-write my explanation as a post so it's easier to find:

what does "cognitive dissident" mean?

On its most basic level, the phrase "cognitive dissident" merely refers to one who thinks differently. This can mean voicing an unpopular opinion, asking an unwelcome question, or considering issues that most people prefer to ignore. Far too many important subjects are left unconsidered because it's easier to follow the flock, inheriting their beliefs either with insufficient thought or--even worse--taking them on blind faith. My MO is more along the lines of Socrates (who declared that "the unexamined life is not worth living") and Bertrand Russell, who observed:

"Most people would die sooner than think -- in fact they do so." (The ABC of Relativity, p. 166)

I have long admired those who dissented from the status quo: from Socrates to Solzhenitsyn, Galileo to Gandhi, and Voltaire to Vonnegut. My inspiration comes from many places: from Madison's "Memorial and Remonstrance" and Mill's On Liberty through Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" and Russell's "Why I Am Not a Christian," not to mention the legions of modern-day firebrands. It is to these cognitive dissidents, those who thought differently and dared to say so, that my efforts are dedicated.

Accordingly, a grammatically correct rendering of the old Apple slogan ("Think Different") seemed appropriate when posed as a pun on psychologist Leon Festinger's concept of cognitive dissonance. (It was only after settling on this name for my blog that I discovered the phrase "cognitive dissident" had been used for a Mother Jones article about the EFF's John Perry Barlow.)

That's enough on the name I chose and what it means; feel free to ask me questions in the comments if my FAQ seems incomplete.


Martin, William. What Liberals Believe: Thousands of Quotes on Why America Needs to Be Rescued from Greedy Corporations, Homophobes, Racists, Imperialists, Xenophobes, and Religious Extremists (New York: Skyhorse, 2008)

William Martin has delivered a substantive successor to his breezy 2004 book The Best Liberal Quotes Ever (which I reviewed here ). Martin divides this large volume into nineteen sections--and myriad sub-sections--covering topics from "The Rights of Citizens in a Democracy" and "The Meaning of Patriotism" to "The Threat of Religious Extremism" and "The Right Wing in Its Own Words." In doing so, the quotes he has chosen touch on virtually every issue of contention in modern American life.

Martin's book is somewhat less of an accomplishment than its heft might indicate; he cites far too many secondary sources, does not provide URLs for web articles, and omits page numbers when he does cite books. His general over-reliance on magazines, newspapers, and websites has led to some regrettable omissions; for example, in none of his sections on the media does Martin quote Ben Bagdikian, despite Bagdikian's Media Monopoly being the classic source for information on media conglomeration. Martin's section on authoritarianism has no material from either the classic works on the subject (Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism and Theodor Adorno's The Authoritarian Personality) or the modern studies by Bob Altemeyer. He relies on Rabbi Michael Lerner and Reverend Jim Wallis for liberal theology, who are two excellent choices, but neglects to quote Bishop John Shelby Spong's excellent work n debunking religious fundamentalism.

In addition, a number of articles are cited numerous times: Jane Smiley's "The Unteachable Ignorance of the Red States" is mentioned more than a few times, as is Paul Waldman's "It's the Conservatism, Stupid" and Alan Wolfe's "Why Conservatives Can't Govern." The book is correspondingly less broadly sourced than its page count might indicate.

He are some other problems with Martin's reference book, aside from the occasional typo (such as his references to linguist George Lakoff's book as Don't Think Like an Elephant rather than its actual title Don't Think of an Elephant):

* Ben Franklin's "essential liberty/temporary safety" quote (p. 29) is sourced by Martin to a speech to the PA Assembly. US History.org has a page on the quote, but I found this page  to provide interesting insight into the difficulty in precisely documenting older source material.

* When Martin quotes Digby, (p. 349) he notes that her name is a "pseudonym for a blogger." Martin does not, however, make the same notation for Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) or George Orwell (Eric Blair). This strikes me as a slur on bloggers, perhaps an implication that we are not "real writers."

* On page 392, Martin reuses a de Tocqueville quote from The Best Liberal Quotes Ever; I pointed out that quote's falsity in my review, but Martin is apparently not one of my readers.

* In the second and third quotes on p. 515, an article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. ("Crimes Against Nature" from Rolling Stone) is variously dated as "2004" and "December 11, 2003." Rolling Stone's website  gives the article's date as Nov 18, 2003 (12:00 AM).

* While liberals do have a few anti-porn activists (Andrea Dworkin, Catherine MacKinnon, et al.) among their ranks, the Left tends to be sex-positive compared to the Right. The section on "Pornography" (pp. 564-5) contains a few less-than-positive quotes, including this one:

"Pornography is the theory, and rape is the practice." (p. 564, Robin Morgan, Going Too Far, 1977)

It's good, I guess, to show the intellectual diversity of the Left, but doing so comes at the expense of clarity. Freedom of expression is a core liberal value, and--at least to that extent--the anti-erotica crowd acts in an illiberal manner.

* Martin errs in the attribution of this quote:

"It is error alone that needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself." (p. 618, Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Roscoe, 27 December 1820)

These words are actually from Jefferson's "Notes on the State of Virginia" from 1781/2; the letter mentioned by Martin (available from the Library of Congress) actually contains this rather different sentiment:

"...we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."

There are plenty of books on GOP gaffes, many of which I've read, so I was disappointed to find very little new in Martin's section on "The Right Wing in Its Own Words." However, the following words from Rush Limbaugh cried out loudly enough for rebuttal that they became my Quote of the Day:

"This guy has to be a liberal... He was turned into a liberal somewhere along the line. So it's a liberal that committed this act." (p. 634, Rush Limbaugh on the Virginia Tech mass-murderer Seung-Hui Cho, 19 April 2007)

As MediaMatters noted, Limbaugh continued: "I'm just pointing out a fact. I am making no extrapolation."

Actually, Rush, your comment was pure extrapolation...and pure BS. If, as you claim, Cho was a liberal, your stereotypes would have made him a tree-hugging vegetarian pacifist who opposed capital punishment and the easy availability of firearms outside of "a well-regulated militia." You're such a tool that you actually made more sense when you were all hopped up on hillbilly heroin.

Despite its flaws, Martin's collection is still an indispensable collection of liberal quotes. A book covering the same territory from a more scholarly and analytical viewpoint could be even more useful, so I hope this book is successful enough to warrant a sequel.

chart porn!

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Here's a great WaPo chart mentioned by Mike Lux at OpenLeft, who notes that it's "worth getting around to all your friends who don't make over $603,403 a year:"


McCain claimed on Tuesday:

"Under Senator Obama's tax plan, Americans of every background would see their taxes rise -- seniors, parents, small business owners, and just about everyone who has even a modest investment in the market."

No aspect of the tax code has anything to do with anyone's "background," but rather with their income, their spending, and their property. If your family is among the top 1% (and making upwards of $600K per year) you shouldn't be complaining that you'll have to start paying your fair share after all the breaks you've gotten. As MediaMatters observed months ago:

If the media applied to John McCain the standards they have applied to Democratic presidential candidates over the years, they would report constantly on his personal financial interest in the tax plan he now advocates and once denounced as skewed toward the wealthy. They would clamor for the release of his tax returns. They would mock him for living in an estate with a pool and a guest house -- and then mock him some more for having married into money.

But, as has long been clear, the media do not cover John McCain the way they have covered countless Democratic presidential candidates. And so they don't say a word about his personal wealth. They remain silent about his tax returns. And they refer to his [million-dollar] "rustic cabin."

That's without mentioning the rest of McCain's eight houses, the campaign flights on his wife's corporate jet, and his admission that "economics is not something I've understood as well as I should." (I suppose that dumping his first wife for an heiress shows some financial acumen on McCain's part, but that doesn't excuse him from lying about Obama's tax plan.)

Here is a classic Tom Toles cartoon (h/t: Bay of Fundie, who makes sport of the wingnuts who claim that "Obama is the Anti-Christ"):


Obama has a new website, Fight the Smears, (h/t: Sarah Lai Stirland at Wired) that looks to be a rapid-response way to squash the Swift-Boat-style lies as soon as they begin circulating.

I wish his campaign good luck in trying to stay ahead of the slime...

George Will's ANWR column (the one I dissected here and here) apparently contains yet another falsehood. Will made this claim:

Drilling is underway 60 miles off Florida. The drilling is being done by China, in cooperation with Cuba, which is drilling closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are.

This McClatchy news article (h/t: Jonathan Adler at Volokh Conspiracy) shows that Will's claim is false:

"China is not drilling in Cuba's Gulf of Mexico waters, period," said Jorge Pinon, an energy fellow with the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami and an expert in oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. [...] China's Sinopec oil company does have an agreement with the Cuban government, but it's to develop onshore resources west of Havana, Pinon said. The Chinese have done some seismic testing, he said, but no drilling, and nothing offshore.

The interesting aspect of this is not the number of times George Will can be wrong in a single column, but in how quickly his falsehood spread through the Right's media echo chamber. Everyone from Dick Cheney to John Boehner (R-OH) to Investor's Business Daily to George Radanovich (R-CA) has cited Will's claim without ever bothering to ascertain that drilling was actually being done.

This is the sort of episode--one of many, unfortunately--that justifies an attitude of extreme skepticism toward the corporate media's op-ed writers.

update (6/17 @ 3:40pm):
Will issued a correction for this error, but did not address any of the other errors.

...and then I tell myself, "I should blog that." So now I have:


If you found that as funny as I did, visit Ironic Sans for more.

I received an email with a question regarding my analysis of George Will's ANWR fixation:

"Specifically, which of the facts in George Will's column are disputed by opposing facts?"

I am glad to oblige, as several of Will's claims are indeed contradicted by the facts. Like pulling a loose thread on a cheap sweater, examining Will's claimed "facts" cause his column to quickly unravel into a useless pile of punditry. Here are a few examples:

1). Will claims that:

"One million barrels is what might today be flowing from ANWR if in 1995 President Bill Clinton had not vetoed legislation to permit drilling there."

Even at an output of 780,000 barrels per day (the mean estimated maximum production level, courtesy of the Department of Energy), Clinton's protection of ANWR is costing us 75 cents per barrel; using Will's statistic of 27 gallons of gasoline per barrel, that would be less than 3 cents per gallon. Wow, we'd better start drilling right now! </sarcasm>

(Extrapolating from 780,000 barrels of ANWR oil to 1 million barrels of Saudi oil, it is apparent that Schumer was wildly off the mark with his 50-cents-a-gallon estimated price drop at the pump. It's far more likely that any such cost savings would never reach consumers.)

2). Will claims "10.4 billion barrels of oil" in ANWR, but the USGS mean estimate is that "the total quantity of technically recoverable oil in the 1002 area is 7.7 BBO." My money is on the geologists being correct; Will's track record isn't very good.

3). Will claims the following:

"The common people of New York want Schumer to be their senator, so they should pipe down about gasoline prices, which are a predictable consequence of their political choice. Also disqualified from complaining are all voters who sent to Washington senators and representatives who have voted to keep ANWR's oil in the ground and who voted to put 85 percent of America's offshore territory off-limits to drilling."

The error Will makes in the first sentence is compounded in the second. Did Schumer discuss only his opposition to ANWR drilling during his campaign, to the exclusion of all other issues? Did every voter select him as the candidate of choice solely on that position? The answer to each of these questions is obviously "No," unless Will can produce an example of a single-issue ANWR voter. Just as much for Schumer as for all the other Congresscritters in question, the voters have most definitely not relinquished their right to complain about any elected official's stance on any subject. Will's demand that voters "pipe down" instead of speaking up is both undemocratic and odious.

4). Will claims that "drilling [at ANWR] would be confined to a space one-sixth the size of Washington's Dulles airport." Dulles airport sits on 11,830 acres of land, and Will is apparently using his buddy Bush's claim that 2,000 acres of ANWR would suffice for oil extraction. 2,000 is indeed approximately one-sixth of 11,830...but the numbers are misleading. The legend of this ANWR map explains that the 2,000-acre area does not include: roads, gravel mines, and all parts of the pipelines other than where the support posts contact the ground!

This is equivalent to claiming that I could fit 148 Hummers in a typical parking space. How? The H1 has a curb weight of 7,847 pounds, and its tires are inflated to 50 PSI. Therefore, it only needs 157 square inches of pavement. A typical parking space is roughly 9-by-18 feet, so 148 Hummers should fit in a single parking space with room to spare! (When one re-enters the realm of reality, however, one Hummer barely fits in a typical space; each H1 is over 7 feet wide and 15 feet long.) Likewise, the inclusion of infrastructure in proposed ANWR land usage is necessary in order to accurately estimate the environmental impact.

I previously noted Will's non sequitur comment on $100 million exploration costs versus tax rates, his omission of Schumer's remarks on big oil tax breaks, and his dodging Bush's failed bargaining with the Saudis while excoriating Schumer's quid pro quo proposal. These are some of the reasons why some of Will's conclusions are as problematic as his "facts:" because they spin the debate toward implied conclusions that are unsupported by the data cited.

(This list of errors was made while giving Will a pass on most of his statements, allowing the majority of them to stand--for the purposes of brevity--without even a cursory attempt at verification. I have neither the time nor the inclination to serve as a fact-checker for Will, although his need for one is obvious.)

Like veneered furniture, Will's columns often look great at first glance, but his glossy command of language, the illusion of scholarship, and the sheen of a patrician wit (lacking in the cut-rate hackwork of Ann Coulter and her ilk) can be deceptive. When the poorly attached veneer peels off, the cheap materials and shoddy craftsmanship are plain to see; melamine and mendacity, one might say.

George Will's column on gas prices (at Jewish World Review or ClownHall or WaPo --pick your poison) quotes a few sentences from Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) discussing Saudi Arabia's ability to lower gas prices by increasing oil output; Will responds by pretending that drilling in Alaska's ANWR would solve our energy problems. Although it is true that it is primarily Democrats who blocked ANWR drilling, Bush's lack of a comprehensive national energy policy isn't their fault--it's his.

In the end, Will does nothing but prove that political pandering to cash-strapped voters exists on both sides of the aisle. Schumer's full remarks from 13 May are available from the Government Printing Office (here, here, and here), and contain more than the pandering to consumers highlighted by Will:

...right now, it is Big Oil and OPEC that are benefitting and American families are losing. It is unfortunate we are at this point. Eight years of poor stewardship over our Nation's energy policy has left us with [no] alternatives. And my Republican colleagues have blocked every attempt at real energy reform that would help alleviate the rising energy prices in this country.

In the 110th Congress alone, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have blocked four different attempts by Democrats to extend the alternative tax provisions, and not only for a year or two but many.

On June 21 of last year, the extension of energy credits received 57 votes; on December 7, it received 53 votes; on December 13, it received 59 votes; and on February 6, 58 votes.

Each time, Republicans put up roadblocks requiring 60 votes in order to pass the bill. Each time the overwhelming majority of Democrats voted for the bill, the overwhelming majority of Republicans voted against.

President Bush opposed the bills because each would have ended tax breaks for big oil, as if they needed more tax breaks given their record profitability.

Will's attempt to make Democratic actions (protecting the environment and conserving domestic oil supplies) equivalent to Republican ones (drilling everywhere and protecting oil-industry profits) is ludicrous at best and dishonest at worst. Schumer wanted to use arms sales to Saudi Arabia as a bargaining chip for increased oil production, something that Bush preferred to simply beg for--and, of course, Bush failed. (Dubya's manly hand-holding with King Abdullah didn't force the Saudis to "open up the spigot" after all, did it?) For some (partisan?) reason, George Will didn't complain about Bush's failure. Instead, the bow-tied buffoon blathered on about increasing oil exploration, making this claim:

Just probing four miles below the Gulf's floor costs $100 million. Congress's response to such expenditures is to propose increasing the oil companies' tax burdens.

Anyone with the barest knowledge of rhetoric will recognize this as a non sequitur; anyone with even minimal understanding of partisan posturing will see through Will's sham. Unable to stop digging when he's in a hole, Will closes his piece with the sarcastic remark: "Let it not be said that America has no energy policy." It is precisely in the area of energy policy where Americans should take a few moments to refresh their memory of Jimmy Carter's 1979 "crisis of confidence" speech (mistakenly called "malaise" by conservatives):

In little more than two decades we've gone from a position of energy independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof. Our excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our people. This is the direct cause of the long lines which have made millions of you spend aggravating hours waiting for gasoline. It's a cause of the increased inflation and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation. The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.

Carter remarked that "There is simply no way to avoid sacrifice," but there was a way to delay the sacrifice, to create a greater burden on future generations by postponing the necessary actions and making the adjustment to a high-priced-oil future both more prolonged and more painful. That was the hidden cost of taking the Reagan-Bush-Bush detour into energy-policy denial. Some people got to enjoy a scenic ride, but as a nation we are now further from our destination, with a clueless joyrider behind the wheel and a fuel gauge approaching "E."

The conservative supply-side mentality assumes that everything would be just fine if we would just drill every drop of crude and pour it all--along with increasingly large amounts of our agricultural output--into the tanks of their gas-guzzling SUVs. Great idea, guys...but what happens tomorrow when oil is $200/barrel and gas is $10/gallon, while we've wasted still more years on this short-sighted waste-it-all-now mindset with no concern for the future?

Liberals like Carter tend to take the longer-term view, realizing that we need to address demand for oil as much (or more than) its supply. Increased efficiency, energy-conscious urban planning, and more research into alternative and renewable energy sources would also gas prices to drop as much or more than drilling everywhere--but because demand would be drastically lower. With a finite and diminishing resource like oil, sticking more derricks into the sand--along with many Republicans' heads--is not a long-term solution.

Quote of the Day:

"That's what happened to Jimmy Carter--he asked Americans to take responsibility for their profligate ways, and promptly lost to Ronald Reagan, who told them once again that they could do anything they wanted." (p. 125, Jane Smiley, "The Unteachable Ignorance of the Red States," Slate, 4 November 2004)


O'Hair, Madalyn. Why I Am an Atheist, Second Revised Edition (Austin: American Atheist Press, 1991)

The two essays that comprise this slim volume, "Why I Am an Atheist" at fifteen pages and "The History of Materialism" at thirty, reinforce each other in dispelling some of the modern myths that have grown up around atheism and materialism. This quote is one example:

Materialism liberates us by teaching us not to hope for heaven beyond the grave, not to hope for happiness in death, but rather to prize life on earth and strive always to improve it. Materialism restores to man his dignity and his intellectual integrity. (p. 10, "Why I Am an Atheist")

The latter essay is the stronger of the two, drawing more directly on some of the great materialist minds nearly erased from history by religious orthodoxy: Democritus, Protagoras, Epicurus, Lucretius, and--much later--Giordano Bruno. All in all, O'Hair's essays are a nice primer on materialistic thought that should inspire readers to delve into the original source material. (At least that's what they did for me...)

more mockery

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Here's the second part of the energy-drink review I mentioned two days ago. Here are some highlights:

FRS can best be described as "liquid fart in a can," although they shouldn't necessarily attempt to market it that way. My one-month old daughter Jaylen regularly produces filthy diapers which smell much better than FRS's so-called "health drink." This unholy attempt at the popular yet obscenely fictional "wild berry" reeks like a used walnut enema kit sitting in a trash bag under the hot tropical sun.

This obscene orange produces a stench that reminded me of my drunk uncle's first attempt to make bar-b-que sauce, using only ingredients located in his pickup truck's glove compartment. The drink itself combines the zing of nail polish remover with the deep, rich flavor base of corroded car batteries. The term "energy drink" has never been more true: one sip of this, and you'll be running the fuck away from it as fast as possible.

As for the taste? Two words: sugar free. As you're undoubtedly aware, this means "bad." Somebody wake me up when science discovers a substitute for sugar that doesn't make your brain feel like it's about to detonate.


Thomas, Roy. Stan Lee's Amazing Marvel Universe: Listen to Stan Lee Comment on 50 Legendary Marvel Moments (New York: Sterling, 2006)

The combination of text by Roy Thomas and audio annotations by Stan Lee in Stan Lee's Amazing Marvel Universe covers many highlights of Marvel's stable of superheroes, from the beginning (Ditko's Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, Don Heck's Iron Man, Bill Everett and Wally Wood's Daredevil) through the middle period (John Buscema's Silver Surfer, Steranko's reinventions of Captain America and Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, Neal Adams' draftsmanship on The Avengers' Kree-Skrull War) as well as some later pieces (Frank Miller's revitalized Daredevil and Moebius' Silver Surfer).

Much of the artwork in this book was created by one artist who doesn't get nearly enough credit among all the Stan-Lee-centric hype: the incomparable Jack "King" Kirby! Without Kirby, most of Marvel's early successes (The Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor, Sgt. Fury, The Avengers--including the return of Kirby's 1941 co-creation Captain America--and The X-Men) would have had a far less dynamic existence, if any at all. Stan Lee, always the company's voice--literally, in this book--received the King's share of the credit, despite Kirby's irreplaceable visual contributions and often unrecognized co-writing.


Milo, George. The Comics Journal Library, Volume 1: Jack Kirby (Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2002)

One attempt to correct the historical record is the first issue of The Comics Journal Library series, which focuses on Jack Kirby's contributions. Without Kirby, it is not unreasonable to suspect that there would likely be no comics industry today. After his first two decades in the industry--including his co-creation of Captain America--Kirby was responsible for most of the 1960s Marvel pantheon (listed above) as well as a great deal of early-1970s work for DC (OMAC, Kamandi, The Demon, and his epic The Fourth World), a triumphant return to Marvel (The Eternals, 2001, Machine Man, Devil Dinosaur, Black Panther) and some later work for Pacific Comics (Captain Victory, Silver Star) in the 1980s.

What is difficult to quantify even from a career this long--and a list of successes this extensive--is the extent of Kirby's indelible influence on the comics medium. Frank (Sin City) Miller takes a stab at it in "God Save the King:"

In the history of American comic books, there has been no single talent of greater importance and influence than that of Jack Kirby. It would be impossible to exaggerate his contribution to the evolution of the superhero, or to calculate exactly how much he personally advanced the art form. [...] Single-handedly, he developed the visual dialect, tone and spirit of the modern superhero comic. He brought a sense of operatic drama and mythological scope to a genre that was fat, bloated, old and dying. It could easily be argued that his vigorous creative lifeblood kept the comics industry alive through decades of editorial infertility, apathetic management and dwindling distribution.

(pp. 96-7, Frank Miller, The Comics Journal #105, February 1986)

A compilation of interviews with Kirby and essays on his work, this volume is illustrated quite liberally with Kirby's artwork. The Fantastic Four and The Fourth World are featured most heavily, along with a smattering of early work, sketches, and the pencil images from "Street Code," Kirby's autobiographical story about his childhood in New York's Lower East Side.

In a very real sense, every comic-book shop in America is a shrine to the legacy of Jack Kirby; these two books--one more so than the other--help to show why.

Friendly Atheist posted an short essay by August Berkshire entitled "The Four Cs of Atheism:"

Like many of you reading this, I describe myself as a flaming liberal. Yet in one area I am a conservative. I am an atheist.

Yes, atheism is a conservative position. We make no leaps of faith. We accept statements only so far as there is reason and/or evidence to back them up. Anything else is speculation.

Atheism is also consistent. We apply our skepticism equally to all supernatural claims. We do not say, "All prophets, saviors, or gods are false - except ours." We make no exceptions or special pleadings, which makes us consistent.

Another benefit of atheism is that it is contradiction-free. We don't have to try to reconcile an all-loving, all-seeing, all-powerful god with the existence of evil. We don't have to define love exactly the opposite of the way we normally define it in order to make it applicable to our god. We don't have to claim a poor supernatural designer is intelligent.

An atheist also possesses clarity in his or her thinking processes. An atheist has the courage to follow the trail of reason and evidence wherever it may lead. If there should some day be a compelling reason or piece of evidence for a god, then we would acknowledge it and change our views. This is also known as intellectual honesty.

The final three items seem unassailable, but I disagree with the first: Berkshire describes atheism as "conservative" merely because it avoids faith in favor of empiricism. In doing so, he leaps from political conservatism (protection of the status quo and support for religious traditions regardless of the lack of evidence) in his first sentence to a very different general cautious attitude in the second. Calling this aspect of atheism "cautious" would preserve Berkshire's alliterative list, although "freethinking liberalism" would preserve the political link. Bertrand Russell said it best:

"The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment. This is the way in which opinions are held in science, as opposed to the way in which they are held in theology. [...] Science is empirical, tentative, and undogmatic; all immutable dogma is unscientific. The scientific outlook, accordingly, is the intellectual counterpart of what is, in the practical sphere, the outlook of Liberalism."

("Philosophy and Politics," 1950)

This "Awful Energy Drink Review Roundup" at Something Awful is a funny follow-up to their previous reviews here and here. Some highlights are below:

One sip of this disaster made me feel as if the world's worst clown blew a load down my throat. Unfortunately, the flavor of Monster's rancid bile soon shifted from a bouquet of rotten circus peanuts to a decaying cotton candy hell.

I think the flavor is supposed to be "orange," but it really just tastes like "sneakers."

...it tastes like Gatorade... if somebody opened up an orange cooler and repeatedly vomited into it after eating a six-pack of expired White Castle cheeseburgers.

Drinking this seriously made me cry out in pain. It's like drinking rotted wood that's been decaying in a mummy's haunted tomb. The after-taste burns through your nasal passage with disgusting speed and intensity, like packing your nose with pure cocaine and then competing in a distance sneezing competition. I absolutely couldn't finish the two ounces I was given.

I was immediately surrounded by a strange chemical cloud which smelled like a trick or treat bag after it had been repeatedly raped by truckers. This noxious odor proceeded to stalk me throughout the day, offending nearby children and religious folks.

The good news: Blue Raspberry actually tastes like something. The bad news: that "something" is an electrified Bomb-Pop, ejaculated from the very loins of Lucifer himself. The confusing news: after drinking a can of this crud, your burps somehow become tomato-flavored. Don't ask me how; that's the miracle of science!

I'm not sure why they chose to label the can as "WILD BERRY FLAVOR," unless their test group has never been exposed to a berry their entire miserable lives.

The drink itself tastes like a watered down, pussy version of Mountain Dew, in nearly the same shade of radioactive celery.

Each can ships fully equipped with a tart, rancid undertone, suggesting the "juice" component had an expiration date three days before Max Headroom was canceled.

You know it's a bad sign when you open a drink and your sinuses fill with moldy orange spores... [...] ACE sports the "generic shitty energy drink" taste of fruity battery acid + Mountain Dew, yet again somehow makes it even more unpalatable.

You can tell you're reading a truly funny review when you're laughing so hard that other people stare at you...

The webcomic Overcompensating has a great cartoon today; here's the first panel:


Click here to read the rest!


Wheaton, Wil. Dancing Barefoot (Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly, 2003)


Wheaton, Wil. Just a Geek: Unflinchingly Honest Tales of the Search for Life, Love, and Fulfillment beyond the Starship Enterprise (Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly, 2004)

Almost everyone knows who Wil Wheaton is, but far fewer know that he is a writer as well as an actor. His blog resides in the must-check-several-times-every-day section of my RSS reader, purely for the pleasure of reading his great posts.

After having read his blog for some time now, I finally got around to picking up his first two books: Dancing Barefoot was Wheaton's first book, containing outtakes from the subsequent Just a Geek. With one exception, I can understand why the tales in Dancing Barefoot were cut from Just a Geek. Although entertaining, the first four of the five stories aren't as strong--or always as well told--as the fifth: "The Saga of SpongeBob VegasPants" is easily the best (which is a good thing, as it comprises two-thirds of the book) and is worth the cover price all by itself. (You'll want to read the full Dancing Barefoot version, as the truncated version in Just a Geek leaves out too much.)

Wheaton's fanboy encounter with WILLIAM FUCKING SHATNER--you'll have to read the story to fully appreciate the all-caps usage, which sounds in my head just like Shatner's "Denny Crane" self-announcing from Boston Legal--is heartbreaking, but Wheaton recovered well enough to write engagingly about it. Indeed, that's one of his strengths as a writer: to write well enough about Star Trek fandom, or music, or geeking out over meeting Tim O'Reilly (the founder of his publishing house) that the reader doesn't need to be a Trekkie or an alt-rock devotee or a PHP coder to appreciate his tales. Wheaton tells his stories well, and with a great sense of humor; from what I read on his blog, he's become an even better writer since these two books saw print.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Wheaton's writing is how he handles his interior dialogue. The multiple "voices" in Wheaton's stories illustrate so much of what goes on inside his head, and he does it so well that it seems as effortless as his humor. That is the mark of a great writer. If you are an unrepentant Trekkie, or have an unfulfilled inner geek--or even if you just appreciate well-told stories--you should read some Wil Wheaton. (You can thank me later...)

Now on to the digressions:

I had noticed Wheaton's use of "thank Bob," which I took to be a freethinker's phrase, early in the book (p. 32 of Just a Geek, or this blog entry). This later passage confirmed my hunch:

I am not a religious person. I'm not quite an atheist, but I'm certainly not a theist, either. Friends describe me as an agnostic Taoist, whatever that means. I prefer to apply philosophies, rather than follow a leader, and I'm always coming back to the Tao Te Ching and the teachings of The Buddha. If I had the patience, I suppose I'd be a Buddhist. (p. 85)

When he used the phrase "for the love of Bob" later (p. 235), a wry little smile crossed my face; now there's something else I like about him. Also endearing is Wheaton's geekiness, which never lapses into a geekier-than-thou superiority. This email autoresponse from page 234 is a great example:

From: wil@www.wilwheaton.net Subject: Automated reply from wil@www.wilwheaton.net


Don't you hate autoresponders, $GOOD_FRIEND?

I know that I do, and I would *never* dream of sending an autoresponse to anyone, not $MUTUAL_FRIEND, or $OTHER_MUTUAL_FRIEND, or even, $ENEMY.

You know, $THING_YOU_EMAILED_ABOUT really was ${fVAR=TRUE_FALSE)! It reminded me of $INTERESTING STORY.

Well, I have to get back to ${fVAR WORK_PLAY_SCHEMING}, $GOOD_FRIEND, so I'd better sign off.



I laughed my ass off when reading that; it was the perfectly cheeky thing to do. </groan>

Wheaton is enough of a geek that he stumped me once, when he asked rhetorically: "I wonder if any of the other actors got it when there'd be a graphic in engineering labeled 'Kaluza-Klein Field.'" (p. 244) I Wikipedia'd "Kaluza-Klein Field" and--when it looked vaguely familiar--began looking through the science section of my home library: Sagan, no...Hawking, no...then I found it discussed in John Gribbin's In Search of the Big Bang: Quantum Physics and Cosmology. (After reading The Tao of Physics and The Dancing Wu Li Masters for a class on the philosophy of science, I went on a serious science bender. Gribbin's books played a major part in that, although I haven't picked up Big Bang in--cough, cough--quite a few years...)

By the way, Wil...WILLIAM FUCKING SHATNER may have acted like a jerk to you during that first meeting during the filming of Star Trek V because he was distraught over how much SERIOUS ASS his co-written-and-directed-by film was SUCKING. (I would complain that I actually fell asleep while watching Trek V, but that may have been because I watched I-IV back-to-back immediately beforehand. YMMV...)

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