Intelligent Design Belief Gut Check

If you believe that the universe must have been Designed and therefore have a Designer, one quick question.

If you really believe this, and believe the Design is simply too sophisticated for chance, then presumably every part of the Designed life has a purpose.

So why do you cut the end of your son’s dick off?

Why Will Peak Oil Be Different?

I’ve seen quite a lot on Peak Oil lately, and not a lot of it is edifying. Many Peak Oil enthusiasts (and I call them that because they seem to salivate at the possibility–perhaps it’s the thrill of fear with the smugness of feeling they know more than the lemmings) seem to want to replace market democracies with a techocratic version of the Soviet Union. There seems to be a lot of overlap with Paul Erlich-style overshoot theorists.

I can’t help thinking about Y2K. This is the last time that people told us our reliance on a given technology was going to be the doom of us all and end civilization as we know it™. But even more than that, I can’t help thinking about peat coal and whale blubber. Production of both peaked somewhere in the 1700s or early 1800s but command-and-control political systems didn’t arrive until a hundred years later or more. So how did we survive? No technology at the time was as cost-effective as whaling for whale oil for lamps. Somehow, the end of civilization failed to happen.

What I have failed to see explained adequately by Peak Oil enthusiasts is why this time, everything will be different than the rest of human history.

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Odd Bits of Popularity

It’s weird the things that will become popular (as proxied by the number of comments it receives) on a blog.

In my case, an early post of mine tepidly endorsing Howard Dean as the best of a bad lot for libertarian voters was the first post on which I got comments from people I didn’t know. However, since the primaries it didn’t seem to get that much traffic. I still like it as a piece, though it doesn’t have the beautiful rage of this rant.

Then, after being pointed to a piece on writing Google-friendly blog posts by Jason, I summed up a frustration at work regarding an obscure bug in Internet Explorer, for which a few people tracked back and wrote in to acknowledge its utility. It seems to have died out for some reason.

But two posts continue to get comments and messages for very different reasons. The most surprising to me was another attempt to sum up an obscure problem I ran into which killed the better part of a day or evening for me, about uncompressing DiskDoubler files in Mac OS X (requires Classic be installed). Apparently it was a much more common problem among us Mac-greybeards than I thought.

The other, more predictably but even more popularly and with far less gratitude, is a piece I did arguing that Canada really doesn’t owe the US any fealty, at least as far as going along on ill-concieved invasions with dubious (and in the event, erroneous at best and deceptive at worst) justifications. Of course, I put it against the context of how much I hate those frosty socialist goddamn dirty hippies, but nonetheless, I stood up for them. So guess onto which part the snowshaggers latched, to this day filling my queue with creative spelling and grammatical novelties?

Two conclusions:

  1. Canadians have a lot of free time and are pretty insecure.
  2. When you figure something out, blog it and use lots of key words, particularly in the title. You never know when your obscure problem will help a lot of people out.

Finally, a TSA Abuse I Can Get Behind

Name your kid something resembling the name of a person on the government’s database, and they’ll deny him a flight on suspicion of infantile terrorism, or something.

Sarah Zapolsky and her husband had a similar experience last month while departing from Dulles International Airport outside Washington. An airline ticket agent told them their 11-month-old son was on the government list.

Good. I hate parents who bring kids on a plane ride instead of asking MuMu and TeTaw to get their asses into the Caddie so they can go gaga over the little piglet that looks just like every other carpet creep of the same general skin tone.

Beer Note to Self: Fuller’s London Porter

Pros: Rich and full, comes in a pint (plus a little extra) bottle, and is a beer that rewards slow enjoyment. Justifies my British-style pint glasses.

Cons: A little too bittersweet and just a trifle flat (I know that’s the British style, but I’m American and I likes my fizzydrinks).

Pretty drinkable. Will have to try this from the cask next time I’m in Merry Ol’.

Acne Meds? Your Papers, Schnell!

I usually break with my fellow libertarians on the issue of public health, especially the existence of the FDA. While government impositions of standards for safety aren’t strictly necessary (Don’t think so? Bet you haven’t looked at who certifies your fan won’t burst into flame: a private company called Underwriter’s Laboratories–the famous UL label), the health field is rife with fraud and by setting strict standards, the government is not out of line with it’s proper mission of protecting individuals from force or fraud.

But yesterday’s New York Times has a piece about why my fellow libertarians might be right not to trust the government to perform this function. If you get acne, you will have to register with the government [icky reg req’d] to be cured.

The problem with Accutane, a drug I once took and essentially a megadose of vitamin A, is that it has been known for decades to cause birth defects. My dermatologist, a guy with a permanent expression on his face that looked as if he were about to tell me I had two weeks to live and owed him $15,000 to boot, casually continued down the list of warnings for the medication and warned me, a male, not to get pregnant.

“But if you do,” he said, “I’d love to do the case study.”

Damn, that’s some good deadpan.

Anyway, the medication, like all medications, has side effects, and these side effects are extreme enough that it warrants use only in the worst cases that don’t respond to other treatments (I can tell you I looked like a Martian photograph, so doing any action that would lead to pregnancy was just not gonna happen unless I got Accutane).

So no problem. Just tell the women to either obey their god and wear a burka or disobey their god and use some birth control and common sense. Right?

Wrong. Apparently some people are idiots and would go right past the warnings. Some others, it wasn’t clear from the article, may not have been told. If so, that’s an issue of medical malpractice and in America, I don’t see this as anything that the government will have to regulate–people will sue if they go in for a checkup and they can’t play the piano afterwards, even if they never learned how. This is a self-correcting problem.

Not good enough. So the FDA put out advisories that you should put little labels on the scrip and make the patient sign a form saying they know the risks, and women of childbearing age should get two pregnancy tests and promise to use two forms of birth control (catholics and muslims, you’re just gonna be ugly).

But some idiot patients chose not to do that and so got birth defects. Was there a huge climb in cases? The article doesn’t say. But it does say that the FDA had a goal of zero defects all of a sudden. That is to say, they wanted to ensure that in a land of 300 million people, they want to make sure there’s nobody stupid enough to get pregnant while on a birth-defect-inducing medication.

To do that, of course, any sane person knows you’d have to shoot about 299 million people. That’s why we don’t do it.

Fortunately sanity-free at the FDA, they now want to make it mandatory that you get your preggertests and violate your god’s commandments if you want the drug, so to do that, they’re going to make you put in your vital statistics to a government database. With the security the government is known for, I expect this information will be available for about $5 on any street corner within a year, and the DEA will be using it to find new people to shoot in no-knock midnight raids.

And if taking away the last shreds of liberty you have doesn’t work?

Dr. Nancy Green, medical director for the March of Dimes, cheered the announcement.

“If this doesn’t work,” Dr. Green said, “we will call for the F.D.A. to take this drug off the market.”


Yes, the March of Dimes, in league with the Pope, wants to ban the drug so you as an adult get permanent disfiguring scars instead of as a fetus.

No doubt the March of Dimes wants to ban alcohol as well, because if their membership can’t contain themselves from doing a fifth of Jack every night while pregnant, there’s no reason you should have a glass of wine with dinner.

In other words, according to the new, zero risk regimen, the drugs available to treat your diseases are dependent on the wisdom of Britney Spears’s behavior while pregnant.

Scaring You to Your Kids’ Deaths

A few weeks ago, Jon Stewart had the last and least Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., on to plug his latest crusade. I meant to blog it a while ago, but it was something that required some work to pull together all the technical refutations of his argument. Fortunately, Arthur Allen at Slate has done an excellent job of just that.

Kennedy’s argument is that vaccines contain thimerosal, which is a preservative that contains a variant of mercury. Mercury poisoning’s effects are well-known, but starting with a British doctor who had a grand total of 12 cases to work with, various people have claimed that childhood vaccines have caused the increase in reported incidence of autism. Allen pulls together the story and lets you see that the drug companies aren’t the only researchers with financial incentives (the primary sources for Kennedy’s latest attacks make money testifying in trials for “victims” of vaccines).

But Kennedy’s appearance on The Daily Show has problems far beyond the specifics of his argument.

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Why No Outcry Over Susan Torres?

As a libertarian, I’m pretty sensitive to privacy and to not having every act be political. People should be able to do what they damn well please as long as it doesn’t hurt other people or interfere in their ability to do as they damn well please. So let me start this off by giving my condolences to the Torres family for their loss and congratulations that they were able to bring their baby to term enough for modern science to give it a good chance. They have every right to make the choice they made, and in the end it seems to have worked out as well as could be hoped under the circumstances.

But since religious rightists glommed on to this situation after Terry Schiavo, I question the strange quietude that greeted today’s news that her husband had Susan Torres taken off life support, allowing her body to die. Here’s another case of a husband pulling the plug on a woman who would continue to live as long as the machines were applied. Now that the baby is out, all modern medicine could have been poured into fighting the melanoma on Susan so that her body might survive a while longer.

Most of those who argued vociferously for the government to interfere in the Schiavo family denied that the state of her brain had anything to do with it. A few predicated their opposition solely on the idea that she was not really brain-dead, but most said that brain-dead does not equal dead, and failing to save a life through inaction is as bad as taking it through action.

I can only hazard a guess as to why they were concerned but aren’t now: abortion. If the fetus had not been allowed to develop, it would have been an act of abortion. As long as everything was done to ensure that the fetus turned into a baby, they were happy. And since the guy didn’t have an abortion, they’ll forgive him allowing his wife to die in dignity. This once.

So what is it, culture-of-lifers? Do you believe in life in any state being better than death or not? For extra credit, explain why you’re not a pacifist, since innocent life under a tyranny would be more pro-life than death on the battlefield.