Professor Froward's Slough of Despond

Proud purveyor of flawed generalizations and vacuous tautologies.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Clear days at the BBC

Yeah, the fun never stops:

Salman Rushdie earned notoriety for the fatwa he provoked after writing The Satanic Verses.

He "provoked" them? And he did it "after" writing the novel?

The BBC: "Even if we were sane, we'd still be uninformed."

Kyoto and Katrina

James K. Glassman over at Tech Central Station, commenting on the envirovultures trying to cash in on Hurricane Katrina to sell their favorite Protocol:

Europe is not anywhere close to reducing CO2 to Kyoto standards. In fact, the U.S. is doing much better than many Kyoto ratifiers.

He's making a little joke there. Kyoto fans couldn't care less about reducing emissions. It's the meaningless political sacrament of ratifying the treaty that matters. We must suffer for their piety. Why? Just... because. Remember what Dr. Johnson said about bear-baiting? Their demented threats of worldwide catastrophe are just a sales tactic.

Imagine a left wing without the politics of fear...

Yeah, neither can I.

Aside from the lunacy of blaming this stuff on our unwillingness to sign a treaty whose most enthusiastic signatories have yet to implement it significantly (New Zealand is only just starting to talk about it seriously, and they've already got cold feet), it's ahistorical to blame George Bush even for our reluctance to sign: The Senate rejected Kyoto overwhelmingly. During the Clinton Administration. The Senate is part of the legislative branch of our federal government. The President is in charge of the executive branch. The executive branch does not ratify treaties. George Bush does not have the legal authority to do a damn thing about Kyoto. It's called "separation of powers".

The left is usually just underinformed and overemotional, but it's very difficult in this case to imagine that none of them are aware of Kyoto's history in this country.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

"Fears over missing Eminem fan"

They fear she's still alive, I assume.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Saints preserve us!

Boffo yocks at Captain's Quarters. He quotes a Saddam-Hussein-era Iraqi newspaper editorial about what a great guy Osama bin Laden is. It seems that their man bin Laden...

...will curse the memory of Frank Sinatra every time he hears his songs.

Dear God! How can our feeble civilization possibly stand up against a man like that, a man of such courage, a cold-eyed righteous killer so stone cold Islamic that he's immune even to the charms of Ol' Blue Eyes? We're doomed, man. Doomed. May as well surrender now and get it over with.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Peter Singer on Starvation and Charity

Tim Worstall just mentioned Peter Singer, so I thought I'd try actually reading something by Singer. Google coughed up Famine, Affluence, and Morality (1972), wherein Singer says we should all be sending a significant portion of our income to starving Bengalis, or whoever's starving at the moment.

It makes no moral difference whether the person I can help is a neighbor's child ten yards from me or a Bengali whose name I shall never know, ten thousand miles away.

But in fact, giving to a neighbor is preferable, in Singer's terms, because he sets an upper limit on what people are required to give:

...if it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant, we ought, morally, to do it.

If we help our neighbor, we benefit by the improvement in the neighborhood. In effect, it's a rebate, which lets us give more at the same net cost to ourselves. Therefore, we can reasonably give more to a neighbor than to some arbitrary Bengali. This is realistic; people pay extra to live in nicer neighborhoods all the time (though others prefer New York). If the cost to the giver is a legitimate consideration, proximity has to be a legitimate consideration as well. Again, this is in Singer's terms, which assume that writing somebody a check reliably translates into benefit for him.

So his conclusion on that one looks very wrong to me. Onward:

...anyone who accepts certain assumptions, to be made explicit, will, I hope, accept my conclusion.

He makes other assumptions which are not made explicit: First, that the only way to help poor nations is to write them checks. Second, that writing checks to poor nations actually helps them. Third, that relatively wealthy nations can give as much as he wants us to without affecting how much we'll able to give next year, nor affecting how much poor nations will need next year: Is it true that if we buy a new car only when the old one is absolutely worn out, UAW members and General Motors executives will still be able to give just as much as they can now? Is it true that if we stop buying new clothes "not to keep ourselves warm but to look 'well-dressed'", the poor in China and Central America will be no more needy next year than they are now? If we're morally obligated to help, we're morally obligated to keep our economies healthy enough that we can help. We should be able to establish an optimal mix of consumption and giving in the first world, one which would provide for maximum ongoing cash payments to dependent nations (ensuring that they remain dependent, as all good "ethicists" demand). Regrettably, this optimum would probably permit us to buy new shirts more often than Singer would like. This further implies that if Dr. Singer is consuming below the optimum level, he'd best get his ass over to Banana Republic and do his part.

An argument in his favor would be that if we give a significant chunk of our money to poor countries, then they'll be buying the cars and polo shirts we've forgone (and they'd be justified in doing so because they don't have old but still-serviceable polo shirts to hang on to). At the risk of pretending to be an economist, do the economies and living standards of major aid recipients really bear that argument out?

I mention polo shirts only as an example of something which is costly, yet ideally worthless. I wouldn't wear one at gunpoint myself.

UPDATE 9/6/2005: About the near vs. far thing, consider it this way: It's probably instinctive for us to care more about those nearest to us, and you'll get more done by working with the current than against it. Consider the positive social value of self-interest in a market economy, and how destructive it turns in a command economy where corruption is the only way to get ahead (not that the value of liberty would cut much ice with Singer). Instincts aren't a product of "logic", so people like Singer consider them "unscientific", and conclude therefore that it's "scientific" to pretend they don't matter. If the problem is maximizing donations to charity, you take into account all the factors that affect how much people donate. Like all "idealists", Singer makes rules designed for machines, but demands compliance from people.

If men got pregnant...

"If men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament". Yes, and if men got abortions, Andrea Dworkin would have spent her declining years out in front of a clinic, waving a bloody fetus and swearing that abortion was "violence against unborn women".

Neither remark illuminates the issues one bit. I just thought it was funny.

P.S. I'm pro-choice.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


While considering the fine sentiments expressed in the old Ba'athist Iraqi constitution, Tim Worstall takes a spin on one of my favorite hobby horses:

The words on the paper are not quite so important as how they are interpreted and used.

Well... That depends in part on how much your political culture values rule of law for its own sake, or in other words whether, given good laws, it can sometimes rise above its own worst instincts. Rotten laws faithfully upheld are no bargain, but it's easier to fix broken laws than broken culture.

Feel better now? Don't. All other things being equal, a bad constitution is a bad thing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The 9/11 Memorial

It's not a sign of "national self-confidence" when a nation spends tax dollars telling itelf how rotten it (allegedly) is. Self-confident nations — like this one, for example, in its misspent youth, and most of it even now — are too exhilarated by their strengths to sit around all day brooding about imagined inadequacies, and blowing their flaws wildly out of proportion. They've got better things to do. People are the same: Healthy young people look to the future. It's the neurotics and old people who mope about the mistakes they made and the chances they missed. They've got nothing better to do. The same goes for Europe, and for old hippies with tenure.

Let Europe and the bitter, frustrated old hippies mope around all they like, but no civilized person should be made to watch, much less pay for it. Let them crawl away to die someplace where they won't block the sidewalk.

There's life in this republic yet. If it were as nearly dead as the fools who want to turn the memorial into a why-we-hate-us extravaganza, don't you think the said fools would have welcomed public input, instead of avoiding it at all costs?

Americans are damned self-confident (that's supposed to be Why They Hate Us, remember?). That's precisely why we don't care to sit still for this crap. This is just the left resorting to playground taunts, as they so often do: How many times have you heard lefties claim that anybody who disagrees with them is a wussy boy, of one kind or another?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Media and War

The UK has centuries of proud military history to commemorate and an attic full of honorable debacles, but you'd hardly guess from the Imperial War Museum's web site. Quite a remarkable number of left-leaning exhibits there, to my American way of thinking, but maybe to a Brit, hagiography of Greenham Common "peace" kooks looks centrist by now. I mean, they weren't explicitly chanting "We All Deserve to Die!", were they? Which puts them well to saneward of George Galloway.

What's more interesting is IWM's guide to techniques of war propaganda, which very charmingly describes eurolefty "discourse" about Americans:

Talk of defending a way of life, standards of living, rights and freedoms.

Disrespect the 'other': do not see them as equals. Mockery and sarcasm used to degrade, belittle, insult or ridicule others.

Dehumanisation [sic]: depict the 'other' as diabolical or inhuman.

Use of atrocity stories.

Warn of the threat posed by the 'other'.

Etc., etc. All of this applies even more plainly to European media coverage of Israel. Here's a good one: "Use abstract and general language — it is easier to kill 'things' than to kill human beings." Yes, indeed, and it's easier to approve when others kill "things", than when they kill human beings. For example, if your friends massacre a bus full of civilians, you might want to describe the civilians very briefly as "targets", without any names, ages, or details, and then move onto a nice sympathetic profile of the mass-murderer. If he died in the "operation", you could show his grieving family. The "targets" don't have grieving families, of course; "things" never do.

Remember, this is like the diagnoses in the DSMV IV: None of the "symptoms" counts unless it's happening consistently, and to a pathological degree. A sniffle is not pneumonia. Washing your hands twice a day doesn't make you obsessive-compulsive. Every undergraduate who ever took Psych 101 spent the semester diagnosing his friends with exotic psychiatric disorders, but in truth most of them were just run-of-the-mill losers with a few harmless quirks. The IWM's web site does not bother to make this point.

What's funny is the solemnly unironic tone. The left's been warning about "dehumanization" of "the Other" for quite a while now, and they've got a point. They just also happen to believe, as a matter of principle, that they don't have to worry about doing it themselves. They're preternaturally innocent, for ontological reasons: They belong to a category that can do no wrong. It's not them that goes around dehumanizing people; it's the Other doing that stuff. They're just defending their rights and freedoms against the stupid, inferior cowboy barbarians who kill all those kids in their quest to rule the world.

A corollary which ought to be obvious is that you and I are no more immune than the BBC is.


Thanks to Kim du Toit for posting a link to the IWM a while back. Always follow the links, folks.

This is your brain on drugs, forty years later

Joan "Blackface" Baez rears her empty head at Camp This Country Is Not Worth Dying For. She concludes that it's, like, heavy, baby:

"It was the final tear for the overflow and you can't stop running water," she said. "Cindy's was the final tear."

In 1966 you could talk like that and at least claim to be fashionable. In the '80s, girls at my high school wrote poetry like that and people laughed cruelly. Don't you just cringe for these aging baby boomers? They have no shame at all. Never start your second childhood until you've finished your first.

Via Althouse.

Under the iron bootheel of capitalism...

...the poor suffer primarily from too much food, too much free time, and too many recreational drugs.

Oh, the monstrous injustice of it all.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Space elevators: Cheap cheap cheap!

That shouldn't be too surprising; space, after all, is much closer to my house than Detroit is. More to do there, too.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Peace Haiku

Dear mother Sheehan
Do yourself some good — look up
'Volunteer' real fast

Found that in the comments on this post.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Nobody needs fresh air for self-defense.

Inspiration strikes over at mASS BACKWARDS: People (especially THE CHILDREN!!1!) die by falling out of windows all the time. Shouldn't they be subjected to strict controls? Nobody needs windows.

One thing he missed: With no windows, criminals can't get into your home. See? Windows increase crime!

Jesus, I live on the third floor. That makes me the fresh-air-and-sunshine equivalent of the Michigan Militia: A Radical Ventilation Extremist. I drive a convertible, too!

DDOSBlogging: A lousy idea

I bow to few in my admiration for Kim du Toit, but he's wrong to put people's phone numbers in a blog post.

It's wrong when "their side" does it, and it's wrong when "our side" does it. It's harassment. He writes "Be polite if you call these bureaucratic dickheads", but as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, many of them won't be. You can't wash your hands of that by tossing in a pro-forma disclaimer when you know damn well some belligerent boneheads will ignore it. It seems more reasonable to post an email address; text on a screen isn't the same as a live irate blog-reader yelling into the phone. And don't forget that those irate callers won't be yelling at the bozo in charge. No, they'll be yelling at somebody with who's paid eight bucks an hour to answer phones. That person may not like the bozo in charge any better than you do, and certainly didn't make the decision you're angry about.

Not to mention that it's probably harder to DDOS a mail server than a phone switchboard, too. There's no reason to make ACC's admissions department unavailable to the students they're not screwing (if any).

Tactics like this may work. They may influence what these clowns do. But it's just plain wrong, not to mention that it makes your side look ugly.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Our Lady of Publicity Stunts

Our Lady of the Eternal Press Conference?


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Drug war in Mexico

Drug war in Mexico, saith Power and Control. 600 people killed this year.

He thinks legalization is the answer. You mean legalization in the US? For starters, yes, but it seems to me our suppliers would have to legalize too, for it to mean much. Are they keeping drugs illegal only because of us? If so, we're at fault for everything, but if we legalize and they prefer not to, we'll be even more at fault for even more of everything (Simon at P&C isn't saying that; somebody would). Are we the only nation on Earth to whom it ever occurred that drugs are bad? Dunno. Nor do I know whether legalization is as wonderful as all that anyway. It was a good idea with alcohol, but heroin isn't alcohol. It's heroin. I'm suspicious of the theory that anything which is good in principle must necessarily be good in practice, and drug legalization is a classic libertarian application of that theory. We did get through the 19th century okay, but I'm not sure we can go back there again. The law of unintended consequences applies to libertarians, too.

600 people killed this year.

The problem would probably diminish if demand did. Realistically, demand isn't going to change. You, as a customer of drugs imported from Mexico (if you are one), might have to work out with your own conscience whether you want to help fund this mess or not. Personally, I don't believe I'd want to.

Side note: In some of the quoted text it says that if Canadians go along with Americans on legal matters, that's "appeasement". If we go along with them on anything, saaaay the death penalty, that'd be something more like "America belatedly and shamefacedly admits to being invariably wrong, evil, and just plain bad". Yawn, snore.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Transhumanism, futurism, gibberish

Reynolds mutters about the "singularity", which is the idea that technology will, finally, after all these millenia, change us instead of just our diet and our commuting habits. It's not far from the usual "futurist" nonsense (the clueless technopundit kind, not the Italian art movement). "Futurism" is normally the practice of picking trends so glaringly obvious that even a "futurist" will notice them, and mechanically extrapolating them into the future to generate predictions about where society is going. The problem is that the obvious trends have already run their course, mostly. This method of augury therefore has the unique property of guaranteed failure; unlike reading chicken guts, there's no hope of a one-in-a-trillion lucky guess. Back in the 1990s, some people charged money for this crap.

The "singularity" idea attempts to work around the guaranteed-failure feature by recognizing that you can't actually predict anything. If you can't predict the future, they reason, the future must be infinitely weird, so weird that when we get there we'll be infinitely weird ourselves. That's just silly, and a non sequitur too. It's an SF idea, literally. Not serious stuff.

It reminds me of the "transhumanist" folks who used to run around loose during the tech bubble. As I recall, the leading lights were mostly dot-com millionaires who mistook the brownian motion of greater-fool speculators for evidence of their own business genius. They're still around, though. The World Transhumanist Association's website says they're "for the ethical use of technology to extend human capacities". Well, they haven't extended their own capacities far enough to use GIFs instead of JPEGs for text: Look at the logo, top center on the page. It's all speckly around the text where it ought to be white. Lossy compression, guys. Bad choice for line art. Someday, my descendants will still be hairless apes, while theirs may be tentacled biocomputers in a methane atmosphere, but I bet their web site will still look like crap.

Babbling giddily about "the future" doesn't make you futuristic yourself, any more than babbling about Darwinism makes you fit to survive, or marching in protests makes you virtuous, or reading Ayn Rand turns you into an industrial genius, or betting on the Preakness makes you a horse.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

1947: Quite a year

Just read an interesting and chilling piece about a nation founded in 1947 by UN fiat, with much movement of populations and so forth. Over at Fjordman. Worth reading, I think.

The Great Raid

Just got back from The Great Raid. Not a bad flick. A real war movie, with plausible characters instead of cartoonishly distinctive "personalities". You know the drill: There's always one guy who rips the sleeves off his uniform, and the one who has Issues with Authority, and so on. Reviewers have therefore been complaining that the characters in this one are interchangeable, but those clowns watch too many movies. Have you learned to tell your friends apart? You'll do fine.

You'll know who's who on the screen, but you'll never know which actors played them. They all call each other "Major" or "Colonel" or whatever: "Major, tell the Captain to send the Lieutenant over". "Yes, sir". In the cast list at IMDB there's no way to tell one Lt. from the next. The sole exceptions are 1st Sgt. Sid "Top" Wojo, who everybody calls "Top", and the General, because there's only one of each of those ranks in the movie. There's some guy they call "Red" who might be a Captain Redding, but then again he might just have had red hair; hard to tell. The color was a bit washed out, deliberately so. I can state with confidence that the blonde knockout is Connie Nielsen, who looks a bit like Nicole Kidman might have looked before she went on the Bataan Death March Diet.

What I thought was odd about the movie was that American soldiers were portrayed as... soldiers. Not war criminals, nor stupid, terrified, trigger-happy teenagers, nor helpless victims of society. Neither victims nor monsters, but normal people doing a dangerous and difficult job that they trained for. They're not necessarily fearless, but they cope with it like serious adults. I don't have a TV, but I gather this is not a common view of the US military in the media these days. Given the hurricane of militaristic propaganda to which some people think we're being subjected by the Bushitlerianneoconiburton War Machine, you'd think there'd be more than one war movie in the theaters this season portraying our boys in uniform in a positive light.

You'd also think there'd be more movies about atrocities committed by real pros, to put our loud Britney Spears records and halal menus in perspective. There are Japanese atrocities in this movie. They're historical, and they're gruesome. Japan's such a nice place to visit, it's odd to think that these nice folks' grandparents burned prisoners alive. Heck, Germany's a nice place to visit, too. Such civilized, cultured nations. So well organized. Good thing the lefties have figured out that fascism only happens when you let the rubes watch NASCAR and otherwise do as they damn well please.

Another issue comes to mind: The Rangers lost two men in the raid. There was also a group of Filipino guerillas who kept a vastly superior Japanese force off the Rangers' backs, and lost twenty-one men doing it. It looks to me as if those guys had the tougher part of the job: They were veterans, fighting on their own turf, and had greater losses than the Rangers, who were mostly new to combat as well as the Philipines. The film gives them credit, and commenters in this discussion say some real Filipino actors got roles, which is cool (not enough screen time, though). I would've liked to see more about them, simply because I've read quite a lot about Americans in the Pacific war, and very little about Filipinos.

But never mind politics and history. It's a movie, not a seminar. And it's a believable movie, not badly marred by wooden acting or dumb dialog, and blessedly free of Big Stars. It held my interest throughout. It had me on the edge of my seat a few times, and I sniffled when Nurse Hottie was reunited with... er... Major. Yes, that was his name. Major.

Worth seeing.

UPDATE 8/16/2005: Here's a much more thorough review, by somebody who knows the history. Makes my effort look pretty weak.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Are you listening, Dr. Lakoff?

"Socialism" is such a boring, dowdy, negative term. No wonder it doesn't go over well. Why not rename it? I've even got a suggestion:

"Intelligent Design Economics".

UPDATE 8/16/2005: Turns out the same idea's been expressed twice this year already, that Google knows of, in the same exact words. Damn.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Progressive victory in Thailand

"They just shot my relative this morning while he was on his way to collect rubber just a short distance from here," he said.

Peaceful Islamic activists in southern Thailand have been doing a lot of random killing lately. Then they ordered everybody, Muslim or otherwise, not to work on Fridays. People complied. The Islamists promptly ordered everybody not to work on Thursdays either.

So the progressive view is that we should give terrorists whatever they demand, right? Because then they'll stop demanding. Right. Got it.


UPDATE 8/12/05: Added rivetingly dramatic blockquote and clarified which part of Thailand it is.

UPDATE 8/12/05 #2: Corrected spelling of "UPDAGE" in previous update.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Monitoring cell phones

At Instapundit, Michael J. Totten notes a horrible development: It seems you can "remotely install software onto a handset to activate the microphone even when the user is not making a call".

That's ugly news, if true (the source is the Guardian; nothing to do with their politics at all, but "technical" reporting tends to be surreally clueless even from relatively qualified journalists, much less yer liberal-artsy types). The question is, can you replace the firmware in your own phone with a modified version which won't let anybody else install anything, or which will notify you of an attempt and require your permission to let it happen? I'm guessing you can. I'm sure hoping you can. It's proverbially difficult (if not provably impossible) to make a device secure against the guy who's holding it in his hand; see DeCSS for a classic example.

I believe I'll dig around Google and see what turns up. I'm sure some Spock-eared knucklehead or another has ported Linux to any popular cellphone you can name.

What, you say we can just pass a law against it and that'll fix the problem? Yeah, you go do that.

UPDATE 8/11/2005: Note that hacking your cell phone may, now or at some time in the future, be illegal wherever you are. So this is just an intellectual exercise — which it probably would be anyway, considering how few people can usefully modify binary code.

UPDATE 8/12/2005: Then again, you could just yank the damn battery out when you want some guaranteed privacy. But that's too easy! In any case, this is weirder than traditional wire-tapping and bugging, but it's not a fundamentally New Thing.

Oh, look — a Vietnam analogy!

In Vietnam, didn't the US rely on body counts as an indicator of success largely because we couldn't find much else that made us look like we were winning?

That's not to say that the NY Times et al. are necessarily flogging body counts of our own guys for exactly the same reason, but I do think some people on the left have an exaggerated faith in those numbers as proof that their guys are winning.


Tim Blair is a Very Great Man.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

We Are All Canadians

In the dark and savage corner of Massachusettstan where I live, you see a lot of bumper stickers. I saw one today that broke my heart: "Boycott Canadian Seafood", with a picture of a sad little seal. The lefties have turned against Canada?! Now, that's harsh. Next thing you know they'll be letting Zarqawi down.

As for me, I stand in solidarity with my Canadian brothers and sisters. I will eat Canadian seafood. Canada and I have had our differences in the past, but as long as they eat meat up there, some fundamental bond of affection must remain.

Today, I am a Canadian.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Styles of Radical Schtick

The thing about making an ass of yourself in public is you constantly need fresh material, unless you're a comedian. Or Woody Allen.

Noam Chomsky's got a pretty good schtick going. He just picks up the Globe every morning, finds the worst thing on the front page, and makes up a reason to blame it on the US. He doesn't have to think of anything new, because he can go on forever applying that one silly idea to an inexhaustible supply of depressing news items. We have six billion people on this planet, every one of us is screwing up everything he can reach, 24/7, and it's all grist for the mill. On a slow news day, when the wellsprings of human idiocy run dry, he's got 229 years of old catastrophes to choose from. This is not unlike what Glenn Reynolds does, except that on slow news days Reynolds posts cat pictures. I prefer Reynolds, but then I'm fond of cats.

The people who get into trouble are the ones who haven't figured out the news gimmick, the ones who depend for novelty on breaking new theoretical ground rather than mechanically applying the same old theory the way ol' Noam does (heck, I don't believe Chomsky even admits to having a theory in any broad sense). Professional radicals can very easily get sucked into a radicalism arms race where "new product" requires saying something crazier than whatever they said last week (Ward Churchill, anyone?) — and crazier than whatever the guy in the next office is saying, too. Work smarter, guys, not harder. There's a reason why Chomsky is still cheerful and spry at an age when most professional lunatics have worried themselves into the grave: He's got a more efficient algorithm for generating hooey, and he's a happier man for it.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The left finds God — and welcome to Him

Fun post over at Neo-Neocon: Thoughts about what the left is really looking for in their admiration of terrorists. She sees it in terms of psychology, and it looks sensible to me, though my opinion isn't worth squat in that field. I have my own thoughts, besides.

A lot of people believe in God, and find value in their faith, because of the moral-order issue: God punishes the wicked and rewards the just, and He never gets it wrong because He's infinitely wise.

The left assigns that just-punishment-of-the-wicked job to Osama bin Laden. In terms of this one aspect of faith (there are others), they worship that dingbat.

Some versions of Christianity have reinvented God as a non-judgemental, non-punishing, non-rewarding nonentity. Aren't those the ones who drift hard to the left and start apologizing for terrorists? By and large, yes.

Religion — hard-ass, "thou-shalt-and-thou-shalt-not"-style religion — hasn't been invented and perpetuated in so many human societies just by chance; it fills a need, one that some evangelicals both fancifully and irritatingly call "a God-shaped hole in your heart". It's an annoying phrase, but it nails the idea.

Nature abhors a vacuum, I guess, as much as it abhors a metaphor left unabused: Some of us are sufficiently miserable, misanthropic, and depressing that we can leave that hole empty or else fill it with dry, nerdy crap like "market forces", but most people aren't. They empty it out, and something else fills it, often something worse. It's the same argument I have against anarchism: Something will fill that "government-shaped hole in your society"; are you real sure your friendly neighborhood robber baron will suck less than what you've got?

And this is why I'm not a libertarian. Remember the brass screw joke, where the guy unscrews the brass screw in his bellybutton and his ass falls off? It happens every day.

UPDATE 8/9/2005: If ObL's their God of Wrath, who's in charge of mercy? That'd be the UN, I guess, and the NGO swarm.