Monthly Archives: March 2008

E Pluribus …?

On the opinion page of today’s New York Times was an insightful essay, by business editor Eduardo Porter. In it Mr. Porter makes the case that to the extent that societies are fragmented along ethnic, racial, linguistic and religious lines, they are less inclined to support public spending for social programs. While this may be […]

Jihad in Turtle Bay

I have often expressed the opinion that the United Nations, though an appealing notion, is so feckless and corrupt, and so utterly devoid of any real power to inhibit the ambitions of scoundrels and tyrants, that the civilized nations of the world might simply be better off without it. Certainly the United States would; at […]

Churchill Gets It

Like may others I am an admirer of Winston Churchill, and have lately been reading an excellent book by the managing editor of Newsweek, Jon Meacham. It’s called Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, and as you can imagine from the title, it chronicles the enormously important friendship between Churchill and […]

If You Don’t Know, Just Leave It Blank

I tend to be a fairly hard-nosed naturalist, as readers may have noticed. This arises from an inveterate intellectual conservatism: I think that the most parsimonious approach to understanding the world around us is to try to explain the phenomena we observe — the “phaneron”, to use Charles Sanders Peirce’s lovely word — in terms […]

Death By Memetic Infection

By now you have probably heard the tragic story of young Madeline Neumann, a home-schooled girl who died of easily remediable diabetic ketoacidosis because her parents thought it better to pray for her recovery than to seek medical treatment. Her mother, who says that said that she and her family “believe in the Bible and […]

Tower of Babel

Debating philosophical or religious questions in the blogosphere can be awfully unproductive; it shows you why some of the same questions that vexed the ancients are still confounding us today. People with different fundamental assumptions live in inner worlds that are quite irreconcilable: words mean different things to different speakers, and often serve only to […]

Two Years Gone

Once again I pause to mark with sorrow the anniversary of the death of my mother, Alison Calder Pollack, a truly extraordinary woman who left us two years ago today. Time softens grief’s sting, but not its ache.

I Hear It’s a Riot

The Dutch politician Geert Wilders has released his short film Fitna, which is harshly critical of Islam. If you are interested you can watch it online here.

The Descent of Man, Continued

The lawyer, actor, writer, economist, professor, former Nixon speechwriter, and game-show host Ben Stein is starring in a new movie, called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, that challenges the Darwinian account of life’s history. It was given a screening in Minneapolis on March 20th, and among those attending were Richard Dawkins, who had actually consented to […]

The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be

Have a look here.

Private Property

Today’s Times carried a front-page story about Muslim families who, wishing to maintain control over their children so as to prevent their exposure to decadent Western notions, have taken to withdrawing them from the educational system. In most instances it is, unsurprisingly, the daughters who are kept apart.

The Easy Way

From our friend Jess Kaplan comes news of a new breed of bank robber. Story here.

Hello, Children!

In what may mark, depending upon your perspective, either the zenith or nadir of Western civilization, the makers of South Park have now put every episode on line for your viewing pleasure. Or the irrevocable corruption of your eternal soul. Whatever.

The Price Is Right

From today’s CodeProject newsletter, here is an assortment of useful software that you can get for nothing.

Anything in Moderation?

In a recent post, Kevin Kim offers a rebuttal to Sam Harris’s argument that religious moderates are in fact an impediment to progress toward a more rational world.

How To Make Oysters

Now that you’ve joined me on a vigorous early-spring hike to Cape Cod Bay, it’s time to reward ourselves with a scrumptious local delicacy: some of our famous Wellfleet Oysters. Here’s how it’s done.

A Wellfleet Walk

Friday, March 21st, was the first full day of Spring, and here in the outer reaches of Cape Cod, it was more lion than lamb. The temperature hovered in the thirties, and all day a steady wind roared out of the West. But the sun was shining in a cloudless sky, and after weeks cooped […]

Service Notice

I normally spend at least ten hours a day at the computer; I’m taking a little break today. Back shortly.

Back To Basics

I’ll be on the road this evening, so won’t have any time for writing. Meanwhile, though, reader Andrew Staroscik has brought to our attention an interesting discussion about consciousness over at Sandwalk. We’ll take a closer look here when we are back in harness.

The Empire Strikes Back

From our friend Jess Kaplan comes a link to a critique, by the British philosopher John Gray, of the “New Atheism”. It is an engaging piece, but it makes a lot of familiar and rather weak arguments, and some that are quite strange indeed. I suggest that you go and read it — it is […]

Rhyme and Reason

In a recent post, The Maverick Philosopher imagined a possible world in which he might have blogged about Schopenhauer under the banner The Scowl of Minerva (a play on the owl as the symbol of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and philosophy). Things like this always set my own mental wheels in motion, and I […]

Fortress of Solitude

There are a great many roadside oddities in America, often associated with equally odd people. One such dyad I’ve only just learned of is the Coral Castle, in Homestead, Florida.

Food Fight

Dennis Mangan presents one of the most brilliant little video clips I’ve ever seen. Go and see for yourself. (P.S. Confused? Cheat-sheet here.)

Which Side Are You On?

My lovely wife Nina has alerted me to a TED-conference video I might otherwise have missed: a talk by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor on the astonishing effects of a debilitating stroke: her own. This is an extraordinary presentation, with profound implications. Have a look here. I have a few things to say about it all, […]

Speak Your Mind

Having come finally to the final hour of a far-from-restful weekend (I call them “TGIM” weekends), I’m far too pooped to post. So I offer instead an interesting look at what I am sure will be a transformative technology, still in earliest infancy. Here.


Our commenter Peter K., a.k.a The One-Eyed Man (he actually has binocular vision), asks the following question about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the comment thread to a recent post: If you are a Palestinian, what do you do? The “peace process,” such as it is, has gotten them nowhere. In any event, there is a […]

Dead Man Talking

From a friend of a friend in the mysterious East comes a pair of links to some videos featuring a Bahraini Shi’ite by the name of Dhiyaa al-Musawi. In the first clip he is being interviewed, in Arabic, and he is saying some extraordinary things.

Zoom Zoom Zoom

I got home quite late tonight, and serious scribbling is not in the cards. So go to this website, install Silverlight if you haven’t already, and have a look at where we’ve got to in the presentation of visual data.


We’ve added a new link to our sidebar: the website Brains, which describes itself as “a forum for discussing the philosophy of: mind, neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science.” We’ve neglected the subject a bit lately in favor of political and cultural topics, but as you know this is right up one of our alleys. Do […]

The West: Best By Test?

As long as we are tilting at cultural relativism, here is a pithy account, by a former Muslim, of why we should not be shy about saying that post-Enlightenment Western culture is arguably humanity’s best effort yet.

Things Change

We thank Kevin Kim once again, this time for calling our attention to a gratifying piece by David Mamet about a road-to-Damascus event regarding the standard liberal worldview.

Dennis Irwin, 1951-2008

We note with sadness the death of bassist Dennis Irwin. I didn’t know Dennis well, but I had met him on many occasions, and did record him once or twice. He was, in addition to being an outstanding player, a wonderfully sweet-natured man. Dennis died soon after having been diagnosed with cancer late last year, […]

The Undead

I’ve often expressed my distaste for the Clintons: how anyone in his (or, yes, even her) right mind could want to send those Travellers back to the White House is beyond my comprehension. Lots of others feel the same way, of course; with a hat tip to our friend the Stiletto, whose pointed insights and […]


I won’t have much more to say about the Eliot Spitzer debacle, as it’s not especially interesting, and certainly nothing new. But I wouldn’t want readers to think that when big stories like this come along, all I can do is jeer and snigger, so for tonight, let’s set aside the japery for a moment […]

Spitzer to Resign

This just in from The Borowitz Report: Amid calls for him to resign, embattled New York Governor Eliot Spitzer held a hastily-scheduled press conference in Albany today. “After much deliberation, I have decided to resign my membership in the Emperors VIP Club, effective immediately,” Mr. Spitzer said. “I hope that in doing so, I will […]

Sure, We’ll Get Right On That

An item in today’s Washington Post informs us that our only hope to avoid total annihilation is to reduce our carbon emissions to zero. Now.

Two Heads Better Than One?

This should be interesting: our governor, former prosecutor Eliot Spitzer, has been identified as a client of a high-end prostitution ring.

Pat Condell is Mad as Hell

With hat tips to both the Big Hominid (from whom this entire link-based post is essentially plagiarized) and the Gypsy Scholar, allow me to introduce you to Pat Condell, a British comedian, atheist, and polemicist. If you love a good rant, you won’t be disappointed.

More On Multiculturalism

Our online friend Jeffery Hodges, writing once again from his home base in Seoul, South Korea, has added an interesting essay of his own to the discussion of multiculturalism that we’ve had here recently. He cites some intriguing research into the way different sorts of cultures deal with the problem of freeloaders in cooperative systems. […]

He’s Talked The Talk, Now He’s Walking The Walk

Our friend, the inquisitive and irrepressible blogger and author Kevin Kim, is an American expat who has been living and teaching in Seoul for years. Now he is planning to return to the US for an ambitious project: a transcontinental walk to foster interreligious dialogue. He’s started a new website exclusively for this project: Kevin’s […]

One God Further

In a recent post, Bill Vallicella chides Christopher Hitchens for a humorous jab at religion that he and Richard Dawkins often make. The offending remark, in its general form, is that since we are already all atheists as regards Poseidon, or Osiris, or Thor, all that is needed to finish the job is to go […]

Norman Smith, 1923-2008

We respectfully pause to note the death of Norman Smith, the EMI engineer who not only recorded the Beatles’ audition tape, and went on to be the lead engineer on all of their recordings up to and including Rubber Soul, but who also signed to EMI a band called “The Pink Floyd”, and produced their […]

Know Your Place

It’s time to take a break from all the heavy lifting we’ve been doing for the past few days. So here’s an amusing little diversion that’s both fun and educational.

What Jerks My Knee

Well, I certainly stirred up some controversy with that recent post about the Dutch and their apparent willingness to ban a forthcoming film in order not to anger any Muslims. A great many topics came up, and I think some readers may now look at me as some sort of Eastward-facing version of Lester Maddox. […]

After They’ve Seen Paree

Following on yesterday’s inflammatory post, today we have a heartening item from the New York Times. Apparently some of Iraq’s young folks are finding Islamic fundamentalism a bit confining.

Small World

Here’s a nice shot: the Earth and Moon as seen from Mars.

Dutch Retreat

The struggle of civilizations, or perhaps more aptly the struggle of modern civilization against medieval barbarism, has taken a depressing turn in the Netherlands. Unlike their neighbors the Danes, who have staunchly defended their liberties despite storms of outrage from thin-skinned Muslims mortally offended by a few cartoons, the Dutch are planning a somewhat different […]

Straight Shooter

With a hat tip to our pal The Stiletto, we offer an article by the independently minded journalist John Stossel (who is currently a guest speaker, by the way, at this conference on the excesses of global warmism). In this essay Stossel makes the case that restrictive gun laws unfairly deprive us of the ability […]

Barack-a My Soul, Muad-Dib

Today’s offerings at the excellent weblog Gates of Vienna included a post that links to a recent Barack Obama campaign video, which I have embedded below. I realize I’m only a bilious old crosspatch who, unable to hear the chorus of angels that wells up in exultation whenever the junior Senator from Illinois opens his […]

Back To Basics

This is one of the more appealing “viral videos”, I must say, that I’ve ever seen. We are simply hard-wired to enjoy this sort of thing, and if you can watch this without laughing along, start worrying.