We just might be okay after all Open Thread

Across the sea, it appears that whatever else happens, Greece is probably not going to sink the Euro and Eurozone.  It appears that 95% of Greek bondholders have agreed to a substantial reduction in Greece's debt.  (Regrettably Greece itself is probably hosed, but it's looking increasingly less likely that it will serve as a millstone around the neck of Europe's collective economy).


Closer to home, we have a solid jobs report:


Employers in the U.S. boosted payrolls more than forecast in February, indicating companies are growing more optimistic about the expansion. The jobless rate held at 8.3 percent.


The 227,000 increase in payrolls followed a revised 284,000 gain in January that was bigger than first estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. Job growth over the last six months was the strongest since 2006. The median projection of economists in a Bloomberg News survey called for a 210,000 rise in February employment.


A lot of times when you squint at the jobs report there's always something nasty hidden away in it.  Squinting a bit at this one, we actually find some good news.  Why did the unemployment number hold steady at 8.3%?  Because, according to the household survey,


Employment climbed by 428,000 in February, while the labor force rose 476,000.

Close to half a million people have rejoined the labor force and the unemployment rate is still holding.  Lost government jobs was down to 6,000, statistically a drop in the bucket.  The end of government firings should hopefully point to an end on the fiscal drag being put in place by fifty separate austerity regimes, which points to job growth picking up in the future.


Although ISM indices were kind of meh for February, the regional Fed surveys all showed solid growth.


To close with an anecdote, even in the most depressed of job markets you can imagine (professor of medieval history) I managed to get four initial interviews this year.  Now then, I, ahem, choked on three of the four (with number four just being an issue of "fit"), but if things are looking up for a field as depressed as mine, well then, it appears that our republic just might be okay.


Consider this your open thread.

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Reuters photo of the year


Chilling: A North Korean apartment complex.




They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...
-- General John B. Sedgwick, 1864

I haven't traveled that much

HankP's picture

but there doesn't seem to be any shortage of ugly concrete architecture in the world. Not sure if North Korea is really unique in that regard.

I blame it all on the Internet

It's the illuminated


picture of Dear Leader that grabbed me. The only light in the place.

They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...
-- General John B. Sedgwick, 1864

North Korean architecture

Jay C's picture

One thing I've always noticed about North Korean edifices is that they all seem to have been designed* with large numbers of windows. I wondered about this, until I figured out that it is probably due to the irregularity of electric power: they need the windows for daylight: as many as possible.



* If "designed" is an appropriate term for anything that ugly....

Can someone explain


The anti-teleprompter movement? Didn't Bush use one? Hasn't everyone since Reagan used one?




They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...
-- General John B. Sedgwick, 1864

In Santorum's case, it's easy to explain

HankP's picture

he wants everything he doesn't like to be illegal. Because it's not enough that he doesn't do something, everyone must be forced to do what he thinks is right.

I blame it all on the Internet

Routine Obama-bashing

Jay C's picture

Dunno why it has become a stock Republican meme, but Santorum's kvetch sounds like just more of the same-old, same-old "Obama can't speak for squat without a teleprompter" canard they have been flogging since 2008. Evidence to the contrary or universality-of-practice notwithstanding, of course....


Bernard Guerrero's picture

...indeterminacy of your caveat is the reason for the continuance of the canard. Besides, all Presidents get tarred with being 'tards by the folks that don't like them. Not that it matters; my money is on Nixon being the cleverest in the second half of the 20th, and we all know how that worked out.

Too clever by 'alf n/t



For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise - B. Franklin

Nixon was sharp

HankP's picture

but nobody beats Clinton. He f*&ked an intern, lied about it, then admitted it but didn't get convicted in the impeachment.

I blame it all on the Internet

That Doesn't Make Him Smart

M Scott Eiland's picture

That just means that a majority of the American public in 1998 believed in good luck charms. If the Lewinsky scandal had broken at the same time the Internet bubble burst, Clinton would have been out of the White House so fast that the furniture movers would have generated sonic booms.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

If, if, if

HankP's picture

the fact is he f*&ked an intern and didn't get kicked out of office. That's pretty damn clever for a politician. Not to mention that he got the GOP to screw themselves over multiple times without having to enlist the help of the FBI and CIA like Nixon did.

I blame it all on the Internet

Well, in Santorum's case


I think that any social or technological advances after say, the Inquisition, are considered grounds for stoning.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

Good one...



This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

People need something to laugh at, womba


If you're in the GOP base, the humor typically has to be at least somewhat meanspirited and contrary-to-fact to tickle your funny bone.


You seem to want to take this humor away from the GOP base and that strikes me as cruel.


If you think it's a funny kind of cruelty, maybe you should vote Republican this election.



He said he was with the "Duke of Bilgewater?"

brutusettu's picture

I'm beginning to think he's not actually the Lost Dauphin.

The Walking Dead just officially got stupid again.


The missus and I, we'd let our cautious optimism grow over the last 5-6 episodes. Aside from the ridiculous out-of-context gun control theme, the show had kinda sorta stopped insulting our intelligence for a while there. Some really powerful scenes, some intense (and comprehensible) drama unfolding between the characters, the big midseason finale shocker, another shocker at the end of last week's episode. We'd almost quit watching the show before, but once they got to the farm there were fewer and fewer what I think of as "Darabont moments," and it was almost like intelligent storytelling. It's been nice.


All that just went out the window in the last 90 seconds of tonight's episode. Now we're both back to "What? You gotta be...huh? What did I just watch?" The 57 minutes before that were great. All ruined in just a few quick, inexplicably stupid moments.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

I feel justified


in my decision to never start watching that show to begin with.  And why yes, now that you mention it, Justified is still really good.


What do you mean I'm the one who mentioned it?!

A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.


Hey everybody, hobbesist likes country rap!



"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Hey everybody!


Jordan still hasn't learned how to embed videos properly.


(Or at least it ain't showing up here.  Not that I don't know what you're trying to link; ftr, I'd listen to BG's entire Limp Bizkit collection if it was followed by Timothy Olyphant & Walton Goggins doing Elmore Leonard-esque dialogue.)

A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.


Hey everybody!


Hobbesist is using a mid-90's version of the Netscape browser! (Just kidding...but I can see the video just fine in Safari on OSX).

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Now you know

aireachail's picture

what the doctor at the CDC whispered to Rick last season.


(everybody is already infected)

Spoiler alert!


I'd already seen that elsewhere on the internet, and thanks for reminding me of the awful CDC finale from last year. Can someone explain to me why every character in this story has a fetish for suicide and/or firearms? The first one I can understand, but every time the second one comes up I'm like, dude, there ain't no 2nd Amendment no more....


As far as the 'already infected,' if you do the maths, this should be true in pretty much every zombie apocalypse story. The vectors of people getting bit, getting sick, dying, coming back to life, and biting other people don't work out, not that filmmakers care about such things. In any case, each of our characters has been drenched in zombie goo since day one, and I've only seen them take a shower once.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes


Bernard Guerrero's picture

They've been hinting that you don't need to be bitten for half the season.  Your arguments are contradictory.  As you state, the "bitten by a zombie" vector is difficult to make workable.  The "inhaled it and then you happen to die" vector actually makes more sense from that standpoint, though it leaves the mechanics of why people bitten by zombies tend to die so frequently thereafter open.  (The incidence of massive trauma from encounters appears to be high, but in theory they should be able to pump you full of linezolid or some such if you only have a mild wound, unless zombies are poisonous or carry a nasty bacterial reservoir like a Komodo or a T-rex.)  Regardless, this moves the show in the direction of greater rather than lesser plausibility.

Maybe the massive bloodstream dose


from a bite overwhelms the immune system? People don't die of ordinary bacterial infections in a couple-three hours...even flesh eating bacteria takes longer than that to get established and overrun your immune response. Maybe it's a three-stage infection (dormant, in a living host; lethal, in a living super-contaminated host; resurrective, in a dead host).


Again, not that filmmakers care. This is the same Hollywood that would still have us believe that genetic clones aren't actually legal persons in their own right (sorry monozygotic twins!)...and yet a clone will usually acquire the full memory & personality profile of the clonee in short order. The doppelganger thing has handily survived three centuries of science, it ain't going nowhere.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

IIRC, the technique is described somewhere in the Dune series,

mmghosh's picture

the correct technical steps of the clonee acquiring the memory and personality of the original, that is.  

I misremember the steps, but it was maybe not in short order.

Lot of scary....

Bernard Guerrero's picture

....antibiotic resistant TB headlines recently.  My mother was TB-positive; years of working in an inner-city hospital.

You're more patient that I am

HankP's picture

my daughter still likes watching it, but it's been on a pretty constant slide downward since it premiered. I don't think any of the main characters are supposed to be cognitively impaired, but they keep acting that way.

I blame it all on the Internet

It really did pick up


there in the middle, for quite a few episodes. Not that it matters; the dumb is back.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Very interesting discussion on the precise point of ensoulment

mmghosh's picture

of the individual zygote.  


Unfortunately, we seem to know very little about the exact point in time when the soul leaves its disembodied existence and enters the body.  Is it at the point of fertilisation?  And at which point in the process?  


Implantation within the endometrium would seem to me to be the correct point of modern, explicable ensoulment theory.  These are important questions which may be answered only in the later part of the 21st century.

Are you serious?


What the heck is "modern, explicable ensoulment theory"?

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Ensoulment/de-ensoulment is what was crudely called life & death

mmghosh's picture

in the past.


It is a vital part of the debate over cloning, stem cell therapy, organ donation and a host of other issues.


Ensoulment is the theory of the precise moment when the soul enters the body. Before modern embryology, identifying the point of ensoulment was a problem. Aristotle, perhaps following some concepts from here identified a hierarchy of souls, from the vegetative to the intellective. But the point at which the vegetative moved out and the intellective moved in, or whether they superseded each version when a fresh upload happened was not clear.


AFAIK, the current Catholic teaching is that the soul enters the zygote some time between the union of the sperm and ovum




and before its first division.




These evaluations are much more precise today, because of IVF. Hopefully the exact point in time of the soul's entry will be pinpointed after identifying appropriate outcome points. There are other possibilities for the point of ensoulment - implantation (as I mentioned, which seems more likely) and so forth. The other issue is desoulment - identiifying the precise point at which the soul leaves the body. The issue here is that after that point, organ harvests should not be an ethical issue, and the appropriate consent can be taken.


We have huge discussions of these issues here, obviously, because over here, unlike your society, souls move in and out of people and into all life forms. Identifying when these events happen is of major significance. OTOH in your society, souls re-enter a physical body in a heaven or a hell (although some of us also have heavens and hells - at several levels), where further precise knowledge about mechanisms may not be absolutely necessary.


But these discussions probably belong to a diary.

I don't think that's correct

HankP's picture

I believe the Catholic view is that ensoulment occurs at the moment of fertilization.


Of course, discussions about when a non-detectable essence enters a single cell would require more than a diary, an entire library wouldn't be enough for that kind of baseless speculation.

I blame it all on the Internet

That's odd. Because the majority of fertilised eggs do not

mmghosh's picture

proceed to development.  Ensoulment before the physical expression of the potential of the zygote to develop into an actual person, i.e. first divison, would imply the death of the majority of ensouled individuals.  A Creator would theoretically not do that.


Its hardly baseless speculation.  The precise time and precise point in support of the Catholic (our present differences about the correct doctrine are down to a few hours) view has been narrowed down pretty precisely - more accurately than [url=http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1118.htm]at Aquinas' time[/url], for example.  I still think that, if a time point of ensoulment is to be agreed upon by all parties in the debate then the [url=http://www.embryology.ch/anglais/gnidation/etape02.html]implantation stage embryo[/url] is a better technical indicator of ensoulment.  In that case, pre-blastocyst stage embryos -say morula stage embryos - are the correct stage for consideration of matters such as stem cell therapies.

Manish, you crack me up

HankP's picture

how is something to be agreed upon by both parties when there's no evidence for it and no way to measure it? It's just a matter of interpreting scripture the way one wants it interpreted, therefore you'd have to offer the participants something of value equivalent to what they lose when they give up the historical inerrancy of their particular interpretation. In other words, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin redux.

I blame it all on the Internet

How About the Truth of the Matter? There is No Ensoulment at All


...this is purely a mechanical, though complexly biological, process without a soul ever entering a Zygote.


Not to be difficult, but as Empiricist and Rationalists, this seems to cover all that needs to be said on the issue.


Best Wishes, Traveller

But most people in the world are not empiricists or rationalists

mmghosh's picture

even in advanced countries such as the USA, the vast majority of people believe that ensoulment happens - how much more so in the rest of the world.  Since we all believe in democracy, we must conclude it does happen, and frame policy accordingly.


In reply to Hank about why this is not just scholastic argumentation.  Say you need a liver transplant, as Mr Jobs famously did.  It is now within the realm of theoretical possibility to take your skin cell nucleus and fuse it with a de-nucleated egg of an egg donor (you can buy an egg from a donor here for about $100) to create a zygote stage embryo.  With the correct stimulus, it should be technically possible, at a certain stage of this zygote-stage embryo to differentiate into a liver.  The same technique could be applied for skin loss in individuals who need them - say, a burned US soldier from the Afghan war.  Naturally, the recipients concerned would not like these manipulations to be done on ensouled zygotes, so as soon as the important parties in the debate can all agree - Empiricists, Christians etc -  that the particular stage embryo is not ensouled then we can proceed down that road.


The same issues are also relevant for de-ensoulment, end of life issues, stoppage of ventilation etc.  


The point that you make - the truth about whether ensoulment [i]actually[/i] happens - is not exactly relevant here.  Religious belief is about faith, not about truth.   

About faith...


This is a religious matter entirely. The United States is not yet a theocracy, and it certainly stands no chance of becoming a Catholic one, so these discussions are absolutely pointless, not to mention without any objective basis whatsoever.


For the record, I don't believe there is such a thing as ensoulment. If I speak of somebody's soul, I do so metaphorically, not literally.


I don't believe anybody in his right mind should worry about "ensoulment" in any context outside of religion, and by definition that means any context relevant to civic society in a non-religiuous state. I also don't believe there is such a thing as an advanced country, except in tenuously relative terms. We are yet a primitive species, and will likely end as a primitive species considering our current trajectory. So long as a majority of the population believes in things that have no objective basis, we will remain a primitive species. Or, as Carl Sagan wisely put it, this is not yet a scientific age.


Feel free to discuss and diary about ensoulment all you want, but be aware that to a lot of us this is as if you were talking about astrology or gypsy fortune tellers. It is hard for me to comprehend how an educated person in the modern age could seriously pursue such a discussion. I honestly thought you were pulling our leg.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Its all very well to talk about civic society in a non-religious

mmghosh's picture

way, as though religion does not inform public policy.  It may be true for your society, it most certainly is not true of here.  I hope I am as much of an empiricist as any Westerner! but, as I replied to Traveller, my own beliefs and intuitions are irrelevant to the debate.


But discounting fellow citizens as either primitive or non-scientists, or pretending that their religious views do not count in the public space, does not help.  Like it or not, there needs to be a decision about when a embryo is to be regarded as a person.  Fine, choose a secular expression ("personhood") instead of "ensoulment" (if you think "soul" carries religious baggage).  I prefer "soul" because "atma" (our transliteration for "soul") is essentially a non-religious definition.  But a definition is needed, and a definition that is inclusive of religious belief, otherwise you are unlikely to carry your fellow-citizens with you when policy is framed.


In general, on the topic of religion not counting in the public sphere - this is true of a society only when it does not come into contact with others.  If I travel 50 miles east, I have to take into account that the weekly public holiday is Friday, instead of Sunday, and the weekend is Friday-Saturday, not Saturday-Sunday.  Outsourcers have to take this into account, too.  And there are numerous other examples.  

I'll play...


Like it or not, there needs to be a decision about when a embryo is to be regarded as a person


Actually, no. A perfectly valid view is that an embryo is never a person. It lacks a brain, for one thing, so it does not have any capacity for self-cosciousness or self-awareness.


You need to get to fetus territory before talking about personhood. Nor should the definition be inclusive of religious belief. Quite the contrary. Religious belief can certainly be behind the support of a given definition. This in a democracy cannot be denied. But the definition itself must be applicable to all citizens, independent of their belief or lack thereof, so it cannot include any direct religious components, except in a theocracy or at least a nation with a state religion. The US, still, is neither.


I don't discount fellow citizens. We are all primitive. The species is primitive. We have basic gaps in the comprehension of our own individual and aggregate behaviors. We have only rudimentary control over disease. We have rudimentary understanding about our environment, and we are unable to control our accelerating destruction of it. We are doing nothing towards settling even our own solar system, let alone others. We engage in pointless, costly wars, and we don't even manage those very well within their own logic. We are still so ignorant about the ways of the universe that we have not yet identified a single example of life in other planets, thought it is all but certain that there are millions of examples. We didn't even know that the expansion of the universe was accelerating till about a decade ago. We can read the genome but we don't understand how it works. Our level of ignorance is simply staggering.


These limitations apply to all of us. Yet some of us are indeed even more primitive, still hanging on to five thousand year old tribal beliefs. This has nothing to do with atheism. A modern objective person can rationally choose to believe in a non-denominational creator, since there is no explanation for the universe that science can provide. But such a person cannot, without resorting to sustained cognitive dissonance, consider that any particular human religion is truer than any other, and yet billions believe precisely this so strongly that they are willing to kill and die for that belief. It might not be politically correct to say so, but that's primitive to me. Sorry.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Great comment / rant.


This is my new favorite "we don't know what we don't know" speech.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Obviously we will have to agree to disagree.

mmghosh's picture

But I'll note down some of the points of disagreement.

[quote]A perfectly valid view is that an embryo is never a person. It lacks a brain, for one thing, so it does not have any capacity for self-cosciousness or self-awareness.[/quote]

If presence of a (functioning) brain, or the capacity of self consciousness or self awareness are criteria for personhood, then it is arguable that (1) it will be necessary to wait a few years after birth to label a person and (2) children born with cerebral palsy or other birth defects such as hydrocephalus are not persons. While these are both arguable positions, not too many people will agree with you.

I deliberately haven't stated my position of what I regard as personhood in my opinion, because I really do not know when to regard an embryo/child as a person. I take the generally accepted medical view of 24 weeks of gestation as the cut off - this is more out of agreeing with the consensus. But, as I said before, my own intuitions and beliefs are not what matter in the public square, and I'm willing to be persuaded by implantation stage arguments, for example, if it leads to a pragmatic advantage (in the transplant examples that I gave previously).

[quote]But the definition itself must be applicable to all citizens, independent of their belief or lack thereof, so it cannot include any direct religious components.[/quote]

In general, I must admit my personal beliefs are pretty similar to yours. But I disagree with what you say here. The definition should be the result of the [i]consensus[/i] of religious, non-religious and scientific views, most definitely [i]not[/i] independent of them. Your idea is that of a secular state, independent of religion. My idea of a secular state includes all religious views (even though personally I am an atheist), and even though they might appear to be mutually incompatible. If you are incredulous whether this can be achieved, I would point to the state I live in, where, over the past 60 odd years we have, in many ways, achieved this. And, indeed, to yours, from where we have taken much of our inspiration (even though your society is much more unitary than ours). And this is the sense in which I emphasise that the views of Catholics (and other Christian denominations, and Muslims, and Buddhists and others) [i]must[/i] be included in policy framing.

[quote]We are all primitive. The species is primitive.[/quote]

This is a completely relative statement, and is also by the by. Simply because we [i]are[/i] primitive, it does [i]not[/i] follow that we cannot make collective decisions. I believe you chose the word primitive in opposition to my contention that USA is an advanced society. And indeed you are advanced, and not just materially - if you remember, you gently chided us for being ethically challenged some diaries ago. Very naturally we look to your societies for leadership in many matters.

Couple of points...


First, I did not chide your society for being ethically challenged. That would be especially arrogant given the rather considerable ethical lapses exposed during these past few years in our financial system, just for starters. What I and others have considered puzzling is a certain carelessness in minor offenses such that the only victims are the offenders themselves. This I chalk up to cultural miscommunication. Perhaps precisely because Western ethical lapses are so well known, at least some Indians seem to understand that there are no ethical constraints at all.


Second, my idea of a secular state includes all citizens who hold religious views, and expects these citizens to favor policy in line with their beleifs. The point is that they need to understand that their beliefs are just that, theirs, so they need to frame their policy preferences in terms that do not require others to share in those beliefs. So in my view also, "the views of Catholics (and other Christian denominations, and Muslims, and Buddhists and others) must be included in policy framing". The views, but not the beliefs.


Definitely you don't need to wait for years to label a child a person under my criteria. Self-awareness does not mean that you know who you are (your name, country, whatever). It only means you have the cognitive ability to learn to be aware of yourself. For example, a baby will quickly learn about his hands, legs, fingers, and so on.


But, on the other hand, if you are in an unrecoverable coma, then you have in fact lost personhood. The Terri Schiavo case was exactly about this. There is no easy response for borderline cases (like I said, we are yet primitive). I can easily define limit cases though. It should be clear that if you lack a brain entirely, you are not yet (or are no longer), a person.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

But religious people don't distinguish their "views"


from their "beliefs", and that's the problem in a nutshell.


Take homosexuality, for example. Many (certainly not all, but a substantial minority) Christians believe homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. And further that any society which tolerates it deserves and might just meet the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. The gays are, in other words, putting all of us in moral and physical jeopardy. 


Now how exactly would you reconcile that "view" with any non-religious expression in law? You can't. In point of fact, anti-sodomy laws have been on the books in all 50 states more or less since each of their respective foundings, in what I would call direct violation of the First Amendment. Flimsy rationales aside, the reason for outlawing the practice of same sex coupling is essentially religious, and always has been. All societies wrap their marital customs in a web of taboos and superstitious awe, and nearly all societies enforce those customs on the grounds that misalliance endangers the society as a whole. Incest causes plague, sodomy causes the crops to wither, etc. The opposition to allowing consenting adults to do whatever the hell they want to do hinges on exactly this kind of metaphysical terror.


Religious opposition to the violation of religio-cultural norms is implacable. There is simply no way to reconcile their opposition in such a way that non-believers or adherents of other religions remain unaffected. What happens in practice is either a) religious laws get enforced despite the First Amendment, perhaps with flimsy secular-sounding rationales (the first two centuries of American jurisprudence), or b) believers are told to stuff it and laws are written in their despite (America since the late 60s).


The other possibility, of course, is that secular law just so happens to coincide with religious beliefs...which happens probably in the majority of instances (murder), but which even so gets fairly ugly in certain instances (rape).

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes


HankP's picture

but the reasoning behind a position only matters if it's politically contentious and opponents are persuadable. In the case of murder you brought up it doesn't matter what the reasoning is, there's such an overwhelming majority to punish it that you could use the reasoning that it releases little fairies into the air which then cause disease - it simply doesn't matter. In the case of abortion the reasoning used to arrive at the position only matters until that position gets majority support, then it doesn't matter anymore. The fact that religious reasoning supports something only means that there's a solid base of X% of support behind the position, once X gets over 60% or so the reasoning behind the position doesn't matter.

I blame it all on the Internet

Well actually, honor killings show that


even "murder" isn't a safe category when any orthodoxy is allowed to foist its beliefs on the general population in the form of laws. But if your point is that widespread beliefs can override any constitution or code of law, it's a point well taken. And one reason why simply following the law is never enough.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

It's worse than that

HankP's picture

I hate to repeat the main lesson of the 20th century, but there is no protection against irrationality. We use things like education and the rule of law to try to keep it at bay, but it will never go away.

I blame it all on the Internet

It can matter if the support is shallow.


Prohibition had strong enough support to become a constitutional ammendment, but how long did that last?


Some popular beliefs are fads. You can just wait them out. There are religious fads also, since religious beliefs are simply one more human construct, just like any other. 

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Of course it can

HankP's picture

or if the implementation of the policy causes problems that weren't foreseen and make the whole value proposition skewed. But enacted it will be, and the reasoning doesn't really matter.


I wish I lived in a world where reason ruled politics, but that's not the world we live in.

I blame it all on the Internet

It depends...


Today there are religious people who understand the distinction between their belief (thus their internal rules), and those of society at large. I would even argue that the founders were explicitly aware of this -certainly Franklin was-, and went to considerable lengths towards making the government independent from religious doctrine.


With regard to anti-sodomy laws, and discrimination against homosexuals generally, I believe that religion is little more than a thin veneer used by individuals with psychological issues and in some notable cases gender identity issues themselves. Put another way, I do not see the problem as essentially religious. At least, that's quite arguable.


Many social conflicts are clothed in religion, but are not about religion. Current American Christian religious belief routinely departs considerably from anything set down in the Bible, for example, or even from commonly held views from a few decades ago. This means we are really talking about political issues wrapped in scripture, but by no means based on it. Northern Ireland is another great example. Religion was a proxy for a different problem.


There are essentially two religious modes. One is to hold a faith and respect others who do not, which implies awareness of the distinction between a belief and a view. The other is to hold a faith and try to impose it on others, or else do violence against them. Clearly, the public square can only allow those who hold faith in the first mode. There is no room in a multidenominational democracy for those who want to impose their religion on others. This should be quite obvious, and nothing should be done to accomodate fundamentalists of any stripe.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

What is the spectrum


of Hindu belief on the subject? Do differences in the notion of afterlife play a part in changing peoples attitudes to what happens to zygotes?

It should do, shouldn't it?

mmghosh's picture

Are you referrring to the propensity we have to sex-select embryos in parts of the country? 

Well typically


I connect an obsesive interference in the origins of life with the Catholics and de jour American protestants. i mean never mind abortion or medical use of embryos, Catholic doctrine is against contraception even.


Since Hindu and Buddist belief is a separate strain I was curious what the positions on the rights of the unborn (and unfertilised) within Hinduism are. Also, since I don't doubt Hindu afterlife myths are quite differnt to Catholic ones, i was curious if these did inform thought on the subject. For example, given an instantaneous reincarnation, being murdered as a zygote would be costless no? For a Catholic Zygote, unless you were being murdered for your religious beliefs and so receiving the rite of baptism through blood, you would go to hell for your original sins.


But perhaps Hindus have certain death rituals that are required to guide the soul onwards which the zygote might not be in receipt of?

Some Buddhists do that.

mmghosh's picture

[url=http://www.amazon.com/Tibetan-Book-Living-Dying-International/dp/0062508342]Read all about it![/url]


I don't think things have been thought through that clearly.  Because we believe in multiple reincarnations, one can put these issues away as just another event.


Does the political stance match that?


Are Hindu politicians, or polititians who aim to appeal to conservative Hindus worked up about the early stages of life?

Not at all

mmghosh's picture

AFAIK.  But the possibility of stem cell treatments - for burns and so forth is a live issue.


End of life issues are much more important, here, though.  Organ donation from brain dead individuals is not yet legal.



One line of discussion I've had with pro-lifers in the US is to point out that many people believe that the family should have the say over end-of-life matters if one of their family members became a human vegetable. Many pro-lifers in fact believe this (tho many don't), but most recognize it as a reasonable position. 


Then I point out that someone could take the same attitude towards the fetus until sometime late into the 2nd trimester (when 90+% of all abortions in the US have already taken place), since up until this time the brain is only functioning to regulate organs and the fetus is essentially a brain dead, human vegetable at this point.


That's a pro-choice argument that seems it wouldn't work too well in India. 

Its down to economics.

mmghosh's picture

Keeping someone alive on a ventilator is pretty expensive.  In fact, out of the reach of 99% of the population.  And since very few have access to insurance, these costs have to met out of pocket.  So yes, the ultimate decision is almost always that of the family.


OTOH, once you figure that 1% of the population is 15 million people (i.e. about the population of Italy),  there are, in absolute terms, a lot of vegetable-people out there, being kept alive by families.  


As for abortions, or terminations as we call them here, the matter is complex.  The problem with sex selection terminations is that the majority happen in the so-called "North India", where the majority of people are vegetarian and generally horrified by the taking of life.  Yet, they have taken to this sex selection business wholeheartedly.  This, in part, tells me how the availability of a service on the free  market distorts and destroys a traditional moral consensus.  Infanticide is regarded with horror in traditional societies here - we have our own version of the Slaughter of Innocents.  Yet this is also practised in those same communities, partly because the probelms that girl children are perceived to have in a patriarchy.  And those communities make up 1/3 of the nation. 

Things Will Get Quite "Interesting". . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .in a few decades, when the two most populous nations on Earth have a noticeably out of whack male/female ratio and start looking for ways to deal with an angry, involuntarily celibate, young heterosexual male surplus.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

What makes you assume they'll be heterosexual?

HankP's picture

no one's tried that kind of experiment on that scale. The results could be surprising.

I blame it all on the Internet

To Begin With, At Least

M Scott Eiland's picture

After all, haven't we been told time and again that it isn't a choice? Obviously, the usual ratios (at least) would be expected to apply, but that still leaves a supermajority of heterosexual men making up the surplus.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Not being a choice doesn't require genetic hardwiring

HankP's picture

environmental factors could also play a part.


I'm not saying I approve, when I say the results may be unexpected I don't mean they'll automatically be good. In fact I rather doubt it.

I blame it all on the Internet

Being gay doesn't seem like it's much of a "choice"

brutusettu's picture

But apparently you've never heard stories about prison or even straight guys doing gay pron?

This is True Already in China...A Real Societal Concern...nt



Sex Selection?! A Problem for both of our Respective Positions


the probelms that girl children are perceived to have in a patriarchy.


Well...But true enough.




For me, people should have choice without external religious pressures....but this is a bad choice in my opinion...yet, I am in favor of choice...


I guess.


From your ensoulment perspective...lots of murder happening.


A problem for both of us as I noted.


Best Wishes, Traveller

What a Great Conversation...I'm Sending it Around...



...because it is smart, important and demonstrates what is best about the Forvm.


I was, I fear however, a little too pointed in my previous post...manish, disagree as we might...it was incorrect of me to say the friendship might be on the skids. I often don't know if I am wrong until I actually write it out.


I apologize.


Still, my moral imparative is to stay engaged, recognizing that your moral imarative, as much as I may disagree, is to tease out answers presented to you by your faith and your society.


So, from time to time we shall, I suspect, go at it, but only because these questions are so important, and, because you are so....profoundly wrong, as I read you. But with a smile...:>)}


I naturally appreciate MA's cogent response moving the conversation forward better than I could...I get tired of saying this, but so many people are smarter than I...you've got to respect this.


Be Good, Traveller

Religion in the Public Sphere...Manish I Agree it is There...


...where you and I strongly disagree is on the question on weather or not it should be there.


And here we have some personal disagreement, more than simply our policy positions, but personally and deeply a divide, a chasm exists....


I obviously respect you enormously, but, because you are so smart, because you are such a deep thinker...It is treble the distress I feel....because like Lenin, the German's put him on that sealed box car across Europe exactly because he...like you...asked and provides the answer...What is to be Done?


it is vexing...I know you are being a pragmatist on this...you need an answer within your society to this question, and you are providing one.


The problem is that it is a damned good answer...to a question that need not nor should not be asked.


In this sense, Dear Friend, we are...almost not friends.


I don't mean this badly, but I take the question seriously...as obviously do you.


Tough times lead to tough answers....that maybe should have simply been finessed in the first place.


With respect, but profound disagreement, Traveller

I am not sure I understand you...


To say that religion does not belong in the public square (in a nation without a state religion, obviously), is not the same as saying that holders of relgious beliefs do not belong in that square. Further, it is not to say that holders of those beliefs should not favor policies that most closely match their religious beliefs. So, in that sense, through the participants, religion does belong in the public square so long as there are citizens with religious beliefs in it.


What does not belong in the public square (again, for the sake of clarity, in a nation lacking state religion), are religious arguments for or against a given policy. There are good reasons for this. The main reason is that religious arguments are not really arguments. They are statements of faith. Thus, no productive discussion is possible. No decision making mechanism can provide a road to compromise between holders of different beliefs. Thus, the very essence of the public square, which should be a neutral ground where all citizens can participate, is nullified if religious argument is allowed in it.


This is pretty much what is happening right now. Religion has been allowed directly into the public square, and the result is a polarized Congress that is unable to reflect a consensus view or create broadly representative policy.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Oh you can have religious arguments and come to conclusions


You need to change you notion of a "fact" of course, but the catholic church has been applying "logic" to solve these sorts of little spats for centuries.


Recently I saw posted someone noting that in the 70s US protestants did not push the idea that life begins at conception. The logic behind it was that the bible calls for a murder to be punished by death, but for the killing of a fetus to be punished with a lesser sentence ergo fetus < live person.




Tougher of course beteen different religions, because of course at its root religion is 2 things ; Science AND tribalism. Mostly Law and ethics, but also the otehr aspects of the tribe. I think it has been done though. It probably would be easier with the unifying bete noir of Atheism in the room.

I don't think that's how it works

HankP's picture

while there are impediments to rapid changes in our system, if a party makes an explicit religious appeal and manages to get a majority in Congress and hold the Presidency (and holds both of them long enough to get 5 Supreme Court justices) they can implement pretty much whatever they want.

I blame it all on the Internet



A democracy can certainly devolve into a theocracy if that's what the majority wants during a sustained period of time.


Once that is done, it is much harder to go the other way. It basically requires a revolution, with blood on the streets and so forth, or at the very least a socially disruptive collapse of the existing order, probaby triggered by economic crisis.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Well, within limits. Beyond those limits,


establishment of religious laws would require a Constitutional amendment process as well.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

It all depends on interpretation

HankP's picture

the Supreme Court has already twisted itself into a pretzel on several issues (cough, virtually unlimited copyright, cough) so I don't think that's going to help much.

I blame it all on the Internet

I'm With You MA (Entirely! Body & Soul)...and Yet, Manish's....



...formulation is...truly....elegant, worthy of....something.


It has the gloss of both science, as something identifiable, and logical in the sense that it answers a pressing question, (to some people), in an intellectually pleasing way.


But, and I really want to highlight this in Bold....that is exactly the problem....Manish's position makes surface sense and therefore could be around for hundreds of years, influencing policy and the way people think far, far into the future....


This idea of ensoulment is extraordinarily dangerous...much as was the ideas of Social Darwinism that led us to the believed natural superiority of the German and Japanese peoples and terrible war to kill this idea starting in 1905 and not ending until 1945.


Ideas have a rippling effect throughout societies...you can't control them, you don't know where they are going....hence our current problems with Islam which did not exist prior to...the late 1960's, 1970's when Islam became an animating feature of this emerging identity. No Imam of that time could have imagined where this would end up today.


Likewise ensoulment....


If we have a soul, leave that up to God and not be so presumptuously arrogant to think we could substitute our judgment for his...which is also what Manish is doing. Arrogating unto himself which is the right and proper Provence of God.


Best Wishes, Traveller



Can't Speak For The Whole World. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .but in the United States, the First Amendment would get in the way of that sort of thing; in fact, it's gotten to the point where people with no lives are targeting de minimis entanglements with government and religion such as "In God We Trust" being on the money and "one nation under God" being in the Pledge of Allegiance--never mind an issue as grave as when human life is deemed to have begun. There's no way that the force of law in the United States will ever be allowed to attach to a concept that is grounded solely in specific religious belief, and is not subject to proof. A law might be passed that does the same thing by banning use of embryos or eggs based on a certain point in development, but the law will not site ensoulment as a ground for drawing a line.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Wait a minute...


While personally I have not pursued either of these, I do harbor respect for people who choose to fight some fossilized artifacts left over from the dreadful McCarthy era.


If the pledge had been that way since the founding, I would have no issue with it. I would see it as just a ritual phrase for a new tribal group trying to establish self-identity, and this is what the original pledge was. It was written in 1892, a time of mass immigration, as a tool to get the children of newcomers to adopt and be loyal to their new country. Here is the original:


I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


In 1924 it was reasonably ammended to include the name of the country:


I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


The law adding "under God" was added by Congress in 1954, at the peak of the McCarthy show trials and persecution, as an attempt to impose right-wing ideology through the public school system. It's thus worth attacking.


In God We Trust is even more of a historical departure. Adopted in 1956 as the national motto, it is also a relic from the McCarthy witch trials. Unlike the pledge, it replaced the motto adopted by the founders themselves, E pluribus unum (One out of many). If they were true to their name, Tea Party advocates and other traditionalists should be the first to want to change back to the motto Washington would still expect us to have, but so far, I have heard no such proposal from their quarters...


If these were de minima, the right would not have gone through considerable effort to impose them and retain them. They are not. They are about principle and about the history of how the nation was conceived.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Uh, Scientology? nt

HankP's picture


I blame it all on the Internet

*Scott Valiantly Resists The Temptation To Post. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture


The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

That was supposed to be tongue in cheek

HankP's picture

mostly because of the word "modern" in the definition. Although I suppose you could use Jediism as well.

I blame it all on the Internet

A defense of misogyny


Just shut up and read the thing.  Laugh at your wife and congratulate a gay guy for figuring this out early.



In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

a contract of adhesion....Indeed!...Very Nice....


...but, kind of sad too.


Having thee marriages under my belt, and still thinking marriage a good thing, this really resonated with me.





Trav, of course it resonated with you


it resonates with all married men :)  But now we have evidence to back up what we've always known.  Think of all the guys who can go forth armed with this knowledge.  'I can see you're upset.  Let me frown and see if I can fix that.'  Crap, the money I could have saved in cards and flowers when all I needed to do was mope a bit.

I think the true key to marital bliss is having a man cave.  My experience with my marriage and with all of my married friends who have taken the time to establish a man cave is that the wives don't violate it.  I'm curious if this is common outside of my circle of personal aquaintences and if so I'd love to know why.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Considering that nearly 1 in 5 women

mmghosh's picture

are raped in their lifetime, (and this in a country and at a time when such things are counted - from which we can extrapolate to the situation in other places and at other times), "blowback" is not an unreasonable expectation.



You Don't See That Every Day

M Scott Eiland's picture

Sergio Garcia's round at the Cadillac Championship today included five birdies and an eagle. . .but the final total was 76, thanks to a bogey on 11, a double bogey on 18, and an octuple bogey 12 on 3. IIRC, Arnold Palmer had a 13 once, so that's good company.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

In Other Sports News, Vandy Kills Kentucky


Big Blue didn't lose a conference game during the regular season, but the SEC Tournament belongs to Vanderbilt. The Commodores and Wildcats battled back and forth, but Vandy's defense and shooting down the stretch put away Kentucky 71-64.


It is, Selection Sunday.


Best Wishes, Traveller

I'm Not All That Surprised

M Scott Eiland's picture

I had the Kentucky game on the radio yesterday while running errands, and they struggled quite a lot before putting the game away. Seeding will be interesting this time around. . .

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Oh Haaaaank



The part I thought you might enjoy.

'Hint of pear, cinnamon, crushed almonds, marzipan; whiff of tobacco, leaf-smoke, moist leather.......This one is sweet and grassy, with a hint of barn straw and damp car seat; that one smoky and peaty, with notes of dried moss and wet sheepdog'

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 


HankP's picture

"wet sheepdog" is not a description that really appeals to me for some reason.

I blame it all on the Internet

I share living space with one


they don't smell too good when wet.


Not great dry, but wet - uugh!

"Something I think most liberals don't understand is exactly how stupid many conservative leaders are." - Matt Yglesias

The Catholic Church's greatest sin


I've just read that they're responsible for nixing the sequel to the Golden Compass, which I watched last weekend with the girlfriend. I liked that movie and the Dark Materials trilogy sounded good.


Here's Sam Elliot:


"The Catholic Church happened to The Golden Compass, as far as I'm concerned. It did 'incredible' at the box office, taking $380million. Incredible. It took $85million in the States.

"The Catholic Church ... lambasted them, and I think it scared New Line off.

"I would have loved to have gone after them. I would have liked to have sat down with Bill O'Reilly and talked it out. There are two sides to that coin. It's a shame as it's a great trilogy."

The boycott was organised by Bill Donohue of the Catholic League For Religious And Civil Rights. He told the Evening Standard: "I am delighted the boycott worked. Just as the producers have a right to make the movie, I have a right to protest.

"The reason I protested was the deceitful attempt to introduce Christian children to the wonders of atheism in a backdoor fashion at Christmas time. Everyone agrees the film version was not anti-Catholic, but that hardly resolves the issue. The fact is that each volume in the trilogy becomes increasingly anti-Catholic."


1st Amendment Rights are Crushed on 2 Fronts!

brutusettu's picture

Or so says the Sarah Palin School of Constitutional Law.

Doesn't this belong in Vin's Christendom diary?


FWIW, I wasn't a fan.  It was an ok night out with the wife when we saw it but I wouldn't make an effort to see it agin.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

The film & story were mediocre, and to be honest,


I didn't pick up on any anti-religious theme. Are the books actually good? The film to me played like a tired ripoff of a hundred other fantasy films.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Haven't read the books, don't know


I'm not going to defend this movie (I liked the noble Polar bear!), it's obviously not the greatest, but I was transported by it at the time and it purposely set you up to anticipate a sequel.


And then the Catholic Church came in and killed it, which to me is unforgivable.


(The anti-religious stuff was most obvious with the university heirarchy and rulers squelching scientific inquiry geenrally and about dust in particular - the Catholic Church could've recognized a negative portrayal of their history in that.) 

It's pretty silly to attack religious belief


within a genre that endorses magic & miracles...you can complain about orthodoxy and extremism, but you can't very well satirize magical thinking itself.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Far be it for me to defend the books


My opinion was that they got pretty preposterous (in a storytelling sense) and uninteresting about halfway through the triology, but my impression of their criticism of the Catholic church was more in, as you said, their orthodoxy and extremism -- and I would add their aggression as well. But, in my view, fantasy could serve as a vehicle to saterize magical thinking in this world insofar as this thinking may be taken literally by some folks in this world. My view of good fantasy is that it creates (or subcreates) a world that has its own  laws and limitations, however fantastic they may be. If absurd things happen within a well created fantasy world, then I believe much of the narrative spell may be broken and it all falls apart. But if good fantasy keeps it real to itself then I think it could mock foolish, fanciful thinking in this world. When Gandalf chants a word of power to the balrog in Khazad-dum, it seems to have a place and fluency. If Pippin presumed he could heal Frodo of his Nazgul wound by incantation to the great Took father, it would seem silly to readers who are familiar to the world of Middle Earth.


I guess that's true.


So "incorrect literalism" could have a place in a fantasy setting...it still seems strange to me. Any organization can be attacked on grounds of orthodoxy & inflexible thinking, but if you want to go after religion in particular, you need to attack its metaphysics, not its organizational flaws. Living beings have an immortal soul, the world is controlled by an interventionist God, etc. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Would you shut up?


If I can't turn my brain off a little, I'll never enjoy any movies.


But srsly, I think a movie can just focus on indoctrination, authoritarianism, forbidding scholarship and discovery, etc. and manage to take a shot at religious institutions. They're about a lot more than just belief in the supernatural. (Come to think of it, the harry Potter books would've been better if they'd satirically targeted religious institutions in addition to governments and the media.) 


... The quote above says the other books more directly target religion but I guess I'll never get to find out exactly how that works. Thanks a lot, Catholicism.

Far better than the silly Narnia stuff or LOTR

mmghosh's picture

for that matter. I, too, was waiting for the rest of the series.

My nephew likes the trilogy too, hopefully in reaction to the Islamic religion-based indoctrination kids here have to take as a part to learning 'cultural heritage'.

I remember the good old days


When you could call college students sluts on the airwaves and not have all this feminazi social media oppression of 1st amendment-protected speech. Frankly it's chilling.

The best argument a conservative can make about Romney

Bird Dog's picture

Rich Lowry: "No one has ever regretted hiring him to do a job."

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

+1. Nt

Bernard Guerrero's picture

More ideas


Despite some apparent inconsistencies when talking to the rubes, he's really very principled when it comes to the interests he actually represents. 


He's not god#*mn Rick Santorum or Newt f&*cking Gingrich. 





He'd do a job alright


He'd do a job on the middle and working classes!!!

Did anyone ask..


the State of Massachusetts?



"Something I think most liberals don't understand is exactly how stupid many conservative leaders are." - Matt Yglesias


Bird Dog's picture

The good professor is right that a governor is "limited in his power to influence the course of economic development," but then he muffed it with this: "A full-time governor who is deeply committed to the economic well-being of a state's workers can, however, make some difference." Translation: Romney didn't grow the size of government by raising taxes so that he can hire more government workers.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Peter Bergman: 1939-2012

HankP's picture


One of the members of the Firesign Theatre, and one of the funniest people I was fortunate enough to see perform. A huge influence on anyone who favored absurdist humor. To say that he (and they) were prescient is an understatement. But I can't put it better than the man himself:


Louis Mashman Editorial


Shoes for Industry


I blame it all on the Internet

FST metafilter thread



Tebow Time To Be Canceled In Favor Of Peyton Place?

M Scott Eiland's picture

Peyton Manning meets with John Elway.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Overheard convo


"I can't believe they're thinking of replacing Tebow with a guy who might - MIGHT - have one good season left in him"


"That's one more good season than Tebow has in him."

Just Lovely, Matters are Not Okay in Baghdad re Religious Police


Activists told the Cairo-based al-Akhbar daily that at least 90 Iraqi teenagers with “emo” appearances have been stoned to death by the Moral Police in the country in the past month. The violent crackdown against “emo” Iraqi teenagers came after the Iraqi interior ministry declared them as “devil worshippers.”

“The ‘Emo phenomenon’ or devil worshiping is being probed by the Moral Police who have the approval to eliminate it as soon as possible since it’s detrimentally affecting the society and becoming a danger,” a statement by the Interior Ministry said.


“They wear strange, tight clothes that have pictures on them such as skulls and use stationery that are shaped as skulls. They also wear rings on their noses and tongues, and do other strange activities,” the statement added.

The statement said that Iraq’s Moral Police was granted approval by the Ministry of Education to enter Baghdad schools and pinpoint students with Western appearances.

The activists told the newspaper that a group of armed men dressed in civilian clothing led the teenagers to secluded areas a few days ago, stoned them to death, and then disposed their bodies in garbage dumpsters across the capital, Baghdad.

“First they throw concrete blocks at the boy’s arms, then at his legs, then the final blow is to his head, and if he is not dead by then, they start all over again,” one person who managed to escape told the daily.
The exact death toll remains unclear, but Hana al-Bayaty of Brussels Tribunal, an NGO dealing with Iraqi issues, said the current figure ranges “between 90 and 100.”

Activists said that leaflets were distributed in Baghdad warning teenagers from donning the “emo” style, and in some regions, teenage homosexuals were killed by battering their heads also by concrete blocks.


Bird Dog's picture

Not a single name of a single victim, and only one named source, a lady from a Dutch website that has a political agenda. In the first 10 pages of Googling "Iraq" and "moral police", the only reference pertaining to Iraq is this story. I'll reserve judgement until there's more confirmation.


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Given that the Maliki government often works closely


with Badr and Sadr, this seems pretty darned plausible.  (Although it could also be a set of rumors that have grown disproportionately from the actual event).

Not "between 90 and 100"

Bird Dog's picture

but still serious.


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

For this we sacrificed


4000 + American soldiers, and god knows how many billions of dollars?

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

Don't kid yourself

HankP's picture

Department of Unintended Consequences #27

Bernard Guerrero's picture

[url=http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/03/why-obamacares-medicaid-expansion-will-reduce-health-care-access/254275/]Obamacare might end up reducing access to healthcare at the low end of the socio-economic spectrum[/url].  Whoopsie.

The concern is noted and appreciated


in exactly the spirit in which it was offered.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Hey, man, the bleeding heart business is your shtick.

Bernard Guerrero's picture

Me, I'm just upset that my cash is not just being wasted but manages to be wasted in the most counter-productive way possible. Good job, guys. :^)

Did we read the same article?


I read a piece of pure speculation imagining that if conditions prevailing in Medicaid over the past 10 years are picked up and exactly reproduced under Obamacare, then it might, *might* have some negative results. You guys are usually more skeptical about fantasy counterfactuals... especially when it involves us spending your money. :^)

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

In a universe where we....

Bernard Guerrero's picture

....can't re-run the experiment or even have proper controls, I love counterfactuals. Just ask Andrew. :^)

By the way, if you'll excuse my bleeding heart


it's nice to see your military picture again.

The War on Christians and Religion


This might come as a surprise to Ralph Reed, but the real culprits are in the private financial sector:


Banks are foreclosing on America's churches in record numbers as lenders increasingly lose patience with religious facilities defaulting on loans, representing a new wave of distressed property seizures triggered by the 2008 financial crash.


I'm thinking this is most likely

aireachail's picture

the systematic dispossession of the faithful by their own intellectual and political elites.


These elites are really startin' to stick in my craw.



If churches don't have enough money to pay the mortgage in hard times, however will they be able to give succor to the poor? Could this mean that private charity is not enough to fill basic social needs in challenging economic climates?





They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...
-- General John B. Sedgwick, 1864

I see what you're getting at


 You think banks should take over the role of religious institutions. You're a bankunist.


HankP's picture

a capitotalitarian.

I blame it all on the Internet


Bird Dog's picture

Only because I know you really like that response.

Being in the real estate business and having some expertise at appraising these pieces of property, I've seen these trends firsthand. Church giving has been way down since the 2008 recession began and they haven't improved much since then, which means that overleveraged churches have lost their churches. Or will. Prices have plummeted because there are fewer denominations chasing a much larger population of available properties. 

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

I'm Fairly Certain That. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . ."insisting that churches pay back loans" isn't a vendetta, any more than it is when directed at private individuals.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

There's no vendetta by the federal government either of course


against religion.


Being irrational on purpose to show other people's irrationality is what blogging means to me.

Prosecuting Limbaugh


under laws that are appropriately addressed to the reactionary worldview he advocates:


Allred focused her efforts on Palm Beach because Limbaugh both lives and broadcasts his show from the county. She cited an 1883 state law that says, "Whoever speaks of and concerning any woman, married or unmarried, falsely and maliciously imputing to her a want of chastity, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/gloria-allred-rush-limbaugh_n_1335094.html

Good Luck With That

M Scott Eiland's picture

I'm sure that another gender feminist vendetta by Gloria Allred in an election year is just what Obama is looking for.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

UC pepper spray report delayed


After bravely determining to study the pepper spraying incident for four months, the UC Davis task force has delayed the release of its report:



Greece will, of course, default again.

Bernard Guerrero's picture

The new paper's already trading at a significant discount to face value.  But at this point it is already taken as a given, nothing left but to figure out who is going to end up paying on the CDS after netting exposure.  I'd keep my eye on Portugal, next.

Right on your main point


but I don't think that the ECB is going to let the rest of the Med go under (since they're not insane).

You have to wonder.

Bernard Guerrero's picture

Portugal's yields are still blown out, and there's something funky going on in the CDS market: http://blogs.wsj.com/marketbeat/2012/03/08/bond-and-cds-arbitrage-opport...

I tend to rely on the "they're not insane" argument (I've been buying all through this), but I got hammered when they actually let LEH go. Sometimes their cost-benefit calculation isn't the same as the one you're seeing, eh? Certainly the average Hans Durchschnittsburger's isn't.

I can't believe a Guerrerist would miss

HankP's picture

that the cost benefit calculations are wildly variable for the different players involved. You must be going soft on us.

I blame it all on the Internet

In your own way


you're something of a Hans Durchschnittsburger.



would be a hard name to grow up in American schools with. Or perhaps a great one.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

If Hans took the poor kids' lunches away


while telling them it was necessary for the glorious cause of "price stability," that could turn "Durchsnittsburger" into a dirty name.

Jose, Jose, Jose. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .doping to stay competitive in the *Mexican League* is not a strategy for long-term success.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

More sex, more race

Bird Dog's picture

On the sex side, the fetching house-tamed FoxNews liberal.

On the race side, Tom Maguire and critical race theory. I agree with his final conclusion.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Keep up the good work


When the Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey asked last summer which party should control Congress, a slim 46-42 percent plurality of women said it should be the Democrats.

But in a survey released Monday, compiling polling since the beginning of the year, that figure had widened considerably to a 15-point advantage for the Democrats, according to polling by the team of Democratic pollster Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff. Fifty-one percent favored Democratic control; only 36 percent wanted to see the Republicans in charge.

Minorities - check and now Women - check.



"Something I think most liberals don't understand is exactly how stupid many conservative leaders are." - Matt Yglesias


Bird Dog's picture

And you can thank Soledad the Obama Water Carrier in helping with that spread.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009


HankP's picture

it has nothing to do with what Republicans have been saying about blacks, hispanics or women for the past ten years. Nothing at all.

I blame it all on the Internet

On The Other Hand. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .Rick Santorum was 18 points ahead in Ohio three weeks ago, and I'm thinking that the media won't be able to keep this up much longer. If they were all-powerful, Huntsman would be leading in the polls, and the MSM would already be rehearsing the moment when they'd turn on him once the nomination was secured.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.



Women don't need Soledad to tell them what to think. They can make up their own minds and they have.

"Something I think most liberals don't understand is exactly how stupid many conservative leaders are." - Matt Yglesias

Oh Good Grief


And it's still only March.

Way to score an own goal

HankP's picture

in going after O'Brien, you managed to let everyone know how much conservative motivated white supremacy has influenced the laws and culture of this country.

I blame it all on the Internet

Say wha?

Bird Dog's picture

Thanks for endorsing the actual CRT viewpoint espoused by Professor Bell, and for acknowledging that Soledad was full of s**t.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

No one cares about O"Brien

HankP's picture

but keep talking about white supremacy, it's a great selling point for the GOP.

I blame it all on the Internet

It's Not About White Supremacy

M Scott Eiland's picture

It's about Obama palling around with people who believe the US legal system was and still is built around white supremacy. That's not something the Democrats want as a topic of discussion.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Too funny

HankP's picture

are you really denying that the US legal system was built around white supremacy? Or that it all magically went away when the civil rights acts were passed?


I had no idea you were an absurdist, but you have a real talent for it.

I blame it all on the Internet


M Scott Eiland's picture

The "own goal" part is particularly clueless, given the two groups of liberals who are contradicting each other in trying to minimize this and/or hide the evidence of what the loons are actually for.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

No. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .we called attention to the fact that a way of thinking that Obama literally embraced thinks so, attempts by moonbats to hide that fact notwithstanding. Thanks, Soledad--you lying dips**t!

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Every time someone misuses 'literally'


I literally kick a dog.

A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.


I am literally


nodding my head in wry agreement.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes


HankP's picture

Obama embraced a man, no evidence that he "literally embraced" his entire way of thinking. I hug my brother, but he's as crazily conservative as they come.


But it remains true that anyone who looks at the facts can see the effect of white supremacy on US history. We fought a civil war about it, in case you don't remember. The assertion of white supremacy is right in the confederate states declarations and constitution.You might also want to read up on what a century of Jim Crow laws did to the country.


Are you really asserting that Southern conservatives (who voted for Democrats until the civil rights acts, then switched en masse to the Republicans) didn't believe in white supremacy? And that it had no effect on US history, law and culture? Because that's worth a diary.

I blame it all on the Internet


M Scott Eiland's picture

This kind of racially paranoid nonsense is poison to moderates, and even many liberals are panicked at the thought of it being associated with Obama (explaining Soledad O'Dips**t's flailing and the attempt at wiki to dispose of the offensive wording down the memory hole).

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.


HankP's picture

that kind of racially paranoid nonsense is poison to moderates southern conservatives who know it's true

Fixed that for you. Are you really saying that there was no white supremacy in the US, ever? Please do go on.

I blame it all on the Internet

Non-Sequitur, Again

M Scott Eiland's picture

And if what you were saying was true, Obama's lapdogs in the media wouldn't be bothering to lie about it while others try to hide the evidence.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Hide the evidence?



"Something I think most liberals don't understand is exactly how stupid many conservative leaders are." - Matt Yglesias

Yes, by putting it on PBS four years ago

HankP's picture

and having it available at their website ever since. The clever fiends! They know nobody watches PBS!

I blame it all on the Internet

So, what's the difference between


an Obama who talks and governs like a liberal democrat (small L and D intentional) but secretly harbors a radical distrust of the whole American system and an Obama who talks and governs like a liberal democrat and actually is?  Because the efforts to show that, in his heart of hearts, Obama is a Malcolm X redivivus intent on bringing down the system in spite of his entire governing record seem rather... silly.

Food Staple vs Umbrella in Fruity Drink?

brutusettu's picture

[url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5t_XpPM3Q4&t=5m38s] some dude I subbed to thumbed up this video [/url]


M Scott Eiland's picture

Looks like the moonbats failed in hiding the "white supremacy" wording from the Wiki entry, at least for now. Nice try, scumbags.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Holy Crack and Cocaine getting different sentences Batman

brutusettu's picture

Brutusettu needs more input on this issue.

Related Input

brutusettu's picture

[url=http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2012/03/the-greatest-scandal-there-absolutely-ever-was-except-for-steroids]"I especially like the “made his students read” language. I guess wingers these days are hippie types who think doing class readings should be optional, man. Fortunately, earlier this semester I “made” my students read the majority opinion in Dennis v. United States, so my anti-communist and anti-civil liberties credentials should be sufficiently established to keep David Horowitz off my back."[/url]

Ah. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .so *that's* why Ms. O'Brien's picture is next to the "lying dips**t" entry in the dictionary. Mystery solved!

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

*Pulls out calculator*


That's a 3-month average of +245k payrolls per month. If that pace holds throughout 2012 it would mean creating 3 million new jobs.