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Links With Your Coffee - Tuesday


    I just finished reading

  • Anthill: A Novel by E.O. Wilson
  • his first work of fiction. He should stick to non-fiction. "Anthill" is the coming of age story of Raphael Semmes Cody, Raff to his friends. The story is a predictable, young boy loves nature, grows up, protects nature. The story is not quite believable in places. I did however enjoy the fundamentalist, God made the earth for us to consume characters, but it wouldn't have been worth reading but for the section called Anthill Chronicles, a fascinating ants view of life, it is the thing that makes the book worth reading.

  • No One Is to Blame for Anything
    “I was right 70 percent of the time, but I was wrong 30 percent of the time,” said Alan Greenspan as he testified last week on Capitol Hill. Greenspan — a k a the Oracle during his 18-year-plus tenure as Fed chairman — could not have more vividly illustrated how and why geniuses of his stature were out to lunch while Wall Street imploded. No doubt he applied his full brain power to that 70-30 calculation. But the big picture eludes him. If the captain of the Titanic followed the Greenspan model, he could claim he was on course at least 70 percent of the time too.
  • Pale Blue Dot (Vimeo higher quality)(tip to Steve)
  • Pale Blue Dot (YouTube poor quality)(tip to Benjamin)
  • Dr. Oz: America's doctor and the abdication of professional responsibility
  • The Novel as Offensive Weapon
  • Marine's Father Takes Protestors to Court
    Some nights Albert Snyder wakes up at 3 a.m. Other nights he doesn’t sleep at all, tormented by thoughts of the hateful signs carried by a fundamentalist church outside his Marine son’s funeral.

    As despicable as the Westboro Baptist Church is I think the court is right that it's a question of free speech. Albert Synder, has my sympathy, but it seems to me that he is making a bad situation worse. He needs to move on. His memory of his son and of his son's death is becoming more and more tightly linked to the hate filled Westboro bastards. Every hearing, every appeal, every article in the newspaper cements that hateful moment into his memory. Whether he ultimately wins or loses the case the years of reliving those moments will define his son's life for him. What do you think?



Great link, Zaphod.

That pic is so fake and wrong! Isn't it obvious that Sagan wouldn't be drinking? He would be smoking a J. ;)

Maybe there's a case for it not being free speech. It sounds as if he is suffering from emotional distress. The reason we find those signs distasteful is a) they were intended to cause distress, b) the marine was not a public figure (so it's not like the TP nutters and their obama=hitler signs) and c) it seems reasonable to presume that a funeral is a private occasion with special privileges (it's not e.g. neo-nazis marching down a public highway which happens to have Jewish people living on it). I'd say that (a) through (c) gives sufficient grounds for considering this to be a clear case of an act designed solely to cause distress and there is no benefit to public discourse from its being protected.

Thanks for this clear description. I can tell you that there are thousands of people hoping he wins this case against the Phelps Clan.

Norm, I don't hink he really feels nightly distress, but that he is doing his best to get these people to stop and this is the most successful legal way to do it. Compared to all the all the other tricks lawyers pull to win cases, let criminals free on technicalities, etc., I have no problem with him exagerating the emotional pain.

If funerals are given special status, the Phelps clan still has every other city street in the USA to protest on.

btw: the only place the Phelpses walked away from picketing (that my family has seen in person) was the DNC in Boston. The "Free Speech Zone" was a small caged area far from the reporters. After 30 minutes of no attention, they left. Funny that the father of a dead vet has fewer rights to avoid these shouting hate filled nutters than all the politicos at the democratic national convention. Hmmm...

Three questions

1) Who's the chap third from the right?

2) Where's Dennett?

3) Why the devil is Aristotle there?

(Note; 2 and 3 can be solved in a single move).

1) Neil deGrasse Tyson (Google him if you need to)

2) Tufts University

3) Because whoever made the picture wanted him there.

We all have our own heroes, I might want to have Robert Hooke there, but I didn't have the imagination to do it in the first place.

Why is darwin eating a burger?


It's like that in the original for, as you all know, Da Vinci was a time traveller (and a subscriber to the Richard Dawkins Foundation).

Greenspan's changing tune is funny, but not ha-ha funny. At about the 49:13 mark of this excellent Frontline examination of OTC derivatives' roll in the financial meltown, Greenspan admits to Congress that his Ayn Rand philosophy is a bunch of shit:

Go to Part Six to see him crumble.

About Free Speech/Hate Speech… i understand that you are sympathetic towards Mr. Snyder, but i cannot help thinking that "You need to move on" and "You are making a bad situation worse" would make two terrific taunting signs for the Westboro faithful to hold.

You're certainly right, but those suggestions coming from someone he loves and respects would, I believe, be the best thing he could do.

The whole concept of Free Speech in the US is so distorted and ridiculous, it sometimes boggles the mind.

In Spain we have a saying: My freedom ends Where yours begins And viceversa

But where does the others' begin? It can't be when they feel "insulted", and it seems this is the case with the WBP. You can call them assholes, but once you start granting people the right not to be insulted, you start get shit like the chiropractors are giving Simon Singh or the burning of movie theaters in Brazil when they showed the Last Temptation of Christ, or people wanting to punish (legally or otherwise) someone who draws a cartoon.

I meant, "WBC" of course.

1) Woops. No, I meant their right our left. Needless to say I know Neil, his work, his career history and have watched him attempting to solve a Rubik's cube.

2) Apparently, it's more likely he's on his farm.

3) Sure but... why? I guess I'm wondering what the underlying connection between the various table guests is and if there's any sensible way it would include Aristotle and not Dennett. Take Neil deGrasse Tyson as an example; with all respect to the guy his achievements in science are primarily as a populariser, likewise with Carl Sagan. This isn't to say they aren't legitimate scientists only that there are clearly scientists out there with a lower public profile but a more impressive resume. Yet in a contemporary sense, rather than a 'world historical sense' I doubt you could call Aristotle a sceince populariser. No one I know who's read The Physics has done so for it's scientific content. Moreover, the majority of what you might call Aristotle's scientific beliefs are false; they've been overturned. I just think if you're going to have 'clever people, with reasonable scientific resumes and a reliable sceptical bent' you're best to have Dennett.

Robert Hooke? Wouldn't it be a strange table if it contained both Robert Hooke and Carl Sagan? (Then again, it currently contains both Neil deGrasse Tyson and Aristotle so....)

P.S. - Re:Wilson No one said EO Wilson's expertise was in fiction. Get a copy of Superorganism when it comes out in paperback.

My guess, from left to right:

Galileo, Curie, Oppenheimer, Newton, guy with a beard, Hawking, That E=mc2 Dude, Sagan, a guy without a beard, some kind of god, Tyson, The Dawk, and Charlie D.


Looks like you're right on Oppenheimer.

Then it's LtoR

Galileo Marie Curie Oppenheimer Newton Pasteur, I think <-- Hawking Einstein Edison <-- Aristole <-- deGrasse Tyson Dawkins Darwin

Yes, knowing when free speech crosses the line into hate speech is the problem. Moreover, we can't allow people to exploit our tolerance for free expression as a protection for the weapons of hate. This group also uses the freedom of religion in the US as a smokescreen for intolerance... being very mean spirited in the name of God is particularly vile.

My father lives three blocks from the Phelps compound. My mom and aunt were the first to ever win a suit against their family in their home county. They rushed the sisters in an aggressive way shouting gay religious insults with wood reinforced signs and it was determined that their actions were assault, as they would drive a reasonable subject to violence. I was in court with them. I have seen then on corners for years, children marching with signs displaying sexual acts, and I have seen them attack the emotionally vulnerable (in every way a person can be vulnerable) in any way that they think will affect them. Their goal appears to be to scare people into believing in Leviticus’ Old Testament God.

They are often brought up on charges, but judges usually throw the cases out. Why? Because when they find out the judge that will hear the case, they barrage the judge with phone calls and faxes, and if the judge finds them guilty, they appeal on grounds of prior prejudice. You see, these ministers are also lawyers, nearly every single one. They are unstoppable by law.

Most people I know have thought violence against them. In college we openly talked of fire and murder when they visited campus. A reasonable old lady once saw their signs and impulsively ran them over in her car. She was acquitted. The case with my mom and aunt won because 1) my uncle is an expert witness re: post traumatic stress disorder, and b) my mom and aunt were from out of town and visiting an international museum exhibit designed to draw tourist dollars. The town was unhappy after the wads of cash spent to get the exhibit, so a judge would actually have to try the case.

Now a days when they protest a military funeral, a posse of bikers goes and expresses free speech by revving their motors to drown out the Phelps clan. Those men I salute. Again, this is the only form of free speech I’ve seen in the United States I oppose. It offers nothing to anyone that I can discern. I admit that it is a slippery slope and find it difficult to create any rule that would apply to them and them alone without doing harm to our freedoms, but my belief stands. We should be rid of them.


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