Now to drive back across two states

All the fun is over now, and it’s time for me to get on I94 and drive back across Wisconsin and Minnesota, and to get back to work. At least you can read about the excellent party, which was excellent, and share in one of the pleasant memories. You’ll have to wait to hear about last night’s AHA-sponsored talk, which was well-attended by an enthusiastic audience, and which was taped by both Karl Mogel and 3D Science News (the scene where I suddenly jump forward through the screen and bite the head off a creationist in the audience will be spectacular, I’m sure).

Since this is going to be a travel-and-writing day for me, you’re going to have to settle for this open thread for a little while. Be sure to make it entertaining: go ahead, break into a knife fight, I know I’ll have some mess to clean up when I get back home.


  1. says

    The thought has been growing in my mind that we need a group of people who are held, by the atheist community as a whole, of being capable of defending the tenets we hold as universal, and moreover that these people should be organised in such a way that any one of them could say “I’m a member of _____*” and anyone who has participated in the culture wars for any length of time would know precisely what it means, and also (if they find themselves on the opposite side of the argument) s**t themselves in the sure and certain knowledge that they are about to get their rhetorical asses handed to them in paper bags.

    *Name to be decided.
    **I know some people don’t like words like that. Where I come from they’re a normal part of conversation.

    Now everyone start arguing about it.

  2. JoJo says

    Since Talk Like A Pirate Day is over, here’s some recommendations for similar events

    Talk Like Sylvia Browne Day: It’s all about cold reading everyone you talk to. Make vague statements and generalized predictions, focus on hits and ignore misses. And be sure to relieve everyone you meet of money that would be much better spent on therapy. (It also helps if you smoke four packs a day until the holiday starts.)

    Talk Like Kevin Trudeau Day: Take a bunch of quack cures and useless “traditional” remedies, add a dash of rebellion against scientific medicine, and blatant lies about the efficacy of your treatments. Be sure to relieve everyone you meet of money that would be better spent on [surgery, chemotherapy, aspirin].

    Talk Like Ted Haggard Day: This one is a little tricky. In public, rail against sin and fornication, and support legislation that takes away the civil rights of homosexuals. In private, talk about how much you love crystal meth and gay sex. Relieve your publicly pious friends of their money, and give it to drug dealers and homosexual prostitutes.

    Talk Like L. Ron Hubbard Day: Begin by telling mediocre, overwrought science fiction stories. When people start to lose interest, tell them you’ve discovered the secrets to perfect mental health and well being, which are conveniently stratified like the rules of a secret society. Relieve everyone who asks to know your secrets of money that would be better spent not being indoctrinated into a crazy cult.

  3. DK says

    Wazza: Sounds cool. The group would have to have some snappy acronym though, like S.H.I.E.L.D. or U.N.C.L.E.

    Oh and where are the knives? I forgot mine.

  4. Wowbagger says

    So i wasn’t completely ignorant of what this journey entails I’ve just spent some time browsing Wikipedia to increase my knowledge of US geography. Quite interesting, really; Ohio isn’t where I thought it was…

  5. Tim says

    Wazza, An intriguing idea, likely fuel their persecution complex, but I understand the desire. When someone gets in my face with their creation myth, I can be a bit hasty.

  6. JoJo says


    Your knowledge of American geography will be complete when you know the location of East Virginia and West Poodunk.

    Hint: West Poodunk is near Bumfuk.

  7. szqc says

    @jojo #5

    Excellent ideas, let’s add:

    – Talk like Ben Stein Day (too easy but don’t forget to add a dash of Godwin)

    – Talk like JAD Day (recursive blog posts, lots of “I love it so”)

    – Talk like John McCain Day (out of both sides of your both)

    – Talk like Vox Day Day (until they finally come to take you away, away)

  8. szqc says

    @ 11 (slight edit due to an enthusiastic toddler who hit the send button for me here while I was about to preview – that was “both sides of your *mouth*” for John M)

  9. raven says

    McClatchy Newspaper:

    Thirty-one House Republicans sent a letter to Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke , asking them to stop using federal funds to save private firms.

    “These massive federal bailouts have exposed taxpayers to literally tens of billions of dollars of new risk,” they wrote. [My note. It is more like a trillion, current estimates by the morons in charge are 500 billion and they always low ball the numbers.]

    The old line wing of the GOP has turned on Bushco. The other wing of course is the Palinoid religious kooks who are too stupid to know what is going on.

    The major story right now is the current collapse of the US economy and financial system. The bailout plan doesn’t even exist. They are going to ruin their weekend and make something up. Which might not even work.

    Generally when one party wrecks the country, the other one gets elected in the fond hope that they will clean up the mess. It isn’t quite working that way this time, as McBush and crazy mom Palin are close to Obama although they have been slipping in the polls lately.

    The Bushco catastrophe tells everyone what a USA run by Death Cultist lunatics would look like. Poor, declining former superpower, chaotic, and fascist. It is ominous that 44% of the US voters think that is just great as long as they can keep birth control away from their teenagers so they get pregnant and teach 6,000 year mythology about Big Boats and talking snakes as fact in science classes.

    As you sow, so shall you reap. These are “interesting” times, and for sure, if McBush and moose killer Palin get in, wave bye bye to the USA. One cannot just continually screw up everything for 8 years plus another potential 8 years without paying a price. Ask the Soviets about that. Oh, that is right, they screwed up once too often and don’t even exist anymore.

  10. Sven DiMilo says

    But according to my grandfather’s customary locution, Bumfuk is in Egypt.
    Hmmm, a secular humanist/atheist SWAT team, huh? Emergency response squad sort of thing?
    Secular Humanist/Atheist Response Integration Alliance?
    nah, that acronym might be misinterpreted.

  11. Wowbagger says

    My US geography isn’t so great, but I’m probably better than most of my fellow Australians. New England I’m okay with thanks to the books of Stephen King and John Irving; and, like most non-Americans with a tv, I have a good idea of where NY and California are. But the placement of the other states is kind of mysterious. I remember when Katrina made the news I was surprised to see New Orleans a long way from where I thought it was.

  12. Matt Penfold says

    Did anyone else hear Brian Appleyard on Radio 4 this morning taking about the Reiss affair ?

    I have never held Appleyard in much regard, but today he sank to a new low claiming that creationism was just another way of knowing and that science has no business pointing out the flaws in it.

    I do not often swear at the radio, at least not since Michael Howard stopped being leader of the Conservatives, but I did swear today.

  13. says

    I was thinking more a distributed thing, so that no matter where a discussion takes place, one of us can be there.

    OK, here’s my thoughts on the matter (concocted in the shower I took between now and the first post)

    1. No official dogma. I mean, everything has to be based on evidence and reason, but you can argue for any viewpoint so long as you only use those. Theistic evolutionists would be as welcome as anyone else.

    2. Membership is based on an examination by a committee of existing members (except right at the start where the original members would have to be assessed in some other way). Basically you have to argue for your point in your preferred medium, whether it be scholarly journals, newspaper articles, blogs, fora or in-person debate, and have your arguments assessed by members of the organisation to ensure that your arguments were based on reason and evidence and that no logical fallacies were committed.

    3. The actual organisation would be more about a level of argument – total ass-kicking with the option of taking names – rather than a particular dogma. This level of argument of course excludes ideas like YEC because they’re not based on evidence and reason and are full of logical fallacies, but it would include a wide range of possible interpretations of the facts, so long as they all answer to the criteria already set out.

    I think that’s enough thinking to do at nearly 2am. Night all.

  14. Sphere Coupler says

    PZ How about an open thread with a theme: What pisses you off and what would you do about it?

  15. Wowbagger says

    …claiming that creationism was just another way of knowing and that science has no business pointing out the flaws in it.

    What I don’t get is that he, like all creationists (or creationism-enablers; I’m not familiar with the man), live in a world that’s only possible through science. They trust it to transport them, entertain them and keep them from dying – and yet they don’t trust it to be right about the origins of life.

    ‘Another way of knowing’ – that’s just another way of saying, ‘I know what’s right but I should be allowed to choose what is wrong if I want’.

  16. Nerd of Redhead says

    Sphere Coupler, we have an open thread and could try out your suggestion.

    A pet peeve of mine is the alleged animal rights activists being against scientific research, but when they receive medical treatment, they want the best treatment available. If they want to picket research facilities, then they should have to wear a card specifying that any medical treatment they receive cannot have had any experiments performed on animals in the development of the treatment. They might not like being given just herbs for a staph infection, and begin to think twice about their stance on the subject.

  17. negentropyeater says

    An open thread, I’d like to say a few words about my country, France, “Positive Secularism”, Pope Ratzi’s latest visit and his close friend President Sarkozy.

    In France, separation of church and state is principally based on a 103 yold law (loi de Séparation des Églises et de l’État de 1905) which prohibits government to recognize any religion in any of its institutions.
    « La République ne reconnaît, ne salarie ni ne subventionne aucun culte »

    Fundamentally, French secularism is more radical than its American counterpart which only guarantees that govt will not favour any particular religion.

    This is something our dear President Sarkozy envies Americans, especially the republicans. So he would like France to move backwards, what he calls “Positive secularism”, which is nothing else than the American model, so that religions can have some degree of influence (he calls that dialogue) in government.

    Sarkozy’s position is not new. As Agnes Poirier writes in the Guardian, “he developed the idea in his 2004 book, La République, les religions et l’espérance. His model is American, one which embraces all religions and sects like the Scientologists and the Jehovahs as democratic interlocutors. In fact, he’d like to swap social hope for a spiritual one, thus leaving to religious communities the care of, say, looking after difficult neighbourhoods or banlieues. In his view, religious authorities could become political partners – when it is precisely their restriction to the private sphere which guaranties citizens’ freedom of opinion.” Religion is the opium of the people, rings a bell ?

    He officially anounced his intentions to follow with this project as President during a visit at the vatican on 20 dec 2007, and has been continuing to push his pawns slowly until the pope’s last visit in Paris last week. The pope, of course, loves it.

    Now, a vast majority of the opinion is opposed, as well as the two main opposition parties (the socialists and the centrists of F.Bayrou), so I’m not too worried that this thing will get anywhere.

    But I think it’s interesting to see that even in a country lke France, which has for so many years taken such radical steps to separate church and state and where religion has lost most of its influence, there are still politicians who will try whatever they can think of to ensure that it gains back access to authority, because, simply, a religious folk is easier to manage and keep artificially happy than a non religious one.

  18. bPer says

    Open thread question for Ottawa residents:

    Are we still GO for a PharynguFest next Saturday at the Clocktower?

  19. Nick Gotts says

    raven@12 is right about the major story – although it goes a lot wider than the USA. I’m amazed there hasn’t been more discussion of it here, since it’s an event of at least equal importance to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and 9/11.

    Short term, it means Obama will have to try really hard if he wants to lose the election. The electorate consistently trust the Dems more than the Repugnants over the economy, and this will ensure the economy will become the focus of the campaign: salience is key. Also, as raven points out, the Rethuglicans are in disarray (although McCain would be doing exactly what Bush is, if he were in office). What’s more, the financial crisis makes it unlikely Bush will dare to launch an attack on Iran or risk serious clashes with Pakistan, because “the markets hate uncertainty”. However, whoever wins will be severely restricted in what they can do, since at best they will be saddled with additional hundreds of $bn in debt, as the US government will have to borrow to buy up the bad loans at well above their real worth.

    Longer term, the results will be somewhere between a significant turning point and a global catastrophe, depending on whether a workable “rescue plan” can be cobbled together, and if so, whether that is followed by reregulation and responsible macro-economic planning. If there is no rescue plan, or it falls apart, a thirties-style slump is a near-certainty, and the Last World War a few years hence a disturbingly plausible sequel. If it succeeds but the financial system is not reformed, the likelihood is another speculative bubble and another crash in a few years. If it succeeds and there is responsible follow-up, this will require reduced living standards in the US and UK at least, and a large cut in US military spending, probably including withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. New York and London will lose ground as financial centres to Frankfurt and the far East.

    Of course, the whole thing also has its amusing aspects. To see Bush, the long-time proponent of “free markets” and scourge of “welfare”, nationalising banks and insurance companies, and preparing to hand out vast sums to distressed bankers, is as chortle-worthy as any plotline in the global soap-opera that I can remember.

  20. Wowbagger says

    because, simply, a religious folk is easier to manage and keep artificially happy than a non religious one.

    Exactly. If you can convince people they get to have everything when they die maybe they won’t mind so much having nothing (in comparison) while they’re alive. And let’s not forget the Divine Right of Kings – a very clever piece of work indeed.

    Neg, I don’t blame you for your concern; history is pretty clear on how rough a time France has had whenever religion and politics got into bed together.

  21. raven says

    …claiming that creationism was just another way of knowing and that science has no business pointing out the flaws in it.

    That is a meaningless statement. Hallucinogenic drugs, reading the entrails of dead animals, astrology, and damaging your brain with judicious applications of a hammer are also other ways of knowing. They just happen to be dumb ideas that yield wrong results just like magical thinking such as creationism.

  22. GMacs says

    Eew! Biting the head off a creationist? There’s probably some icky stuff in there brain that either causes or results from their stupidity. They probably taste nasty.

  23. says

    There’s probably some icky stuff in there brain that either causes or results from their stupidity.

    Creationism is a prion disease?

    (Note to self: creationist scrapple==bad idea.)

  24. negentropyeater says


    I’m not too concerned, I don’t think Sarko has much chance of success with this, at least on the legislative side.

    Meanwhile, it does give him the occasion to say a lot of coldswallop nonsense :

    “It would be crazy to deprive ourselves of religion; [it would be] a failing against culture and against thought. For this reason, I am calling for a positive secularity,” he said. “A positive secularity offers our consciences the possibility to interchange — above and beyond our beliefs and rites — the sense we want to give to our lives.”

    It had been a very long time since a French president hadn’t said that much nonsense about religion, almost made me feel American for a while…

  25. Sphere Coupler says

    OK cool,Here’s my rant.

    Inaccessibility of Knowledge.

    When someone writes a paper,publishes it in a journal,it is then coveted by the publishers for ransom.Everybody has to pay to read.How is this a free transfer of knowledge between scientist,let alone the general public?
    I know we live in a capitalistic state and I have no problem with people reaping rewards for their efforts.
    Most innovations come from non-scientist or at least those who do not focus on one specific field of study.There minds or their time is free to collect from a variety of “fields of knowledge” and then utilize it for innovations.

    Make all knowledge available on the web. The creator of such knowledge is then payed by the country’s educational system, according to the # of legitimate hits acquired.
    The journal founders would still be the peer reviewed boards.If you could not get a paper published in one journal you would find one who will.
    Let the journals be rated from 1 to 100. #1 for Highest merit—#100 for lowest merit.

    And of course all papers submitted anonymously, Only after acceptance would the reviewers know the papers author.
    Of course there’s probably some details that would need to be resolved.

  26. Equisetum says

    “What’s more, the financial crisis makes it unlikely Bush will dare to launch an attack on Iran or risk serious clashes with Pakistan, because “the markets hate uncertainty”.”

    Ah, but what better way to the mind of the voters off the economy than to give them another war? Rally ’round the flag, and all that. And besides, aren’t wars supposed to be good for the economy? (I can’t count the number times I heard this when I was in the military.)

    Given the stupidity of this administration, I wouldn’t put it past them to be thinking like this.

  27. Monkey Deathcar says

    Long Time lurker here, but I’m got into a religious/political discussion with an old catholic friend over the interwebs. He posed this analogy about abortion.

    “Suppose you are out deer hunting, and you hear a fairly loud rustling behind some bushes within shooting range. It sounds like it might be a deer, but you can’t actually see it. You’d really like to bag a deer, but if you wait much longer it will be out of range. What do you do?”

    He’s trying to say you don’t shoot because it “could be a human,” like a fetus “could be a human.” I don’t think it’s a good analogy for the simple fact is it’s trying to make a correlation between taking a shot randomly into the woods at something with incubating a fetus in a body. Both of which have very different consequences. Maybe I’m missing something, but it just doesn’t seem to work.

    Am I wrong?

  28. chancelikely says

    Talk like Richard Dawkins Day. Reason well, pull no punches, affect a British accent.

    Talk like Christopher Hitchens Day. As above, except with more Scotch.

    Talk like Andrew Schlafly Day. Argue poorly. Get self backed into corner. Ban your opponent from your website, delete any comment he/she has ever made, file lawsuit, claim victory. Oh, and find some random subject from high school that you didn’t understand and angrily claim that it doesn’t exist. (NB: Imaginary numbers has already been taken. Pick something else, like mercantilism or gerunds.)

  29. spgreenlaw says

    @#33 Paul Lundgren,

    My brother, who is in his teens, must think that every day is Talk like Dick Cheney Day.

  30. negentropyeater says


    If there is no rescue plan…

    There is no rescue plan !

    The problem is simple, really : households in the US have too much debt (subprime, near prime, prime mortgages, home equity loans, credit cards, auto loans and student loans) while their assets (values of their homes and stocks) are plunging leading to a sharp fall in their net worth. And households are getting buried under this mountain of mounting debt and rising debt servicing burdens. Thus, a fraction of the household sector – as well as a fraction of the financial sector and a fraction of the corporate sector and of the local government sector – is insolvent.

    Now, you don’t grow yourself out of such a fantastic debt problem with a rescue plan. All the measures taken by govt so far do not solve this problem, they are just moving the debt from one side to another, but it stays there, someone will have to pay for it, who ? God ? For instance the new crazy idea of a RTC to purchase all the bad assets of failed institutions, that’s proping up the market temporarilly, but fundamentally, it’s just moving the bad debt from one pocket to the other, it’s still there.

    The only way this will get solved is when households and institutions will start spending less and saving more and that means an economic depression. And the duration and severity of that depression is going to be proportional to the amount of debt outstanding, which is a lot, so count at least 36 months from now on. There’s NO WAY AROUND IT.

    The rest, the technicalities, new regulations, nationalisations, etc…, only will influence the period AFTER the depression, and prevent that this disaster happens again.
    The shit has already hit the fan !

  31. Katkinkate says

    Posted by: Sphere Coupler @ 30
    “When someone writes a paper, publishes it in a journal, it is then coveted by the publishers for ransom. Everybody has to pay to read. How is this a free transfer of knowledge between scientist, let alone the general public?”

    There’s nothing stopping a person walking into a university library and taking a copy of the journal off the shelf and reading it. Although I agree internet access is easier, I doubt you’ll have much success preventing publishers charging people for access. They have expenses to pay. That being said, there is a lot available free online, especially the abstracts and becoming a member of the library, or borrowing someone elses membership will get you online access to ejournals the library has on subscription.

  32. Lana says

    These are tough times in the United States? People are drowning in debt? Tell me about it. I’m a bankruptcy lawyer in the office on a glorious fall Saturday.

  33. Nick Gotts says

    I guess it never does to be too sure there are limits to Bush regime irresponsibility, but I think they’d be restrained by the financiers saying, in effect, “Attack Iran and we’ll switch our support to the Dems”. Wars can stimulate the economy, but they are very expensive – it’s been trying to fight two medium-sized wars while cutting taxes for the rich that has led to the current mess.

    By a “rescue plan” I mean simply measures to stop the financial system freezing completely – a bailout of the banks, as apparently planned. You’re right that there will then be a recession, as Americans (and Brits and at least some other Europeans) are obliged to save more and spend less (I said much the same, without using the word “recession”, above); but without such a bailout, a 30s-style slump is near-certain. A recession might be postponed by sufficiently irresponsible efforts to get another bubble inflating, but then, as I said, another crash seems sure to follow. I don’t think we’re really disagreeing here.

  34. raven says

    A lot of people including some of the GOP are ticked off at Bushco. They have violated the Zeroth Command, destroying their wealth on a massive scale.

    Guesses are that the IMF and World Bank will come up with a rescue plan sooner or later. Maybe we can use our surplus unemployed workers as mercenary thugs to beat up other third world countries and steal their lunch money and oil.

    19/09/08 “LA Times” – — Dear United States, Welcome to the Third World!

    It’s not every day that a superpower makes a bid to transform itself into a Third World nation, and we here at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund want to be among the first to welcome you to the community of states in desperate need of international economic assistance. As you spiral into a catastrophic financial meltdown, we are delighted to respond to your Treasury Department’s request that we undertake a joint stability assessment of your financial sector. In these turbulent times, we can provide services ranging from subsidized loans to expert advisors willing to perform an emergency overhaul of your entire government.

    As you know, some outside intervention in your economy is overdue. Last week — even before Wall Street’s latest collapse — 13 former finance ministers convened at the University of Virginia and agreed that you must fix your “broken financial system.” Australia’s Peter Costello noted that lately you’ve been “exporting instability” in world markets, and Yashwant Sinha, former finance minister of India, concluded, “The time has come. The U.S. should accept some monitoring by the IMF.”

    We hope you won’t feel embarrassed as we assess the stability of your economy and suggest needed changes. Remember, many other countries have been in your shoes. We’ve bailed out the economies of Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and South Korea. But whether our work is in Sudan, Bangladesh or now the United States, our experts are committed to intervening in national economies with care and sensitivity.

    We thus want to acknowledge the progress you have made in your evolution from economic superpower to economic basket case. Normally, such a process might take 100 years or more. With your oscillation between free-market extremism and nationalization of private companies, however, you have successfully achieved, in a few short years, many of the key hallmarks of Third World economies.

    Your policies of irresponsible government deregulation in critical sectors allowed you to rapidly develop an energy crisis, a housing crisis, a credit crisis and a financial market crisis, all at once, and accompanied (and partly caused) by impressive levels of corruption and speculation. Meanwhile, those of your political leaders charged with oversight were either napping or in bed with corporate lobbyists.

    Take John McCain, your Republican presidential nominee, whose senior staff includes half a dozen prominent former lobbyists. As he recently put it, “I was chairman of the [Senate] Commerce Committee that oversights every part of the economy.” No question about it: Your leaders’ failure to notice the damage done by irresponsible deregulation was indeed an oversight of epic proportions.

    Now you are facing the consequences. Income inequality has increased, as the rich have gotten windfalls while the middle class has seen incomes stagnate. Fewer and fewer of your citizens have access to affordable housing, healthcare or security in retirement. Even life expectancy has dropped. And when your economic woes went from chronic to acute, you responded — like so many Third World states have — with an extensive program of nationalizing private companies and assets. Your mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now state owned and controlled, and this week your reinsurance giant AIG was effectively nationalized, with the Federal Reserve Board seizing an 80% equity stake in the flailing company.

    Some might deride this as socialism. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

    Admittedly, your transition to Third World status is far from over, and it won’t be painless. At first, for instance, you may find it hard to get used to the shantytowns that will replace the exurban sprawl of McMansions that helped fuel the real estate speculation bubble. But in time, such shantytowns will simply become part of the landscape. Similarly, as unemployment rates continue to rise, you will initially struggle to find a use for the expanding pool of angry, jobless young men. But you will gradually realize that you can recruit them to fight in a ceaseless round of armed conflicts, a solution that has been utilized by many other Third World states before you. Indeed, with your wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you are off to an excellent start.

    Perhaps this letter comes as a surprise to you, and you feel you’re not fully ready to join the Third World. Don’t let this feeling concern you. Though you may never have realized it, you’ve been preparing for this moment for years.

  35. negentropyeater says

    but without such a bailout, a 30s-style slump is near-certain.

    Whether the depression that will follow will be as severe and protracted as the Great Depression has absolutely nothing to do with bank bailouts.

    Actually, the Austrian School explanations for the Great Depression are very similar to the current one. History repeats itself.

  36. tim Rowledge says

    SHIELD – Science Has Interesting Explanations for Lots of Data ?
    SMERSH – Science Makes Exciting Research Seriously Helpful ?

  37. muttpupdad says

    What happened to the Friday Cephalopod, so we have it’s image to put up for our weekend rituals. I quess we will just have to make do, perhaps smash a few crackers or have a big bowl of pasta. Arrrgh

  38. Epinephrine says

    Re: Ottawa Pharyngufest – I’ll admit that it had slipped my mind, nand I was suddenly worried I had missed it! Saturday the 27th, 8pm at the Clocktower pub, right?

    I can’t actually make it for 8pm as I don’t finish getting the kids to bed until around 8 or 8:15, but I should be there by 8:30-8:45ish. Looking forward to the experience!

  39. Epinephrine says

    Umm, and, not nand. Offering someone coffee xor tea tends to make them think that you’re a little odd (though it’s so much more precise!), so I try to seem normal by not using nand in a sentence ;)

  40. says

    SMERSH – Science Makes Exciting Research Seriously Helpful ?

    Tee hee! How about, um, “SPECTRE — Science Privileges Evidence and Careful Theorization for Real Effectiveness”?

  41. says

    negentropyeater: An open thread, I’d like to say a few words about my country, France, “Positive Secularism”, Pope Ratzi’s latest visit and his close friend President Sarkozy.

    Is it true that the Italians refer to the pope as “Papa Ratzi”? That would be amusing.

    I often use “Benny Hex”, myself, but that’s rather nerdy.

  42. Pierce R. Butler says

    negentropyeater @ # 15 et seq: Positive Secularism?

    Mssr Sarkozy, is that anything like Positive Christianity?

    … leaving to religious communities the care of, say, looking after difficult neighbourhoods or banlieues.

    Mais oui, what could be better to soothe a “difficult” urban area than, say, competition between Catholics and Muslims over the municipal budget? Alors – bring in consultants from Beirut, Belfast and Baghdad!

  43. The Cheerful Nihilist says


    You’re doing okay. At least you know that Ohio is somewhere in the USA. Most Ohioans would have a hard time finding Ohio on the map. Then there’s those South Carolinians who, er, “well, in the Iraq and places like South Africa . . . .”

    I’m in Omaha, Nebraska. If you’d like to know more about our fair city, watch this:

    (The giant “O’s” are public “art” that are supposed to promote the city. The campaign is, simply, “O! What a city!” We’re a pretty excitable people.)

  44. June says

    Here is a puzzle for financial experts like negentropyeater:
    What “real” money are we using for these bailouts?

    For example, when the massive credit card pyramid scheme finally collapses, will taxpayers also bail it out? But the IRS now accepts tax payments by credit card!

  45. Sphere Coupler says

    #38 @Katkinkate:
    Thanks,I realize a university library has access to certain journals,not all.I know I can do a inter-library loan search. Its just a hurdle and a hassle that slows progress and is frustrating. It would be so much easier for layman and scientist to acquire knowledge if readily available.

  46. says

    SWORD: Science Will Overcome Religious Delusion. Would make for some cool art too.

    That “deer or human in the brush” abortion analogy, like the one I used to hear that involved swerving to avoid a big bag on the road lest it contain a baby, has the usual telling detail at its base: the woman who is actually central to the rhetorical question becomes oddly incidental, external, and beside the point–a bag (parse that!) or some other bit of the scenery that’s obscuring the view. The idea that the “bag” herself might appreciate not being run over or used involuntarily is just not in the story. Funny, that.

    And while Hitchens is in the comment string: Is it possible I’m the only one here who remembers his odious Nation column touting the idea that “society” has a right, analogous to the military draft, to draft pregnant women to bear babies whether they want to or not? Kind of a double whammy to those of us who spent significant time and energy in the ’60s and ’70s fighting against the draft, too.

  47. Nick Gotts says

    Care to elaborate on your view and what the Austrians say?

    My reasoning is that if there’s no bailout, a near-global financial freeze will occur: it will become practically impossible to borrow money in the US and many other countries. Non-financial companies will go bust fast, tens if not hundreds of millions will be thrown out of work. This could still happen with a bailout, but it will hapen without one.

  48. Interrobang says

    Epinephrine, in my family, if someone asks you, “Do you want peas or carrots,” either “Yes” or “No” is a perfectly acceptable answer. Imagine how flustered I was when I said that to some friend’s mother and she said, “You can’t answer an either/or question with yes or no!” I said, “Why not?”

    Ron Sullivan: It’s amazing how women often just disappear in discussions (between men) of the ethicality of abortion. You’d kind of think this was a misogynist, patriarchal culture or something. Also, does using birth control make me a draft-dodger? (If so, good.)

    And can medical science please invent something that’ll let all these nervous men who are so terrified that TEH WIMMINS WILL STOP HAVING BAYBEEZ if they don’t force them into it actually get pregnant and give birth? My design requirements are that the resulting process be as risky and painful as the usual way…

    (All women opting out of pregnancy and childbirth completely until a new status quo is negotiated sounds like a good idea to me, actually, but I’m an Aristophanes fan from way back.)

  49. Nick Gotts says

    Ron Sullivan@60,

    Hitchens is a good example of a leftie who shifts right once he’s successful and so finds himself mixing with the rich and powerful. They usually find some single issue on which they claim the left is completely wrong, has betrayed its principles, etc. etc., and claim they are the real left – but this phase seldom lasts more than a few years, and they often end up among the most revolting reactionaries. Hitchens is clearly well on the way.

  50. bPer says

    Epinephrine @ #47 asked in regards to the Ottawa PharynguFest:

    Saturday the 27th, 8pm at the Clocktower pub, right?

    I went back through the archives and, yes, that seems to be right.

    Eamon Knight suggested a visit to the Museum of Nature beforehand, and I’m still interested in that, and dinner too, if anyone’s game. The museum is open until 17:00, and I was thinking of getting dinner afterwards, either at the Clocktower or nearby.

  51. Falyne, FCD says

    I actually gained a bit of respect for Hitchens after his switcharound on whether waterboarding counts as torture.

    If only the rest of the things he’s dead wrong on could be demonstrated so clearly* to him….

    *If I were a horrible person, I’d also wish that the successful method of demonstration to Hitchens continue to be some form of torture. I am… very barely… not a horrible person.

  52. negentropyeater says


    the Austrian School considers that the key factor that caused the great depression was a sustained expansion of the money supply over a continuous duration (min. 10 years) which led to a credit explosion and an bubble-inflation of the main asset prices (stocks, bonds, property). In their view, it is the unwillingness of the Federal Reserve to limit the high growth that was mainly responsible.

    Guess what we have now ? A continuous money supply expansion at very high pace, especially M3 (which btw the govt doesn’t officially publish because it is so shameful about it) since 1995, 13 years already. And guess who is the main responsible AGAIN ?
    There’s no miracle, when you grow artificially the economy by increasing the money supply at such rythm, for such a long period, you end paying later the consequences, and you pay dearly.

    So now, w.r.t the bailouts, mark my words but within the next 12 months, hundreds of small banks will go bust. Will that freeze the system ? Nope. First, depositors nowadays don’t need to go for bank runs because there is the FDIC. Second, those who will lose are the shareholders of these banks, and they should, so tough luck for them. If a company had an account with such a bank, it will switch to another, its abilty to take a loan is independent from the bank, but depends on its ability to generate cash flows.

    These bailouts have only one main objective, to saveguard the shareholders of these entities, not the services to their customers, which can be saveguarded even when the entity goes into liquidation.

  53. Nick Gotts says

    I certainly don’t disagree with the diagnosis of causes of this crisis (I don’t know enough about the ’30s one). However, I think you’re wrong in believing that no bailouts would simply mean lots of small banks going bust. For example, if AIG had gone bust, that would have brought down many other firms in its wake (because it insures against large private-sector loan defaults), and probably led to a complete freeze in inter-bank lending – which is pretty near frozen anyway. A small bank (or insurance company, or other financial institution) goes bust – no problem. If a large enough one does, it has systemic effects. What the US government should do is bail out the banks – but insist on a concomitant measure of control of their investment policies, to direct them toward useful economic activity rather than speculation in ever more complex “financial instruments”. A Dem. administration might, just possibly, go some way towards this.

  54. June says

    I hate to ask this, but who/what guarantees the FDIC?
    According to Wiki, the FDIC’s insurance fund dropped to about 45 billion after the IndyMac bank failed.

  55. negentropyeater says


    I agree that both in the case of the Fannies and AIG, the govt had to intervene, but technically, a bailout, ie keeping these entities in existence and saveguarding their shareholders (even diluted) was not.
    As far as further bailouts of other financial institutions, I don’t see them necessary either.


  56. negentropyeater says


    in other words, it would have been highly preferable to let these entities go into liquidation, and then for the government to pick up the pieces which were absolutely and saveguard the relevant assets necessary in order to avoid a systemic financial crisis.
    For instance, AIG own Manchester Unted, do you think it is necessary in order to avoid a financial crisis, that the US govt owns 80% of Manchester United ?

  57. Sili says

    That “deer or human in the brush” abortion analogy, like the one I used to hear that involved swerving to avoid a big bag on the road lest it contain a baby, has the usual telling detail at its base: the woman who is actually central to the rhetorical question becomes oddly incidental, external, and beside the point–a bag (parse that!) or some other bit of the scenery that’s obscuring the view.

    I actually like the swerve to miss a bag simile better. Isn’t the correct reply then, would you swerve to miss a bag on the road if it involved plowing into a schoolbus or a group of innocent bystanders?

  58. Epinephrine says

    Katherine @67

    Anybody ever thought of mailing a uterus to the pro-lifer assholes?

    Hmm, I have 3 placentas in the freezer…

  59. Falyne, FCD says

    Hmm, I have 3 placentas in the freezer…


    ….do, do I want to know?

    (Then again, I had dead rats in my freezer for a while during childhood. My pet rats would sometimes die during tax season, and Mom would want to give them a burial but not have time (she’s an accountant), and so they’d be put in the freezer to stop decomposition… and be forgotten. Yipes!)

  60. Epinephrine says

    Hmm, come to think of it, I also have quite a few dead rodents in the freezer – but we have a pet snake, so that’s entirely excusable.

    The plcentas (placentae?) are from our children’s births. Since we had homebirths we needed to do something with them, the midwives can’t transport them so it’s up to the parents to dispose of them. Haven’t really gotten around to it yet, but have odd ideas of perhaps planting a tree for each one or something. Horrifying pro-lifers is another decent option though.

  61. Nick Gotts says

    I’m not sure we’re really disagreeing much here – as I said @70, the government ought to demand, on behalf of taxpayers, a considerable measure of control (and future profits) in return for taking on their bad loans. Otherwise, as you say, it’s just the taxpayers being cheated to help shareholders. What I’m arguing against is the “let them fail” position. I’d love to see the greedy bastards get their comeuppance as much as anyone, but the effects for everyone else would be disastrous. If the government had let AIG fail, there might well have been no chance to pick up the pieces. (Incidentally, I’m sure some corrupt foreign billionaire will buy Man U. from the US government!)

  62. Wowbagger says

    The Cheerful Nihilist, #55

    Omaha? Well, I’ve heard of that – mostly because I was a moody adolescent around the time Counting Crows’ album August and Everything After came out, and that’s the name of one of the songs. The lyrics describe it as ‘somewhere in middle America’, but I wasn’t sure if that was literal or figurative.

  63. negentropyeater says


    the advantage of a liquidation would have been multiple :

    1. savings for the taxpayers of approx 20% of what is paid unnecessarily to the shareholders, and no bonus for managt.
    Savings = $ 17 billion !
    2. transparency of the process : under chapter 11, the assets would have been exposed to the public and the sales of those would have been more open, the split would have taken place gradually and the different parts would have been protected from creditors
    3. govt would still be able to intervene where necessary in order to secure those assets which were the most critical in order to avoid systemic financial crisis or too large for any entity to absorb. But instead of buying the whole lot lumpsum, it would have only taken maybe 60 or 70% of the company.

    So instead of spending $ 85 billion, the Govt could have prevented systemic fnancial risks and spent half as much by letting the company go bust.

    Same is true with the Fannies.

    The only reason why they didn’t choose this obvious and natural method, because of corruption : they have too many frends amongst the shareholders of these companies.

  64. Nick Gotts says

    What you advocate would surely have taken a good deal more time – which was not available. With regard to AIG, Fannie and Freddie, there should certainly now be a thorough investigation of how they came to be on the brink of collapse, and clawback of any compensation to those responsible for this state of affairs – even if they have done nothing criminal.

  65. BobC says

    You’ll have to wait to hear about last night’s AHA-sponsored talk, which was well-attended by an enthusiastic audience, and which was taped by both Karl Mogel and 3D Science News.

    I just looked at PZ’s link to 3D Science News, and I saw this very disturbing video: Humans turning ocean into wasteland.

  66. raven says


    I hate to ask this, but who/what guarantees the FDIC?
    According to Wiki, the FDIC’s insurance fund dropped to about 45 billion after the IndyMac bank failed.

    The money in the FDIC is paid in over time by the banks it insures. If it drops below zero, in theory, no one has to back it up.

    In practice the US government just announced a 700 billion financial industry bailout. Given the crooks and morons they are bailing out, probably bailing out the FDIC is chicken feed and they might as well bail them out too. The bailout will keep banks from going BK anyway.

    Of course, right now this 700 billion USD is imaginary and has no real existence. They will either have to borrow it or create it out of thin air by running the printing presses. No one in their right mind would lend money right now to the broke, moron controlled government.

    We will have inflation most likely if we are lucky and hyperinflation if we aren’t. They are going to change the currency from the dollar to the North American Peso.

  67. Wowbagger says

    Just thinking with the paranoid part of my brain: this whole financial meltdown isn’t something you think the republicans might have foreseen but chosen to let happen so they could use to their advantage in the election, is it?

    I know there was a bit of talk about them pulling something out of the bag but it was more likely to be military rather than economic.

    Can they use this to instill enough fear into the populace to make them vote (R) and not (D)?

  68. says

    Placentas apparently make reasonably good pate…

    but as for the tree thing, there’s an old maori custom of burying placentas after a birth. To maori, the earth is Papatuanuku, the earth mother, and so by burying the placenta in the earth, a link is forged with the earth mother as well as the biological mother, making the baby one of the tangata whenua, the people of the land.

    And often these days a tree is planted over them too.

  69. June says

    Thanks, Raven.
    Sounds like the FDIC is another Ponzi scheme like Federal S&L Insurance (which went under during the S&L crisis) and Social Security, which is known to need bailing out when unemployment skyrockets and baby boomers retire during the coming depression.

  70. amphiox says

    Wowbagger #85:

    Possibly, except that traditionally, when the major issue of concern is the economy, the Repubs lose big time.

  71. Wowbagger says

    amphiox, #88

    Thanks for that – I’m new to following US politics so I wasn’t sure whether it’d be something they could use to their advantage.

    Let’s just hope that holds true this time around.

  72. Nick Gotts says


    I’m sure the Repugnants didn’t intend the financial crisis – it almost guarantees Obama’s election. The more intelligent among them must have known some such crisis was on the way – all bubbles burst if inflated far enough – but predicting when and how is almost certainly impossible. Certainly, I don’t know of any case where the timing of such a major economic turning point has been predicted. The more intelligent Repugnants may now concentrate on ensuring Obama will be hamstrung if he wins, by the way they structure the “rescue package” for the banks.

  73. David C. says

    Have a good time at the AAI Convention in Long Beach,California.
    Remember there are airplanes that’ll take you there.You needn’t drive.
    Next Saturday night there will be a special guest there besides you of course.

  74. chgo_liz says

    Negentropyeater @ #21:

    Late to the party, I know, but I wanted to say thanks for the insider info on French politics.

    Monkey Deathcart @32:

    The analogy only holds if the forest is being physically and emotionally drained by a parasite that is unable to live under its own effort. Which is not knowable by anyone other than the entity being drained. In other words, the hunter is NOT like a doctor who may or may not perform an abortion; the hunter is like an anti-choice protester/bomber who makes life or death decisions about people he doesn’t even know.

    JCarlin @ #52:

    Traveling by airplane is now so frustrating and TIME-CONSUMING that flying between two non-hub cities less than 8 hours’ drive apart, especially if you’re going to need a car at the other end anyway, is futile.

    Interrobang @ #64:

    LOLZ to you! I was just referencing Lysistrata the other day to a group of women who were complaining about how women don’t work together to solve gender inequalities. Why don’t more schools teach that play?

    Epinephrine @ #77:

    We’re fans of the classic plant-with-a-tree choice. Unfortunately, sending a bloody internal organ (biohazard) via the USPS would probably be considered a federal offense, and I imagine the anti-choicers would do their best to prosecute just to be asswipes about it.

  75. says

    chgo_liz 93

    I love to drive and probably would stretch the 8 hours on the interstate to 10 on the blue roads if I could afford the downtime. However, my non-hub airport is relatively easy to get in and out of, WiFi works, and the plane ride isn’t long enough to get all the composition done. Flash on line at the hub, more of same on next plane. Total downtime maybe an hour, including to and from the airports.

    I wish I could afford to drive more often, and probably will if I ever retire. There is lots of great driving under the airplane that I glance at with regret, but there are people to see and things to do, and never enough time.