Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

March 30, 2006

No Free Inquiry at Borders

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:33 pm

A book banned at Borders? Well, actually it’s a bimonthly magazine called Free Inquiry, published by the Council for Secular Humanism, and avowedly atheist organization. (I am tempted to say — OK, I will say — it is a non-prophet organization. :-) )

Why would Borders ban an atheist magazine?

Because it violates the tenets of Islam, of course.

Reports the Buffalo News:

Borders Books and Music, one of the country’s largest bookstore chains, has refused to stock the latest edition of Free Inquiry magazine because the issue includes controversial cartoons that spurred violent and sometimes deadly protests in parts of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

Mind you, it’s not that Borders believes — or at least, admits to believing — in Islam. It’s that they’re afraid of what Muslims might do to them if they carry it:

A Borders spokeswoman said the company declined to sell the Amherst-based publication this month out of concern for the safety of employees and customers.

The cartoons, originally published in a Danish newspaper then in several other European publications, feature unflattering depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Muslim demonstrators responded in February by burning Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria, and scores of people have been killed in protests over several weeks.

Beth Bingham, a company spokeswoman, confirmed that Wednesday.

“We feel strongly for the safety and security of our employees and customers,” Bingham said.

She said the company operates more than 475 Borders and 650 Waldenbooks stores in the United States, though not all regularly carry the magazine.

The Borders stores usually stock as many as 1,000 copies of Free Inquiry, and the chain typically is the magazine’s largest newsstand retailer, said Tom Flynn, editor.

Yeah, well, I strongly believe in freedom of the press — and in “free inquiry,” if you will (though probably not in most of what is printed in Free Inquiry).

And this is just the sort of cowardice that encourages violent behavior in people with an axe to grind — like, extremist Muslims, for example.

It would be nice if this could be regarded as an admission that they know Islam is prone to produce violence, but of course they wouldn’t say that out loud either — they might be attacked by Muslims if they said Muslims were violent!

I never expected to be on the same side of a debate as an atheist group, but it’s hard to disagree with this:

Paul Kurtz, Free Inquiry’s editor in chief, said Borders’ decision was a disservice to free speech.

“Cartoons often provide an important form of political satire,” Kurtz said. “To refuse to distribute a publication because of fear of vigilante violence is to undermine freedom of press – so vital for our democracy.”

I wonder what Borders would do if the atheists threated to bomb their stores for not carrying the magazine. They would probably get the police involved — which they aren’t doing when the threat is from Muslims.

By they way, I heard this story from Clayton Cramer, who has had other issues with Amazon in the past. I wonder which offense he thinks is worse.

March 29, 2006

Biased Health Care Advice

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:39 pm

The Health Care Business Blog quotes MedPage Today:

Men trying to decide how to have their localized prostate cancer treated may get incomplete or biased advice from both physicians and patient-education materials, a review of the literature suggested.

For example, urologists nearly universally indicate that surgery is the optimal treatment strategy, and radiation oncologists similarly indicate that radiation therapy is optimal, said Scott D. Ramsey, M.D., Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center here, and colleagues.

This should not be a surpirse. If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

These doctors are not necessaily recommending their own treatment to feather their own nests; they are just recommending what they know. It is human nature to look at a problem and see how you can solve it, rather than how it is best solved. Plus, it’s natural caution not to recommend things with which one is less familiar.

The lesson is that patients have to take an active role in determining their own medical treatment. Your doctor is your partner in this, not your commanding officer. Before taking drastic treatment, ask the doctor to justify his/her recommendation, find out about other options and ask politely why they aren’t appropriate (maybe they are and the doctor just didn’t think of them; I’ve had this happen), and above all, use your brain.

It doesn’t hurt to have some basic knowlege of statistics, and to be able to read those inserts that come with your prescription drugs.

Hollywood Ethics

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:31 pm

Sharon Stone discourses on the “need” to go behind mothers’ backs to teach their daughters (how) to submit to sexually aggressive males.

Unreal.

(Link from Drudge.)

March 27, 2006

Intolerance in San Francisco

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:56 am

Not Everything is OK in San Francisco

San Francisco has finally found a viewpoint that is too deviant even for its tolerant-of-everything environment. Can you guess what it is? According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

More than 25,000 evangelical Christian youth landed Friday in San Francisco for a two-day rally at AT&T Park against “the virtue terrorism” of popular culture, and they were greeted by an official city condemnation and a clutch of protesters who said their event amounted to a “fascist mega-pep rally.”

“Battle Cry for a Generation” is led by a 44-year-old Concord native, Ron Luce, who wants “God’s instruction book” to guide young people away from the corrupting influence of popular culture.

Luce, whose Teen Mania organization is based in Texas, kicked off a three-city “reverse rebellion” tour Friday night intended to counter a popular culture that he says glamorizes violence and [non-marital] sex.

That’s bad news to Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who told counterprotesters at City Hall on Friday that while such fundamentalists may be small in number, “they’re loud, they’re obnoxious, they’re disgusting, and they should get out of San Francisco.”

Earlier this week, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution condemning the “act of provocation” by what it termed an “anti-gay,” “anti-choice” organization that aimed to “negatively influence the politics of America’s most tolerant and progressive city.”

Luce said it was the first time one of his events has been officially condemned.

(All emphasis added.)

So, America’s most “tolerant” city can’t tolerate a rally by Christians. Rallying against the war is OK. Rallying in favor of terrorism is OK. But rallying for sexual restraint is so not-OK it’s worthy of an official condemnation from a government which explicitly wraps itself in the mantle of “tolerance” while declaring that they cannot tolerate anyone less licentious than themselves.

Newspeak, anyone?

UPDATE (4/7/06):

The resolution is now online as a PDF file. It begins:

WHEREAS, It is an act of provocation when a right-wing Christian fundamentalist group brings their anti-gay and anti-choice agenda to the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall; and,

WHEREAS, It is unfortunate and alarming that those who are against reproductive and homosexual rights, and who are anti-gay and anti-choice, aim to negatively influence the politics of America’s most tolerant and progressive city; …

Will someone please explain to me why that first paragraph isn’t a violation of the separation of church and state? Isn’t liberal position — affirmed by the Supreme Court in Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) — that “The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion”?

And isn’t that second paragraph basically a statement that some people don’t have the right to express their opinions? Doesn’t it also say that the “most tolerant” city can’t tolerate anyone who disagrees with its Board of Supervisors?

Just the “facts”

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:37 am

On Sunday, March 26, 2006:

  1. Jeffrey Kluger wrote in Time magazine:

    Never mind what you’ve heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.

  2. The National Weather Service announced a record low temperature in Palm Beach, Florida, as reported by the Palm Beach Post:

    Sunday morning’s low of 47 degrees at Palm Beach International Airport, recorded at 6:36 a.m., was the coolest on record, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

    The old record was set in 1979, when the overnight temperature dropped to 48 degrees.

    That’s not the coldest March 26 — that’s the coldest temperature ever recorded at Palm Beach.

  3. AP reported:

    6 Die in Collision During Wyoming Blizzard

    LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) – At least 20 vehicles crashed on a rural Wyoming interstate in blizzard conditions Sunday, killing at least six people, officials said.

    Troopers at the scene reported zero visibility due to strong winds and blowing snow. Interstate 80 was closed for about 100 miles from Cheyenne to Rawlins.

    Part of Interstate 80 was closed because of the blizzard conditions, and about 50 miles from Cheyenne to Laramie was closed at the request of Laramie officials, who said there was no parking left in the town for semitrailers.

    Maybe they should start up all those semitrailers, and hope they can make global warming real quick to end the snowstorm!

Now I know that global warming is supposed to be about averages, and a few record cold snaps are not by themselves enough to swing the average much. But this sort of thing happens all the time. These cold snaps are not isolated events — and global warming advocates cite cold temperatures as “proof” of global warming! I said it before, and I’ll say it again, until everyone gets it:

So, if you are a global warming believer, then if temperatures go up it’s because of global warming – and if temperatures go down, it’s also because of global warming. There is no conceivable, let alone actual, evidence that might indicate there is not global warming. No matter what happens, it’s because of global warming.

Global warming is thus inherently unfalsifiable – which means it is not a scientific theory. The most basic requirement for a scientific theory is that it must be in principal falsifiable – that is, it must make some prediction which, if found to be untrue, would be regarded even by the promoter(s) of the theory as evidence that the theory is wrong.

The new motto for the global warming warning crowd ought to be: “Who you gonna’ believe? Me, or your lying eyes?”

March 24, 2006

St. Paul Bans the Easter Bunny

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:51 am

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports:

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – A small Easter display was removed from the City Hall lobby on Wednesday out of concern that it would offend non-Christians.

The display – a cloth Easter bunny, pastel-colored eggs and a sign with the words “Happy Easter” – was put up by a City Council secretary. They were not purchased with city money.

The council president, Kathy Lantry, said the removal wasn’t about political correctness.

“As government, we have a different responsibility about advancing the cause of religion, which we are not going to do,” she said.

Let me get this straight: The city removes a toy rabbit and some plastic eggs and a “Happy Easter” sign because the mere existence of such objects in a government building might offend non-Christians — but the very name of that city is SAINT PAUL?

HELLO???

Don’t they know that their city was named after one of the main founders of Christianity? And that by calling that person a “Saint” one makes a specific religious claim about that individual?

They haven’t changed the name of their city, so obviously they don’t think a reference to the entire city as Saint Paul is offensive to non-Christians. But they think a little stuffed rabbit tucked away in a city office seen by no more than a few dozen, maybe a few hundred, of the city’s 275,000 residents — that is supposed to be offensive?

Regardless of what you think is the appropriate degree of church-state separation, this is simply preposterous. Hundreds of thousands of people have to acknowlege the recognition of the “sainthood” of Paul every time they write their return address or tell anyone where they live. No doubt at least tens of thousands of them are not Christians, and as such do not believe in the sainthood of Paul. Obviously, they are not too offended by all that, or they would have either moved somewhere else, or advocated for a city name change. Yet we are supposed to believe that those same people would be offended by the knowledge that some city employee who (presumably) is a Christian decided to bring a stuffed rabbit to her workplace.

This is not “being sensitive” — this is implying that non-Christians are stupid and/or inconsistent and/or outright hypocrites, who are happy to live in a city named after a Christian saint, but offended by one little stuffed rabbit.

Frankly, as a “non-Christian,” I find that implication offensive. It’s an insult to my intelligence.

UPDATE (3/27/2006 2:28pm EST):

James Taranto makes a similar point under the title “Hare Remover.” Does this mean I’ve scooped the Wall Street Journal? ;-)

March 20, 2006

More carnivals!

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:49 pm

March 17, 2006

Where else can you murder a 4-year-old girl, and become an “Honorary Citizen”?

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:19 am

In the realm of the Palestinian Authority, of course.

By the way, if you think the newly elected Hamas government is a source of concern, consider that this happened under the outgoing “modertate” Fatah government:

The outgoing Fatah regime in the Palestinian Authority voted on March 5th to grant honorary citizenship to Lebanese terrorist Samir Quntar who murdered a 4-year-old Israeli girl and her father.

According to a report from Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), Jordanian terrorist Sultan Al-Ajaluni also received honorary citizenship in the same vote. Both terrorists are serving life sentences in Israeli jails.

In 1979 in the coastal town of Nahariya, Lebanese terrorist Samir Quntar [pictured above] murdered Danny Haran and his four-year-old daughter, Einat. Danny’s daughter Yael, just two-years-old, suffocated to death while hiding in a crawl space with her mother. Quntar is serving multiple life sentences totaling 542 years in Israeli prison.

Smadar Haran, wife and mother of the murder victims, described the murder in the Washington Post in 2003:

“It was a murder of unimaginable cruelty… It had been a peaceful Sabbath day. My husband Danny and I had picnicked with our little girls, Einat, 4, and Yael, 2, on the beach. Around midnight … the terrorists burst into our building. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door when the terrorists came crashing into our flat.

“I will never forget the joy and the hatred in the terrorists voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades. … As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. “This is just like what happened to my mother,” I thought. ..

“The terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl’s skull against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Quntar.”

Various organizations in the Palestinian Authority responded with applause to the announcement of granting honorary citizenship to the two terrorists.

“The Palestinian Liberation Front, through general secretariat member, Dr. Wasil Abu Yusuf, praised the government’s decision… to award the imprisoned fighters Samir Quntar and Sultan Al-Ajaluni honorary citizenship as an act of dedication to their struggle and their heroic suffering in the occupation’s prisons.
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Mar. 8, 2006]

In an August 15th, 2004 TV broadcast, PA Minister of Prisoners, Hisham Abdul Razeq, defined Quntar as the leader of the prisoners: “The torch of freedom [that] was lifted by our heroic prisoners and headed by the great warrior Samir Quntar… our thanks to you.”

Oh yes — he is a “great warrior” because he can shoot and kill an unarmed man in front of his four-year-old daughter, and then kill the little girl by smashing her head against a rock.

How brave. I’m sure that little girl was really a threat to peace.

Of course, according to the Palestinian ideology, she actually is a threat, because if he didn’t kill her, she might have grown up and had babies, who might have grown up and fought in the Israeli army. According to the Palestinian ideology, even a 4-year-old girls is a “military target.”

But of course, everyone on the left in the U.S. and the E.U. will tell us that “both sides” are “equally responsible” for the problems over there, unless they tell you that Sharon is Hitler and Jews are Nazis. Even though no Israeli in history has ever attacked an unarmed, four-year-old Palestinian girl — much less been honored by the Israeli parliament for doing so!

Then again: These are the same people who encourage their own girls to commit suicide attacks to kill “Zionists”:

The Hamas-run web site promoting suicide terrorism to children has been updated with a new illustrated story glorifying a young girl’s suicide attack on the “Zionists.”

“One day while Suad was walking, she heard a voice from the trees. She turned and saw three men planting land-mines on the road leading to the Zionist camp.

“Suad kept on walking. After a while, she saw a car with some Zionists and an idea popped into her mind. She walked to the officer who was in the car, and told him: ‘I’ll lead you to Palestinian Fida’yon (literally: self sacrificing fighters) in return for food, because I am hungry.’

“On the way, Suad got ready to carry out her plan. She decided to cause the car to ride over the land-mines, so that all of the soldiers would die.

“Suad sat next to the driver, to direct him, and she led him to the land-mines. Then the [car] blew-up and all of the soldiers were killed. As for Suad, well she became a Shahida (Martyr for Allah) on the grass, while smiling, because she died as a Shahida for Palestine.”
[Al-Fateh - Hamas Website, March 15, 2006].

It is no surprise that Palestinians who glorify the death of their own little girls will make a hero out of those who kill our little girls.

March 16, 2006

Lawless Law

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:35 pm

Some names for things are just too funny. For example, there something called the Lawless Finance Workshop in Economics & Law.

As if a “Lawless” workshop in “Law” weren’t bad enough, the topics on the schedule include “Money Laundering,” “Illegal and Informal Credit Markets” (that is, loan sharking), “Corruption,” and “Insider Trading.”

The seminar is at a university in Italy. I wonder if the language barrier had anything to do with the odd name. I kind of doubt it, since most European academics have good English skills, at least in writing. Or maybe those things aren’t considered so “lawless” in Italy? There have been quite a few financial scandals in the government over the past few decades — many involving people still in office now. ;-)

The workshop was yesterday. I just got the ad for it today. It’s just as well.

March 15, 2006

Tell it Slowly

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:16 pm

There’s a class of jokes that goes something like this:

A: Want to hear a great [INSERT ETHNIC GROUP] joke?
B: OK, but realize I’m a [MEMBER OF ETHNIC GROUP].
A: That’s OK, I’ll tell it slowly.

For some reason I thought of that when I witness the following exchange on a discussion e-mail list for historians:

The question:

I’ll be teaching a section on the Constitution for middle school teachers in a 2006 Teaching American History Summer Project. A lot of the undergrads enrolled in my classes are teachers in training & I’ve co-directed an NEH summer seminar for high school teachers, but this will be my first time working particularly with middle school teachers. Does anyone have advice? I think I should offer the participants materials that will make sense to them & (in at least some cases) that can be used by their own students.

One response:

As a former middle school teacher, I suggest you organize the information very clearly, provide plenty of written handouts of the information, provide brief excerpts of primary sources for them to use, and suggest ways to present the information other than simply giving notes.

In other words, “Tell it slowly.”

Any middle school teachers reading this should pelase direct their wrath to the “former middle school teacher” above, not to me….

March 13, 2006

“Artist” Turns Synagogue Into a Gas Chamber

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:38 pm

Yes, this is the year 2006, and a Spanish “artist” has turned a German synagogue into a gas chamber:

An artist [sic] invited Germans to come and be symbolically gased with car exhaust fumes in a former synagogue.

Santiago Sierra, a Spanish performance artist [sic], pledged on Monday to hold talks with Jewish community leaders outraged by his project to give people a sense of the Holocaust by pumping lethal car exhaust fumes into a former synagogue and letting visitors enter one by one with a breathing apparatus.

Sierra, known internationally for his controversial [No! Really?] work, led hoses from the exhaust pipes of six parked cars into the building in the town of Pulheim-Stommeln near Cologne to create lethal levels of carbon monoxide there.

Note that it is a “former” synagogue because most of the Jews near Cologne were sent to real gas chambers almost 65 years ago.

The “artistic community” has gone from, “It’s OK for art to be provocative” to “Offensive is just a form of provocative, so it’s OK for art to be offensive,” to “If it’s not offensive, it’s not art,” to “If it’s offensive, it must be art” — unless, of course, it is offensive to Muslims. Can you imagine the reaction if a “performance artist” set up an exhibit in which European women were symbolically stoned for not having a long enough burka? It would be worse than the reaction to those cartoons.

Of course, if it were for any purpose other than “art” it would probably be illegal to concentrate carbon monoxide like that. Where are the Greens when you need them?

Congratulations!

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:38 am

Congratulations to Joshua Sharf of View From A Height — a longtime occupant of this blogroll — for being named PowerLineBlog’s first-ever Blog of the Week!

March 10, 2006

Carnivals

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:19 am

ADDENDUM (3/12/06):

  • Haveil Havalim #61 — Roundup of Jewish blogs postings, including wacky Purim parodies!
  • Carnival of the Insanities — “where the insane, the bizarre, the ridiculous, and the completely absurd are highlighted for all to see!”

ADDENDUM (3/13/06):

ADDENDUM (3/15/06):

ADDENDUM (3/16/06):

March 9, 2006

Worker complain they are unpaid; State orders them fired

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:50 pm

Yes, you heard right. Some employees complained they hadn’t been paid for a couple of months, so they State of California ordered their employer not to have employees anymore:

MARCH 9–Citing Michael Jackson’s failure to cover his employees with required insurance, California state labor officials today effectively closed the singer’s Neverland Ranch and fined him $69,000, The Smoking Gun has learned. Investigators with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement arrived at the sprawling Los Olivos estate this morning and served the below work stoppage order on a security guard. Additionally, in a March 7 letter, the state apprised Jackson that more than 30 workers have filed unpaid wage claims against him and that he owes those employees more than $300,000, as well as penalties in excess of $100,000. The state’s demand letter contends that Jackson has been welshing on his employees since last December. Today’s state “stop order” bars Jackson from “using any employee labor” until he secures required workers’ compensation insurance and warns that if Jackson fails to abide by the enforced work stoppage he could be charged with a criminal misdemeanor. In addition to being fined $1000 apiece for 69 workers, Jackson is also liable for up to 10 days pay for those employees who now are no longer allowed to report to Neverland for work.

Oh yes, and since the employer is out of money to pay the workers, the state assesses a fine, to make him less able to pay them. I’d have to ask a bankruptcy lawyer, but I’ll bet the state’s fine takes precedence over the worker’s pay if this ends up in court.

Now I’m not saying those workers should keep working for free — but shouldn’t they be able to figure that out for themselves, without the state ordering them to be fired?

Water on a Moon of Saturn?

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:09 pm

Matt Drudge is reporting that NASA is about to announce that the Cassini spacecraft has found evidence of (probably) liquid water on a moon of Saturn:

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft may have found evidence of liquid water reservoirs that erupt in Yellowstone-like geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The rare occurrence of liquid water so near the surface raises many new questions about the mysterious moon.

“We realize that this is a radical conclusion – that we may have evidence for liquid water within a body so small and so cold,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. “However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms.”

High-resolution Cassini images show icy jets and towering plumes ejecting huge quantities of particles at high speed. Scientists examined several models to explain the process. They ruled out the idea the particles are produced or blown off the moon’s surface by vapor created when warm water ice converts to a gas. Instead, scientists have found evidence for a much more exciting possibility. The jets might be erupting from near-surface pockets of liquid water above 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), like cold versions of the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone.

“We previously knew of at most three places where active volcanism exists: Jupiter’s moon Io, Earth, and possibly Neptune’s moon Triton. Cassini changed all that, making Enceladus the latest member of this very exclusive club, and one of the most exciting places in the solar system,” said John Spencer, Cassini scientist, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder.

“Other moons in the solar system have liquid-water oceans covered by kilometers of icy crust,” said Andrew Ingersoll, imaging team member and atmospheric scientist at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. “What’s different here is that pockets of liquid water may be no more than tens of meters below the surface.”

Drudge says this is set for release at about 2:00 pm eastern time — about two hours from now.

March 7, 2006

Global Warming Causes Record Snowfall, Right?

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:57 pm

As is his wont, Clayton Cramer has put together another post that mocks global warming with a roundup of record cold weather around the world. This time, it even includes snowstorms in Algeria, a country more noted for the Sahara Desert than any other geographic feature. This is in addition to record cold temperatures across the United States.

As soon as I read this, my first thought is that it would take about 37 seconds to find somebody somewhere who is arguing that record snowfall is proof of global warming, rather than evidence against it. And sure enough, on the first page of my first Google search, I found this little gem — a comment on LuboÅ¡ Motl’s blog (which you may recognize from my blogroll), on a January 26 post noting record snowfall in Boston:

Snow as previously moisture in the air. More snow means there was more moisture in the air. More moisture in the air means more evaporation. More evaporation means that the winds were stronger or the water & air were warmer. More warm, moisture laden air is making its way upto Boston where it collides with Arctic cold air and precipitates snow. It might be a sign of global warming.

Now it is true that snow requires previous evaporation, and more heat means more evaporation — but it will not actually fall as snow unless it is actually cold somewhere. The evaporation could just as easily come back as rain, and if global temperatures were rising, we would expect that the mix of precipitation would involve more rain and less snow. Or even just more vapor staying in the atmosphere, without an increase in overall precipitation. After all, if the heat causes evaporation, it can also cause the water to stay evaporated.

LuboÅ¡ — a physics professor at Harvardresponds appropriately:

“It might be a sign of global warming.”

Well, it’s because for deep religious people, everything is a sign of God, Hell, or Global Warming, whatever their religion is.

Science and rational thinking work very differently, however. One must formulate sharp statements, and if they’re falsified, the theory is dead.Well, it’s because for deep religious people, everything is a sign of God, Hell, or Global Warming, whatever their religion is.

Science and rational thinking work very differently, however. One must formulate sharp statements, and if they’re falsified, the theory is dead.

And this is why global warming is such a great theory politically and such a lousy theory scientifically: regardless of what happens — heat waves, cold spells, more snow, less snow, whatever — it is always spun as something that “might be a sign of global warming.”

After all, it was just over two years ago that record cold temperatures in Europe were being heralded as the latest evidence for global warming. The “theory” was that warming the oceans would foul up the Atlantic gulf stream (which keeps Europe warm), thus driving European temperatures down.

Without the Gulf Stream, temperatures in the UK and north-west Europe would be five degrees centigrade or so cooler, with bitter winters at least as fierce as those of the so-called Little Ice Age in the 17th to 19th centuries.

So wrote Bill McGuire in The Guardian, in an article which was headlined — apparently without intended irony — “Will global warming trigger a new ice age?”

So, if you are a global warming believer, then if temperatures go up it’s because of global warming — and if temperatures go down, it’s also because of global warming. There is no conceivable, let alone actual, evidence that might indicate there is not global warming. No matter what happens, it’s because of global warming.

Global warming is thus inherently unfalsifiable — which means it is not a scientific theory. The most basic requirement for a scientific theory is that it must be in principal falsifiable — that is, it must make some prediction which, if found to be untrue, would be regarded even by the promoter(s) of the theory as evidence that the theory is wrong. The Theory of Gravity is like this. It predicts that things will fall down, unless supported by something — your hand, a table, or in the case of hot-air balloons, denser air. If you drop a bowling ball and it doesn’t fall down, that would be proof that the Theory of Gravity is wrong. Even Isaac Newton would have accepted that proof. But with global warming, there is nothing you can imagine — let along that has actually occured — that would be regarded as a disproof of the global warming theory.

ADDENDUM (3/8/06): Clayton Cramer concluded his post with the statement:

I suspect that the “Global Warming” fantasy will continue until polar bears start to eat environmentalists at global warming conferences in Miami.

I want to go on record as disagreeing — slightly. I think the global warming fantasy will go on until it they switch to warning us against global cooling. Which is what they were warning us against before they started warning us about global warming. As Peter Gwynne wrote in Newsweek in 1975 — in an article entitled “The Cooling World”:

The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. “A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale,” warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, “because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.”

A survey completed last year by Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveals a drop of half a degree in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. According to George Kukla of Columbia University, satellite photos indicated a sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover in the winter of 1971-72. And a study released last month by two NOAA scientists notes that the amount of sunshine reaching the ground in the continental U.S. diminished by 1.3% between 1964 and 1972.

Well, we see how that prediction worked out.

Life Imitates Art: A Hitler Comedy from Israel?

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:58 pm

In the musical The Producers, these two guys make a musical comedy called “Springtime for Hitler.” It is supposed to flop. It succeeds. This is funny, because it would never happen this way in real life. No one would make a comedy about Hitler — right?

Wrong. Roger Boyes reports in The Times [of London]:

SWASTIKAS fluttered over Berlin yesterday, German soldiers raised stiff arms in the Hitler salute and hundreds of bedraggled spectators shouted approval as the Nazi leader delivered a faltering speech.

“My God,” said Benny Zimmerman, from St Louis, as he left Berlin Cathedral. “They’re back!”

Dani Levi, the Israeli director, has turned the German capital upside down in an attempt to recapture the atmosphere of Nazi Germany for a new comedy about Adolf Hitler.

… “The film is to be called Mein Führer,” a spokeswoman for Mr Levi said.

“It will be in the tradition of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not To Be.”

The premise is that Hitler survived the war and wants to set the record straight.

The making of the film has given many the chance to perform illegal acts. “Where else in Germany can you shout ‘Heil Hitler’ at the top of your voice?” said one extra.

The film-makers had to gain the permission of Berlin City Council to display the swastikas. But the council failed to warn tourists and locals, who stared as the Nazis marched around. “I think it’s really tasteless, especially as it’s happening next to the cathedral,” said Gabi Metzler, from Bavaria, standing on the church steps to get a better view.

“It’s our first visit to Berlin,” said her friend, Gertrude. “Things seem to have changed much less than we had expected.”

Egads!

George Mason: 1, All Other Law Schools: 0

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:41 pm

Practically all the law schools in the country just lost a unanimous Supreme Court decision regarding whether it’s Consitutional to require law schools that receive federal funding to allow the military to recruit on the same basis as other employers. (The Court says it is, 8-0.)

Todd Zywicki notes that the George Mason School of Law was the only school to argue on the winning side.

There’s also an interesting article in the current issue of National Review on the GMU law school; it’s excerpted here and here.

GMU is basically one of the few law schools in the U.S. that is not monomaniacally leftist. The article points to one way they have taken advantage of this fact to increase their ranking, even in a world in which ranking depends on part on the approval of those other, leftist, law schools:

But Daniel Polsby, the dean of the George Mason University School of Law, is different. … [H]e’s actually looking forward to the U.S. News survey [ranking law schools]. “We hope to move up a few places this year,” he says. That would certainly be in keeping with a decade-long trend: Mason vaulted from 71st place in 1995 to 41st in 2005 — an impressive achievement given that these rankings tend to remain static from year to year.

Whereas his competitors were obsessed with signing big-name free agents in hot fields such as feminist legal theory, [earlier Dean Henry G.] Manne quietly assembled a team of undervalued unknowns. “If the market discriminates against conservatives, then there should be good opportunities for hiring conservatives,” says Polsby. This is exactly the sort of observation one would expect a market-savvy law-and-economics scholar to make. Manne and his successors were able to act on this theory, and though Mason has in recent years expanded its recruitment of non-economics specialists, it has stuck by the core observation that law schools routinely overlook raw talent.

At the same time, the GMU law school has climbed the U.S. News rankings. Some years have been better than others: In 1999, as a result of poor data collection, there was a temporary but eye-popping dip to 113th. Slowly but surely, however, Mason has shed its status as a “safety” school for students who couldn’t gain admission elsewhere. In 2001, it broke into the top 50 — a group that U.S. News describes as “first tier” — and it hasn’t looked back. Since 2003, Mason has floated between 38th and 41st. It probably would do even better but for the particular ways U.S. News calculates worth: Forty percent of a school’s ranking is based on reputation, as determined by judges and lawyers (15 percent) and law professors (25 percent). “If we had Dartmouth or Princeton’s name,” says Polsby, picking two well-regarded schools that don’t have law programs, “we’d be a top-20 school overnight.” And by weighing the opinions of law professors so heavily, U.S. News gives liberals a lot of influence; Mason almost certainly pays a price for the perception that conservatives aren’t exactly an endangered species in its faculty lounge.

China’s Oscar Censorship

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:26 pm

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I wonder if anyone in Hollywood cares:

Chinese TV cuts Ang Lee’s speech

The Chinese media praised Taiwan-born Ang Lee for his best director Oscar win but state TV cut part of his speech mentioning China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Lee thanked everyone in all three regions. Beijing regards Taiwan as sovereign territory and Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

“Ang Lee is the pride of Chinese people,” said the China Daily.

Brokeback Mountain will not be released in Chinese cinemas and can only been seen on pirate DVD.

The Chinese government refused to include it on a list of foreign films approved for domestic cinemas, a move that stops just short of an outright ban.

Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper contrasted Lee’s success with China’s controls on popular culture.

“China cannot produce a director like Ang Lee,” it claimed.

The paper praised the US for allowing creative freedom.

It would be nice if Variety would note that as well.

AFTERTHOUGHT (5:24pm): I wonder if the PRC government can really get away with having it both ways on this — bragging that a Chinese director won an Oscar, and at the same time refusing to allow the film to be shown. It may seem odd to many in China that the government will not approve a movie that produced the Oscar they seem to be so proud of.

Cindy Sheehan Goes to Germany

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:05 am

From David Kaspar:

Cindy Sheehan will be in Germany this upcoming weekend (read her plans here) to spread her message of retreat and defeat as she marches from a church in Landstuhl (a town where wounded American soldiers are treated) to a location outside Ramstein Airbase where she plans to set up another “Camp Casey.”

But not everyone is planning to sit around and silently watch the German media fawn and drool over Ms. Sheehan. Several groups are organizing a peaceful counter demonstration to support American and Coalition soldiers and victory in Iraq. We strongly encourage all of our readers in Germany and surrounding areas to converge on Ramstein this Saturday to take part! Our website has already christened the demonstration site “Camp David.”

Of course, if she’s there to protest the occupation, she’s either 61 or 16 uears too late, depending on your point of view.

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