June 2010 Archives

Thomas Sowell's op-ed piece "Is US Now On Slippery Slope to Tyranny?" has been widely ridiculed (see MediaMatters and ThinkProgress) for its Obama-Nazi comparisons and suggestions that Democratic voters are "useful idiots." In it, Sowell claims that "American democracy is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes by the current administration in Washington, and few people seem to be concerned about it," warns of "damage being done to the fundamental structure of this nation goes far beyond particular counterproductive policies," and squeezes in some scare-mongering about "presidentially appointed 'czars' controlling different parts of the economy."

Jed Lewison at Daily Kos parodies Sowell's thesis ("Hitler murdered millions of innocent victims, and Obama made BP compensate billions to its innocent victims, so clearly, Obama = Hitler and America owes BP an apology.") and mocks Palin in the process ("By the end of the article you can see why Sarah Palin loved it so much. It's stupid and offensive enough that she could have written it herself.").

PFAW president Michael Keegan says that "Sowell's article would be ridiculous if it weren't so vile, and it deserves to be marginalized." In the mainstream corporate media, however, Sowell's position is comfortably far from the margins. AmericaBlog's John Aravosis suggests that media outlets should stop acting like stenographers:

At some point, the media needs to stop reporting what Republicans say, and start analyzing it for the extremist, and dangerous, rhetoric it actually is.
Matthew Yglesias wrote quite the zinger: "I note that yesterday noted fascism scholar and moron Jonah Goldberg observed that there's a slippery slope from infrastructure projects to Auschwitz." Washington Monthly's Steve Benen talks about the Right's incessant Nazi comparisons:
Far-right rhetoric is routinely exasperating, but this Nazi preoccupation holds a special place in the lexicon. Remember when Obama's efforts to rescue American auto manufacturing were compared to Hitler? And how many times did Republicans compare health care reform to the Nazis? Or how about the time a Republican congressman compared Obama to Hitler over national-service opportunities? Let's also not forget Newt Gingrich's recent assertion that Obama and his backers are actually worse than Nazis.

On its face, the fact that so many conservatives rely on Hitler comparisons so often is a reminder of an unfortunate truth -- much of the discourse on the right has gone hopelessly insane.

The North Carolina Secular Association has put up several billboards with a phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance:

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Predictably, theists didn't appreciate the Pledge's original wording--so they defaced it:

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H/t to Friendly Atheist, who observed that "Neither [unity nor patriotism] is good enough for the vandal(s) if God isn't mentioned in the phrase."

The danger comes, as history has repeatedly demonstrated, when theists value piety over patriotism and put their god before our country. (Technically, it's their conception of an interpretation of several compilations of assorted translations of various writings about a god...but that's another problem.)

disturbing

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Jen (BoobQuake) McCreight gets some interesting email. Here is part of one, with errors left intact:

You have a rebelious nature. You are about the same age as my children, and I see a lot of immaturity in you.

You enjoy attacking people to much.

You demand your right to be heard and then are rude to those who disagree with you.

All of the various subjects that you believe so strongly in are all tied together under one real subject. Your desire to buck the system.

McCreight mocks him a bit, and then takes issue with his suggestion of rebellion:

If I really wanted to rebel against my parents, I would have become a fundamentalist Christian Republican Sarah-Palin loving housewife. I think just typing that made my dad feel a disturbance in the Force.

That's a horrifying image, as if millions of neurons suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Alain de Botton has a piece entitled "On Distraction" in City Journal (h/t: Jason Kottke) wherein he writes that "To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible...[our] obsession with current events is relentless:"

A student pursuing a degree in the humanities can expect to run through 1,000 books [*see note below] before graduation day. A wealthy family in England in 1250 might have owned three books: a Bible, a collection of prayers, and a life of the saints--this modestly sized library nevertheless costing as much as a cottage. The painstaking craftsmanship of a pre-Gutenberg Bible was evidence of a society that could not afford to make room for an unlimited range of works but also welcomed restriction as the basis for proper engagement with a set of ideas.

The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.

Put down the gaming console, turn off the television, stop the incessant tweeting, and change your Facebook status to "I'm too busy having a life to write about it." Spend a day in silent contemplation, wander through a museum, prowl the stacks at a library, listen deeply to a symphony or an opera or a play...


[*note: Reading one hundred books per year throughout the second decade of a twenty-year-old's lifetime would yield a thousand books, but I would call that the upper bound for a dedicated reader rather than an expectation. I doubt that most students manage to read more than a few hundred books--with many of those distractedly and only under duress.]

17 years

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Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan quoted from a dancer who used her art to cope with the reality of living with cancer:

Prayer and writing gets me through my HIV as well. You have to own the illness and then own an identity that is so much more than the illness. And tomorrow will be the 17th anniversary of the day I found out. I was griping about getting old the other day, and then I remembered it used to be an ambition of mine.

Although I've disagreed with his opinions as often as agreed with them, I'm glad that Sullivan is still living, still writing, and still setting a good example. He is a stellar blogger and a sensible conservative voice when such a combination is a rare find in the political bestiary.

The "Inspired by Muhammed" pro-Islam ad campaign has run into a rather large snag: its vulnerability to parody. Here are the original images,

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and here are some remixed ads:

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H/t to Friendly Atheist, who observes:

It's a nice attempt at a campaign. There's obviously something wrong with the image of Islam. But unlike the image problems for atheism (that prompted all of our ads), the negative perception of Islam isn't unwarranted.

[...]

You'll never see an ad in this "Inspired by Muhammad" campaign that says "I believe in free speech. So did Muhammad."

Or "I believe in peace. So did Muhammad."

Or "I believe in religious freedom. So did Muhammad."

Because even the ads creators know those posters would just lead to raised eyebrows and laughter.


see also:
Wiki Islam

Jesus and Mo

For the reference-checkers out there, here are the Qu'ran quotations:

"And for such of your women as despair of menstruation, if ye doubt, their period (of waiting) shall be three months, along with those who have it not." (Surah 65:4 "Divorce")

"And marry such of you as are solitary and the pious of your slaves and maid- servants. If they be poor, Allah will enrich them of His bounty."
(Surah 24:32, "The Light")

"O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them."
(Surah 5:51, "The Table Spread")

Matthew (The Persecution of Sarah Palin) Continetti's Weekly Standard piece "Two Faces of the Tea Party" observes that although "[t]here is no single 'Tea Party,'" there are "points of shared concern that support the overall structure." He lists them as follows:

First, the Tea Party is unified by the pervasive sense that the country is wildly off course. It believes the establishment has bent and twisted the rules for its own benefit. America, the Tea Partiers believe, is headed for a fiscal reckoning unlike any it has ever seen.

Second, the Tea Party is unified in opposition to the policies that it believes put America in its current predicament. It's opposed to bailouts, which favor the wealthy and connected. It's opposed to out-of-control spending at every level of government. It's opposed to an expansive state that subsidizes bad behavior while accruing more and more power for itself, opposed to a limitless government that nonetheless fails in the basic duties of securing the borders, regulating the financial sector, and keeping America safe.

Third, the Tea Party draws its strength from the American founding. It celebrates the Founders and their ideas. Tea Party members devour books about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Samuel Adams. They carry pocket copies of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. They believe strongly in the Bill of Rights, especially in the Tenth Amendment's admonition that all powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved for the states and the people. Their rhetoric invokes the constitutional vision of a limited government with enumerated powers.

The first is a misunderstanding (that fixing our problems will weaken America), the second a misperception (that liberal policies caused those problems), and the third a misinterpretation (that the Founders were conservative). The conservatives of the Revolutionary Era were the Tory Loyalists, who backed the British monarchy; the Founders were, comparatively, Enlightenment-driven radicals.

Continetti continues, "Beck is not simply an entertainer. He and his audience love American history:"

They are hungry for new ways to interpret current events. And Beck is creating, in Amity Shlaes's words, "a competing canon" of texts and authorities. This competing canon is not content to assault contemporary liberalism, but rather deconstructs the very foundations of the New Deal and the Progressive Era.

If only their new interpretations had some relationship to reality--but their "competing canon" is rife with Beck/Coulter/Goldberg/Schlaes-style Republican revisionism, driven by ideology and out of touch with the facts. Over at OpenLeft, Mike Lux asks "Are Compassion and Community Evil?" and takes aim at Glenn Beck's ridiculous (and widely ridiculed) assertion that Progressivism is a "cancer" that threatens to destroy America. "With increasing vehemence," notes Lux, "conservatives have begun to argue that kind-heartedness, compassion, and a sense of community are actually evil: that they lead inevitably to Nazism and death camps:"

The kind of people that [Ayn] Rand, [Jonah] Goldberg, and [Glenn] Beck are attacking - progressives - believe that our economy works better from the bottom-up, that making investments in jobs and education for poor and middle class folks is better for the economy than giving more tax breaks to the wealthy. Progressives believe that giving people some economic security and a hand up in tough times is what a decent society ought to do for its citizens. They believe that paying everyone a living wage, making sure everyone has a good education and decent health care coverage, builds a better, more productive society. Suggesting that these kinds of views lead inexorably toward Nazi death camps isn't just offensive: it goes against the fundamental cornerstone values of our culture and history. Declaring people who work for kindness and compassion as "leeches" on society twists morality into a pretzel.

He ends by writing:

So let me reassure my conservative friends: the fact that I care about keeping you from starving, freezing to death, and dying due to lack of good medical care does not mean that I eventually want to send you to a death camp. Although I do worry about your sanity a little.

Will any of them hear that message? Will they listen to it? Crooks and Liars' karoli makes a fine observation:

There was a time in this country where people as paranoid and self-focused as Glenn Beck were placed in a room with padding and round corners until the meds took hold.

Now they go on national television. Rupert Murdoch's epitaph should read "He mainstreamed crazy."

This Craigslist note has gotten some online attention (see Gaytheist Agenda and Truth Wins Out), and deservedly so. Read it and laugh:

To the Straight Guy at the Party Last Night

A mutual friend of ours threw a big party for her 30th birthday, tons of people were there and it was a lot of fun. Somewhere along the line you and I ended up on the balcony for some fresh air at the same time. We started chatting; we talked about sports, books, tv - discovered we both are about to start our masters degrees and spent some time debating the pro's and con's of the educational system. We talked about hanging out sometime, and you wanted to meet my girlfriend.

I understand how upsetting it was for you when I blinked mildly in surprise and said I was here with my husband. I know it was a shock to your system, if your face had turned any paler I might have called 911. You made a good recovery though - that hurried mutter of "I'm not like that" was very polite and you only knocked over two drinks and one vase in your hurry to rush to anywhere other than near me. I can't blame you - I forgot how delicate you straight boys are. So I wanted to give you a few helpful hints about where you went wrong last night.

1) As a general rule we don't walk around with big signs around our neck proclaiming our sexuality. No scarlet letters, no scent of hellfire and brimstone... sorry about that.

2) We do not generally assume that everyone within 5 feet of us must also be homosexual - it was nice of you to immediately reassure me that you are hetero, but it was really unnecessary.

3) Homosexuality is not infectious. While I am sure you meant no disrespect with your hasty departure; in the future you can rest assured that taking a few extra seconds in your mad dash for safety will not result in you being turned gay. It will however keep you from destroying expensive vases and knocking over senior citizens.

4) This next one may come as a surprise; but you are not, in fact, irresistible. The fact that you have a dick does not instantly turn me into a bundle of uncontrolled lust. Contrary to popular opinion, being in the same room with a straight man does not cause a gay man to instantly lose all common sense and basic common courtesy. Though I am not so sure about the reverse.

5) Homosexuals in general get a little irked when people treat us like some sort of leper. Rushing to another mutual friend of ours and advising him of my sexuality, so he could be "forewarned" was really uncalled for.

6) Upon being told (by said mutual friend) to stop being an idiot and that you were not my type anyway... it generally confuses the issue when you then proceed to become upset that I DON'T find you attractive. Three seconds ago you were running through a crowd of people with your hands cupped protectively over your junk as if I might attack you at any moment with a blowjob. See hint number 4.

7) We homosexuals have an odd sense of humor - I can't help that. Something about watching you freak out as if all the demons of hell were after you just struck me as vastly amusing.

8) While being pissed at me for dissolving into uncontrollable laughter might be understandable... gathering a couple guys together to "teach the fag a lesson" is not.

9) You might also want to drink a little less and be a little more careful about the guys you approach for your little proto-hate-mob.

10) Assuming the two tall muscle-bound bruisers must be uber-hetero and just as appalled by my presence as you was your first mistake. It was an understandable one though. How were you to know that pflag tshirt the first guy was wearing wasn't a sports team? Also the rainbow ring the second guy was wearing could have meant anything I am sure.

11) In retrospect I suppose that upon hearing your not very subtle hate-talk and seeing who you were heading for; I could have said something instead of just laughing harder. I apologize for that. I should have just introduced you to my husband instead of letting you walk up to him and ask him if he wanted to help you teach "that fag over there" a lesson. I hope that broken nose heals up cleanly.

Fact? Fiction? I don't know, but it's funny as hell regardless.

Here's a hypothetical tsunami that could result from the enormous methane bubble under the Gulf seabed:

20100621-tsunami.jpg

Here's an actual wave from the BP disaster washing ashore in Alabama:

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(Dave Martin/AP)

Drill, baby, drill!

Lisa Miller's "Saint Sarah" cover story at Newsweek makes me wonder if Palin will whine about the photo, as she did about the last one:

20100615-saintsarah.jpg

There is a nice discussion of the cover story (subtitled "What Palin's appeal to conservative Christian women says about feminism and the future of the Religious Right") along with images of her three previous Newsweek covers, at GetReligion. The article was so disastrous a train wreck that I wondered momentarily if the NewsMax bid to buy Newsweek had succeeded already, and I missed it. This line

To millions of women, Palin's authenticity makes her a sister in arms

suggests that millions of women are delusional, this one

To a smaller number, she is a prophet, ordained by God for a special role in the cosmic battle against the forces of evil.

implies that some are clinically insane, and this claim

Palin [is] in a position to reshape and reinvigorate the religious right, one of the most powerful forces in American politics. The Christian right is now poised to become a women's movement--and Sarah Palin is its earthy Jerry Falwell.

makes me question the author's understanding of the phrase "women's movement." Is she suggesting that the Religious Right is becoming pro-feminist? Here's another doozy:

Like many evangelicals, [Vicki] Garza [who owns a marketing firm in Dallas] believes a great cosmic battle is underway for the soul of America and that Palin has been singled out by God for leadership...

Statements like "leftist critics continue to shred Palin as a cynical, shallow, ill-informed opportunist" [Really? I wonder why?] build to an interesting conclusion:

Palin has her faults, but the left is partially to blame for her ascent. Its native mistrust of religion, of conservative believers in particular, left the gap that Palin now fills.

We're to blame?! Because we pointed out McCain's poor judgment in selecting such an unqualified, inexperienced, ignorant, anti-intellectual fabulist? (Somehow, the "liberal" corporate media think that everything is the Left's fault--especially when we're pointing out the Right's errors.)

Rand Paul

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Do you remember back in 2008, when we found out that the GOP's rising star "Joe the Plumber" wasn't named Joe and wasn't a licensed plumber? Well, this is kind of like that...but better.

The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY) dug into Rand Paul's medical background, and found out that he's not board-certified in Ophthalmology--at least not from the real certification board--and therein lies an interesting story. Kent Sepkowitz at The Daily Beast notes that Paul "organized his own certifying program for ophthalmology:"

He then appointed himself president of the group, which he named the National Board of Ophthalmologists, and better yet, declared his wife (not a doctor) VP and his father-in-law secretary. Talk about convenient!

He calls Paul's decision "slimy, lazy, self-serving, and, important to remember as we sink deeper into his muck, revealing of the real reason for his me-against-the-Man schtick."


update:
Steve Benen at Washington Monthly and Joe Conason at Salon both noted Paul's reticence about discussing his claimed certifications:

The Louisville Courier-Journal sought comment from Paul on this, the candidate said he was unwilling to "go through all that right now." Asked when he might be willing to discuss his own professional background, Paul said, "Uh, you know, never."

Paul Waldman's "No Country for Strawmen" notes that "One of the foundational precepts of political deliberation is that when we debate, there is at least the possibility, however slight, that I might convince you that I'm right and you're wrong." He continues with the caveat that

That possibility exists only if we agree on the basic facts. Then we can argue about which are more important and what the implications are. But if you've taken up residence in an alternate universe, then we have nothing to talk about.

Our contemporary political discourse seems to have much less factual agreement than alternate reality, however. Waldman describes this cognitive construction process:

Pour a foundation out of imaginary concrete, erect joists and beams of speculation, place a thousand bricks of tendentious conclusions, and before you know it, the structure is impervious to any assault by facts. You will have made your own imagined Barack Obama, in whatever shape you like.

Conservatives' alternate reality mostly centers around the imaginary construct of Obama's "radical" Nazi/Communist/socialist/Muslim presidency, and fake birth certificates, death panels, FEMA concentration camps, and gun-grabbing Czarist dictators are the bogeymen in their fantasy world. Joshua Holland lists many of these phantasms in "10 Things That Terrify Right-Wing Nuts" at AlterNet, which I find interesting for their creative variety. It's easy to lose track of the logical fallacies involved in such a dense skein of paranoid ravings, and--although the Psych 101 concept of projection explains a great deal of this attitude toward reality--pointing out the fact-free nature of these fears does little to alleviate them. As I noted two years ago, there is a "backfire effect"--more pronounced among conservatives than among liberals--that militates against changing one's mind when the data conflict with preconceptions.

I'm going to coin a phrase for the most extreme examples of this phenomenon: Rashomon Republicans. (The phrase isn't perfect in its precision, as the classic Kurosawa film has an "emphasis on the subjectivity of truth and the uncertainty of factual accuracy" whereas the wingnut obsessions are demonstrably false, but I think it has a nice ring to it.) Google had no results for "Rashomon Republicans" before I posted this piece; it will be interesting to see if this neologism goes anywhere...

SE Cupp

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Had you heard of SE Cupp until her book Losing Our Religion hit the bookstore shelves? I hadn't, either.

The Daily Beast's Benyamin Cohen sketches her status as "the right wing's current media darling" who is currently promoting a "passionate and well-researched" book. If that's true, then she'll be far more worth reading than the other conservative pundits who have abundant passion but scant research.

Cohen's piece, however, quotes Cupp as calling Obama a "radical liberal" and claiming that "Newsweek is one of the most anti-Christian magazines out there. [...] They have a genuine antipathy for Christianity," so perhaps her analytical abilities don't rise above the level of Faux News after all. Cupp has a weekly column at NY Daily News (or here at her website), which I'll have to check out anyway--just because I'm an optimist.

Andy Worthington's "Murders at Guantánamo: The Cover-Up Continues" (h/t: Andrew Sullivan) provides a good overview of the four-year-old Gitmo "suicides" scandal, and is helping to keep these Bush-era war crimes in the public eye. However much the public might prefer to avert their gaze, this is something--as I discussed earlier this year--that Obama must address in order to avoid becoming complicit in the scandal.

Guitarist extraordinaire Jimmy Page is writing an autobiography, to be published in a luxurious signed and numbered edition. Here is some of the publisher's description:

This large format book is over 500 pages and reproduces more than 650 photographs and illustrations, making it the biggest limited edition that Genesis has produced to date. It is fine-screen printed and image varnished on to heavyweight art paper (size: 280mm x 330mm).

The limited edition books are hand-bound in morocco leather and laser-cut Perspex. The translucent front and back boards are screen-printed with two of of the author's favourite portraits. As with every detail of the book, the leather is created to the author's own specifications and is dyed a bespoke 'midnight hue'.

The page edges are gilded, and the spine is decoratively blocked in gold leaf. A specially created marbled end paper lines the interior with a blend of midnight blues, blacks and silver. The book is presented in a hand-crafted slipcase that is bound in a 'midnight hue' silk. Blocked in gold leaf, the slipcase also features a morocco leather trim.

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It's gorgeous, but--as much as I'm a devoted fan of Page's musical artistry--the price (£395 = $577) doesn't quite fit my book-buying budget. Is it too much to hope for a plain old unsigned and unlimited hoi polloi edition?

Hemant (Friendly Atheist) Mehta looks at Stephen Prothero's talk about "atheist fundamentalists." Prothero wondered about the disparity between the number of people who are atheists and the smaller number of those who self-identify with the label "atheist." He speculated:

It's because atheism is a bad brand. And the reason atheism is a bad brand is because a lot of people out front are just sort of angry fundamentalists.

FA "take[s] issue with his remark about fundamentalists...mostly because I think that word is unfair when applied to us. In short?"

Muslim fundamentalists fly planes into buildings.

Christian fundamentalists kill abortion doctors.

Atheist fundamentalists write books.

If only that were short enough to fit on a bumper-sticker...

Some GOP politician offered Obama some unsolicited advice about how he should treat the BP disaster:

"What he needed was sort of a bullhorn moment where he went to the Gulf and said we're going to get this right. I'm going to get on it."

Jed Lewison has some great snark over at DailyKos, writing that "President Obama just needs to handle the BP spill like George W. Bush handled 9/11. Can you imagine how great it would be?"

President Obama would put on some waders and step into oil-ravaged Louisiana wetland. And then he'd grab a bullhorn and tell the assembled fishermen that he could hear them, and the whole world could hear them, and that we're going to get the people who spilled all this oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

And then we'd go and attack Venezuela or something. Just like Bush. It'd be so fucking great.

When he was interviewed by ABC's Diane Sawyer, physicist Stephen Hawking had the temerity to point out the conflict between reason and religion:

"What could define God [is thinking of God] as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people would think of that God," Hawking told Sawyer. "They made a human-like being with whom one can have a personal relationship. When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible."

When Sawyer asked if there was a way to reconcile religion and science, Hawking said, "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League took exception to Hawking's views, feigning surprise that "any rational person could belittle the pivotal role that human life plays in the universe." After that astounding display of cosmological egocentrism, Donohue continued to dig a hole for himself:

"Reason, in pursuit of truth, has been reiterated by the Church fathers for nearly two millennia...there is no inherent conflict between science and religion."

Really?! Here's a concrete illustration of the Church's hostility to free inquiry, from a source that Donohue should respect:

"...it is quite unlawful to demand, to defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, of speech, or writing, or of worship, as if these were so many rights given by nature to man. For, if nature had really granted them, it would be lawful to refuse obedience to God." (Pope Leo XIII, "On the Nature of Human Liberty," 20 June 1888)

I would say, based on the evidence, that the Church only supports "reason in pursuit of truth" up to the point that truth and dogma come into conflict: in order to remain believers, many people then choose to reject evidence in favor of the Eucharist.

Donohue admits that "Religion without reason...leads to fanaticism," but then makes the claim that "science without faith also leads to disaster--the genocidal regimes in Germany, the Soviet Union, China and Cambodia being Exhibits A, B, C and D."

Nazi eugenics wasn't science; Soviet Lysenkoism (which also played a role in the Great Chinese Famine) wasn't science; Cambodia's Khmer Rouge was not known for rationality, but for totalitarianism. Would you care to try again with example E?

PZ Myers--ever looking to deflate such pompous pontification--provided the smackdown that Donohue so richly deserves, sarcastically noting "I agree that the Catholic church has assigned reason a special place: apologetics."

Rationalizing the irrational. Throwing up a smokescreen of scholarship to hide the fact that deep down, they're worshipping a jealous bronze age patriarchal myth wedded to a howling crazy Eastern mystery religion.

Myers observes that there is "an inherent conflict between science and religion," nothing that Transubstantiation, the afterlife, and other Catholic teachings "are irrational, unscientific beliefs -- they are anti-science, because he believes in arriving at conclusions because they are what he wishes to be true, or because the dogma has been repeated to him enough times, or because someone claims a supernatural revelation." Thanks to Myers for my Quote of the Day:

Sure, science arose out of Catholicism...in the same sense that plumbing, sanitation systems, and public health policies arose out of sewage.

A study about "economic enlightenment" (abstract, PDF) was trumpeted by the WSJ to defame the economic knowledge of liberals and claim that "the left has trouble squaring economic thinking with their political psychology, morals and aesthetics." Although the study made pretensions toward objectivity,

Several of the questions would seem to be fairly neutral with respect to partisan politics, particularly the questions on licensing, the standard of living, monopoly, and free trade. None of those questions challenge policies that are particularly leftwing or rationalized on the basis of equity. Yet even on such neutral questions the "progressives" and "liberals" do much worse than the "conservatives" and "libertarians." (p. 185)

it was clearly biased in favor of conservative economic orthodoxy. Ron Chusid wrote at Liberal Values that the survey is "really it is really a test of agreement with conservative economic theories" and Anonymous Liberal observed that "When you take a look at the survey, it's pretty easy to see why it got the results it did:"

And if you look at those eight questions, it is readily apparent that a) many of them are confusing and don't have a clear right answer and b) they are specifically designed to trigger different responses from left-leaning and right-leaning respondents.

After examining the questions one by one, AL noted that even those which are "closer to having objectively correct answers...are still somewhat ambiguous and confusing." Jesse Taylor noted the "shocking truth" that "liberals are really bad at agreeing with poorly worded questions" and that we shouldn't be graded incorrect for "voic[ing] any reservations [about] sweeping statements that take complex economic patterns and boil them down to ten words or less." He summarizes:

The main problem here is that this isn't economic thinking - this is economic catchphrasing. [...] This isn't a matter of accepting broad economic theory or not, this is a matter of starting from a series of assumptions purposely designed to tweak liberals and then calling liberals dumb for voicing the accurate reservations you knew they were going to have.

Nate Silver ripped it apart at 538, saying that "basically, what you're left with [is] a number of questions in which people respond out of their ideological reference points because the questions are ambiguous, substanceless, or confusing [...] this amounts to junk science."

That sounds perfect for Faux News!

Yeah, I'm writing about the Busheviks again. It's dismaying to keep adding entries to the worst president ever category, but scandals from the notoriously secretive Bush administration are still being unearthed. The latest offense to be uncovered is from Sunday's Physicians for Human Rights report entitled "Experiments in Torture" (PDF), noting the Bushies' not-quite-Mengele-but-too-close-for-comfort medical experimentation on detainees.

PHR writes that "The Experiments in Torture report is the result of six months of investigation and the review of thousands of pages of government documents. It has been peer-reviewed by outside experts in the medical, biomedical and research ethics fields, legal experts, health professionals and experts in the treatment of torture survivors." Here are some excerpts from the report:

This current report provides evidence that in addition to medical complicity in torture, health professionals participated in research and experimentation on detainees in US custody. (p. 3)

Even the claim of systematic medical monitoring in the name of making "enhanced" intelligence techniques (EITs) "safe, legal, and effective" is contradicted by official monitoring policy, which failed to adequately take into account the mental harm caused by the tactics, among other factors. In fact, the "enhanced" interrogation techniques are premised on the infliction of mental harm, so the concept of studying them to make them more effective is ethically impermissible, and studying them to make them "safer" is logically untenable -- as the techniques are unsafe by design. (p. 6)

In a circular application of science to law, and in violation of the ethical principles of both professions, experimentation relating to the EITs apparently was used by Bush administration lawyers in an effort to protect US personnel engaged in the EIP from potential legal liability for their acts. OLC lawyers argued that efforts to refine and improve the application of techniques would provide a potential "good faith" defense for interrogators against charges of torture. [...] But in attempting to legitimize the crime of torture, the lawyers left those who authorized and performed the research open to the charge of illegal human experimentation. Even if medical monitoring was dutifully applied for the intended purpose of mitigating the infliction of severe physical and psychological harm, the medical monitoring itself, because it generated research that was applied to future application of the techniques and as part of efforts to mitigate legal liability, could be considered a major breach of professional medical ethics, and could constitute a crime. (pp. 11-12)

This program engaged in violations of the detainees' health and human rights that are explicitly prohibited by international human rights agreements to which the United States is party --including the United Nations Conventions Against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (p. 15)

Is PHR's work the definitive and conclusive exposé on this subject? No, and we can't expect it to be. This NYT editorial states:

The report from the physicians' group [PHR] does not prove its case beyond doubt -- how could it when so much is still hidden? -- but it rightly calls on the White House and Congress to investigate the potentially illegal human experimentation and whether those who authorized or conducted it should be punished. Those are just two of the many unresolved issues from the Bush administration that President Obama and Congressional leaders have swept under the carpet.

Renouncing the Busheviks' illegal and immoral behavior is the absolute minimum acceptable response from the Obama administration. If Obama wants to truly earn that Nobel Peace Prize, a thorough repudiation is also required. PHR, in fact "demands that President Obama direct the Attorney General to investigate these allegations, and if a crime is found to have been committed, prosecute those responsible."

Now that Bush has admitted approval of his administration's despicable waterboarding--after Cheney said much the same thing--there should be an independent investigation into their involvement in the war crimes at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, the various black sites, and who knows where else.

According to Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, part of the president's duties is to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."

Obama, you're not doing that part of your job very well.


links:
The reality-based blogosphere is fairly well appalled, and here is a sampling of the voices calling for justice:

Jeff Kaye explains at FDL (here and here) that it's a "vital necessity that investigations take place:"

...hopefully PHR's report will provide the added impetus to push this issue to the forefront of a tired, confused, and frightened country, a country misled in so many ways over the past decade, and now forced to confront the full panoply of evil that has resulted from having a portion of the government held apart from public scrutiny. That must end now.

Adam Serwer (American Prospect) notes that "by refusing to investigate torture, the current administration is fully implicated in establishing a de-facto legal immunity for government officials when they break the law in the name of security."

PHR report co-author Stephen Soldz notes at AlterNet that PHR "confirms previous suspicions and provides the first strong evidence that the CIA was indeed engaged in illegal and unethical research on detainees in its custody:"

The report, the result of six months of detailed work [...] points to several instances where medical personnel -- physicians and psychologists -- monitored the detailed administration of torture techniques and the effects upon those being abused. The resultant knowledge was then used both as a legal rationale for the use of the techniques and to refine these abusive techniques, allegedly in order to make them safer.

Dan Froomkin observes the outrage over Bush's admission, and quotes retired Brigadier General David Irvine:

"When [Bush] decided to [torture detainees] the first time, he launched the nation down a disastrous road, and we will continue to pay dearly for the damage his decision has caused. We are seen by the rest of the world as having abandoned our commitment to international law. We have forfeited enormous amounts of moral leadership as the world's sole remaining superpower. And it puts American troops in greater danger -- and unnecessary danger."

Andrew Sullivan has "one lingering question about all this" [actually several]:

Since it appears that these refinements of torture were not ad hoc but part of a systemic effort, where was the experimentation taking place? How many doctors and psychologists were involved? Was there a separate facility, as at Bagram, for experimenting with torture? Did these experiments ever go wrong?

Could prisoners, for example, accidentally suffocate during experimentation? And what would the US government do if such a thing occurred? One thing is clear: we will never find out from the Obama administration. They have been as diligent in protecting the government's record of torture as Bush and Cheney were. That kind of accountability and transparency is not change Obama ever believed in.

Glenn Greenwald observes that "Obama is not only protecting repugnant crimes and the criminals who committed them, but also ensuring that they will occur again:"

An added benefit: by so vigilantly protecting Bush crimes from investigation and refusing to apply the law, Obama significantly increases the chances that should he break the law [...] he, too, will be bestowed with imperial immunity for his actions. It's a never-ending, mutually beneficial agreement among Presidents and their parties to agree to place Presidents above the law.

Jason Leopold's "Human Experimentation at the Heart of Bush Administration's Torture Program" (TruthOut) quotes Obama as taking a bold stand in favor of accountability:

"We have to acknowledge that those past human rights abuses existed. We can't go forward without looking backwards and understanding that that was an enormous problem."

Oh, never mind...he was talking about Indonesian human-rights violations. The "Bush blind spot" is alive and well, and his presidency will apparently be held to a lower standard by Democrats as well as Republicans.

...in the contest for a new BP logo, courtesy of RJ Matson from the St Louis Post-Dispatch:

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(h/t: TruthDig)

Sara Robinson's piece on "The True Cost of Freedom" observed that "it wouldn't be Memorial Day In America without old veterans and moralizing babbits pounding podiums in parks across the land, gravely intoning that "freedom isn't free."

The way the right uses this phrase, it describes just one kind of sacrifice -- military sacrifice -- as though it's the only kind that matters. And my objection is that this definition does a grand job of letting the rest of us off the hook.

Robinson mentioned--among other things--our responsibility to pay taxes, participate in the democratic process, and work for justice and equality:

I was taught that "freedom isn't free" is shorthand for the whole social contract that enables our democracy to function, and our civilization to deepen and grow. And the obligation to make those sacrifices falls on every single one of us. They're not optional; they're the basic tribute owed to the past and the future by every adult American.

To be effective, writes Robinson, "Progressives need to reclaim the language of the common wealth and the common good -- and that includes the concept of shared sacrifice in the service of our shared future:"

...let's start by pointing out all the ways in which the libertarian spirit has betrayed us by lulling us into the idea that the ultimate form of freedom was freedom from all accountability (in the form of oversight), restraint (in the form of regulation and transparency), and the need to sacrifice (in the form of taxation and the need to be mindful of the common good). We've now got half a dozen major catastrophes on our hands as a direct result of that idea. Predictably, a few people got the free lunch; and the rest of us are stuck with a far bigger bill than we could have ever reckoned.

Speaking of language, Chris Hedges writes in "This Country Needs a Few Good Communists" at TruthDig that, bypassing what he calls "the carcass of the Obama presidency," "Hope in this age of bankrupt capitalism will come with the return of the language of class conflict:"

It does not mean we have to agree with Karl Marx, who advocated violence and whose worship of the state as a utopian mechanism led to another form of enslavement of the working class, but we have to speak in the vocabulary Marx employed. We have to grasp, as Marx did, that corporations are not concerned with the common good. [...]

We must find our way back to the old radicals, to the discredited Marxists, socialists and anarchists, including Dwight Macdonald and Dorothy Day. Language is our first step toward salvation. We cannot fight what we cannot describe.

Dave Johnston has a great reminder at CAP of the sort of ideological blindness with which many of us are suffering. He points out that, since "Tax Cuts Caused the Deficits," we could solve the federal budgetary problems quite simply:

As the country discusses what to do about the borrowing the elephant in the room is that everyone understands that restoring top tax rates to pre-Reagan levels and cutting the military budget in half would solve the problem completely. But we can't do that. We can't even discuss it.

And we all know why. And we all know why. It is because the Reagan Revolution transformed the country from a democracy to a plutocracy -- a country run by and for the wealthy.

Cutting the military budget isn't exactly palatable to the paleocons, however. Paul Waldman wonders at American Prospect what happened to all those so-called "fiscal conservatives" since the House passed its $726-billion defense authorization bill (if the price tag seems high, that's because it includes expenditures for Iraq and Afghanistan):

Where are all those "fiscal conservatives" who said that it just cost too darn much to extend unemployment benefits? That we have to live within our means, and stop borrowing money? That the government needs fiscal discipline? That the deficit is a time bomb that will obliterate us all?

Where were they? Nowhere. They're quite happy to borrow hundreds of billions to spend on defense, because they just happen to like spending money on defense. They don't find unemployment benefits, or health care, or any of a hundred other things we could spend money on to be particularly worthy, but instead of just saying so, they say, "Well, we'd love to, but we just can't afford it." You can't call yourself a "deficit hawk" if the only programs you want to cut are the ones you don't like anyway.

Steve Benen notes at Washington Monthly that "GOP interest in the issue [of fiscal responsibility] is quite new -- these are, after all, the same Republican officials who added $5 trillion to the debt in just eight years -- it's also incredibly narrow:"

They want to reduce the deficit, but if you raise the prospect of tax, now that tax rates are at their lowest rates since the days of Harry Truman increases [see here], they balk. They want to get spending under control, but if you even mention modest cuts to the breathtaking Pentagon budget, the GOP looks for a fainting couch.

Bruce Bartlett returns to talk of national security, but in a realistic non-Republican way. He writes in "National Debt and National Security" that "Republicans primarily motivated by national security and foreign policy ought to be among the strongest supporters of higher taxes:"

If taxes are not on the table--the non-negotiable position of all Republicans today--then this will certainly mean larger and deeper cuts in defense spending when deficit reduction becomes an issue that can no longer be put off. [...]

Thus to the extent that the budget deficit reduces national saving and requires us to import saving to finance domestic investment, it increases the trade deficit and increases the financial power of foreigners over our affairs. Therefore, the debt and the deficit are legitimate national security concerns.

For these reasons, Republicans primarily concerned about national security ought to be in the forefront of efforts to raise revenues to reduce deficits, free up domestic saving for domestic investment, and reduce the importation of foreign saving and the trade deficit. But so far they are not. They remain loyal to the Republican obsession with tax cuts and a refusal to raise taxes in any way for any reason.

Having long lamented the too-small stimulus, Brad DeLong writes that, conservative carping to the contrary, "We Need Bigger Deficits Now!" He continues, "right now, as best we can tell, an increase in federal spending or a cut in taxes will produce (in the short run) no increase in interest rates and hence no crowding-out of productivity-increasing private investment:"

Indeed, government spending that adds to firms' current cash flow may well boost private investment and so leave us, dollar for dollar, richer after the effect of the stimulus ebbs.

Why?

Because our debt today can be financed at extremely low interest rates--1.83 percent if financed via 30-year TIPS, and even less in expected real interest if financed over a shorter horizon.

DeLong contrasts normal vs. depression economic arithmetic, running some numbers and concluding that "Right now, bad politics is undermining good policy, hurting the American economy and legions of unemployed workers. It is long past time for another stimulus package." The GOP demanded an anemic stimulus bill much weaker than it should have been; unfortunately, this puts them in a position to argue against a supplement with the claim that the initial stimulus hasn't worked well enough. Had the bill been better, however, we might not be staring a double-dip recession in the face.

Agora

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The film Agora (website, Wikipedia), about the efforts of mathematician/philosopher/astronomer Hypatia to save the (pagan) Library of Alexandria from a (Christian) mob, is now in limited release in the US. She's always been a hero to me, and this film helps to show why:

Nathan Schneider observes in "Pagan Martyrs, Murderous Monks" at Religion Dispatches that "Ideas are propped up to fight like gladiators, with Faith in one corner and Reason in the other." Susan Jacoby writes that "Reason Is the Star of Agora," (WaPo) and--fictionalized romances aside--"the real subjects of the movie are the clash between restrictive religion and freedom of thought and the plight of a woman dedicated to intellectual inquiry." AO Scott notes in "Love amid the Togas and the Intolerant" (NYT) that Agora "is entirely -- not dogmatically but stubbornly -- on the side of reason, science and liberalism, values opposed by superstition, fundamentalism and political expediency:"

The parallels between then and now are hardly subtle. The warning bell that "Agora" sounds may be loud and at times a little grating, but what's wrong with that? The skeptical and the secular also need stories of martyrdom and rousing acts of cinematic preaching.

PZ (Pharyngula) Myers makes a parallel argument and wonders why Agora isn't receiving a wider American release:

It could be that it's badly made (not likely, since it was the highest grossing film in Spain for 2009), or it could be that a movie about an intelligent godless woman who is persecuted and slaughtered by a mob of mindless fanatical Christians with the approval of the church is a poor fit to the American political climate.


update:

Although David (Atheist Delusions) Hart writes in First Things that "I have not actually seen the movie, and have no intention of doing so," he feels himself qualified to render an opinion anyway.

Not that I entirely blame [director Alejandro] Amenábar. The story he repeats is one that has been bruited about for a few centuries now, often by seemingly respectable historians. Its premise is that the Christians of late antiquity were a brutish horde of superstitious louts, who despised science and philosophy, and frequently acted to suppress both, and who also had a particularly low opinion of women.

Thus, supposedly, one tragic day in A.D. 391, the Christians of Alexandria destroyed the city's Great Library, burning its scrolls, annihilating the accumulated learning of centuries, and effectively inaugurating the "Dark Ages." Thus also, in A.D. 415, a group of Christians murdered Hypatia (young and beautiful, of course, as well as brilliant), not only because of her wicked dedication to profane intellectual culture, but also because of the frowardness with which she had forgotten her proper place as a woman.

"This is almost all utter nonsense," Hart writes, because "nothing of the sort ever occurred...there is not a single shred of evidence--ancient, medieval, or modern--that Christians were responsible for either collection's destruction, and no one before the late eighteenth century ever suggested they were." He fingers Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as a prime culprit:

The truth of the matter is that the entire legend was the product of the imagination of Edward Gibbon, who bizarrely misread a single sentence from the Christian historian Orosius, and from it spun out a story that appears nowhere in the entire corpus of ancient historical sources.

After reading Justin Pollard's The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind and Michael Deakin's Hypatia of Alexandria: Mathematician and Martyr, I'll have to dive into Gibbon's opus, having only sampled it in the excerpt printed as The Christians and the Fall of Rome from Penguin's "Great Ideas" series. (Or, perhaps, I might watch the film first.)

Is anyone else struck by the similarity between Time's recent cover

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and this 2002 issue?

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update (8:11pm):
Gregory White noted Time's "recycling" at Business Insider.

American Hiking Society is celebrating "National Trails Day" today, so give some thought to getting outside and enjoying nature.

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It's good for you!

links:
"Spending Time in Nature Makes People Feel More Alive" (Science Daily)

"Want to Feel More Alive? Study Shows You Need to Go Outside" (TreeHugger)

Writer/artist Frank Miller is working on Xerxes, a six-issue prequel to his famous/infamous series 300, the film adaptation of which I discussed here.

20100603-xerxes.jpg

As related by Miller to the LA Times, "the story starts with the Battle of Marathon, which was killer to draw, by the way, even if it was a lot of work," Miller said. "The lead character is Themistocles, who became warlord of Greece and built their navy." The potential for a good story is certainly present, provided that Miller can avoid some of the excesses that marred 300--which he calls "a deliberate propaganda piece:"

When I work on a story I choose a point of view. For this story, the approach was to tell this story the way the Spartans told it around the campfire. That's the reason they were fighting against 80-foot elephants and that's why Xerxes was portrayed as much larger-than-life figure and given these traits that the Spartans would [project on to] their enemies.

Miller isn't designing Xerxes explicitly for the big screen, claiming that "I don't do a comic book thinking there is a movie. I just want it to be as good a comic book as it can be. It's up to Zack and company to make it work as a film." His former partners are intrigued:

[300 director Zack] Snyder and "300" producer Thomas Tull have seen some of Miller's completed pages and plan to pursue it as a feature film if the finished tale lives up to their hopes. "If the book is awesome and compelling," Snyder said Monday, "then, yes, we're interested."

Given the fact that 300 "set box-office records for a March release and became the highest-grossing R-rated film of 2007," their enthusiasm is not surprising. MovieLine said "I think we all know a movie adaptation is inevitable," which will be fine by me as long as Snyder refrains from adding any deformed executioners or corpse-festooned trees.


links:
Wikipedia's page on Xerxes is a good place to start

Obama's address at Carnegie-Mellon University yesterday (transcript and video) was the defense of progressive values that has been lacking from the bully pulpit of late. Without using the labels "liberal" or "progressive," Obama provided a quick history lesson on their importance by noting that "throughout our nation's history, we have balanced the threat of overreaching government against the dangers of an unfettered market . [...] And we've recognized that there have been times when only government has been able to do what individuals couldn't do and corporations wouldn't do:"

That's how we have railroads and highways, public schools and police forces. That's how we've made possible scientific research that has led to medical breakthroughs like the vaccine for Hepatitis B, and technological wonders like GPS. That's how we have Social Security and a minimum wage, and laws to protect the food we eat and the water we drink and the air that we breathe. That's how we have rules to ensure that mines are safe and, yes, that oil companies pay for the spills that they cause.

Now, there have always been those who've said no to such protections; no to such investments. There were accusations that Social Security would lead to socialism, and that Medicare was a government takeover. There were bankers who claimed the creation of federal deposit insurance would destroy the industry. And there were automakers who argued that installing seatbelts was unnecessary and unaffordable. There were skeptics who thought that cleaning our water and our air would bankrupt our entire economy. And all of these claims proved false. All of these reforms led to greater security and greater prosperity for our people and our economy.

He forcefully rebuked GOP obstructionism, but was fair in noting that "a good deal of the other party's opposition to our agenda has also been rooted in their sincere and fundamental belief about the role of government:"

It's a belief that government has little or no role to play in helping this nation meet our collective challenges. It's an agenda that basically offers two answers to every problem we face: more tax breaks for the wealthy and fewer rules for corporations. [...]

For much of the last 10 years we've tried it their way. They gave us tax cuts that weren't paid for to millionaires who didn't need them. They gutted regulations and put industry insiders in charge of industry oversight. They shortchanged investments in clean energy and education, in research and technology. And despite all their current moralizing about the need to curb spending, this is the same crowd who took the record $237 billion surplus that President Clinton left them and turned it into a record $1.3 trillion deficit.

So we know where those ideas lead us. And now we have a choice as a nation. We can return to the failed economic policies of the past, or we can keep building a stronger future. We can go backward, or we can keep moving forward.

Obama repeated that backward/forward refrain four times during the remainder of the speech, focusing on the future while recognizing the part played by the past in affecting the present--particularly when he addressed the deficit:

By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two major tax cuts skewed to the wealthy, and a worthy but expensive prescription drug program that wasn't paid for. I always find it interesting that the same people who participated in these decisions are the ones who now charge our administration with fiscal irresponsibility.

And the truth is if I had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficits that they created. But we took office amid a crisis, and the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget before I even walked through the door. Additionally, the steps that we had to take to save the economy from depression temporarily added more to the deficit -- by about $1 trillion. Of course, if we had spiraled into a depression, our deficits and debt levels would be much worse.

This passage from his conclusion

The interests of the status quo will always have the most vocal and powerful defenders at every level of government. There will always be lobbyists for the banks or the insurance industry that doesn't want more regulation; or the corporation that would prefer to see more tax breaks instead of more investments in infrastructure or education. And let's face it -- a lot of us find the prospect of change scary, even when we know the status quo isn't working for us.

makes me wonder if Obama has been reading a certain Florentine philosopher:

And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. (Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince)

To keep moving America forward, we need a president who is more than a lukewarm defender of our progressive heritage. Will the political pressure of the upcoming midterms prompt Obama into becoming that president?

BP redux

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The BP rebranding effort by Greenpeace that I mentioned a while ago has spilled over into the real world in several culture-jamming incidents:

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(Matthew Nichols at Treehugger)

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(Johan Lammers, h/t: Towleroad)

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Green, Tom & Amy Hunold-VanGundy. The Ultimate Runner: Stories and Advice to Keep You Moving (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 2010)

Tom Green & Amy Hunold-VanGundy of the Runner's Lounge community website have assembled this collection of stories from runners--everything from the seemingly mundane (getting in shape for a first 5K) to the exotic (running at the Mount Everest base camp or at extreme events like Badwater). Particularly interesting in this regard was Amanda Krieger's piece "Moving Forward" (pp. 99-102) about returning to the Virginia Tech campus after the infamous firearms massacre.

The section of "Must-Know Info" articles that comprises the last third of the book is clearly aimed more toward the beginning runner. Unfortunately, the desire to provide general guidelines occasionally leads misstatements. One is the dietary remark that soy is "the only plant source [that] provides all the essential amino acids--the building blocks of protein that must be supplied by the diet" (p. 208, "Nutrition for Training, Competition, and Recovery" by Lisa Dorfman). The missing word here is proportion. Wikipedia notes the following about complete proteins and essential amino acids in plants:

Near-complete proteins are also found in some plant sources such as quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed, and amaranth, but are higher in some and lower in others. Hence the importance of eating a varied diet.

As stated, the advice would seem to suggest that vegans and vegetarians require soy protein; this is false, but follows from the American obsession with protein. The question "But where do you get your protein?" is one with which vegans and vegetarians are very familiar, but it's been known for decades to be a non-issue:

"It is very easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations for protein. Nearly all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain some, and often much, protein. [...] Vegans eating varied diets containing vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds rarely have any difficulty getting enough protein as long as their diet contains enough energy (calories) to maintain weight." ("Protein in the Vegan Diet," Vegetarian Resource Group)
"Despite the controversy over protein requirements, vegetarians athletes can easily achieve adequate protein providing their diet is adequate in energy and contains a variety of plant-protein foods such as legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Vegetarians need not be concerned with eating 'complementary proteins' at each meal but rather over the course of a day...most vegetarian athletes meet the requirements for endurance training without special meal planning." ("Vegetarian Diet for Exercise and Athletic Training and Performing," American Dietetic Association)
Protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods. Combining different protein sources in the same meal is not necessary. ("Vegetarian Diets," USDA)

Another problem is this recommendation:

Use technical insoles in your shoes. The factory insoles in your new shoes offer limited cushioning. [...] Today's new lightweight, high-impact absorbing insoles offer exponentially more cushion than the factory insoles and can increase comfort to your runs and extend the life of your shoes. (pp. 256-257, "Running for a Lifetime" by Tom Green)

As noted in a recent study, excessive shoe cushioning leads to a longer stride and greater impact from striking the ground with the heel. Those pillow-soft insoles may feel great on novice runners' soles, but may do long-term damage to their knees by encouraging poor form.

In short: the stories in The Ultimate Runner are worth reading, but the advice may lead the unwary down the wrong path.

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