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All your Klan robes are belong to us

[ 60 ] January 5, 2012 |

Well, this is mighty awkward:

A judge in South Carolina has declared a black church to be the lawful owner of a building that is home to a store that peddles Ku Klux Klan paraphernalia — although it isn’t quite clear if the ruling will impede the sale of the racist stuff anytime soon. 

The latest chapter in this long, weird and disturbing tale out of Laurens, S.C. — about an hour northwest of the capital city of Columbia — comes courtesy of Meg Kinnard of the Associated Press, who reports that Rev. David Kennedy and his New Beginnings church have been declared the rightful owners of an old theater building that houses the Redneck Shop, which trades in Klan robes, T-shirts with ethnic slurs and, according to its website, “bumperstickers, belts, mens and womens [sic] swimsuits, one or two piece, cotton or nylon flags, bird houses, and you name it…”

The bird houses, I should note, look pretty much like what you’d expect a birdhouse made by Klansmen to look like; alas, the site doesn’t tell us whether the birds who inhabit them are supplied with their own tiny robes and pamphlets detailing the international Papist-Zionist Conspiracy, nor do we learn whether they’re encouraged to cleanse the surrounding property of inferior avian species. The shop’s Wikipedia page — no shit, it exists — mentions as well that its owners sell posters of Warren Harding, of all people, who has long been rumored (however implausibly) to have been a member of the KKK. Sadly, the Redneck Shop lacks a website that might help us satisfy our great national craving for Warren Harding paraphernalia, but if you’re in the mood, I highly recommend my favorite picture of Harding, in which he displays an almost Nixonian sternness and seems to be on the verge of expressing a coherent idea of some kind or another.

Bachmann’s strengths are truly intangible!

[ 21 ] January 3, 2012 |

Oh, how we’re going to miss her.

She fails to mention, however, that Tim Tebow also believes the Obama administration is moving the nation toward a One World Currency. I’m pretty sure that’s what he was talking about during the Bears game a few weeks back.

The 53 percent, 1609 edition

[ 29 ] November 7, 2011 |

Whatever else might be said about Michele Bachmann’s invocation of 2 Thessalonians (“The Bloodening”), we ought to remember that Bachmann — as a devoted and serious pupil of American history — must also have known that she was offering a shout-out to Captain John Smith, the belligerent self-promoter who served for a brief moment as president of the local council of the Virginia Company from 1608-1609. Under Smith, the Jamestown settlers were obligated to follow Bachmann’s Biblically-inspired command to work or eat, with Smith himself explaining that “by the hazard and endeavors of some thirty or forty, this whole colony [of several hundred] had ever been fed.” In his Genreral History, Smith noted that while the Virginia colony possessed a handful of skilled laborers — and a few others who, though incapable, at least wanted to contribute — “all the rest were poor gentlemen, tradesmen, serving-men, libertines, and such like, ten times more fit to spoil a commonwealth, than either begin one, or but help to maintain one.” When his patience with the idlers expired, Smith had a public hissy fit, announcing his famous policy that “he that gathereth not every day as much as I do, the next day shall be set beyond the river, and be banished from the fort as a drone, till he amend his conditions or starve.”

It’s worth noting, I suppose, that Smith’s orders were conceived with idling gentlemen as much in mind as the scrofulous poor. It’s also worth noting that Smith’s efforts did little to alleviate the long-term Hobbesian conditions that prevailed in Virginia for years after he left the colony forever. But I think it’s even more interesting that in trying to inspire her fellow citizens to great feats of self-reliance, Bachmann — who presumably remains a somewhat viable Presidential candidate for a major political party — would turn to a slogan befitting an experimental, disorganized, resource-strapped, unskilled menagerie of landless gentlemen, unemployed soldiers and indentured servants living in a 17th century malarial swamp. And the Republicans criticize Obama for not being sufficiently optimistic?

The dumbest article on weight loss you’ll read this week

[ 66 ] October 20, 2011 |

Lindsay Beyerstein points us to this piece in which Slate managing editor Rachael Larimore announces to the world that she’s available to purchase your fradulent goods and services. The short version is that Larimore recently decided, in the name of shedding “10 to 12 pounds” for her 20th high school reunion, to submit herself to a demonstrably insane diet that requires its marks patients to bang human chorionic gonadotropin on a daily basis while hacking their caloric intake to .5 kcal/day — roughly one-quarter of what someone like Larimore should be consuming — for several weeks. For those keeping score at home, hCG is a hormone derived from the urine of pregnant women and is used in the treatment of infertility; during the 1950s, however, a physician in Rome (Albert Simeons) became convinced that it could be used to fool the bodies of obese young boys into mimicking the early stages of pregnancy. He developed a notion that hCG basically “freed up” adipose tissue so it could be burnt off, since (by his theory) the recipient’s body — believing itself to be pregnant — needed the energy to, say, develop a placenta. Undeterred by the batshittery of his theory, Simeons produced an entire weight-loss regimen based on it. The catch was that Simeons happened to combine the hCG “treatments” with a starvation-level diet, so the fact that his subjects lost weight was less than remarkable.

Paul noted a few months back that the diet is essentially indistinguishable from anorexia, but Larimore seems convinced that her behavior isn’t pathological or dangerous because her OB-GYN — whom she actually names in the article — tells her that it’s completely fine to live on two apples, a handful of vegetables, a bowl of spinach and a few slivers of “lean protein” each day, so long as your Bataan Death March diet is accompanied by subcutaneous injections of a hormone that has never been shown to provide any specific weight-loss benefit whatsoever.

The entire piece is a masterful defense of consumer gullibility and scientific illiteracy — indeed, it’s so poorly reasoned that I’m not even confident the Huffington Post would accept it. As Lindsay points out, Larimore simply doesn’t care that no scientific data exist to support the diet she’s undertaken; but her doctor (who is perfectly happy to separate Larimore from her “iPad money”) recommends it, so who is she to argue? After all, there are results to contend with! Specifically, Larimore congratulates herself for losing 18 pounds in 6 weeks — a pace that well exceeds all the clinical guidelines for weight loss, especially for someone who claims (as the author does) to be interested in shedding a dozen pounds at most.

So to sum up: Larimore embarked on a scientifically-baseless crash diet, lost an inadvisably-large amount of weight in a short period of time by creating enormous calorie deficits, and somehow emerged from the experience feeling “sane.” Never mind that someone could achieve the same results by eating 500 calories and reading nothing but Instapundit every day for six weeks. Though I suppose if presented with the option of reading Glenn Reynolds or shoving off-label hormone treatments into your arm, the choice is kind of a wash . . .

Welcome to our online winter jacket sale. We have a variety of toddler winter jackets, ladies winter jackets, biker clothing and womens motorcycle jackets.

The 53 Percent, Progressive Era Edition

[ 69 ] October 14, 2011 |

I work in a plumassier – that’s a fancy word for “sweatshop.” I spend fourteen hours a days willowing ostrich feathers so that rich women can wear attractive hats. Because they want to wear these hats, I am able to HAVE A JOB. I used to make 15 cents an hour, but now there are so many young girls in the business that I only make seven or eight cents. The boss tells us that we will soon be paid only five cents.

BUT I DO NOT COMPLAIN, because I am determined to WORK HARD FOR EVERYTHING I HAVE.

Also, my boss will fire or rape me if I complain.

BUT I AM NOT A VICTIM.

The girl who used to work next to me got tuberculosis from inhaling all the dust and fluff from the feathers. But she did not expect the GOVERNMENT to pay for her health care while she recovered. Instead, she went out and got a job SEWING SLIPPERS during the day while her son PICKS OVER THE SWEEPINGS FROM COFFEE WAREHOUSES. They are saving up with THEIR OWN MONEY so she can have BOTH OF HER LUNGS COLLAPSED. This will leave her permanently short of breath and dizzy, but she will continue to WORK because that is the AMERICAN DREAM.

WE CAN DO ANYTHING IF WE SET OUR HEARTS TO IT. WE ARE THE 53 PERCENT.

Sasquatch Isreal!

[ 17 ] October 11, 2011 |

Well, I’m convinced!

The vast Siberian tundra holds untold mysteries, from once-secret nuclear installations to alleged UFO crash sites. Now, a team of scientists say they are “95%” sure that Russia’s wintry expanse is home to the mythical yeti, otherwise known as the abominable snowman.

More than a dozen scientists and yeti enthusiasts flew in from Canada, Estonia, Sweden and the US to exchange findings with their Russian counterparts at a day-long conference in the town of Tashtagol, some 2,000 miles east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region. Locals there have reported an increase in sightings of a creature in recent years.

A two-day expedition to the region’s Azassky cave and Karatag peak over the weekend “collected irrefutable evidence” of the yeti’s existence there, the Kemerovo government claimed in a statement. “In one of the detected tracks, Russian scientist Anatoly Fokin noted several hairs that might belong to the yeti,” it added. Scientists also found footprints, a presumed bed and various other markers.

“Conference participants came to the conclusion that the artefacts found give 95% evidence of the habitation of the ‘snow man’ on Kemerovo region territory,” the statement said.

“I know they exist – I see them every day,” a conference participant, Robin Lynn, said by telephone from Kemerovo. She says she has a family of 10 yeti-like creatures living on her land in the US state of Michigan.

Great. So now the North American yeti — or skunk ape, or bigfoot, or whatever they are — are organizing themselves into militias, training for the inevitable cryptid-human apocalypse. We really took our eye off the ball with this whole business about terrorists and zombies and monkey-robot hybrids. Too late now, I suppose. Nice work, America.

On Columbus Day

[ 84 ] October 10, 2011 |

Look. Walter Russell Mead is correct to note that Columbus Day, at its origins, owes almost nothing to Christopher Columbus himself (though I’m modestly surprised that Mead didn’t use the occasion to show us how Columbus Day has everything to do with Al Gore being a fat hypocrite, or something.) Here, for example, is an interesting piece from 1913 that makes more or less the same point that Mead endorses, which is that Columbus Day was really intended to highlight the contributions of immigrants to the development of the United States. Among other things, we learn that Lithuanians are “born paraders” and that Bostonians were somehow able to overcome their hatred for the Chinese by awarding them the prize for best float in the 1912 pageant. So fine.

However, so long as dingbats like Glenn Reynolds continue citing Samuel Eliot Morison to defend Columbus against the suggestion that he was anything but an enlightened rationalist, it will continue to be worth pointing out that everyone hated Columbus. The men who worked for him wanted his head on a pike; his peers loathed him, his sponsors lost their trust in him, and his political superiors eventually arrested him and his two idiot brothers for being incompetent brutes. And that’s not even considering his reputation among the locals. He was a terrible geographer, picked a shitty location for the first Spanish town in Hispanola and watched as hurricanes leveled it twice by 1495 — which was just as well, since the soil in the area was completely unsuited to food production, and the farmers under Columbus’ harsh direction were unable to produce enough to keep their inhabitants from losing their minds with hunger. Always a religious zealot, Columbus grew increasingly so as Reiter’s syndrome enfeebled him at a relatively young age, wracking his body with arthritic pain and causing his genitals to howl with agony every time he had to take a leak. In the frothingly weird book of prophecies he published a few years before his death, he aimed to show how his efforts in the West Indies had set into motion three of the four essential preconditions for Christ’s return. And amid all of this, he spent his last days yammering to anyone who would listen that the Spanish crown had never really paid him appropriately for all his troubles — an argument that his family would carry on, to great public annoyance, for decades after he improved the world by taking leave of it.

Columbus wasn’t a misunderstood hero whose reputation needed a few centuries to season. He was properly regarded as a towering douchebag by the people who knew him best. So the hell with him. Immigrants everywhere — born paraders or not — should be embarrassed by the association.

“I’m caught in the middle of something”

[ 6 ] October 6, 2011 |

The Richard Nixon Death List grows

…and Dick Cheney’s black, mechanical heart continues to whir…

[ 7 ] September 26, 2011 |

The invention of Doritos coincides roughly with the mainstreaming of weed in American culture. Today, the nation says goodbye to the man who helped nourished stoners for a half century.

Charles Elmer Doolin, the creator of Cheetos, apparently died in 1959, so bloggers will have to mourn retroactively.

Today Mars is also a New Yorker, or something…

[ 24 ] September 11, 2011 |

At the risk of being insufficiently devotional today, I will note that this is totally bizarre.

Two aluminum shields were fashioned out metal that was salvaged from remnants of the fallen towers, and then dispatched to the Red Planet in 2003 on Spirit and Opportunity Rovers, according to a NASA press release. The shields, which are each embellished with an American flag, were designed to protect cables on the rovers’ rock abrasion tools, also known as RATs. . . .

The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on June 10, 2003, followed by Opportunity’s launch on July 7. In 2004, [Stephen] Gorevan told a New York Times reporter that the memorial had not been publicized at the time because it was intended to be a “quiet tribute.”

“Enough time has passed. We want the families to know,” he said.

And now, I suppose, they do.

 

Lincoln as GOP founder

[ 55 ] September 9, 2011 |

I see that Ed Morrissey is relying today on a strain of Althousian hyper-literalism* to prove that Barack Obama is an idiot or something because he described Abraham Lincoln as the “founder” of the Republican Party during last night’s speech.

Er, not quite. Lincoln wasn’t even the GOP’s first Presidential nominee; the first Republican nominee was John C. Fremont in 1856. As the Independence Hall Association recalls, the actual founders of the Republican Party are “Northern leaders such as Horace Greeley, Salmon Chase and Charles Sumner.” Lincoln joined early, as did other anti-slavery Whigs whose party was unraveling at the time, and Lincoln came in second for the 1856 vice-presidential nomination, but he was not a founder of the party.

True enough, so far as it goes, though my Republican friends on Facebook are going to be awfully disappointed to discover that they never received their invitations to all those Greeley Day dinners. The fact of the matter is that Republicans have — until, apparently, last night — always recognized Lincoln as the party’s fons et origo, whether or not he was the party’s first choice of nominees in 1856 (and whether or not he could ever have been nominated by his own party after, say, 1876). Republicans, for better or worse, haven’t given a shit about John Fremont or Salmon Chase since the days they were buried, and they surely haven’t claimed Charles Sumner as one of their own since the Republican-dominated Supreme Court overturned the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which Sumner co-authored and which every single contemporary Republican voter would regard as the spittle of madmen.

Moreover, Lincoln historians like Donald Fehrenbacher and Harold Holzer (among others) have also described Lincoln as the party’s “founder,” a title they bestow on him because it actually makes a substantial amount of sense. Since the formation of the Republican party was driven by a body of ideas about the status of the Kansas-Nebraska territories and not (as with the original two-party system) with the personalities of genuine “founding” figures like Hamilton or Jefferson, there’s no real point to scraping about for analogous characters that Obama may have overlooked. During the 1850s, the Republican organism was little more than an idiosyncratic coalition of state and regional parties united by an evolving recognition that the national Democratic party was little more than a vehicle for the interests of the Slave Power. Lincoln was a central actor in the emergence of Illinois’ Republican party, and to the degree that Illinois was a central actor in the larger national drama over the question of slavery in the territories, it’s no stretch to describe him as a founder. Moreover, if we consider Lincoln’s role as an intellectual figure within the party, there’s simply nothing — not even Seward’s “Irrepressible Conflict” speech — that rivals Lincoln’s debates with Douglas or his February 1860 speech at Cooper Union.

So was Obama thinking about any of this? Who the fuck knows? Probably not. But his description of Lincoln as the party’s founder is magnitudes less absurd than Ed Morrissey’s reaction to it.

 

* e.g., If one describes a political leader as “loudly trumpeting” an idea, one must also prove that the idea was broadcast using an actual trumpet.

Not that anyone will care, but . . .

[ 12 ] August 26, 2011 |

The real story behind the new Institute of Medicine report on vaccine-related adverse events isn’t — as many stories have highlighted — that evidence fails once again to support the MMR-autism link. Everyone with a grain of sense has understood this for years; the IOM itself published one of the definitive reports on vaccines and autism seven years ago, and the weight of evidence against the association has only grown heavier since then.

Rather, the most significant note to be made is that recent additions to the vaccination panic spectrum — including concerns that vaccines can cause asthma, Type I diabetes, and Bell’s palsy — are equally lacking in epidemiological and mechanistic support. Where the evidence does favor a causal link between vaccines and specific adversities, the events themselves are generally rare and transient. The more serious risks are borne by children with compromised immune systems or with underlying metabolic disorders (like Dravet syndrome); however, in these cases, it’s worth pointing out that the adverse events in question are almost always milder versions of the very complications that would result from exposure to the actual diseases. And with vaccination rates on a depressingly downward course in states like California — where “personal belief” exemptions allow parents to eschew entirely reasonable public health measures — vulnerable populations will be at much greater risk from the circulation of measles and pertussis than from the MMR and DTaP vaccines. But since Americans are generally inept at assessing risk, the case for tightening those exemptions is not likely to bear many results until we see some pretty massive body counts. Hooray!

Predictably, Orac has the best rundown on the report.

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