December 29, 2005
Booked by you

Booked by you

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go to the other room and read.” — Groucho Marx (1890-1977)

2005 has been the year of the bibliophile. With a sudden revival of interest in books and bookstores, booksellers have never had it so good. Be it the tale of a ‘teenage wizard’ or an ‘argumentative economic’, book lovers have had a field day when it came to choosing a tome of their choice.

Posted by Norm at Permalink 10:33 AM | Comments (0)
The Prizes 2005

Comedy of Terror (tip to boxcar)
Tony Blair, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld - You're My Prize Guys
by Terry Jones

Well the end of the year is as good a time as any to distribute prizes. And first is the Gary Glitter Cup for Self-Restraint, to Tony Blair. It can't have been an easy couple of years for him, and yet he has somehow managed to keep that smile on his lips and that cheerful sparkle in his eye with a degree of self-restraint that impressed the judges.

Over the past two years, Tony has seen all his Iraq policies turn into unmitigated disasters. Instead of his stated aim of bringing peace and happiness to the people of Iraq, he has brought them chaos, bloodshed, violence and misery. Instead of making Britain safer, his policies have made this country a target for terrorism for the foreseeable future.

And now there is open talk in the Senate of impeaching George Bush; the New York Times accuses him of "recklessness" and claims he "may also have violated the law". Tony must be finding it difficult to sleep. Yet he is able to get up in the morning unassisted! He is able to look at himself in the mirror, shave without damaging his throat, and go to work with every appearance of a man who imagines he's doing a good job.

This achievement richly deserves the Gary Glitter Cup. Well done, Tony!

And now we come to the Dick Cheney "Goblet of Fire" Award for Courage in the Face of Action. And for the sixth successive year, the award goes to ... the vice-president of the US ... Dick Cheney!

This year the judge (who is, once again, Dick Cheney) cites in particular Mr Cheney's fearlessness in speaking with authority on military matters despite the fact that he has never served in the military. In fact Mr Cheney received no less than five deferments rather than serve his country in uniform. Nor has he lost his nerve, despite seeing the death rate of American servicemen and women climb above the 2,000 mark. Those who have already died will be heartened by his courageous determination to risk yet more people's lives.

Well done, Dick. The "Goblet of Fire" is yours once again.


Posted by Norm at Permalink 08:52 AM | Comments (1)

SNL skit featuring Andy Samberg. One friend consoles another.

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Posted by Norm at Permalink 06:00 AM | Comments (4)
December 28, 2005
Popularising philosophy

Popularising philosophy | Question marks |

Puzzles are all very well. But arguments have to end. When arguments themselves turn on contentious principles—majority rule, moral truth, science against faith—philosophy will not go away. Shut the door, and back it comes through the window. Philosophy, once readmitted, then turns a characteristic trick. It makes you think how you should be arguing about those principles and tries to make plain what should count as good and bad reasons. It guarantees no answers but does offer the wherewithal to recognise genuine answers when they appear.

Posted by Norm at Permalink 12:15 PM | Comments (2)
Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday

ID's big problem: Who designed the designer?by Richard Dawkins

The logic of creationist arguments is always the same: some natural phenomenon is too specifically improbable, too complex, too beautiful, too awe-inspiring to come into existence by chance. Design is the only alternative to chance that the author can image. Therefore, a designer must have done it.

Design is not a real alternative to chance at all because it raises an even bigger problem than it solves: Who designed the designer?

Natural selection is a real solution. It is the only workable solution for the problem of improbability that has ever been suggested. And it is not only a workable solution, but it is a solution of the utmost evidence and power.

Darwinism Completely Refutes Intelligent Design
Great Spiegel Interview with Dennet. Also check out Dennet's new book it will be released February 2 Breaking the Spell : Religion as a Natural Phenomenon You'll find a review here

Helping Out Darwin's Cause With a Little Pointed Humor

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What I Heard About Iraq in 2005
I heard a man who had been in Abu Ghraib prison say: ‘The Americans brought electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house.’
Math Problem A professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia is being recognized for solving a math problem that had stumped his peers for more than 40 years.
Posted by Norm at Permalink 09:45 AM | Comments (9)
December 27, 2005
Links With Your Coffee - Tuesday

Life's ingredients circle Sun-like star
The first evidence that some of the basic organic building blocks of life can exist in an Earth-like orbit around a young Sun-like star has been provided by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.
Auld Lang Impeachment -- Song Parody from Mad Kane

Yellowstone to Yukon wonderful images, click on the thumbnails.

A Queasy Agnosticism is a wonderful review of Ian McEwan's Saturday by Richard Rorty
The tragedy of the modern West is that it exhausted its strength before being able to achieve its ideals. The spiritual life of secularist Westerners centered on hope for the realization of those ideals. As that hope diminishes, their life becomes smaller and meaner. Hope is restricted to little, private things—and is increasingly being replaced by fear.

This change is the topic of Ian McEwan’s novel Saturday, One of the characters—Theo, the eighteen-year-old son of Henry Perowne, the middle-aged neurosurgeon who is the novel’s protagonist—says to his father,

When we go on about the big things, the political situation, global warming, world poverty, it all looks really terrible, with nothing getting better, nothing to look forward to. But when I think small, closer in—you know, a girl I’ve just met, or this song we are doing with Chas, or snowboarding next month, then it looks great. So this is going to be my motto—think small.

John Banville, who, in the New York Review of Books, finds the novel a distressing failure, says that this “might also be the motto of McEwan’s book.” But thinking small is not the novel’s motto; it is its subject. McEwan is not urging us to think small. He is reminding us that we are increasingly tempted to do so. Banville is off the mark yet again when he says that “the politics of the book is banal.” The book does not have a politics. It is about our inability to have one—to sketch a credible agenda for large-scale change.
The problem for good-hearted Westerners like Henry Perowne is that they seem fated to live out their lives as idiots (in the old sense of “idiot,” in which the term refers to a merely private person, one who has no part in public affairs). They are ingrates and dilettantes—ingrates because their affluence is made possible by the suffering of the poor and dilettantes because they are no longer able to relate thought to action. They cannot imagine how things could be made better.
Posted by Norm at Permalink 11:15 AM | Comments (5)
Party On George

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December 26, 2005
Lazy Sunday

A little Saturday Night Live rap goodness requested by Leftbanker

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Free iTunes Download here

related: The Chronicles of Narnia Rap
December 25, 2005
Happy Holidays

Holidays from

December 23, 2005
A Christmas Originalist

Stephen Colbert's History of Christmas. "Take the Christmas tree for example, a tradition so deeply Christian it predates Christ."

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David Sedaris provides more details on the origins of Christmas in his story Six to Eight Black Men taken from his book Dress Your Family in in Corduroy and Denim

related: Bah Humbug

December 22, 2005

One thing is certain no matter how bad you think they are, they're worse.

Daschle: Congress Denied Bush War Powers in U.S.
The Bush administration requested, and Congress rejected, war-making authority "in the United States" in negotiations over the joint resolution passed days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to an opinion article by former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) in today's Washington Post.

Daschle's disclosure challenges a central legal argument offered by the White House in defense of the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. It suggests that Congress refused explicitly to grant authority that the Bush administration now asserts is implicit in the resolution.
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