Daily digest 1

Some news of the day, in easy to swallow bites

A Supreme take on tolerance

One cool thing about retired justices of the Supreme Court is they tell us what they really think about things, like John Paul Stevens dropping his impartiality to talk about the community-center-with-a-mosque-near-ground-zero affair that we discussed back in August.

He said that a nation built by people who fled religious persecution “should understand why American Muslims should enjoy the freedom to build their places of worship wherever permitted by local zoning laws.”

(snip)

He called the [National Japanese American Memorial] “a powerful reminder of the fact that ignorance — that is to say, fear of the unknown — is the source of most invidious prejudice.”

Princess Leia inspires boy—to build hologram

Another cool thing—real holograms!

Worst thing about being president was name-calling?

Former President George W. Bush says the lowest point of his presidency was when Kanye West called him a racist over the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.  Really?  It wasn’t September 11, or not catching bin Laden, or the economic crash with the bankruptcies, foreclosures, debt, and job losses?  It wasn’t lying to start a war that’s cost thousands of American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, or Abu Ghraib?  Not even the fact you couldn’t help ease the very real suffering of those victims of Katrina?  (And why do you care what Kanye West thinks?  Are you really so self-absorbed that you think that’s the worst thing that happened during those eight years?  Really?)

A lot of that daily 200 mil is for Michelle’s hairdressers

You can say almost anything and be believed, if you’re careful who you speak to.  Citing only a report in one Indian newspaper, which cites only one unnamed source, the geniuses of the political right have been trumpeting their disgust about the “fact” that our government is going to spend $200 million a day on President Obama’s diplomatic trip to India, including sending 34 warships to sit security off the coast of Mumbai.  Yeah, more than the daily cost of the war in Afghanistan, or the full purchase price of the New Jersey Nets.  Talk about your willing suspension of disbelief…

We’ve also just learned that water is wet

No, really: they sequenced Ozzy Osbourne’s DNA and confirmed what had long been suspected: he’s a mutant.

Just the facts, ma’am

Wishing a thing to be true doesn’t make it true.  Despite what you hear about the president’s birthplace and religion.

We’ve talked about this before (here and here) but we need to keep pointing it out because it won’t go away all by itself: too many people today are willfully ignorant of verifiable truths that conflict with what they wish to be true (but isn’t).  I came across a wonderful column by Timothy Egan on this last week, important less for blaming perpetrators than for identifying why this hurts us:

It would be nice to dismiss the stupid things that Americans believe as harmless, the price of having such a large, messy democracy.

(snip)

But false belief in weapons of mass-destruction led the United States to a trillion-dollar war.  And trust in rising home value as a truism as reliable as a sunrise was a major contributor to the catastrophic collapse of the economy.  At its worst extreme, a culture of misinformation can produce something like Iran, which is run by a Holocaust denier.

It’s one thing to forget the past, with predictable consequences, as the favorite aphorism goes.  But what about those who refuse to comprehend the present?

They waste a lot of time and karmic energy, for starters.

Last week I received a chain e-mail in which the original author complains that Christians and Jews are discriminated against in the new health care insurance law, which itself marks the establishment of a system, called dhimmitude, by which the Muslims who have conquered this country through jihad will collect a tax from non-Muslims and permit us to continue to live here.

Seriously.  That’s what it says.

The writer (not the forwarder) laments that he, a Christian, will face “crippling IRS liens” on his assets and jail time when—not if—he refuses to buy health insurance or pay the penalty for not buying it, while Louis Farrakhan (a random example, surely) not only won’t face penalties, he’ll have “100% of his health needs paid for” by government insurance.  And to prove it all, he directs you to page 107 of the new health care insurance law where the word “dhimmitude” appears.

Except that it doesn’t, of course; it doesn’t appear in any of the pages of the new health care insurance law.  Nor does any jail time penalty for violators of the law.  Because this chain e-mail is a product of the south end of a northbound bull.

I checked what Snopes.com had to say and found that religious groups with an IRS exemption from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes on First Amendment grounds (and which, as a result, don’t receive benefits from either of those programs) could be exempt from the requirements of the new health care insurance law.  The entry at FactCheck.org agrees, and provides the link to the government data which makes clear that no Muslims are among the groups now exempt from Social Security and Medicare, and thus would not be exempt from the new health care insurance law.

So, in four minutes I learned that (1) Muslims are not exempt from the requirement to buy health insurance, but Amish and Mennonites and others could be (I did not know that), and (2) dhimmitude isn’t really a tenet of Islam, but an “academic concept” proposed by a writer with anti-Islam ties (fourth paragraph under Full Answer).  What I couldn’t find an answer to is, did anyone really believe that the word “dhimmitude” was right there on page 107 of the new health care insurance law, so anyone who read it would know what the conquering jihadists were doing?

Almost nothing in the chain e-mail was accurate, yet thousands of people are all worked up.  Over nothing.  At least, nothing factual from the chain e-mail, except perhaps that the Amish can opt out of Social Security.  Dang ol’ Amish get all the breaks.