Setting the record straight

"What's an American Muslim to say to Herman Cain?" Dilshad D. Ali asks, struggling with how best to respond to the nasty anti-Muslim rants of the Republican presidential candidate. What makes this debate even trickier is that even though many American Muslims feel compelled to provide a sane, intelligent response when faced with anti-Islamic rhetoric, Cain and others like him are not interested in conversing with Muslims at all. They aren't talking to us. They're just talking about us, and if we … [Read more...]

A lamentation for an antivaxxer

At Respectful Insolence, Orac struggles to respond to "A disturbing post on an anti-vaccine blog."The anti-vaccine movement rejects the medical science behind childhood vaccination, believing it to be linked somehow to autism. They used to be able to point to a single study -- never replicated and often refuted -- that claimed to support this belief, but that study has since been shown to have been based on fraudulent data.Like most followers of science-rejecting ideologies, anti-vaxxers … [Read more...]

Orthodoxy and ignorance

Mike Todd, writing about Rob Bell's Love Wins and the (over)heated condemnation it has received, offers an insight into this fierce defense of rigid orthodoxies that collides neatly with our most recent Tribulation Force discussion. In particular, he explains why it is that real, true Christian heroes like Rayford Steele and Buck Williams cannot learn, change or grow.Here's Mike, writing about "Love Hell, Conciousness and the (Current) Impossibility of 'Church Unity'": If your spirituality is … [Read more...]

Never assume

My all-time favorite photo cutline from the Associated Press was for a picture of President Barack Obama and Pope Benedict XVI. It read: "Pope Benedict XVI (left) welcomes U.S. President Barack Obama (right) at the Vatican."It's difficult to imagine a reader for whom the words "Pope Benedict XVI" and "President Barack Obama" are in any way meaningful while also requiring those "left" and "right" designations to tell them apart. I can't imagine anyone looking at that photo and thinking, "Wait, … [Read more...]

Orders of insanity

I've been enjoying watching Brad DeLong pull his hair out in frustration with those who are willing to make peace with madness if that is where their arguments lead. (DeLong is entertaining when he's exasperated.) Some of the relevant posts are here and here. The immediate provocation for all of this was the internally consistent, but barking mad, insistence by Sasha Volokh  that "taxing people to protect the Earth from an asteroid … is an illegitimate function of government f … [Read more...]

Anti-Missourian best-sellers

I've got a bit of a quibble with a recent tendency I've noticed having to do with the way things like book sales or Facebook fans are used as a measure of popularity. Specifically I want to explore whether these measures can really be used to indicate the relative or comparative popular support for opposite views. When some polarizing figure publishes a book, the sales of that book do provide one useful way of gauging the popularity of that figure or that point of view. Barring bulk … [Read more...]

"Only a crazy person would take what we say seriously"

Violent language and violent rhetoric can be a problem, but I do not think it is the main problem afflicting our diseased political discourse.* The main problem, rather, is disingenuous rhetoric that coolly and calmly demands a violent response from anyone who believes it or takes it seriously. This talk may have nothing to do with guns or crosshairs or "reloading," but it is the logic of life and death. That logic doesn't just raise the possibility that some unhinged person on … [Read more...]

Jackie at the crossroads

So you're sitting around with a group of friends talking, the conversation skipping cheerfully from one topic to another, turning eventually, somehow, to a discussion of the best and worst public restrooms you've each encountered.Your friend Jackie says that she is terrified of the bathrooms at the airport. Because of the spiders.Most of the group hasn't heard about the spiders, so Jackie explains. There're these poisonous spiders from South America that stow away on … [Read more...]


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