Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Passion of the Penguins

Michael Medved is worried sick about the political misuse of penguins:

In America's ongoing culture war, with ferocious combatants grabbing every available weapon to strike at each other, innocent children and adorable penguins simultaneously qualify as collateral damage.
A few superannuated readers, whose brains have not yet been reduced to suet by the progressive's compulsory diet of blotter acid and fortified wine, may recall a documentary called March of the Penguins. Back in 2005, an up-and-coming young critic named Michael Medved proclaimed it "the motion picture this summer that most passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing."

He wasn't alone in that opinion, of course. The quasi-Pentecostal raptures over March of the Penguins were as exquisitely choreographed as a collaboration between Busby Berkeley and Leni Riefenstahl, and their ardor was not at all quelled when the director pointed out that penguins are not poster-children for monogamy, parenting, or intelligent design.

What I find interesting - compared to the prospect of cleaning out the garage, anyway - is that unlike Medved's radio show, his piece for USA Today pretty much avoids the conservative catechism of anti-environmental cliche. To say that this movie is too frightening for small children, and that bringing them to see it is tantamount to child abuse, is a much shrewder line of attack; as always, protecting childhood innocence is the perfect way to avoid examining adult guilt.

One of Medved's problems with Happy Feet is that "endearing creatures on screen face the deadly menace of leopard seals." As it happens, March of the Penguins shows penguins being chased and killed by seals; I suppose that's why Medved approvingly referred to it as Passion of the Penguins. Speaking of which, it's interesting that Medved, that immovable object standing in the path of "the National Assault on Innocence," seems to have studiously avoided warning parents about a certain gore-drenched snuff film by Mel Gibson. As far as I can tell, he confined himself to scolding Jews for criticizing it, and gloating over its earnings compared to Fahrenheit 9/11.

Medved goes on to complain about a book featuring gay penguins, a concept he describes as "potentially explosive." If he ever finds out about the hermaphroditic mating chains favored by sea hares, there won't be enough vinegar poultices in the world to save him from neurasthenic collapse.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sucker's Progress

An anonymous Corner reader is trying to make poor Jonah Goldberg feel better about the Iraq War. It's a bit like watching a pig get fed on latrine waste, but without the moral uplift.

This ministering angel offers four points, each of which is quite literally more deranged than the last.

The Iraq war was not a mistake. It is easy to forget in the spectacle of watching the Iraqis butcher each other trying to build a stable government, but much was accomplished with this war:

1. The toppling of a regime that was a constant threat to its neighbors and, potentially at least, to us.
That's setting the bar pretty low. Hell, I'll give a shiny new penny to anyone who can name a country that is not, "potentially at least," a threat to the United States.
2. Removing the Iraqi threat allowed us to move our troops out of Saudi Arabia. The US presence in the Kingdom was the #1 motivator for Bin Ladenism, and the long term benefits this will have after Iraq are hard to calculate but will no doubt be significant.
In other words, we had to invade Iraq, depose a secular dictator, and create a fractious Islamic republic so that we could appease Bin Laden by closing the Prince Sultan Air Base. I must say, I'm amazed Bush didn't just come out and explain that in the first place.

Perhaps we could strike a further blow against "Bin Ladenism" by giving the Palestinians control of East Jerusalem?
3. Worst possible case scenario, we retreat to Kurdistan. No matter what happens in Greater Iraq, the liberation of the Kurds and the implantation of a nascent democracy there is a genuine success.
The Weimar Republic was a "nascent democracy" too, but few people would call it a genuine success. Anyway, what happens in "Greater Iraq" from here on out could certainly affect the viability of a Kurdish state. And unless I'm mistaken, Turkey has some rather strong opinions on the subject of Kurdish autonomy, as do Iran and Syria.
4. Also in the worst case scenario, we retreat not only to Kurdistan, but also to Kuwait. The virtual military encirclement of Iran will remain, and that is important. An encircled Iran, even with a nuke, is a far different scenario than the opposite.
This sounds an awful lot like the strategery formerly known as containment, the moral idiocy of which was tirelessly denounced by the PNAC's mouthpieces in the run-up to the invasion.

I'm accustomed to feeling ideologically disoriented in George W. Bush's America, but nothing so far has prepared me for the proposition that invading Iraq was a Good Thing because we can retreat to Kuwait (where we've had a strong military presence for fifteen fucking years), "encircle Iran," and keep a watchful eye on any nukes it might develop.

In case you're wondering, this outlandish babbling did indeed cheer Jonah up, and will probably comprise a conservatarian article of faith by morning.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur,—you’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.
(Painting by John Zeigler, via Thrift Store Art.)

Mercury, Monkeys, and Migration

The DoE is considering dumping over a thousand tons of mercury on the world market:

The Department of Energy acknowledged last week that it is mulling whether to unload more than 1,300 tons of mercury it collected over the years for processing materials used to make hydrogen bombs...The agency's stockpile is five times larger than all of the mercury exported by U.S. businesses in 2004, the last year for which figures are available.
Apropos of which, mercury from Chinese smokestacks (which release about 600 tons a year) is polluting the Willamette River:
Trace amounts of the poison can take less than a week to reach Oregon, where research suggests that about one-fifth of the mercury entering the Willamette River comes from abroad -- increasingly from China.
That's somewhat disturbing, granted...but with the price of mercury climbing, how can we afford not to sell it?

In other news, we're increasingly outsourcing animal testing to China, "where scientists are cheap and plentiful and animal-rights protesters are muffled by an authoritarian state." (Thank God it can't happen here!)

On the bright side, outsourcing this work to a country that doesn't meet the USA's exceedingly modest animal-cruelty standards will reduce the public-health risks of importing thousands of Chinese monkeys per year:
While the monkeys are checked for tuberculosis, they aren't tested for other diseases unless they show signs of sickness.
That said, the underregulated trade in exotic pets poses a number of threats, from ecological havoc to contagious disease (not least because a fair percentage of the monkeys imported for research find their way into private homes).

Despite these hazards, the exotic pet industry is "wary" of quarantine restrictions that could affect its profits. In regards to which, the zoonotic disease expert William Karesh asks a charmingly naive question:
"Why should you and I bear the cost of an outbreak when the industry makes all the money off this trade?"
With that question in mind, let's look at some alarming figures on illegal immigration from the foam-flecked hysterics at WND:
Twelve Americans are murdered every day by illegal aliens, according to statistics released by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. If those numbers are correct, it translates to 4,380 Americans murdered annually by illegal aliens. That's 21,900 since Sept. 11, 2001.
If this were true, so much the worse for American corporatism and its apologists. As it happens, though, it's thoroughly debunked nonsense.

WND has more tricks up its sleeve:
Based on a one-year in-depth study, Deborah Schurman-Kauflin of the Violent Crimes Institute of Atlanta estimates there are about 240,000 illegal immigrant sex offenders in the United States who have had an average of four victims each. She analyzed 1,500 cases from January 1999 through April 2006 that included serial rapes, serial murders, sexual homicides and child molestation committed by illegal immigrants.
Here's how Schurman-Kauflin got that figure:
[I]t is consistent to find sex offenders comprising 2% of illegals apprehended. Based on this 2% figure, which is conservative, there are approximately 240,000 illegal immigrant sex offenders in the United States.
Schurman-Kauflin's sleight of hand is obvious even to a clod like myself. She applies the "2% of illegals apprehended" to the estimated total population of illegal immigrants (about 12 million), instead of the population of criminals. On top of which, she has no data on how many sex offenders were apprehended, proportionally speaking. In other words, the 2 percent of illegals apprehended for sex crimes could represent, say, 90 percent of the total population of sex offenders. (The fact that even in the immigrant-plagued West, rape has decreased steadily since the 1970s remains a mystery for which no explanation is conceivable.)

Anyway, it's no surprise that increased illegal immigration would lead to increased crime and other societal costs, even if corporate America's appetite for cheap, disempowered labor didn't amount to a human meat-grinder and an incubator for racism. The question is, why should you and I - and the immigrants - bear the cost, when the industry makes all the money off this trade?

I mean, besides the fact that it's propping up our economy.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Perimeter Security

Subtopia discusses the exciting business opportunities along the Mexican border:

The FedBizOpps notice mentions contracting work for "Customs and Border Protection-related roads, low-water crossings, temporary and permanent vehicle barriers, pedestrian barriers, stadium lighting, fencing, and bridges."
The bidding opened and closed rather quickly, it seems. That's a bit alarming, given the scale of the project, the fact that it’s exempt from environmental review, and the DHS’s well-known contracting irregularities.

A cynic might say that we ought to allow Roy Warden to construct his clothesline perimeter along the border; it’d probably work just about as well, and we wouldn’t have to borrow nearly as much money from China to pay for it. On the other hand, one must keep up appearances, and Warden doesn’t quite have the calming gravitas of the State Apparatus.

Or even the quasi-State Apparatus, for that matter. In an earlier post, Subtopia described the Minutemen’s resourceful use of high-tech border-control technology from Israel and the Korean DMZ. Fox News elaborates:
Three cameras placed along the no-climb fence will use facial recognition software to identify possible intruders, Kunz said.
High time, too! It’ll be a welcome alternative to the terrorist-coddling facial recognition software designed by Emmanuel Levinas, which answers the intruder’s ethical demand with unconditional charity.

Subtopia suggests that DIY border surveillance could usher in an exciting new era of reality TV. Maybe so, but I think the real money lies in adapting Web-based hunting to border defense, and charging the Keyboard Kommandos fifty bucks for each shot they take at the Pitiless Warriors of Aztlan (some will prefer the hands-on approach, of course, but I suspect they’re in a fairly small minority).

In other homeland security news, a passenger was arrested after he tried to board a plane with a ball of rubberbands.

UPDATE: Lots more on virtual warfare from Subtopia. Also, an Arizona court has fined the "hands-on" activist mentioned above, who threatened a man and his three children with an assault rifle.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

Have a nice weekend! I'll be back on Monday.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Relatively Poor

A while back, Bjorn Lomborg argued that any money we spend to address climate change will constitute a handout to the sub-Saharan millionaires of 2100:

[E]ven the UN's most pessimistic forecasts project that by 2100 the average person in developing countries will be richer than the average person in developed countries is now.
In a National Review article, Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren fine-tune this argument:
Not to be flip about it, but why should the relatively poor (us) sacrifice for the relatively rich (our children and grandchildren)?
Yeah, who ever heard of parents sacrificing anything for the sake of their children?

Cheap sarcasm aside, the idea behind both arguments is that the unstoppable march of GDP will make our descendents fantastically rich. I'm no economist, so I'll simply have to assume that Taylor and Van Doren have factored pesky details like inflation into their calculations. Even so, I notice a problem. Our Heroes argue that GDP per capita is currently $44,403, but will rise to $321,684 by 2106. Here's their conclusion:
Would anyone, let alone liberals, ever propose a one-percent tax on those who make $44,000 to create benefits for those who make $289,000? In short, paying now to head off warming is a regressive intergenerational tax that takes from the poor and gives to the rich.
One hardly knows what to say. First off, they're pretending that per-capita GDP is the same thing as household income, which isn't the case (to put it mildly). They've sped past the comparatively respectable tactic of reification, and proceeded directly to lying their asses off.

There are various ways of allocating the cost of addressing climate change. But let's pretend - as Taylor and Van Doren seem to - that we're talking about a one-percent flat tax on income. That would cost someone who makes $44,000 per year a modest $440. It'd cost ExxonMobil $360,000,000. Conservatarian hacks tend to shed crocodile tears over "the little guy" in their op-ed pieces, but I think we know whose prospective losses are actually haunting their dreams.

I don't have the heart to address the other logical problems here. I'll merely mention that the CBC has a documentary called The Denial Machine available for online viewing.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

This photo of Chromodoris kuniei is by Gary Cobb, who has a breathtaking Quicktime video of it on his site.

He’s also released a book of nudibranch photos called Undersea Jewels, which looks gorgeous.

Friday Hope Blogging

As Herman Melville said, “Meditation and water are wedded forever.” While washing the dishes yesterday, I realized that the sound of the running water had made me lose track of time. I wondered how many gallons had gone down the drain while I stared out the window, and thought it’d be useful to have a faucet that tells you how much water you’ve used. I imagine people’s water usage might change if a bell rang every time a gallon came out of the spout. Plus, if it were programmable, you could use it in place of measuring cups.

If no one’s thought of this before, and you make your golden fortune inventing it, that’s fine. Just drop a penny in my tin cup as you step daintily over my spavined, feebly twitching legs.

Speaking of water, here’s an extraordinarily cheap way to protect people from cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and other waterborne diseases:

Putting contaminated water in a 2-litre bottle, shaking it and then leaving it in the sun for up to six hours could save the lives of millions of people.
Some African villages are using interesting strategies against drought, such as sand dams:
The sand retains 40% of its volume in water, protecting that water from evaporation. Wells are then dug into it, supplying local villagers during the subsequent dry season. The idea of the dams goes back more than 2000 years, to the Babylonian era, Aerts explains. It was later picked up by the English who built sand dams in India and Kenya.
There’s apparently a new way of treating chronic nerve pain:
Cone snail toxins named RgIA and Vc1.1 can treat nerve hypersensitivity and pain by blocking a molecule in cells known as the "alpha9alpha10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor."
If the idea of cone snail toxins is too exotic for you, Effect Measure recommends good old-fashioned human saliva:
Scientists at the Institut Pasteur in Paris have found a simple molecule in human saliva that prolongs the lifetime of naturally produced human painkillers, the enkephalins. They say it has six times the analgesic potency as morphine without the addictive or psychological side effects.
It does have side effects, though. You’ll have to read Revere’s article to find out what they are.

In other medical news, there's hope of a vaccine treatment for recurrent gliomas:
Derived from each individual's tumor, vitespen contains the "fingerprint" of the patient's particular cancer and is designed to reprogram the body's immune system to target only cancer cells bearing this fingerprint....Vitespen has been granted fast track and orphan drug designations from the Food and Drug Administration in both metastatic melanoma (skin cancer) and renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer).
You can add water filtration to the list of prospective uses for discarded tires:
Dr. Yuefeng Xie, associate professor of environmental engineering at Penn State Harrisburg, has developed a method that uses crumb rubber to filter wastewater, which can help ease the tire problem and clean up the environment at the same time.
A new edible coating for produce allegedly kills E. coli:
Composed of apple puree and oregano oil, which acts as a natural antibacterial agent, the coating shows promise in laboratory studies of becoming a long-lasting, potent alternative to conventional produce washes, according to a team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the University of Lleida in Spain.
Research into the sonic qualities of gunshots could pay off in a number of interesting ways, including monitoring the health of ecosystems:
Technology that could sort desired sounds from background noise could be used to monitor wildlife habitats. Microphones could record a month's worth of sound in an area and then computer software would sort that massive amount of data into useable chunks: elk bugles, aircraft noise, wolf howls, gunshots, etc.
One thing these mics might not overhear is the Quiet Revolution Wind Turbine:
[I]ts small scale allows it to fit seamlessly into an urban environment, providing a renewable energy resource in places where space constraints previously made it impossible to hook up green power systems….It is also quieter than your typical wind turbine because the tip speed is slower, due to the triple-helix design, which in turn allows it to be situated closer to buildings and on towers.
Treehugger reports on combined heat and power generators:
[T]he big news in CHPs is that they're becoming ultra-decentralized. That is, you can put one under your sink and heat and power your house with it.
While hunting for drawings of bowerbird nests, I stumbled on a gorgeous series of photos by Michelle Bates, taken with a Holga plastic camera.

Click here and here to see more. From there, you'll probably want to proceed to

I've recently been poring over an incredible collection of magazine and pulp covers by Ellis Parker Butler, whence comes this cover for Radio News:

Here’s a more lurid cover, just in case you're unmoved by the domestic woes of radio operators.

If this merely whets your appetite for vintage graphics, you can visit Dime Novels and Penny Dreadfuls. And, of course, Octopulps. Also, just in from Coudal, a gorgeous gallery of vintage Hungarian posters.

But for me at least, all this pales in comparison to BibliOdyssey's Bee Books.

(Photo at top is from Souvenirs, a Flickr set by Michael Hughes. Via Coudal.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dissension and Friction

A few weeks back, I wrote a post titled The Serious People, which argued that the (rhetorically) fearless scourges of "Islamofascism" are actually an obstacle to dealing with terrorism, insofar as they're given to "ahistorical scapegoating, incoherent analogy, neo-Hegelian claptrap, racialist blithering, pseudobiblical militancy, and general delirium," all of which tends to get in the way of simple precepts like "know your enemy."

What I got for my trouble were comments announcing that the Left is in league with Al-Qaeda, because they have a common enemy in Bush, or Western civilization, or both, or something.

It'd be easy to dismiss this theory as a product of stupidity, malice, and wishful thinking (as I've previously done here and here). But since one of these commenters was someone whose intelligence I respect even on those rare occasions when outward evidence of it is lacking, I suppose I'll have to tear myself away from The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism long enough to address this issue more thoughtfully. (Or continue addressing it, I should say, since this post was really a preamble.)

I recently read through an interesting presentation by K.A. Taipale on the pros and cons of information warfare, and its ability to “increase dissension and friction, engender internal competition, undermine trust, and exploit ideological breaks in leadership.”

This is a central strategy of Fourth Generation Warfare, a discipline in which the theories of Foucault and Deleuze are discussed as earnestly as they're lampooned on anti-theory sites like Phi Beta Cons. (The Right has always protested a bit too much against "postmodernism," IMO.)

Anyway, Taipale quotes no less an authority than Mr. Osama bin Laden in order to emphasize how misdirection can turn military strength against itself:

All that we have to do is to send two Mujahedin to the farthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qa'ida in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human economic and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note …
This doesn’t make OBL a military genius. But it's a useful strategy if you want to “directly or indirectly constrain enemy’s ability to make or implement decisions adverse to your interests.”

Putting aside the fact that OBL often seems to get what he wants from BushCo, there's a tendency in this country to obsess over terrorist tactics and rhetoric to the extent that Al-Qaeda can virtually "decide" how we run our government, legal system, and infrastructure. As Glenn Greenwald says:
We used to quote Madison, Jefferson and Lincoln to decide what the principles of our Government are going to be. Now we quote Al Qaeda. The Administration wants Al Qaeda and its speeches to dictate the type of Government we have.
This reminds me of a funny story. Madame Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society, legitimized her decisions by communing with an unearthly Brotherhood of Masters, who made their opinions manifest by "precipitating" letters from the spirit world (i.e., Blavatsky and her accomplices would write them, and then drop them on people's heads through trapdoors).

Later, after Blavatsky was dead, her would-be successors exalted themselves and denounced each other through a blizzard of precipitated letters. As so often happens, war in heaven corresponded with power struggles on earth.

I don't mean to imply that Al-Qaeda doesn't exist, nor even to hint that BushCo is conjuring up politically convenient messages from them a la Madame Blavatsky. It's enough to say that there's something futile in our country's endless debate over what the terrorists "want" - even in the few cases where it's sincere - given that what they want is pretty clearly to “increase dissension and friction, engender internal competition, undermine trust, and exploit ideological breaks in leadership.” In short, they want to turn our own power against us. That's asymmetrical warfare in a nutshell, as Fred Burton explains:
This powerful mandate on the defensive side is met, asymmetrically, on the offensive side by a force whose only requirements are to survive, issue threats and, occasionally, strike -- chiefly as a means of perpetuating its credibility.
The curious thing is that as I said in my post on glorifying killers, some of the work of perpetuating Al-Qaeda's credibility has been taken up by American politicians, journalists, and bloggers, all of whom shriek 'round the clock that Der Ewige Muselmann is coming to kill us all with a dazzling array of doomsday weapons, as well as impractical but emotionally resonant methods like "ticking time-bombs" and mass beheadings. To challenge the credibility of these threats, let alone the wisdom of the "obvious" response to them, is in some odd way to challenge the sincerity and competence of AQ itself, and that - in an even odder way - is unpatriotic.

Again, a goal of 4GWF is to force the state to cripple itself through a useless expenditure of blood and treasure. When the state in question comprises defense contractors, authoritarians, and other opportunists, there's a danger of a symbiosis between terrorist and politicians, both of whom legitimize themselves through reference to the other's "evildoing," and marginalize their nonviolent opposition by lumping them in with the enemy.

The best part is, the more you glorify the enemy as Evil Rampant and Ululant, the more rules you can throw out the window in the name of self-defense. The more seriously your civilization is threatened, the less civilized you're permitted to be.

I'll have to wrap this up later. The remainder will be polemics, mostly, with plenty of namecalling and foul language.

People of Integrity

The next time you’re shedding hot salt tears over the Catholics’ persecution of Giordano Bruno, spare some pity for the climate change denialists, who stand alone against a monolithic oppressor, with no friends (save for industry, government, and the media) and no weapons (save for supremely flexible consciences, and the best PR that billions of dollars can buy).

In an op-ed piece, David Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research invokes Science’s Martyrs in order to drum up sympathy for the brave dissenters who’d be slightly inconvenienced if ExxonMobil heeded a recent request to stop funding think-tanks like his:

Copernicus, Bruno and Harvey were persecuted out of fear. Each ultimately was proven to be correct.

Today U.S. Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) are engaging in persecution of their own, attempting to silence dissenting voices. Just what do they fear?
Well...I’m no mindreader, but I suspect they fear that climate change is just as serious a problem as the experts say it is, and that the silly antics of marionettes like Ridenour have wasted more than enough precious time already.

They probably also fear that the denialists’ media clout is grossly out of proportion with their expertise, their “evidence,” and their standing within the scientific community. Hell, if Giordano Bruno had been funded by Scaife, the Catholic Church probably would’ve made it a heresy to deny hylozoism.

Then again, they may simply be tired of listening to these people, who respond to the annihilation of one flimsy talking-point by instantly shifting their righteous indignation to the defense of another one, without losing one whit of their lunatic self-assurance. Perhaps I’m splitting hairs, but William Harvey didn’t prevail in his battle against the Galenists by being consistently, stridently wrong about everything.

Ridenour finishes up by echoing Bruno’s final words to his executioners: "Perhaps you, my judges, pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it."
People of integrity will not change their views because their funding is threatened -- or even cut off. People of integrity will not change their views because it is asserted that the "scientific debate is over." They won't even do so when they are equated with Holocaust deniers. People of integrity will only change their views when they are convinced by the evidence.
The cheaper the hood, the gaudier the patter. Still, this raises an important question: How does one tell the difference between “people of integrity” and cranks?

It’s simple, really. The people of integrity are funded by ExxonMobil and the Scaife fortune, send Tom DeLay on questionable business trips, and put Jack Abramoff on their Board of Directors.

Maybe the denialists are a bit more like the Galenists than William Harvey, all things considered.

(Ad at top via Climate Denial.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Glorifying Killers

There's some concern in Boston that terrorists will blow up an LNG tanker in the harbor:

The tankers carry fuel that could decimate everything within a 1.3-mile radius, putting neighborhoods including East Boston, Charlestown and the North End, in danger, Murphy said.
Perhaps, but why be so pessimistic? In 1947, Texas City was destroyed by an accidental explosion on board the SS Grandcamp, and today it's a booming refinery town!

The Boston Herald, having anticipated that Pollyannas like myself would downplay or relativize the terrorist threat, reminds us that it can happen here:
Yet one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center was launched from Logan International Airport, and al-Qaeda operative Raed Hijaz - one of the architects of the attack on the USS Cole - along with four other terrorists lived and worked in East Boston.
See? Terrorists have visited and even lived in Boston! If that doesn't prove that the city is on the brink of doom, I don't know what will.

I'm not arguing that terrorists can't or won't blow up an LNG tanker, of course. I'm just pointing out that the Herald's argument here is bizarre and manipulative. Obviously, whether or not a plane was hijacked from Logan on September 11 has no bearing whatsoever on the LNG debate. If this is a serious threat, it'd be serious even if no terrorist had ever set foot in Boston.

As bad as blowing up Boston would be, what if terrorists decided to kill us all with bioweapons?
New technology that would give terrorists the power to create deadly bacteria and viruses from scratch is only years away from completion and threatens to make existing controls on biological weapons obsolete, experts warned yesterday.
It's all very frightening, I'm sure. And yet, if you suggest in the face of these perils that America's public-health system should be improved, instead of defunded, or that the public should have more input into the siting and regulation of natural gas terminals, you'll probably be called a Frenchified socialist dead-ender and a Chicken Little. Somehow, the doomsday scenarios that oblige the public to embrace torture and warrantless wiretapping are less compelling when they're invoked in support of citizens' rights and the social contract.

Speaking of doomsday scenarios, people are also worrying about the quasi-presence on MySpace of Texan death-row inmates. The fear seems to be that these pages will make killing people seem "hep":
"Is it within your policy to allow the glorification of killers by giving them a platform to influence young minds?" Mr. Kahan wrote.
This is an interesting argument. Supporters of capital punishment usually hail it as a deterrent. But I guess we're now supposed to view dabbling on MySpace while awaiting execution as high-gloss glamor on a par with the career of Kevin Federline. (God only knows how many schools will get shot up if kids find out that condemned murderers get to order anything they want for their final meal. Children are naturally wicious, after all.)

As far as influencing "young minds" goes, I tend to worry more about a political climate that fosters contempt for the rule of law, and exalts preemptive violence as a reasonable response to fear. MySpace may be "glorifying killers" by allowing the families of convicted murderers to set up pages on their behalf...but honestly, it barely registers against our culture's riotous celebration of war, vigilantism, and general asskicking as foolproof solutions to pretty much every problem under the sun.

The MySpace debate raises another interesting point. If these sites comprise a "glorification of killers," what should we call the sort of journalism that pornographically rehearses the infinite ways in which The Terrorists plan to kill us, attributes to them weapons and skills they almost certainly don't have, and passes off the ugly hysteria this engenders as patriotism?

Al-Qaeda's alleged to have very deep pockets indeed, but I doubt it could buy more effective PR than it gets gratis and free of charge from Western media and right-wing bloggers.

More about this later.

UPDATE: While we're on the subject of glorifying our enemies, Iran's leaders must be happy to learn that their country is now a superpower, according to CNN.

The Market Decides

Back in April, the NAS published a paper on world copper availability, which estimated that "26 percent of extractable copper in the Earth's crust is already landfilled or otherwise lost in non-recycled wastes."

Treehugger reported on these findings at the time, and ended with this observation:

Of course we will have plenty of copper for centuries to come, assuming that developing nations like China and India don't follow the western pattern.
Oddly enough, it now transpires that thieves are cannibalizing the wind-power turbines at California's Altamont Pass, in order to get at their valuable copper cables. Here's the punchline:
According to Sheriff"s Detective James Messina, copper is one of the hottest metals in the scrap business right now. Copper prices skyrocketed this summer, thanks mainly to construction booms in China and India.
I don't think I need to belabor the ironies here. Instead, I'll move on to Samuel Richardson's claim that the United States simply doesn't have the technological ingenuity to address climate change:
With today's technologies, we don't know how to cut greenhouse gases in politically and economically acceptable ways.
Keeping Richardson's interesting qualification in mind, let's have a look at a "politically and economically acceptable" approach to energy independence:
Companies hoping to tap an estimated 100-year supply of shale oil locked in rock formations under Colorado, Utah, and southwest Wyoming have won federal approval for experimental extraction projects....

Still unresolved, however, are concerns voiced by some state and federal agencies and environmentalists that the Bureau of Land Management understated or failed to adequately analyze threats to air and water....The wildlife division and the U.S. Geological Survey also said information was inadequate on the kinds of substances that will be released by the extraction process.
All of this is simply a preamble for Richardson's essential point:
Absent some crisis, politicians usually won't impose -- and the public won't accept -- burdens without corresponding benefits.
There you have it. We can't do anything about climate change until it becomes a crisis. But the burdensome externalities of shale-oil extraction are acceptable so long one keeps the exciting possibility of success firmly in mind.

Now that that's settled, let's get back to solving real the West's declining birthrate, the plight of snowflake babies, and the ACLU's War on Christmas.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dank and Dark Earth

If you're in the market for unheimlich horrors out of Erckmann-Chatrian or William Hope Hodgson, you could do worse than to have a look at the Cornell Mushroom Blog. I especially like its use of zoomable, rotating Quicktime images in posts like Cabbage Monstrosities and A Spider's Nightmare.

There are also some remarkable time-lapse movies, as well as recipes for such "strange new adoptions of listless gluttony" as puffball fritters and chicken of the woods, which will please those who, in Piero Camporesi's words, "prefer to seek nourishment from gelid, inert, corpse-like organisms...fed on darkness, night-time dews, opaque saps."

Cornell photographer Kent Loeffler has many more photos and films at his site - including the cautionary fable Potato infected with Erwinia carotovera - and explains the tricks of his trade in considerable detail.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

Some form of Chromodoris....

Friday Hope Blogging

David Roberts makes a point that can't be made often enough:

Far-right conservatives are fond of claiming that environmentalists use global warming as a cover for their true intent: fight progress! Reverse civilization! Leave us all shivering in a dark room….

That is, of course, exactly wrong. It is the dinosaur companies blocking progress and innovation….It's the little people -- average citizens, small companies, entrepreneurs -- who are trying to free our sclerotic system from the dinosaurs' grasp and kickstart a wave of 21st century innovation.
The funny thing is, this struggle often benefits the very people who stand in its way:
[W]hen engineers at Cummins, a diesel engine maker, first saw the suggested new federal clean-air standards for their engines in the early 1990s, they argued that the standards would be impossible to meet. After the standards became official in 2000, Cummins sued....

But in October, when the Environmental Protection Agency needed a place to trumpet the success of the standards, it came here, to Cummins’s headquarters. A day after the E.P.A. event, Cummins followed with more good news, announcing that it would invest $250 million to revive a partly idled plant and hire 600 workers to build state-of-the-art light duty diesel engines.
Sometimes, though, the best way to make progress is to go backwards:
The energy-efficient building of the future was constructed 500 years ago, according to a survey published yesterday which suggests the Tudors could have shown New Labour how to save money - and carbon emissions….Tudor properties, with their oak beams plus wattle and daub infills, leaked 10 cubic metres of warm air an hour for every square metre of wall against 15.1 for a mock-Tudor home built in the 1960s.
The houses of 500 years ago didn’t have flush toilets, of course. But perhaps the houses of the future won't, either:
From the land that gave the world the high tech toilet comes the latest state-of-the-art cistern - the biotoilet, Shukan Bunshun (11/9) says, adding that the waterless water closet has the potential to save trillions of yen….

[T]he toilet is "flushed" by turning a handle that breaks down the business and mixes it together with the sawdust. After a few twists, the mixture is so well blended there's no sign of any foreign objects having been dropped at all -- even toilet paper!
Speaking of which, the New York Times discusses the appalling amount of death and suffering resulting from a worldwide lack of toilets, and also mentions a few success stories:
In India, a private group called Sulabh has built thousands of public toilets and more than a million private latrines that cost as little as $10 each in more than 1,000 cities nationwide. The local authorities pay to build the public toilets, but user fees cover the costs of running them. The fee is about 2 cents, with free access for children, the disabled and the destitute.
Some things, thank heavens, are fine as they are. For instance, studies show that traditional books provide more benefits to children than digital formats:
Parents and pre-school children have a more positive interaction when sharing a reading experience with a traditional book as opposed to an electronic book or e-book, according researchers at Temple University's Infant Laboratory and Erikson Institute in Chicago. This shared positive experience from traditional books characteristically promotes early literacy skills.
In other news, Salt Lake City is requiring LEED certification for new state buildings:
Developers funded by city money will be required to erect buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program, city council members decided unanimously on Tuesday.
Researchers are trying to use wave energy to power desalinization:
Ocean waves could provide an energy-efficient way to desalinate seawater, say UK researchers. While conventional purification plants have high energy demands, the rocking motion of floating buoys could be used to drive a pump system for desalination.
There’s also word of an interesting new approach to removing arsenic from drinking water:
In this case, the researchers made crystals of a rustlike mineral called magnetite. They found that when the crystals were smaller than 40 nanometers wide, they were much more sensitive to low-strength magnetic fields than would have been expected based on the behavior of larger particles.

At 12 nanometers wide, the researchers found, the magnetite particles could bind up to 100 times as much arsenic as the larger iron particles currently used in filters, yet still be extracted from test liquids with inexpensive magnets that are widely used as computer components.
Assuming the system works, it’ll cost about two cents per day for a family of four.

A Canadian man has invented a home sanitizing system using ozonated water:
Using an electrical charge to infuse tap water with ozone, the system acts as a natural powerful sanitizer and removes the need for chemical use in the home.
I have no idea how much electricity this thing uses, but the idea of a solar-powered version is certainly attractive. There's also word of a water-powered battery:
According to Suzuki, the water-based batts can be stored far longer than traditional batteries without degrading and also could cost about 1/10th the price of a normal battery if mass produced, all while still providing the same amount of juice as a standard manganese dioxide battery -- not to mention being less hazardous to the environment when disposed of.
Make of that what you will.

Unless you were wise enough to pour wax into your ears late Tuesday night, you're probably very tired of hearing the media's unceasing demands for civility and centrism. My advice is to fire up the Captain Haddock Insult Generator, and tell those Bashi-bazouks how you feel! (More here.)

The Victoria and Albert Museum has an exhibition of twilight photography. I think I like the series by Boris Mikhailov best.

If you're looking for a soundtrack while you browse, I suggest One-Minute Vacation, or maybe Sounds of Magma-Induced Earthquakes Below Volcanoes (especially this one.) Failing that, go to the Free Sound Project and choose your own.

(Photo at top by Stevacek.)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Crazy People

I know of no better way to celebrate this crushing defeat for Bushism - nor to emphasize how much more crushing that defeat should've been - than to take a look at the mental-health situation in what's left of New Orleans.

Because of the storm damage, only two of New Orleans' 11 hospitals are fully functioning. What's more, one of the closed facilities is the sprawling Charity Hospital, which police officers had relied on to drop off people at any hour.
With this facility closed, the police are locking the mentally ill in jail cells:
Without Charity Hospital, police can book a psychiatric suspect into Orleans Parish Prison. While it keeps someone who is potentially harmful to themselves or others off the street, it doesn't guarantee they'll get the proper treatment.
Society has a collective interest in making sure that the mentally ill have access to medications, and that professionals are available to help them with dosage and so forth. It's civilized, for one thing, and we do like to flatter ourselves that we're the standardbearers for civilization (even if we're not always sure what civilization is, beyond sparing ourselves the sight of distressing things with which we're secretly fascinated).

And even if you're the kind of smug, insular dingbat who thinks that because a little self-interest is healthy, a robotic fixation on it will make you well-nigh invulnerable, it's wise to realize that a psychotic who's been denied anti-psychotic meds can affect your life in very uncomfortable ways. (That said, the fact remains that the mentally ill are more likely to be murdered, or kill themselves, than to harm anyone else.)

Anyway, I don't think it'll shock anyone if I point out that the sort of people who insist that the mentally ill be held responsible for their actions tend to go very far out of their way to dodge responsibility for the results of their own disordered thinking. If a woman drowns her three children, she's a monster who must be punished. But the politicians whose so-called principles deny people like her medication and counseling remain respectable members of society no matter how many corpses can be piled at their feet.

(Photo by Dan Burkholder.)

Going Soft

Sensible political analysis is hard to come by in this country at any time, and anything that changes the status quo tends to leave mainstream commentators rolling on the floor and speaking in tongues. Still, most journalists do understand that the unprecedented trouncing of the swaggering faux-cowboy Richard Pombo by an eggheaded wind-energy consultant indicates that as far as energy and environmental issues are concerned, the former things are passed away.

Pombo tends to get lumped in with the "Sagebrush Rebellion," a term appropriated by Joseph Coors, and made holy by Ronald Reagan, in order to put an exquisitely thin populist veneer on the same old corporatist sociopathy that inspired Teddy Roosevelt to say that "every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it."

Being as Pombo's hysterical anti-environmentalism was the alpha and omega of his political philosophy, it'd be reasonable to see his defeat as at least a partial rejection of that philosophy. But Iain Murray won't have it like that. For him, the lesson of 2006 is that "going soft on the environment didn't pay":

In our press release on the election results, CEI points out that most of the Republicans who lost their House seats had embraced environmental causes, to the extent of even getting endorsements from the League of Conservation Voters. Yet no money or help came with those endorsements, surprise, surprise.
No money or help, eh? In the first place, most candidates consider endorsements from high-profile groups like the LCV to be quite helpful, which is why they feature them prominently in ads and on their websites. As for money, my first halfhearted search turned up an LCV donation to Lincoln Chafee. Also, the LCV endorsement page includes a "contribute" link to every endorsed candidate. More to the point, of the 15 congressional Republicans endorsed by LCV, 10 won re-election. By contrast, almost every member of LCV's "Dirty Dozen" was thrown out of office.

But as Ronald Reagan famously said, "Facts are stupid things." Here's hoping that the GOP will follow Murray's thoughtful prescription, and get even tougher on the environment in '08. I'm telling ya, it can't lose!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Left-wing melancholics like myself don't do political elation very well. This morning I woke up thinking gloomily about how dangerous the situation remains in this country, and how much hard work it’ll take to set things right.

That said, I’m pretty goddamn elated. Richard Pombo is gone, for one thing. As I mentioned before, this was a race I felt very strongly about. Unseating that repellent waste of skin was not just a political victory, but an aesthetic one. When I say that I hope the remainder of his dreams go unfulfilled, I'm really just saying that I hope humanity has a future.

I’m also very happy about the failure of California’s Proposition 90, which was a catastrophically corrupt attempt to elevate property rights over…well, pretty much everything. It’ll be back, in one form or another, but I tend to think the political climate will be even more hostile next time to this sort of addled extremism.

Speaking of extremism, Arizona’s refusal to ban gay marriage, the overturn of South Dakota’s abortion ban, and the ousting of the reptilian Phill Kline are astonishing defeats for misogyny, bigotry, and cynicism in places where many of us didn’t expect to see them. (California’santi- abortion bill lost handily as well, though that outcome was never really in doubt.)

Plus, the election coincided with Echidne’s three-year anniversary. She’s one of my favorite bloggers and people, and a daily inspiration to me.

So all in all, I’m happy. We made it to the foot of the mountain. Now, we just have to start climbing.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Solar Shockwaves

Heliotown has an incredible binaural recording of the radio emissions from a solar flare:

There was a C8.8 solar X-ray flare today that caused moderate to strong Type II bursting from 1740 to 1749 UT. This flare event is still being analyzed as I write. Below is an audio file recorded in stereo of the strongest part of this solar shockwave event that occurred between 1744 UT and 1748 UT. Recorded at 18.7 MHz one one channel and 22.2 MHz on the other channel. This was a particulary fast Type II radio burst event recorded traveling from the Sun at 2230 kilometres per second! It sounds like a freight train rolling through.
Check out their other audio links, too, which include the burning of Zozobra and the insertion of a leap second in the WWV UTC broadcasts. (Site recordist Thomas Ashcraft and I were obviously separated at birth.)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Nudibranch Blogging: Maxx Edition

This is Chromodoris decora. It's dedicated to Maxx:

For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.

(Photo by Jun Imamoto.)

Friday Hope Blogging

It's Friday already? Sheesh. Well, I'll be hopeful, I suppose...but I won't enjoy it.

A solar vaccine refrigerator keeps vaccines viable even in regions without electricity. You can watch a video here.

WorldChanging discusses some of the things that have been accomplished in poor communities thanks to complementary currencies.

Over the past 10 years, more than 5,300 Chicago school children from impoverished neighborhoods have tutored their peers and earned free computers for their homes. Five parks in Calgary, Canada, have become pesticide free, and a formerly homeless 70-year-old woman in Madison, Wisconsin, received free crochet lessons in exchange for cooking and cleaning for neighbors. All three of these community success stories can be attributed to a single trend: “complementary currency” programs.
WC also has a fine article on biomimetic wave power. One turbine design is based on kelp fronds, while the other mimics shark tails.
Both designs are meant to oscillate back and forth in ocean currents rather than rotating like a turbine, and they use a proprietary drivetrain to convert that low-speed high-torque oscillation into high-speed low-torque rotation of a permanent magnet motor.

A company in Coventry claims to have built a battery-powered van that can travel 100 miles on a single charge, at speeeds of up to 50mph. We shall see. Possibly.

Illinois has mandated e-waste recycling for all state government offices. There's hope that this will fit into a regional policy framework that'll make manufacturers responsible for e-waste collection and processing.

It looks as though people aren't listening to the Denial Industry, whether the issue is the reality of climate, or the economics of fighting climate chage:
According to a recent MIT survey, Americans now rank climate change as the country's most pressing environmental problem--a dramatic shift from three years ago, when they ranked climate change sixth out of 10 environmental concerns.

Almost three-quarters of the respondents felt the government should do more to deal with global warming, and individuals were willing to spend their own money to help.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Corporation Commission has voted to "expand the state's renewable energy standard to 15% by 2025, with 30% of that to come from distributed generation technologies."

Via Inhabitat, a new power cord teaches consumers about energy use:
While most powercords are utilitarian (and in general, rather ugly), Static!’s aesthetic solution brings the issue of energy consumption literally, to light, urging users to be aware of and reflect upon the energy efficiency of electrical devices in their home. Just how does it work? Electroluminescent wires embedded in the cord produce varying patterns of glowing and pulsating colors to indicate the level of energy being used at a given time.

The photo at the top comes from a short but lovely Flickr set by Standers. And Esprit de Sel has a great set entitled Tourisme Souterrain, which goes nicely with these bat detector recordings. Or this one.

Also, check out these astonishing examples of long exposure photography from Aumbody Images and Mystery Me.

Last (via Coudal), Blossfeldt Fractals, which I hereby dedicate to an exceedingly sweet young woman in London.

Strong Language

Having hewn his way to the dark heart of the Internets, Colin Rule has issued a traveler’s advisory: Here be strong language.

His conclusion:

We're going to have a long row to hoe to restore any semblance of civil political dialogue in this country any time soon.
The word “restore” is as odd in this context as “semblance” is revealing.

In 1956 – a golden year for decorum and propriety, or so I’m told - Senator James O. Eastland publicly announced his distaste for “black, slimy, juicy, unbearably stinking niggers.” That’s fairly strong language right there, and while a few shrinking violets may be gratified that Eastland was too much of a gentleman to say “unbearably stinking fucking niggers,” it’d be pretty hard to make the claim that our political dialogue has become less civil than it was in Eastland’s day. By the same token, it’d be hard to argue that Eastland’s views would’ve been more palatable if he’d expressed them in politely coded language (as his protégés do today).

I usually leave the civility beat to Thers, partially because the man’s a drunken brute who guards his turf as jealously as a piss-spraying pit bull, and partially because the official and quasi-official control of language is his area of expertise. This time around, I’ll venture a few disorganized thoughts of my own (with the understanding that I'm not attacking Colin Rule, but using his warning about "strong language" as a jumping-off point).

A few years back I read that when voice recorders are retrieved from crashed planes, it very often happens that the pilot’s last words before impact are excised from the official transcript, because they’re along the lines of “Oh, fuck!” That phrase can’t do justice to a pilot’s feelings at that moment, any more than “I love you” could in a happier circumstance; there are things we simply can’t do with words, no matter how “strong” our language may be.

In his book Wartime, Paul Fussell devotes a chapter to the frequency, duration and intensity of military swearing. It’s pretty amusing, until you read the chapter entitled “The Real War Will Never Get in the Books," which describes how often soldiers in WWII were injured or killed when a friend's severed hand - or head, or penis - struck them at a high velocity.

Donald Rumsfeld might respond to a blow from a severed penis with “goodness gracious” (if he were on camera, at least), but I think most people would say something a bit more colorful. Still, even if they were to scream the most elaborate obscenities at the top of their lungs for days, the elemental horror of the experience – the real obscenity, that is – would remain unexpressed and inexpressible.

Which reminds me: I recently saw a picture of an Iraqi father cradling a dead child whose torso ended in a sopping confusion of shattered bone, flayed fat and dangling veins. I don’t know what it’s like to be him. I don’t want to know. For that matter – and this is the essential point – I don’t even want to know what it’s like to be me, and see this obscenity committed in my name. Even though my grasp of this man’s misery is infinitesimal, it feels like more than I can stand. I’d gladly forget all about it, except that I’d have to kill part of myself to do it.

In one of her essays, Marilynne Robinson mentions a new disease discovered by American doctors among slave women whose children had been taken from them and sold. It was apparently a sort of despondent, tearful malaise…exactly the sort of reaction you’d expect from a mother whose children had been taken from her and sold, in other words. But this obvious interpretation was impossible – for some people, at least – because it would’ve shifted the diagnosis of sickness from the grieving mother to the “dispassionate” observer of her grief.

It seems like the guardians of “civil discourse” are wondering in much the same way what strange new disease has infected their fellow citizens. It couldn’t possibly be that our horror and outrage is actually appropriate to our situation (or more appropriate than their reaction, at any rate). Our incivility must be due to a mysterious increase in partisanship, exacerbated by online anonymity. Whatever the cause, though, it's preventing us from soberly debating the really important questions (like whether invading Iraq was a bold, decisive move for which Bush deserves our admiration, or an honest mistake, based on the best possible motives, for which he deserves our respect).

I hasten to add that I’m talking about sincere civility police. I’m not talking about the sniggering bullies who laboriously goad people into defending themselves against insane slurs and then accuse them of having anger-management problems.

Nor the prissy sociopaths who pretend that polite language is more important than the urgency and accuracy of one's message (even though they’d elbow aside a dozen pregnant women if someone yelled “man the fucking lifeboats…the motherfucking ship is sinking!”).

Nor the appalling, dead-hearted cultists who claim that respect for the office of the president should protect a vicious halfwit like George W. Bush from “incivility,” while generations of competent and intelligent politicians remain fair game for the lurid abuse of every cryptofascist lickspittle from here to the Dry Tortugas.

Nor am I talking about a supreme asshole like Tacitus, who practices all these dark arts at once, and whose only saving grace is that his prose – which reads like Ayn Rand channeling Robert E. Howard while wasted on Romilar – is so soporific that most of his targets will nod off over some orphaned clause long before they manage to tease out the details of their trumped-up infractions against "civilized" discourse.

No, I’m just talking about the kind of people who, thanks to fear or self-interest, can’t accept that Bush's actions are heartbreaking, immoral and dangerous beyond all reckoning, and that the only really serious problem with "strong language" is that it isn't strong enough to bear witness to the full horror of the crimes that are being committed in our name.

It's no wonder our country needs civility so desperately. Without it, we might have to change.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Patriots and Tyrants

I'm busy and sick this week, so I haven't had much time or energy for blogging. Fortunately, the things I'd like to say are summed up nicely by The Rude Pundit. It's one of the best posts I've read in a long time.

If it doesn't make you angry enough, try this.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Once It's In, It's In

According to a Maryland court, once a woman has consented to sexual penetration, she's consented to seeing things through to the bitter end. As Jessica at Feministing puts it, "Once it's in, it's in." Here’s the logic:

[I]t was the act of penetration that was the essence of the crime of rape; after this initial infringement upon the responsible male's interest in a woman's sexual and reproductive functions, any further injury was considered to be less consequential.
Personally, I blame feminists. This sort of backlash was to be expected, considering that those bitches (no offense, ladies!) were so goddamn shrill in their weird insistence that they should be able to have sex without forfeiting their autonomy, their convictions, or their rights.

So that's that. Now, let’s turn to a happier subject: Modern dentistry, as depicted in a short humorous vignette entitled...
Open Wide for Chunky

INTERIOR: A dentist's office painted in horizontal purple and brown stripes, and hung with handsome prints from Hogarth's "The Progress of Cruelty." The DENTIST is poring over a well-thumbed folio edition of the Marquis Von Bayros when the PATIENT enters timidly and sits down in the chair.

DENTIST (wheeling 'round): You're ready for it, eh? Good. Open wide!

PATIENT: Please be gentle with me. It’s my first time.

DENTIST: Yeah, likely story. Now let me see you spread those gums. Wide! Wider!

PATIENT: Aaurhgh.

DENTIST: Excellent. You’ll find that prompt obedience is much less uncomfortable. Now, let’s see. Which tooth is it? You've seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all…

PATIENT: Ow. I own ting...

DENTIST: Shut up or I’ll give you something to complain about.


DENTIST (unctuously): Let’s have a little music, shall we? How about Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder? I find it deeply erotic.

PATIENT: Gah. Yuh colleetly issane!

DENTIST (gritting his teeth): Not your cup of tea, eh? I thought not. You don’t seem like the type who’d understand the…higher pleasures. It’s all about the body for you, isn’t it? Like a farm animal. A stinking, sweating, drooling, vicious…

PATIENT : Ow. Awk! Assa ong ooth.

DENTIST: Oh, now I'm doing it wrong, according to you. Did you treat your other dentists like this? I bet you didn’t. I bet you let them do whatever they wanted. I bet you loved it when they sank the

PATIENT (vehemently): Awk awk awk! Stah!

DENTIST: Stop? Not a chance, baby. If you didn’t want your teeth worked on, you shouldn’t have come into my office, sat down in this chair, and opened that big dripping mouth. Now you’re going to take it all, and like it.

The patient knees the dentist in the crotch, and kicks him in the face repeatedly as he rolls on the floor in agony.