Monday, April 30, 2007

I am great! I scooped the great Glenn Greenwald!

Ooh! Ooh! In another edition of "famous people saying what I said after I said it", we have this 4/30 Greenwald post:
Warning that anonymity makes bloggers so "scary" and "irresponsible," while demanding anonymity to voice that criticism, is ingenious. And the anonymous quote is predictably being touted in right-wing circles as proof of how savage liberal bloggers are.
Which says basically the same thing I said here on 4/28:

There you have it: Anonymity supposedly amplifies the "totally mean and irrational" parts of the blogosphere. But this reporter (one Carla Marinucci) is willing to grant this "key state Democratic strategist" anonymity so that this strategist can...launch a "mean and irrational" smear against bloggers in general.

This has been a general refrain of the mainstream media and political pundits: Demanding that bloggers be held to standards that they themselves do not adhere to. We are not impressed.

And to read my blog, you don't have to sit through an ad from Salon.com! Of course, we were both reacting to this Atrios post, so it's not like I really scooped anybody.

Your Drug War at Work

If cops kick in enough doors, crap like this is bound to happen:
ATLANTA — Two police officers pleaded guilty Thursday to manslaughter in the shooting death of a 92-year-old woman during a botched drug raid last fall. A third officer still faces charges.
[...]
The charges followed a Nov. 21 "no-knock" drug raid on the home of Kathryn Johnston, 92. An informant had described buying drugs from a dealer there, police said. When the officers burst in without warning, Johnston fired at them, and they fired back, killing her.
[...]
Assistant U.S. Attorney Yonette Sam-Buchanan said Thursday that although the officers found no drugs in Johnston's home, Smith planted three bags of marijuana in the home as part of a cover story.
(via C&L) Major kudos from Internal Monologue to any politician, Republican, Democrat, or other, brave enough to suggest a new approach to this. The War on Drugs: just as stupid as our occupation of Iraq, but it's been going on longer and probably will be going on long after the troops finally come home.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

This is going to be inconvenient: I580 collapses

Photo from SFGate.com (SF Chronicle)


John Baynham mapped the collapsed section with Google maps (via NWZCHIK)

New York Times:
SAN FRANCISCO, April 29 — A fiery pre-dawn tanker truck accident caused the collapse of heavily used freeway overpass near downtown Oakland early this morning, sending hundreds of feet of concrete and steel roadway crashing down onto a highway below, and probably complicating the lives of thousands of Bay Area commuters for months to come.
[...]
The damaged sections of the interchange are likely to take months to repair. Bay Area Rapid Transit, the railway system connecting San Francisco tothe East Bay whose tracks run nearby, was not affected by the accident, though additional trains were being added today to accommodate travelers unable to drive through the area.
The freeways in this area, the "MacArthur Maze", are so tangled I'm not sure exacly which freeways are blocked by this accident. But it's going to be a huge pain in the ass for me.

Updates can be found here.

Maybe politicians will retroactively legalize prostitution

Well, it's time once again to break out the popcorn. I know "serious" people are not supposed to be jazzed by salacious sex scandals, but c'mon, who isn't? Apparently, the DC Madam who supplied prostitutes to the head of Bush's foreign aid programs is going to start naming other names:

She not only intends to identify more of her high-profile clients, but has also threatened to call them as witnesses at trial to back up her claim that the services provided never crossed the line to prostitution.

“I am a ferocious fighter when need be,” she wrote in an e-mail message this year to a Justice Department official involved in the case. “I can state with unequivocal certainty this situation will be a very long and unpleasant one.”

(via theyrereal on DailyKos) Here's a deal I'll make: if any politician comes out publicly for legalizing prostitution, or even a general re-thinking of our society's approaches and attitudes towards the sex industry, and does so before their name becomes associated with this scandal, Internal Monologue will publicly support them regardless of party affiliation and advocate that they be allowed to keep their jobs. For anyone else, I will gleefully joining the media vulture pile-on and mock them mercilessly for being hypocritical hooker-meisters.

Anonymity: bad for bloggers, good for blogger-smearers

Atrios quotes the SF Chronicle:

But one key state Democratic strategist, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of concern for riling the netroots crowd, warns that such efforts are potentially positive and negative.

Netroots commentary can frequently be intensely personal, even "totally mean and irrational," the strategist said, with some bloggers finding power in their ability "to assassinate political characters online."

"It's amplified by the anonymity, and it can be scary that it's so irresponsible," the insider said. "And it's pulling the mainstream media in that direction."

There you have it: Anonymity supposedly amplifies the "totally mean and irrational" parts of the blogosphere. But this reporter (one Carla Marinucci) is willing to grant this "key state Democratic strategist" anonymity so that this strategist can...launch a "mean and irrational" smear against bloggers in general.

This has been a general refrain of the mainstream media and political pundits: Demanding that bloggers be held to standards that they themselves do not adhere to. We are not impressed.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bush official linked to prostitution ring

Photo of Randall Tobias from CommonDreams.org

Oh dear. The Bush administration scandals are coming faster than we can blog 'em:
Randall Tobias, head of the Bush administration's foreign aid programs, abruptly resigned Friday after his name surfaced in an investigation into a high-priced call-girl ring, said two people in a position to know the circumstances of his departure.

[...]

Tobias, 65, who is married, told ABC News there had been "no sex" during the women's visits to his condo. His name was on a list of clients given to ABC by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who owns the escort service and has been charged with running a prostitution ring in the nation's capital.
Um, I'm finding that "no sex" part a bit difficult to believe. If you just want a massage, why are you paying $200-$300 a session? It's the Ted Haggard defense: I bought the meth but didn't use it from a prostitute I paid but didn't have sex with. Yeah right.

Oh get this: he was one of those people who thought we should fight AIDS with abstience-only education:
But some civil society groups criticised the appointment of Tobias, citing his record in the fight against AIDS.

"Under his direction, HIV prevention programmes have shifted from being based in public health science to being dictated by the abstinence-only-until-marriage ideology of the Bush administration," said James Wagoner, president of the Washington-based Advocates for Youth.
Well, maybe he did abstain from having sex with the prostitutes, then. Or maybe since he's married, he doesn't have to abstain, since he was operating under the "abstinence-only-until-marriage" ideology of the Bush administration.

It's too rich. This scandal is already documented at his Wikipedia entry. Now apparently, the madam who ran this D.C. escort service had other political clients. It'll be fun to see what else comes out.

Bwahahahahah!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Go get her, Mr. Livingood: arresting Rice for contempt




(Images from his alma mater, Michigan State University, and from Slate.com)

Recently, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she will defy a Congressional Subpoena issued by a House Committee investigating the administrations pre-war claims about Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Now, defying such a subpoena is illegal, and she could be prosecuted for that. But who would be in charge of prosecuting such a case? U.S. Attorneys. Yes, the same U.S. Attorneys who have been purged to ensure political loyalty to the Bush administration. The person defying the subpoena (Rice) and the people in charge of enforcing it (U.S. Attorneys) are pawns of the same bunch of wannabe authoritarians. So Congress and the American people are S.O.L., right?

Wrong! It turns out that each chamber of Congress has its own Sergeant-at-Arms, who under some seldom-used provisions actually has the legal power to go out and enforce Congress' rules. This Slate article explains it all:

Federal law can allow the executive to punish disobedience to Congress, but it cannot take away Congress' own punishment powers. Back in 1833, Justice Joseph Story said those powers were utterly necessary "for either house to perform its constitutional functions," a conclusion also reached by the Supreme Court as a whole in 1821. Once a house of Congress finds someone in contempt, it can order its sergeant to go after him. It's really that simple.

And that's as it should be: As the House of Commons understood when it nabbed Ferrers on its own, and as Congress understood when it scooped up Sam Houston, accepting help from the executive means subordination to the executive. The legislature can least afford this when it is the executive that is under investigation. The sergeants of the houses of Congress already have all the power they need. Rove, Rice, Miers—Congress, go get 'em!

(HT: Sullivan) The guy in the photo above is Wilson Livingood, Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives. He has the authoritah. If Rice, Rove, or any other Bush administration wants to defy Waxman's House Committee investigation, I say let's have Mr. Livingood put that Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice degree to work and arrest them for contempt of Congress. That would certainly re-establish Congress' oversight role in a dramatic fashion, and it would let the little embunkered Dauphin (Bush) know that "L'état, ce n'est pas toi."

I'm a Girl!

At least according to this gender genie thing that analyzes prose for certain gender keywords and gives you a score. If you put my latest Atheist of the Day post or my post on Obama's reaction to the Senate passage of the Iraq bill into it, it guesses I'm female. But if you put my post on the alternative BYU commencement in there, it says I'm male.

(HT: Sullivan)

Atheist of the Day: Nina Hartley

Image from here (probably stolen)

Enough of politics! It's time for another Atheist of the Day! Once again, it's a porn star Atheist of the Day, this time Nina Hartley! You'd be amazed how difficult it is to find a photo of a multi-award winning pornstar that is a) of decent quality, and b) not pornographic. She must have had her lawyers scour the Web and purge it of all unapproved images or something. But thanks to the dilligence of your author, I managed to scrounge up this one, which should serve. (Side note: Yahoo image search turns up a lot of stuff that Google image search doesn't.)

The documentation of her atheism, however, is quite straightforward. I'll just quote from the defunct Celebrity Atheist List, still with us thanks to the Google Cache version:
"...I would like to know about Jewish religion as history, but as an atheist, I see no reason to practice any religion... because it is organized superstition...the opiate of the masses."
"Opiate of the masses"? Can you tell she was raised in Berkeley in the 60's? More from Celebrity Atheist List:
From an interview found at her website:

Do you believe in god? Do you have a religion?

No, I don't believe in God. I was raised with no religion, but a lot of morals. I definitely think that sex is natural and healthy, and that people have the absolute right to pursue their sexual preferences with other consenting adults without government or church intervention. I can do what I do to share my enjoyment of sex with all my viewers out there. If I can help any person or persons have a great sex session, then I've done a good job! I believe that society changes and that we can take what is good from the world's religions and leave behind what isn't so good, and forge a new say. I'm one of the forgers, I like to think!

Jon Stewart on Gonzales testimony, again


Very funny. How about instead of me posting links to these, everyone just checks Crooks and Liars regularly? I hope people in other countries see these segments and realize that we aren't all deluded warmongering dry-drunks.

Senate passes Iraq funding bill

The spending bill with the timetable to begin withdrawal has been passed by the Senate. Now it's on to George Bush's desk, where it will probably get vetoed. Here's Obama's quote on the situation:
We are one signature away from ending the Iraq War. President Bush must listen to the will of the American people and sign this bill so that our troops can come home.[...]
[Emphasis added.] (HT: turneresq on DailyKos) One signature away. Unfortunately, that signature is Bush's. The sense of shame and futility I feel when I think that this man is President of the United States and Commander-in-chief of our military. All my representatives in Congress: please impeach this sorry excuse for an executive. If concern for the good of your country doesn't motivate you, can you not act out of a personal sense of shame that this contemptible, stubborn, uncaring thing is our head of state? Wake up out of your torpor: he has no clothes. He is not salvageable.

I agree with turneresq and Greg Sargent that Obama's "We are one signature away from ending the Iraq War." is a great line. However, I think we should be calling this an occupation, not a war. The war has long since ended. It's been an occupation for years.

A sad side note on the whole Iraq situation: Iraqi blogger Riverbend has decided to leave the country. I'm sad she has to flee, but I'm glad she's still alive. Whenever a long time goes between posts, everyone worries.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Winning "hearts and minds"...

...or not. In response to this recently released public opinion survey of four predominantly Muslim countries, Kevin Drum asks:
So here are some questions for every one of the 2008 presidential candidates: Do you care about Muslim public opinion? Do you think it impacts U.S. national security? Which aspects of American foreign policy do you think contribute to these attitudes? What concrete steps would you take to change these parts of our foreign policy? Aside from making jokes about bombing Iran, that is. There will be an open book test on January 20, 2009.

Whoa dude, school has first integrated prom...this year

Ebony and Ivory...fom CNN
Wow:

ASHBURN, Georgia (CNN) -- Students of Turner County High School started what they hope will become a new tradition: Black and white students attended the prom together for the first time on Saturday.

In previous years, parents had organized private, segregated dances for students of the school in rural Ashburn, Georgia, 160 miles south of Atlanta.

"Whites always come to this one and blacks always go to this one," said Lacey Adkinson, a 14-year-old freshman at the school of 455 students -- 55 percent black, 43 percent white.
(HT: Feministing) I live in a bubble. Heck, any prom I attend is ipso facto multi-racial.

Obama closing in on Clinton


Charmingly old-fashioned illustrations from the Wall Street Journal, of course. Who else produces such things anymore?

Obama is catching up:
...a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows Mr. Obama trailing Mrs. Clinton by just 36% to 31%; 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards runs a solid third with 20%. Last month, Mr. Obama lagged behind by 12 percentage points.

The telephone survey of 1,004 American adults, conducted April 20-23, carries a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.

(HT: Sullivan, who seems to be favoring Obama these days.)

Why does the Wall Street Journal continue to use those weird "dot art" illustrations instead of photographs like every normal newspaper?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Planet! Time to send out the terraforming colony ships!

Image from OutaLance Shipyards

It looks like we've found an earthish-sized planet in the "habitable zone" of a red dwarf star only 20.5 light years away:
A rocky planet not much larger than Earth has been detected orbiting a star close to our own neighborhood in the Milky Way, and the European astronomers who found it say it lies within the star's "habitable zone," where life could exist -- possibly in oceans of water.
The terraforming crews will have their hands full though:

David Spergel, chairman of Princeton astrophysics department, noted that the new planet, if it is indeed rocky, must be "tidally locked" to its sun the way our moon is to the Earth -- which means that it must always show its same face to its sun, and that while one side would be too fiercely hot to support life, the other side would be too cold.

But at the terminator -- the margin between the hot and cold parts of the planet -- Spergel agreed that liquid water could well exist, hurricane force winds would blow, and although the planet would be radically different from Earth, life might well exist in that difficult environment. "This is a big, impressive step," Spergel said.

Let's hope Grishnash can learn more about this and chime in with his expert opinion!

UPDATE: Time has a picture of the star Gliese 581, which of course looks pretty much like every other star.
Image from Time

UPDATE II: Apparently, this discovery is causing bookies to adjust their odds of confirming extra-terrestrial intelligence:
William Hill said it had shortened the odds on proving the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence from 1,000/1 to 100/1.

Spokesman Graham Sharpe said: "We would face a possible eight figure payout if it were to be confirmed that intelligent life of extra-terrestrial origin currently exists.

"Dust Storm" June 1 & 3 at Oakland Museum

Photo by Christopher Irion

I will be performing Dust Storm: Art and Survival in a Time of Paranoia at the Oakland Museum on Friday June 1st at 7:00 pm and on Sunday, June 3rd at 2pm. See their June calendar for more information. The play is written by Rick Foster with art by Chiura Obata.

More information will be coming as the dates approach. Now I gotta re-memorize 75 minutes worth of text!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

BYU Alternative Commencement reaches money goal

Thanks to the DailyKos diary I linked to yesterday, the BYU students looking to fund their alternative commencement have reached their $20,000 goal only 4 hours after the diary went up:
The Daily Kos is such a huge and popular blog, that I expected my entry to quickly disappear into the woodwork.

But this was not the case. Within minutes, people from around the nation started pouring in supportive comments to what I had written. And, within a few more minutes, money donations started gushing into the Alternative BYU Commencement website. Hundreds upon hundreds of people started discussing this issue and we suddenly became the top most talked about Daily Kos Blog Entry of the day. Hundreds of dollars became thousands of dollars. The "donation" meter exploded from about $9,500 to $15,000 in 2 hours. And then, just 4 hours after the post went up, the $20,000 goal was annihilated. And people just kept giving and giving and giving.
FEEL THE POWER OF THE NETROOTS! I'm sure it was because of the flood of people coming over from Internal Monologue. Not. But it feels great to be part of a mass nose-thumbing to Dick Cheney.

Politicizing the Virginia Tech shootings

I like what Lizard at Journal of Applied Misanthropology has to say:
America is, as a nation, pretty much oblivious to politics, on any level beyond what fits on a bumper sticker. A tragedy of this sort forces a moment, however brief, of reflection and debate. The media, desperate to fill up minutes and keep eyeballs, will seek out pundits and commentators and wags from all across the spectrum, and they will have a few brief minutes to toss the seeds of ideas onto the rocky, dry, infertile soil of the American mind, hoping to find some tiny oasis of acceptance. It takes a lot to get America's attention -- might as well make the most of it while you can.

Quote of the Day

First they came for the Muslims.
I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Muslim.

Then they came for the mentally ill.
Then I started to take things personally.

-from Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

Greenwald:

The expansion of the Surveillance State is endless. Buried within an ABC report on the Virginia Tech shootings is this paragraph (h/t reader DT):

Some news accounts have suggested that Cho had a history of antidepressant use, but senior federal officials tell ABC News that they can find no record of such medication in the government's files. This does not completely rule out prescription drug use, including samples from a physician, drugs obtained through illegal Internet sources, or a gap in the federal database, but the sources say theirs is a reasonably complete search.
Is there any good reason whatsoever why the federal government should be maintaining "files" which contain information about the pharmaceutical products which all Americans are consuming? The noxious idea has taken root in our country -- even before the Bush presidency, though certainly greatly bolstered during it -- that one of the functions of the federal government is to track the private lives of American citizens and maintain dossiers on what we do.

Binding dates for troop withdrawal remain in bill

I was worried the Democrats in the conference committee would take out the binding dates to begin troop withdrawal from the Iraq/Afghanistan funding bill. They didn't:

8The deal, which will come to final votes in the House and Senate Wednesday and Thursday, sets up a veto clash with President Bush by week's end. Congressional Democrats had considered making all dates for withdrawing U.S. troops advisory, hoping to persuade Bush to sign the bill, which would provide more than $100 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But once the president made it clear a veto was inevitable, Democratic leaders decided to stick to binding dates, at least for the initial troop pullouts.

Bush "is the only person who fails to face this war's reality -- and that failure is devastating not just for Iraq's future, but for ours," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) declared in a speech this afternoon.

Good for the Democrats. Maybe they read my post telling them to keep the dates binding.

I never thought I'd give money to Mormons...


...well, it's actually students and faculty who attend a Mormon University, so they aren't necessarily LDS themselves, but probably a large number of them are. At least the one in the photo below is...anyway, why would the author of Internal Monologue throw a few dollars to a bunch of people who attend Brigham Young University? Because they are trying to avoid having to listen to Dick Cheney at their commencement, that's why. And what nobler cause could there be than that? (OK, maybe impeaching him would be nobler, or dedicating your life to serving the poor. But avoiding Dick Cheney at your commencement ranks pretty high on my scale of nobility.)

So if you want to show these brave folks some love, you can PayPal them a few bucks. They're trying to set up an Alternative Commencement with Ralph Nader, Pete Ashdown, and Jack Healey as speakers. They'd been having trouble booking a space, as apparently they were blacklisted by the University and many local venues wouldn't deal with them. But it looks like they've got a space now, so I hope all goes well Thursday when the event is scheduled to take place.

(HT: minorityfilms on DailyKos)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Earth Day


I suppose it would be a shame to let Earth Day go by without a mention. So here's a quote:
The first time someone complains about needing a better road and a politician answers "Tough. You're the one who moved to a subdivision fifty miles out of town and three miles down a country lane," I will cheer.

Triple shot of Feministing

Feministing: Still my favorite logo in the blogosphere

Three items from Feministing's weekly feminist reader:
  1. A brief Time article on outsourcing breastmilk. I guess we outsource just about everything else in our culture, so why not? They say "cross-nursing", where you feed each other's babies, is making a "minor comeback", but they don't cite any statistics.
  2. Guardian Unlimited talks to Jessica Valenti about her book Full Frontal Feminsism, which is about how feminism can benefit the young women of today. It's the book she wishes she had when she was a teenager.
  3. A frightening excerpt from Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, about the connection between perfectionism and body image and eating issues among the high-achieving young women of today. This stuff scares the crap out of me, because I can see its effects but I don't feel I can do anything about it. It's very strange to me because it's a whole universe of pressures that I'm just not subjected to. Is it really this bad for women? Food is the new sex, I guess. People have to have fucked up notions about some essential human function, or we might actually end up liking ourselves. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make these issues go away.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Talking to Americans


I just discovered this "Talking to Americans" video, a Canadian cousin of Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" series. Of course one can't place too much stock in these sorts of "getting people to say dumb stuff" shows as of course they're edited to show you people at their stupidest. But it is frightening when you see Americans saying they'd be OK with bombing Saskatchewan or sending troops to Gilles Duceppe (which is not a place, but rather a Quebecois separatist politician). (HT: Progressive Gold)

Dutch prostitutes specialize in first time sexual experiences for geeks

I have resisted the urge to use Google image search to find a photograph that would adequately illustrate the topic of this post. Sometimes I am astounded by the levels of decorum and restraint I am able to achieve.

Capitalism is everything people feared Communism would be: an hyper-powerful global ideology that completely upends all moral structures, traditions, and power arrangements with which it collides. Fortunately, it has some beneficial side-effects, one of which is that the entrepreneurial spirit is great at finding unsatisfied needs, and, provided that the unsatisfied have enough money, coming up with a way to satisfy those needs, however abstruse or specialized. (The fact that capitalism is equally good at creating unsatisfied needs is a topic for another post.)

Which brings us to today's article from The Register, which I think was probably custom-tailored to catch my attention:

God alone knows it's going to be difficult, but we promise we will keep an absolutely straight face as we report that Dutch escort agency Society Service has set up a special service for geek virgins looking for that elusive first sexual encounter.

Sociology student Zoe Vialet set up the agency last year, Ananova reports, and admits she's had "a lot of demand from virgins" - most of them from the IT sector. She explained to De Telegraaf: "They are very sweet but are afraid of seeking contact with other people. They mean it very well but are very scared."

Zoe has a crack team of five girls "specially trained" to pop geeks' cherries.
(HT: Progressive Gold) Now what centrally directed economy could plan for catering to such a need? It's stuff like this that doomed Communism. Reagan had nothing to do with it.

More Al Gore presidential speculation

Image from here.

UPDATED BELOW
UPDATED AGAIN: Gore people are saying this story is bunk.

An interesting article from U.K.-based Telegraph:
Friends of Al Gore have secretly started assembling a campaign team in preparation for the former American vice-president to make a fresh bid for the White House.

Two members of Mr Gore's staff from his unsuccessful attempt in 2000 say they have been approached to see if they would be available to work with him again.

[...]

The former aide, who has himself signed up with Sen Edwards, said: "The question is: where have all the Kerry people gone? The answer for most of them is nowhere. Now ask yourself why."
(HT: anoodle on DailyKos) I like the idea of Gore running. At the very least, it would put Climate Change at the center of presidential politics.

UPDATE: Chris Bowers at MyDD thinks the Telegraph article is crap:
To be perfectly frank, I think the continued speculation on a possible Gore run is based on some of the most utterly flimsy rumors and word play I have seen fuel almost any American political story in recent years (and that is saying a lot). It strikes me as basically trying to accomplish the same structural drain (money, activists, media) on Edwards, Obama and all other non-Clinton candidates that an actual Gore entry would accomplish. Either that, or it is simply the media trying to inject a wrinkle into a story that will help them get ratings, even though they know it isn't actually news. The difference in the quality of journalism surrounding speculation on potential celebrity divorces and speculation of a possible Gore run is minimal, at best.

Now, with that said, if Gore did run, I would give him a long look. But he ain't gonna run.

Message to Congress: Don't water-down Iraq bill

There have been all kinds of rumors flying about that the bill the Democratic Congress is going to send to Bush will be stripped of time tables for withdrawal. This would be stupid, stupid, stupid. Why are Democrats doing anything that will give them more "ownership" of an occupation that is stupid, wrong, and hugely unpopular? Who the fuck are these "Blue Dog" Democrats who want to have "advisory language" or "goals" instead of "get out by date X" provisions in the bill? Who is their constituency? They can't be catering to voter sentiment, because voter sentiment is against Bush and against this occupation. Are they beholden to some interest group that has a stake in prolonging our involvement in the catastrophe? Or are they just so bamboozled by the Washington D.C. culture that they still feel they can't do anything sensible without looking weak? I can't believe they actually think our occupation has any chance of successfully achieving anything in Iraq.

I just don't understand it. I can understand political compromise on various issues because some Democrats come from conservative districts. But on the Iraq occupation, public opinion is pushing the other way: people want Congress to stand up to the President more. If someone can explain the dynamics at work here, I'd very much appreciate it.

Time to start thinking about running Democratic primary challengers against some people. I knew Republicans would have a hard time accepting the lessons of November 2006. But why are Democrats having a hard time doing so? Is our political culture that dysfunctional? (I can just picture Atrios answering: Yes.)

Is this for real?

From here, via Pandagon.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A new theory on "The Rapture"

Image from biblia.com
After looking around Conservapedia, I've come up with a new theory about the Rapture: It's what will occur when the alternate reality the Bush administration and its supporters have been constructing out of pure bullshit for the last decade or so finally becomes big enough for them to move there physically.

My only worry about this is that they may decide to nuke the Reality-Based Community on the way out, for sheer spite.

-Consumer Unit 5012, in a comment on Slacktivist. [some typos corrected]

(HT: Mad Latinist via e-mail)

By the way, if you want to read a great scene-by-scene fisking of the first "Left Behind" novel (those novels that place the Christian "Rapture" in modern times, with the anti-Christ as Secretary-General of the U.N--No, really), Slacktivist is the place to go.

Holy fuckin' shit- DRAGON and DUNGEON magazines to cease publication

R.I.P.
(Image from
Answers.com)

R.I.P.
(Image from
Answers.com)

In an example of how small things close to us affect us more than big things that are not close to us, I just read that the magazines Dungeon and Dragon will be ceasing publication in September:
Today, Wizards of the Coast and Paizo Publishing announced the conclusion of Paizo's license to publish Dragon and Dungeon magazines. The magazines will cease publication following the release of the September issues, which ship to subscribers and newsstands in August. The final issues will be Dragon #359 and Dungeon #150.
These magazines have been part of my life for decades. I am in shock. It makes sense I guess. That kind of content (D&D articles and adventures) will be moving to the web or to other publications. Paizo is launching Pathfinder which will sort of be like Dungeon but will be OGL and contain linked adventures only. But...but...but...it's just not the same. Wow. Dude. I feel ancient.

Here's the FAQ about the decision.

Here are some reflections from Wizards of the Coast people.

Even though my subscriptions have often lapsed (I'm not currently subscribed to Dungeon), these publications have been a part of the rhythm of my life since I was a child (Dungeon didn't start publishing until later). We're talking like second grade or something. I think this is the first time I've really felt technological change sweeping away something that I cherish. Wow.

Jon Stewart et al. on Gonzales

Sometimes people make themselves very easy targets for ridicule. Head over to Crooks and Liars to hear The Daily Show's take on Gonzales' Senate testimony:
After weeks of mock testimony, there you have it. Alberto Gonzales doesn’t know what happened, but he assures you what he doesn’t remember was handled properly.
Other "serious" journalists have been just as scathing; see this DailyKos post for a round-up. Here's a sample, from Byron York:
Judging by his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, there are three questions about the U.S. Attorneys mess that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wants answered: What did I know? When did I know it? And why did I fire those U.S. Attorneys?
(By the way, if you ever want to laugh at some political videos, Crooks and Liars has an almost endless supply. I link to many of them, but there are many I pass on.)

Gonzales is just a symptom

"You did a heckuva job at that Senate hearing, Gonzo!"
Image from The Conservative Fighter, who opines that since Bush has expressed "unwavering support" for Gonzales, it will be about a week before Bush fires him.

Greenwald takes up a theme on which I've been harping a bit here at Internal Monologue: As pleasant as it was to see that torture-endorsing mendacious flunky of an Attorney General raked over the coals and made a fool of, Gonzales isn't really the problem. Bush is. Gonzales is just one of many loyal hacks who've made a career of doing whatever Bush needs them to do, legality and morality be damned. If he resigns, there will be some other person like him taking his place. What other kind of person would agree to take the position? (Of course, one can argue that Cheney is the real problem, but if Bush were decent and connected to reality, Cheney would not be able to exercise the power he does.) Here's a brief snippet of what Greenwald has to say:

So it was gratifying, I suppose, to watch Alberto Gonzales finally be held accountable (at least rhetorically) and aggressively cornered due to his transparent evasions and untruths. But it is also difficult to avoid lamenting how many other times over the last several years he has done all of that with complete impunity. And it is far from clear whether there will be real accountablity even now.

Gonzales is a mere symbol -- really just an instrument -- of an entire Presidency guided for years by exactly these behaviors. And, at least thus far, they have engaged in that conduct with very, very few consequences.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Predictions from 1900 about year 2000

Image from Nostalgiaville at gono.com. I couldn't find Dec 1900, so here's Jan 1901.

The Ladies' Home Journal from December of 1900 had an article with predictions about what life will be like in 100 years (HT: Daily Dish). Some of them are quite accurate, in spirit if not in the details:
Prediction #9: Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance. If there be a battle in China a hundred years hence snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later. Even to-day photographs are being telegraphed over short distances. Photographs will reproduce all of Nature’s colors.

Prediction #18: Telephones Around the World. Wireless telephone and telegraph circuits will span the world. A husband in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting in her boudoir in Chicago. We will be able to telephone to China quite as readily as we now talk from New York to Brooklyn. By an automatic signal they will connect with any circuit in their locality without the intervention of a “hello girl”.
Others are completely off:
Prediction #1: There will probably be from 350,000,000 to 500,000,000 people in America and its possessions by the lapse of another century. Nicaragua will ask for admission to our Union after the completion of the great canal. Mexico will be next. Europe, seeking more territory to the south of us, will cause many of the South and Central American republics to be voted into the Union by their own people.”

Prediction #22: Store Purchases by Tube. Pneumatic tubes, instead of store wagons, will deliver packages and bundles. These tubes will collect, deliver and transport mail over certain distances, perhaps for hundreds of miles. They will at first connect with the private houses of the wealthy; then with all homes. Great business establishments will extend them to stations, similar to our branch post-offices of today, whence fast automobile vehicles will distribute purchases from house to house.
(Of course, some Republican senators think the Internet is a "series of tubes", so maybe it's not so far off.) Some are a wonderful mixture of right and not right:
Prediction #2: The American will be taller by from one to two inches. His increase of stature will result from better health, due to vast reforms in medicine, sanitation, food and athletics. He will live fifty years instead of thirty-five as at present – for he will reside in the suburbs. The city house will practically be no more. Building in blocks will be illegal. The trip from suburban home to office will require a few minutes only. A penny will pay the fare.
This one makes me sad:
Prediction #17: How Children will be Taught. A university education will be free to every man and woman. Several great national universities will have been established. Children will study a simple English grammar adapted to simplified English, and not copied after the Latin. Time will be saved by grouping like studies. Poor students will be given free board, free clothing and free books if ambitious and actually unable to meet their school and college expenses. Medical inspectors regularly visiting the public schools will furnish poor children free eyeglasses, free dentistry and free medical attention of every kind. The very poor will, when necessary, get free rides to and from school and free lunches between sessions. In vacation time poor children will be taken on trips to various parts of the world. Etiquette and housekeeping will be important studies in the public schools.
Basically, they're predicting that in the future, governments will value education and be able to care for poor people. If only. The sad thing is we do have the resources to do this, if we could avoid stupid wars and and shift our priorities. But shifting the priorities of a society has always been a herculean task. That's why we have progressive blogs :)

It's very much worth reading all of them. Maybe I should write some predictions for 2107 so people can admire/laugh at me later on.

An atheist at Virginia Tech deals with the tragedy...

...and with the condescending theist rhetoric of wackjob Dinesh D'Souza:
Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found. Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing. Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.[...]
mapantsula, an atheist professor at Virginia Tech, responds on Kos:
It is hardly surprising that Dinesh D’Souza is once again not only profoundly mistaken but also deeply offensive. But I thought it worthwhile to say something in response, not because most people would put the point in the same morally reptilian manner as D’Souza, but because there is at least some vague sense amongst people that we atheists don’t quite grasp the enormity of Monday’s events, that we tend towards a cold-hearted manner of thinking, that we condescend to expressions of community, meaning, or bereavement.

So I will tell you, Mr D’Souza, what I grasp and where I am to be found.

I understand why my wife was frantic on Monday morning, trying to contact me through jammed phone lines. I can still feel the tenor of her voice resonating in my veins when she got through to me, how she shook with relief and tears. I remember how my mother looked the last time she thought she might have lost a son, so I have a vivid image of her and a thousand other mothers that hasn’t quite left my mind yet.

I am to be found in Lane Stadium, looking out over a sea of maroon and orange, trying not to break down when someone mentions the inviolability of the classroom and the bond between a teacher and his students. That is my classroom, Mr D’Souza, my students, my chosen responsibility in this godless life, my small office in the care of humanity and its youth.

I know that brutal death can come unannounced into any life, but that we should aspire to look at our approaching death with equanimity, with a sense that it completes a well-walked trail, that it is a privilege to have our stories run through to their proper end. I don’t need to live forever to live once and to live completely. It is precisely because I don’t believe there is an afterlife that I am so horrified by the stabbing and slashing and tattering of so many lives around me this week, the despoliation and ruination of the only thing each of us will ever have.

I've quoted more than I should have; read the whole thing here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Atheist of the Day: Ricky Gervais

Photo from Allen and Unwin

Today's Atheist of the Day is also from show business. Ricky Gervais is best known for writing and acting in the British version of TV series The Office. He tells a great atheism conversion story (from rickygervais.com):
I remember the day I became an atheist," says Gervais. "I was doing my homework. I'd been to Sunday school from the age of five to eight. I had gold stars and used to win Jason in the Lion's Den books, and everything was great. And, er, I fÇÇ"ing loved Jesus, I thought he was brilliant. What a great man." Then his brother Bob, who was 19, came in and took an interest in the homework. He asked Ricky why he believed in God 'and my mum got nervous. My mum went, 'Bob' [in a warning voice] and I thought, something's up. Then he went, 'Well, what proofis there?' My mum said, 'Of course there's a God.' He went, 'No, I'mjust asking.' And I said something ludicrous: they've found evidence, they've found his blood in a bottle. I was just guessing. And Bob laughed. I could tell just by looking, that he was telling the truth and my mum was lying. I knew the truth in that instant. That's why I put such a value in body language."
His atheism is also ducmented at his Wikipedia entry:
Gervais is an atheist. In an interview given to John Humphrys he said, "Being an atheist makes someone a clearer-thinking, fairer person... They [atheists] are not doing things to be rewarded in heaven; they're doing things because they're right, because they live by a moral code". He also added that, although he doesn't believe, God (if he exists) would like him [23].[3]. Andy Millman, the character he plays in his and Merchants sitcom Extras, also holds this view.

Hideous discussion of atheism on CNN


This discussion of atheism on CNN was just pathetic. Not only did they not have anyone who actually was an atheist explaining our views, the level of the discussion was very "Jr. high." (HT: VLWC) I only managed to get through about half of the clip, it was so painful to watch. Fortunately, there's been a lot of push-back in the blogosphere. You can start at about.com or at the VLWC link above.

I didn't realize our national discussion of this issue was so lame. Sometimes I wondered if my talking about atheism all the time on this blog was unecessary. But after seeing that clip, my sense of mission is renewed. I should apply myself to the "Atheist of the Day" feature of this blog with greator vigor.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bad supreme court decision today

For all of us pro-choicers, today's verdict is bad news. That's what happens when a Democratic Senate won't stand up for women (and all Americans who believe in reproductive rights) and allows Bush to get his wingers on the court. Ginsberg dissented from the 5-4 decision:
Today's decision is alarming. It refuses to take Casey and Stenberg seriously. It tolerates, indeed applauds federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). It blurs the line, firmly drawn in Casey, between previability and postviability abortions. And, for the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman's health.
[emphasis from Feministing.]

What is the optimal number of children to have?

Photo of my son Quinn at 6.5 months taken by his grandpa, Red Taylor

If you're a parent seeking to maximize your own happiness, there's some research to suggest that one is the optimal number of children to have:

Interestingly, second and third children don't add to parents' happiness at all. In fact, these additional children seem to make mothers less happy than mothers with only one child—though still happier than women with no children.

"If you want to maximize your subjective well-being, you should stop at one child," concludes Kohler, adding that people probably have additional children either for the benefit of the firstborn or because they reason that if the first child made them happy, the second one will, too.
(HT: Ross on Sullivan's Daily Dish) Also, the happiness gains are not necessarily immediate:

What seems to happen over time, says Kohler, is "you look forward to having a child, then you have it and find it really difficult and your happiness dips, and then you see a substantial gain." Overall, he says the lesson from the study is that "just having reproduced at least once seems to be the crucial aspect of providing the happiness gain."

Does that "substantial gain" in happiness come once sleep deprivation ends? I wouldn't be too surprised. (Quinn's been a bit erratic sleep-wise of late, and is currently resisting a nap most vociferously).

But maybe for one's long-term happiness, one should have more kids than one wants now so that when you're old you have more visits from your kids and more grandkids:
Basic microeconomics recommends a simple strategy. Have the number of children that maximizes average utility over your whole lifespan. When you are 30, you might feel like two children is plenty. But once you are 60, you are more likely to prefer ten sons and daughters to keep you company and keep the grandkids coming. A perfectly selfish and perfectly foresighted economic agent would strike a balance between these two states. For example, he might have four kids total - two too many at 30, six too few at 60.
Of course, there are other considerations than one's own happiness to think about. What about the happiness of your parents, who might want grandchildren? On the other hand, maybe from an ecological point of view, you shouldn't have any children, as any child brought up in this society will consume an enormous amount of resources. On yet another hand, it seems ecologically OK to replace yourself and the other parent, so maybe it's environmentally OK to have 2 children. Some people could have 3 children, because not all children will reproduce themselves. But who gets to decide who gets to have 3? And who's to say we won't soon have a more ecologically sustainable society (we better or we're in big trouble), where such considerations won't be as pressing?

Looking at it from another angle, what better gift can you bring to the world than a good, moral person who might contribute to solving the worlds problems (including ecological sustainability)? So maybe you should have as many children as you can bring up well. But how well do you have to bring them up to balance out their potential negative environmental impact? And what if you bring them up well but they turn out to be bad, anyway?

This is all very interesting. My peer group is facing these questions right now in a very concrete way.

Nixon-Bush parallels explored in cartoon

Click image (or here) for full Tom Tomorrow cartoon. (HT: Crooks and Liars)

Contaminated food outbreaks linked to FDA cutbacks

Photo of E. coli from CD-Writer.com Health Search

In this article, entitled "E. coli Conservatives", Rick Perlstein links the recent recalls of contaminated food (spinach, peanut butter, pet food) to reduced FDA inspection regimes that are the result of conservative "slash government" (except those parts of it that enrich us) ideology:
The Associated Press studied the records and found that between 2003 and 2006 the Food and Drug Administration conducted 47 percent fewer safety inspections. FDA field offices have 12 percent fewer employees. Safety tests for food produced in the United States have gone down by three quarters—have almost ground to a halt—in the previous year alone.
[...]
As Dr. Phil would say: How's that working out for you?

Not so well, it turns out. It was months later before we learned the eminently preventable reason our peanut butter had been poisoned: a leaky roof and a faulty sprinkler provided the culture for the salmonella bug at the Georgia plant. How did we find that out? Not from the FDA inspection. We had to rely on the company's own investigation. They had a public relations crisis on their hands. They want to return Peter Pan Peanut Butter to shelves in the middle of July. So they undertook their own belated, two-month investigation. The Georgia plant will open in August—with the new roof the FDA never noticed they needed in February.

Virginia Tech shootings


It's hard to know what to say. We'll be digging through this incident for meaning for a long time. It's almost too awful to think about.

Some good commentary on this can be found at Balloon Juice, where Juan Cole counters some of the fantasy machismo that's floating about out there. He also describes some of the heroic things people at Virginia Tech did to save themselves and others.

Via Sullivan's blog, we have reports on the killer's suicide note and a couple violent, disturbing plays he wrote.

It's also worth noting that though this mass killing is a horrible tragedy here in the US, it's a pretty typical day in Iraq. I don't know exactly what to do with that information. Other than to be mad at the Bush administration and everyone who enabled it to screw things up so badly. And that includes myself for not fighting harder to oppose it.

The political issue of gun control is of course already in the air. I'm very pro-gun control. I think owning a firearm should require going through a lot of red tape. I think all firearms should require passing safety tests and taking out liability insurance policies, just like cars. I think our gun culture is ultimately very harmful, and we should try to turn away from it. But of course I thought all these things before Virginia Tech. And I don't know if stricter gun control laws can prevent this sort of incident. They might make them less likely to happen, though. And that is probably the best we can do.

I certainly don't think having more people carrying firearms around college campuses is the answer, as some gun enthusiasts are arguing. While it may prevent massacres like this, the number of drunken shootings that would probably take place far outweigh the benefits.

So what can we do? It does seem that campus and local police will have to be alert for the possibility of this kind of rampage, and have the training and capability to deal with it. I am sure there will be a lot of soul-searching and finger-pointing among the police in the area. The truth may be that unless we want to turn ourselves into a police state, there might not be a lot we can do that would actually help. That powerlessness feels awful, but it may be better to realize it than to lash out counterproductively, the way this country has in reaction to 9/11. (I'm not sure that's a fair characterization though: I think it's more fair to say that those in power used the emotions generated by 9/11 to enact an agenda they'd bee longing to implement for quite some time. The warmongers didn't "lash out", they were very cynical and calculated in building support for what they wanted.)

Another thing to keep in mind is that this kind of hideous rampage is thankfully still very rare in the United States. It looms very large in our minds, but we should not let our lives be crippled by fear.

If you want to contribute to the memorial fund set up by Virginia Tech, you can do so.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Buthayna Nasser lays the smackdown on Saudi oppression


Via Feministing, we have this great little YouTube video of Saudi newscaster Buthayna Nasser decrying sexism, oppression of women, and the mindless rote memorization of scripture.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Imus affair

This is as good a take as any I've seen on the whole Imus affair. Slacktivist:
"Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." That's what good preachers, and good journalists, do. It makes sense that comics, who sometimes preach and sometimes report the news, would follow this motto as well.

Imus "broke the power equation," Rogers says. He afflicted the afflicted, which made him a bully instead of a comic. That's not funny.

UPDATE: Another good take from Phil Nugent here:
With Imus's career meltdown this past week, he managed to demonstrate one thing worth knowing, which is that the rules regarding racist behavior among celebrities are kind of the reverse of the ones governing politicians. We've reached the point where racism is simply an unaceptable trait in a public figure, but there are some openly bigoted celebrities, such as Mel Gibson, who are simply too rich and famous to be swept off the map--it would be too unnerving and would frighten the horses. So people like the anti-Semitic Gibson and the homophobic Isiah Washington are diagnosed as being ill, sick with intolerance--we believe they mean it, so the important thing is to decide that they're victims of their own vile thoughts. They get to stay and the keep the money, but only if they admit that they have a problem and seek help.
It's a rather long rant, but pretty good, setting the Imus affair in the context of the political capitalization of bigotry that we've been tolerating for too long in our culture. (HT: Kevin Drum)

A Lakoffian criticism of dumpster warning

Detail of photo taken from sorabji.com.

This warning, found on dumpsters, has always struck me as stupid and counter-productive. As a kid, I had never wanted to play on or around a dumpster until this yellow warning label put the idea into my head. Now that I know about the concept of framing, I can explain in more detail why this warning label is stupid. Here are two mistakes the warning label makes:

Moral 3: Negating a frame evokes the frame.

By saying "Do not play on or around", you're actually activating the frame of playing on or around the dumpster. It's the equivalent of "Don't Think of an Elephant". Reading that label, you can't help but thinking of playing on or around the dumpster. Various games you might play or stunts you might attempt spontaneously leap into your brain. This is why ads for Coke don't say "Don't drink Pepsi": that would just evoke the Pepsi frame.

Moral 4: Evoking a frame reinforces that frame.

By evoking the "playing on dumpsters" frame, the warning label actually perpetuates the idea of playing on dumpsters. It puts that idea out into the meme-sphere, so to speak. It even makes it sound like lots of people do this (or why the need for a warning label?). All these things make it more likely that people will actually engage in the proscribed behavior. If it's both prohibited and popular, it must be really cool.

Of course, this bad framing actually makes perfect sense, because the purpose of the label isn't really to prevent people from playing on or around the dumpster. Its purpose is to cover the asses of the dumpster owner in case anyone gets hurt. The game is pretty much given away by the subtitle under the warning: "Not responsible for personal injury."

Other "public service" warnings that seem to violate framing rules:
"Just say no to drugs"
"Don't illegally download music"
"Don't have sex before marriage"

Paul Krugman gets it

Photo from NYT

Paul Krugman has a great column in today's NYT. For those of you who can't read it because it's behind a subscription wall, you can take advantage of some intellectual property law violation and read it at Wealthy Frenchman instead. Here's the key quote:
...on key issues, reluctant Democratic politicians are being dragged by their base into taking highly popular positions.
This is of course good news. And I'm proud to be part of the base that's doing the dragging. But when you stop to think about it, this situation reveals how messed up our political situation is. What are Democratic politicians so afraid of that they must be dragged into taking positions that two thirds of the American people support? The right-wing noise machine? The faux-centrism of the "serious people" who were all wrong about the war? That's pathetic. Is it too much to ask for just a wee bit of leadership?

By the way, this Krugman column is another example of one of my favorite species of journalism: famous people saying things similar to what I said before they said it:
One very beneficial side effect of all this [distortion of our political discourse] is that the progressive cause is now a majoritarian cause. No longer must progressives try to drag the American people leftward. Rather, progressives must drag the government leftward to where the American people already are. I think it is far easier to change the character of a government than to change the character of a people. The November 2006 elections were the beginning of a re-assertion of the political will of the American people, one that I hope will continue to unfold in 2008.
Krugman also scores points with me for citing The Onion:
As The Onion put it with deadly accuracy, Mr. Giuliani is running for “President of 9/11.”

Why Drizzt Do'Urden is a better role model than Muhammad

Image from GameSpy.com

Mad Latinist just pointed me to a great Islamic reform blog, Ali Eteraz. Dungeons and Dragons and fantasy literature fans will appreciate this post "I Am A Dark Elf" on why Drizzt Do'Urden is a better role model than the Prophet Muhammad:
It was far easier to make and be friends with Drizzt than with Muhammad. So what if Drizzt didn't have a bleepin flying horse or couldn't take you to see God? Fact is, Drizzt was the better friend. You see, because when parents taught you about Muhammad, they made him a tool of their enforcement as well. First you were told to love Muhammad, and then, assuming you were willing to fake that, because you loved him you had to confess all the stuff you did wrong! And then, when you got beat up by your dad for admitting to peeking into the servant girl's shower, you had to take your punishment the way Muhammad proscribed it in the Quran: without saying so much as an 'uff' as you are beat. What kind of friend was this? First he led you to be beat up, and then you could not even cry? It is impossible for a child's friend to be the same person as the parents' law giver. There is a huge conflict of interest there that Muslims have not realized when it comes to raising children.

Atheist of the Day: Brian Eno

Photo from digi nikki

You may not know who Brian Eno is, but you've probably heard his sound: he's a recording artist (initially the keyboardist for Roxy Music) and a very influential record producer. He's probably most famous for his work with Talking Heads and U2. He also produced Paul Simon's latest album, Surprise. He's known for his minimalism and deeply textured musical soundscapes.

He's a also a well-documented atheist. From an unpublished magazine interview:
Well, I'm an atheist, and the concept of god for me is all part of what I call the last illusion. The last illusion is someone knows what is going on. That's the last illusion. Nearly everyone has that illusion somewhere, and it manifests not only in the terms of the idea that there is a god but that knows what's going on but that the planets know what's going on. Astrology is part of the last illusion. The obsession with health is part of the last illusion, the idea that there's that if only we could spend time on it and sit down and stop being unreasonable with each other we'd all find that there was a structure and a solution underlying plan to it all, for most people the short answer to that is God.
And from the BBC's collective interactive magazine:
“I’m actually an evangelical atheist, but there is something I recognise about religion: that it gives people a chance to surrender. And I think part of what happens to people when they come into this show is that they practice this feeling of surrendering.”