Sunday, December 20, 2009


Has anyone noticed that it's kind of cold?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Skipping town on the Sabbath

With the run to complete a health care bill, Senators are working out what to do to be in place. Some Reps are bragging and twittering about putting in a cot in their offices to be in place.

What a about Joe Lieberman, you asked? No? Well I'll tell you anyway.

He's left town. Why? Sure he wants to kill it. Sure he is in league with Reps and Insurers to block it. But even the Reps are staying in place.

But not Joe.

He's back in CT. It's the Sabbath after all.

Why is this okay? Oh, well, it is sensible and respectable....pfft...

No it isn't. Racing to a dying friend or family member, sure. Go to a pregnant wife, okay...or if you are...I understand. A family happens.

But the Sabbath? He does know that he gets 52 of them every year, right?

What would have been laudable would have been giving up on the Sabbath for once for important work for the sake of his state and his country. But he isn't that loyal, is he?

Being charitable without being a dick

PZ Myers points out some secular charities that are available. Think of it, charity without the preaching, the commandments, or the moralizing. Could it be?

Here is the link.

Hands off holy mama

When I was born I was taken and baptized in a Catholic Church, after that I didn't really spend anytime in The Church. Except that one time a friend dragged me to communion and things got a bit wonky after I got the old wafer (not PZ Myers with a cracker cracker wonky just kid wandering into a groups weird ritual wonky).

So there was a whole lot about The Church I never knew. Until I saw the movie Dogma, I never knew what was supposed to be thought about Mary (God's baby's mama). I got that she was supposed to a virgin who gave birth to a child, sure why not. But the idea that she just stayed a virgin through the rest of her life...really? Why? As I understand now she's flippin' holy. She's the big mama of The Church, and no one touches mama. It's almost an arrested development fashion (And it does just add a whole new creepy layer to an already creepy story...perhaps I should tell the story of Jesus's conception this Christmas...). I mean, come on. Grow up, she had the kid and then had to go through raising him and Joseph had to be there, and just stand aside? They kept selling me as a kid the idea that her a Joe were in love and wanted to be together...or was that a lie to! Oh, man, is it all lies?!

Anywho. PZ Myers looks at the charming Catholic reaction to a billboard in New Zealand. They just don't seem to take to jokes about Joe and Mary's love life. Funny. Catholics always seem so light hearted and easy going....


There has been some consternation over talk of new taxation on cosmetic surgery.

Some feminist leaders popped up quickly to decry it as unfair and punishing to women. Other feminist reacted with surprise at this, and others agreed with the outcry.

One who found agreement talked about the unfairness of focusing in on women with a tax, and made some interesting points. Of note the use of taxation to pressure and bring morality to medicine.

But in looking at this and the concerns and arguments, I just have to disagree.

I do agree that I don't care for the government to try and force a view of society through tax breaks and burdens (to have marriage or families, etc.). But this is not the sole picture here.

First, the demographics. Men are a growing part of this cosmetic surgery customer base. Second various ethnic groups are growing in numbers to be found using these service. And finally, those making use of this service would seem to trend in to the middle and upper classes. This taxed group will be diverse sexually and ethnically, so not too much bias there. And more importantly they are a wealthy subset of the whole population.

And that is why this tax is being levied. It is on the rich. That is the view and impression. There could be an argument for it being placed on those that are deemed to be wasting money on vanity. But it is primarily being focused on those that are deemed to have excess of cash and a willingness to spend it. Hence the taxes placed on money luxury items. That is the view at the governmental top. And as the wealthy are more heavily hit, it is hard for most progressives to be particularly bummed.

Now, if this impacts needed (for healthy living) surgeries, that is bad. Likewise, the effect on gender changes deserves some consideration. But this is not a sin tax, just as import duties on luxury cars isn't.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Glam media

Crooks and Liars is somewhat peaked at the coverage Glenn Beck is getting from Barbara Walters, being called one of the years most interesting people.

I agree it is annoying to see him up like that treated as light fare.

But that is how Walters works, and Larry King. And it has long been so. King admitted once in an interview that if he had to choose between a news maker and a major celebrity, he goes with the celebrity as that is what his audience wants. It is how it works, and it works nicely for them, the interviewer, and them, the interviewee. It used to be a joke that when you get called out, as a politician or corporate face, for some negative remarks or acts, you go to this lot. The Walters give you some soft light place you beside your spouse, in sweaters and in front of a fire, and you your real snugly self to the world. Damage Control.

And it is nauseating. Look at the Tiger Woods story and how it is compared to the likes of Hugh Grant. People want him out in the limelight looking embarrassed and going red. Then they can move on, once we get our mental shaming done. Me, I don't care. It's a family issue. As to his business side, we'll see what comes.

But with the likes of Beck...he says horrid things daily. Makes money off of driving fear and anger. He stokes up a dangerous amount of rage, then tries to laugh it off and play the goof.

And with this interview he is just a jovial nice guy that...gosh, wants to help America. These shows are there to sell something. And like with Hugh Grant, it is about TV and movies, or others a tell all book. But when the politicians come in...

Were getting sold a whole other range of goods. That is what is nice with the likes of The Daily Show. They bring in an actor or author to talk about their work. But they don't treat the politicians the same. They are actually aware of the difference...a difference that some older venues are loathe to note.

The Battle of the Ages!

TPM is looking at how the Climate Change-Gate-Denial-Miasma is being dealt with in the media.

They seem to have to titan on the subject duking it out for their amusement. Al Gore and Sarah Palin.

Gore has spent many years looking at, discussing, and engaging on the issue.

Palin...likes Facebook.

It is a real battle royale. He responds to things she has written and she gets on Facebook and sets her mood to grumpy...

Couldn't the get Chopra or Cheney to weigh in? Where's Ashton Kutsher...shouldn't he be twittering on all this...I need more input!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Maddow vs the Gay Cure

Rachel Maddow has been giving some great coverage of the anti gay bill in Uganda, and also on The Family in D.C.

Last night she got a chance to engage one of the people who have help to bolster these groups, Richard Cohen, who claims he is a one time gay that is now cured (How do you cure a choice?).

TPM has the video that is a hoot. First she deals with the Uganda bill, but he gives his excuses. The rest of the interview deals with his book about the gay choice and the cure, and also the horrible things that the gays do. And this book gives here one heck of a cudgel to use on this guy.

It is great journalism and debunking.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Best Man - 1964

I just saw that they have the classic film The Best Man on tonight. It tells the story of the behind the scenes shenanigans of a presidential convention. It started out as a play by Gore Vidal, and stars the likes of Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson. And all I can think is...why the heck is this not yet available in the US on DVD?

What is the hold up for this classic? A contentious fight ensues at the Democratic (?) convention. This leads to a battle between different flawed would be world leaders. One man, Sec. of State Russell (Henry Fonda), has cheated on his wife and spent a brief period getting mental treatment, but he wants to be an honest and worthy leader. Another man, Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson), seems squeaky clean, but is determined to win, whether it means embracing segregation, red scares, or any suspect cause that will get votes. He's willing and ready to pull any trick or story to destroy his opponents. But then the would be honest man gets hold of a claim of a suspect sexual experience for Mr. Squeaky Clean...but he can see how suspect it is, and how dirty the trick is. Will he use this to guarantee the convention win? Can he live with winning by any means?

This is just a grand flick.

Boosting employment

Robert Reich shares his thoughts on the administration's work to get employment growth occurring.

I have to agree with his view that the investment from the government has been anemic. Some attempt has been made to stimulate the economy and get people to work. But it has not been remotely what it could be. The investment has not been enough, even now as more money is promised for stimulus. Reich suggests the need for up to $400 billion over the next couple of years, and what we will get is around $70 billion from the TARP returns. Where he sees this leaving us is an even longer wait for the return of near full employment in this country. And when that happens everyone is paying taxes and fewer people need additional government support. So the larger expenses for us all will continue. All so we can compromise for those that want a controlled and limited budget.

Monday, December 07, 2009

More with Chopra

It feels like it has been a while since I talked about old Deepak. He is a piece, a doctor that can get neither medicine or physics right. Yet he is a revered expert, particularly for us on the left side of politics.

So what has he said to get many in a huff? Instead of common sense, he specifically finds a bone to pick with skeptics (Hey, like my name!).

Various skeptics looked at his "thoughts":

... Anyway, he has gone to the very font of new age nonsense, the Huffington Post, to spew more woo: he’s written an article about why skepticism is bad. It’s almost a bullet-pointed list of logical fallacies. ...
Among the points Chopra tries to make are that:
  • Skeptics don't like speculative thinking. Cause I know I hate innovative and creative ideas, or creative imaginings of applications of science, or potential future discoveries. I'm such a dick. It is just lame. He throws out half-assed, unsupported, and easily disputed claims, and he gets pissed that other than the group than ignore him and those that listen eagerly at his feet...there are others that actually dispute and want sound foundations before they will treat his ideas as anything other than new age guru piffle. I know he finds that do the people selling crystals.

    This is pointed to by Steven Novella, who looks at where Chopra seems to sit:
    ... What this article demonstrates is that Chopra is unequivocally anti-science. That is the reason he attacks skeptics and skepticism. He wants his woo to get a free pass. He wants to be able to speculate wildly, without ever having to justify his claims with logic and evidence. Chopra laments being called “the emperor of woo-woo” – probably because he knows that this emperor has no clothes.

  • Then there is the beaut, that no skeptic has EVER made a major scientific discovery...ever. That is either blazing stupidity, or attempt to tightly control the definition of a major discoveries and skeptic. He no doubt has a few skeptics that are the good sort that won't be counted. Sagan Dawkins, Einstein, etc. All paved over or redressed for Chopra's needs.

It seems to come down to wonder. Skeptics have no sense of wonder. It is just a tired claim. It's like the denouncements atheist face. We can't be spiritual, have a sense of joy, have hope, happiness...we can't be fully human without embracing the guff pumped out my the likes of Chopra. And then there is the arrogance seen.

Sprinkle on the fairy dust, or you can never fly.

Jason Rosenhouse looks at some discussion among a couple of Christian scientist disagreeing.

We New Atheist types like to emphasize that religion ought not to be exempted from the usual requirement that assertions of fact be supported by evidence, and that both the methods and findings of science tend to weaken the case for traditional religious beliefs. For this we are accused, with tiresome lack of originality, of being arrogant. We are lectured about the limits of science and about how we can not prove there is no God. Sometimes we are even described as being like fundamentalists.

Such charges are nonsense, of course. It is not arrogant to grow irritated with those who demand respect for their religion without providing a shred of evidence in support of their beliefs. Arrogance is when you claim to know, with “know” in italics and clearly distinguished from “believe,” that some dubious bit of religious dogma is true.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Who for the holidays

For the holiday season, the BBC in England like to go all out with the seasonal commercials. Like using Doctor Who for some seasonal merriment.

Obviously I can't talk about spoilers for the End of Time episodes at the end of the year, but I can at least share the Whovian holiday fun.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Beck is still paying for his words.

Crooks and Liars points to another hit on the Beck Express. As he is apt to do he is planning another of his nationwide extravaganzas. It's a big old show with stories, music, and a big old nauseating slice of Glenn Beck.'s like finding a long hair in your food.

Well, as part of this event he was going to have the Harlem Gospel Choir on stage and singing. Note the tense, was going to. Not anymore. The people at ColorOfChange, who have been chasing of Beck's sponsors on TV, went and talked with the choir about the various comments and actions Beck has been a party to. They had to think on it, and decided to not be a part of the show.

They are saying that it is a matter of not being paid enough.

Yeah, not enough to be seen on stage with the likes of Glenn Beck, I imagine.

Take a stand about rape?

Sen. Franken of MN put forward an amendment to address the inadequacy of the legal protection of people that are sexually assaulted by military contractors. A handful of Reps came over to vote with him, most didn't. They have been feeling heat over that ever since.

The response now from Reps in the Senate is laughable and telling.

Senators are coming out to complain. Apparently being put in a position to stand up against rapist and corporations that try and cover up assaults is just unfair. It is unconstructive. Bills and amendments against rape are a Daily Kos-esque kind of play. Best of all they hope they won't see any more stuff like this in the future.

Those are great lines from the Reps. All ruffled over having to take stands on the sober dignified Senate floor. For shame. It is a place for speeches, filibusters, preventing reform, and grandstanding. You Mr. Franken, sir, offend the delicate sensibilities of this august body...I must alight to my fainting parlor.

Looking at a Democratic the enemy camp

A lot has been made of one comment made by Chris Matthews is getting lots of attention. And it deserves it. To him Obama was in the enemy camp, being at West Point.

First, is the ever applied assumptions that a Dem has no place on an army base, or amongst the armed forces. This is just tiring. Yes, people like Wolfowitz hang out here and plan and stage there foreign plans, but these are the armed forces that he is the commander of. Enemy camp? It's his freaking camp. And standing there, he owned it, and the responsibility of what is to come. No Matthews, he was taking ownership.

And it is funny if you see the end of the presidents speech, and how as he goes to talk with cadets they swarm around eagerly to talk, shake hands, and take pics. Wow, they really don't like him, hmm?

The other more direct issue is how Matthews looked at the image of the cadets and brass and saw a sober and serious group. The president is laying out how they will be expanding activity in a war zone, and how it will impact them. What was he expecting? Whooping? And if he didn't get them, or stage, eagerness among the uniformed's a failed speech, or an unfriendly audience. They are supposed to be disciplined. And they are not getting news of peacetime. They are getting ready to fight and serve, and are being appraised of what is coming. This was a business meeting. What more does Matthews seriously want?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

More with the Christian Right

Just to give you more of that Christian verve...

Wingnuttery deluxe: Palin's God Can Kick Obama's God's Ass

Cause, you see, Obama's a Muslim...and a cancer...and the best he can do is be a suicide bomber...but we got Sarah Palin [cue the choral music], and she's gonna save us...cause she has common sense (Sir, you insult all that is common, and all that makes sense.) and lives a Christian life (With the lying, gunning animals down from the air, and constantly quitting jobs...she did get someone to write a book and put her name on it...that's pretty Christian.).

And the Salvation Army. I always feel awkward about them. They are EVERYWHERE. They ring bells and give you looks as you walk by. And I would like to give some to help people in need. But it's the Salvation Army...a Christian group...and a nasty at that. I would be rather go with a secular group that isn't out to judge, dictate to, and push there beliefs. It's my money to give, and how is it gonna be used.

Salvation Army accused of checking immigration status of kids before giving them toys

That's right. The have gifts and aid...for the right sort.

More on the Salvation Army's anti-gay jihad

This links to a list of articles looking at the attack on gay rights that
the friendly old SA is party to.

It's Christmas Time*

... As a kid I knew the Salvation Army as the Starvation army from old labor songs. They haven't changed much from the organization that would refuse help to striking workers. ...

Find a secular group to give support to. Find one that isn't about exclusion.

UPDATE: Added another link.

The Religious Right, The Family, and Uganda

Rachel Maddow and Jeff Sharlet looked at the looming law in Uganda that puts the lives of gay people in the country in peril. The law will put away gays in some cases in prison for life, and others committing aggravated homosexuality will be killed (What is aggravated?). As well, they will seek to have nationals in other countries that are engaged in gay acts extradited back to Uganda...

What they note is just how closely this law is tied to American citizens. There are the evangelicals that have gone to warn them and encourage them to go to war on homosexuals. There are the ties to Rick Warren at Saddleback (You know, the cuddly religious bigot.). Then there is the Family, that group of religious politicians joined together in secrecy. They have been engaged in enticing this assault on gays. In fact the president of Uganda is a member of the Family. What a wonderful group.

Crooks and Liars looks at this and has video from the interview.

Ah, the evangelical right, joined in the imprisonment and murder of homosexuals. How Christlike.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Dealing with paranormal claims: Are the basic points even true.

Often when skeptics deal with paranormal claim there is dismissal. It's like creationism, how often do you have to get the transitional fossil argument before you have had it?

But addressing paranormal claims has value. In dealing with skepticism in the paranormal you run into different skeptics.

There are the ones that don't want to waste time or even talk about overexposed photos, crackling on a tape, or ever lose a good night sleep. Then the other extreme are the true believers that call themselves skeptics then immediately will tell you about how they know demons are real and aliens have visited a friend of theirs.

Not too surprising. It can be a pain, with the first group to deal with so much hokum. Some skeptics just don't want to talk evolution or religion. Let's face it even the ID arguments haven't changed in over a decade, it can be tiring to see how that garbage just remains with us. Like with moon hoax and holocaust deniers, there can be a breaking point for us. And likewise how many true believers about the holocaust, moon landing, or evilution call themselves skeptics? So many.

So credit is deserved for those that stay in these areas. Those that keep up the fight for the reality of evolution, ensure that history is not rewritten, and also look at paranormal claims.

But in this it is important to look at claims and cut through to the core of claims to dismantle the bunk. Maybe it will reveal relevant facts in the paranormal hunt, or maybe it will kill teach people to better understand the natural world and what goes bump in their heads.

One example of this is the work done by Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society. They do work to be skeptical, and to challenge all claims and go into the field to take first reactions and cut through heresay. One good example of there work and the issues of cutting through to the key bunk is with the Stanley Hotel.

This is the hotel for being, The Shining hotel. And since then it has become a hot spot for fans of paranormal adventures. The claims about it are just burgeoning. And like many such sites, including old hospitals, and homes of notoriety, it is getting booked for paranormal investigations throughout the year.

The RMPRS looked at one claim about this site, that it is as haunted as it is (as it is claimed it is) due to quartz rock and limestone that lies beneath the hotel and the land it is on. You may find that an odd statement, particularly if you have not heard all the claims made among many "investigators".

To quote Ghost Hunters, "The leading theory in the field..." Which means the opinion one guy told me once in the dark in a creepy old house, or at one of the paranormal conventions...

Well the idea is this quartz and some other minerals apparently store ghost energy and reflect it back. So it soaks up spooky and amplifies it back. I am sure like every folk tale how this is explained is almost as diverse as the tellers. There are all sorts of stories about what minerals are beneath, and what they do.

Well this group coordinating with the government to determine the facts. Instead of just stopping at, "it's not haunted." They looked at this quartz claim. And through the USDA they found that there was no survey of the land, so no one actually knew what was beneath. Which in itself would make you wonder about a claim about the mineral composition there. Again, folk tales. They did a survey of the land and found no sign of huge amounts of any of the suspect minerals.

Which means claims based on that claim can now be scientifically addressed and challenged.

And this is important. It forces true believers to accept the scientific results (which they often claim to embrace), or ignore it. Gotta keep them honest.

UPDATE: Forgot the links.

To not like being a Republican is the first sign of sanity.

Republican figureheads have only grown more creepy over the past several years. Slowly many conservatives have grown uncomfortable in just how aligned they are, and where they are expected to cheer lead and throw there support.

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs is the latest conservative that is just getting sick of it.

Crooks and Liars notes where he is really pissed. Support for fascist here and abroad. Support of bigotry, hate, and supremacism. Support at curtailing the rights of women. Support of anti-science positions.

This is not to say Reps as an individual are bad. But many platform pieces, rallying arguments and cries, things screamed out, put on display, and disseminated among the party faithful is just troubling. And those individual Reps have to look at there party and ask, what is happened? Palin? The Religious Right? This is good?

In Congress they has been attacking so many areas (from medicine to science to history to civil rights), one in particularly is climate change. They seem to be up on all the latest conspiracy claims. And some want to go to Copenhagen for the environmental conference to watch and rally against scientific claims. If you watch British news you know else who wants to go as well. The Tories? No they are somewhat sane on climate change. It's the BNP, the nationalist, the fascist lites. These are the contemporaries and common ally of today's RNC. Look at the open and unchallenged activity of a number of representatives in Washington that have been spouting on Muslim plots, or death camps. What is this, a serious national party?

Can everyday people in the Rep tent really be happy? Or is the promise to keep the gays and the "others" away all you need? It's time to offer some real internal dissent.

The Senate Stupak is now annointed

TPM has noted that Sen. Ben Nelson of NE is planning on bringing an identical amendment to Stupak to the floor. So, leading the Dem assault on women's reproductive rights will be the right honorable senator from Nebraska. Take note.

Many Dems joined up with it in the House. Now that D.C. knows how pissed we are at that, we will have to see how this plays out for the Senate.

Afghan speech

The text of the speech is available from a number of sources.

The video of the speech can be found on TPM.


  • AMERICAblog
  • TPM has looked at Rep reaction on CNN. Apparently Obama is just another Bush...and apparently that is bad to Reps now.
  • Firedoglake is not pleased at all.

Waiting for Obama

Well many of us are waiting for the president to speak in an hour. We will hear about where he wants to take out activities in Afghanistan.

I am curious to hear what the plan is.

Last year I was quite partial to continue on in the fight there. For a while I have held to a sense that this was all a fight we began, whether or not Bush was president at the onset. It was our responsibility. People would suffer if we were not there, people would be subjugated. And this was a all a matter of finishing up and not abandoning those people we flew in and made big promises to.

But my opinion has changed. I am more interested in what our choices mean for those people we put in uniforms, hand weapons, and send into harms way. Some want to chant and say we have to send them into likely mortal peril, for their sake. That is just screwed up. As well, we are just spending our way into debt for this cause. I am willing to spend a bit extra at times for the sake of the future, it can be a sound investment (like stimulus spending).

And that is the problem, what investment will we make? What cost? And what end result will be have? Presidency have the power, responsibility, and burden to send the nations kids in arms into harms way, and death. It should be done soundly. So when I have seen how open ended, how endless, and ceaseless this war is becoming. And you see how many more lives will be tossed into this cause, and then all these billions as well, it should just make us sick.

I want to do right by Afghanistan. But this should not be a case, and there should never be one, of winning and continuing on at any cost. That is just madness.

We need a result we can be satisfied with, an end that be seen on the horizon. Reps want a war that will just not end, belying and cursing our and that nation's history. They see the glory, honor, and thrill of war. If we kill, we are winning, It is madness.

We need a sound endpoint. We need a real road map to there. We need a real change in our actions. And as much as I hate to have to say it, we need to act for our interest first, and that is up out of this quagmire. We need to see our Commander and Chief stand up there and give his country and its armed forces a morale boost and real hope of this war's end.

Harvey said he wanted to go for a walk.

PZ Myers points to an all too not surprising study that shows that most people's gods pretty much think like them. Otherwise known as my opinions and ideas are right god thinks my ideas are good. Convenient, and impossible to prove. But being sacred, holy, spiritual, etc, it is not to be questioned. Unlike giant invisible rabbits, that would just be crazy.

This is one of the reasons I find it hard to impressed with faiths. So often the embrace of a higher power is so tightly tied to a personal desire for there to be one, and for it to be exactly like a person, or society, expects. It acts like a variable in an equation that explains why things are the way they are. And, over the centuries, more and more of its potential functions have been explained away. Until we are here and now, and to make a god being work it gets shoehorned in, and sometimes the squeeze is so tight that it can't fit, without science and history taking a hit, and for a god being at stake that is totally cool to do. Then there are the times when one tries to hold on to much of that science and history and the god being gets origamied into a new thing (God is love, or God is thought). Sure you have the deist approach as well, but when a god is that out of the picture and only acts at the earliest points, and then does nothing else...why the heck are we obsessed with it? Really, it makes giant invisible rabbits almost sound sensible.

People can feel free to have imaginary friends. Just don't try and blame you actions on them. Not even if they tell you they are a Pooka.

Canadian hospitality

You may have heard of what happen with Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now, at the Canadian border. As she tried to cross over to Canada to speak at an event, she was detained. Why? Well, they have the right and responsibility to defend against threats. But, why? They searched her car, went through her private papers, and her computer. Why? The main question they seemed to have for her was this, "Are you here to talk about the upcoming Canadian Olympics?" Huh? No, Really. They were scared of a journalist from the US coming to Canada and possibly talking negatively about the Winter Olympics. That is just pathetic.

Crooks and Liars has the video of her discussing what happened. Which means the Canadians really got a boffo result, hmm?

Democracy Now looks at it here and here.

Fear the debt?

TPM is looking at an interesting fact about some of the Blue Dogs that are so bothered about the financial impact of a public option in health care, and other entitlements. They were all for cutting into the estate tax, which would have cut a quarter of a trillion out of the funds available for the big deal...wait...
Yesterday, I posted this letter, signed by a dozen moderate and conservative Democrats, which raises concerns about the national debt. ... How does one square a vote to diminish the estate tax with fiscal discipline? ...

Banning a tower

On Sunday their was a vote in Switzerland in which voters moved forward with a ban on building any further minarets (which are found atop mosques - apparently there are around 4 in the country at present). To give some defense, apparently the government and various religious leaders weren't keen to see it pass, and the news media in the country looked down on the results. But...58 percent of those voting did like the idea. And now future construction is banned, until the EU courts get in and, I imagine, take the Swiss to task.

Juan Cole at Informed Comment, is ticked at this and looks at how unfair this just is.

AMERICAblog, also looks.

They play devils advocate to consider a sound reason to do a ban. So let us consider.

Banning of certain architecture. I think government has some power here. You can limit zoning, controlling residential uses, business uses, etc. You can argue to control height, in some places and cases, but it has to be limited and bases on some actual logic. But what is this? Just a ban on one piece of structural work, used by one religion. Will spires on churches be curtailed? How about steeples? No. This makes it a vindictive choice. Picking on an unpopular group, going after people deemed to be in the wrong. And any debate as to any merit is immaterial in what was covered in this vote -- but it seems it was material to many who voted in support of it.

How about sound? The call to prayer is famous for being yelled out from the minaret. That would be annoying to neighbor. And there are laws on noise volumes. But, again, what about churches? Ever been near (going to or by, or living near) on a Sunday morning? Those damn bells! What about that? As long as all annoyances are treated the same, great. But as has been noted, mosques in Switzerland do not do a call to prayer...having, it seems, assimilated somewhat into cultural and local needs.

The other point of interest is the question of assimilating. And there needs to be some give and take here. But how much? No minarets? There has to be a reason. Do we try to squelch aspects of Eastern Orthodox churches, or how about that huge Hindi temple they built a few years again outside of London, do we have a problem with that? What about Chinatowns, and other similar neighborhoods (Little Tokyo, Little Sicily, etc.), we seem to accept these.

There are problems with Islam, no doubt. There are problems with how it is situated in Europe and how some of its devotees there approach there beliefs. And it is reasonable to give people some room to grow and change, and hold on to some culture. Though there are limits. No Sharia law, no cultural based justice, etc. The laws of the land should be respected. And in turn, those integrating into a larger culture should be afforded their due rights.

How we approach this. Making "them" the enemy is a way to creates ones own self-fulfilling prophecy. Europe has a long history of dealing with minority groups, and often not doing it well. Jews. Muslims. Catholics. Protestants. Inquisitions. Crusades. Huguenots. And on and on.

Some have made a claim it is no big deal. It is just a minaret. Mosques can still go up. True. But it is a single step, potentially a first step. Why should we sit silent on that, especially when it seems so clearly to be wrongheaded?

In the end, this is about punishing Muslims. It is about teaching a social group in a community a lesson. Is this the way to do such a things? I have serious problems with the way most Islamic governments act, I have a problem with the way some Muslim groups advocate and others act, and I have serious problems with how certain Muslims persons affect the world. So we go after the whole? What result to do people see coming from this? All this is is a new talking points for fanatical imams, a new rallying cry for those that want to play the role of the persecuted, the wronged, the righteous man standing against tyrants.

This only helps the wrong people, fanatics of Islam and of the far right. Good job.


In its coverage, Crooks and Liars notes that now the Netherlands may be trying to follow in the footsteps of the Swiss.