Monday Meanderings: Coulter Smackdown, Dr. Oz, Abortion Police, and more

We woke up to six inches of snow that had fallen overnight, so I’m delaying the drive into work until the sun comes up and raises the temperature a bit.

In the meantime, I’m clicking through my blogroll.

David Gorski over at Science-Based Medicine takes on Ann Coulter’s radiation “vaccine.” It is an excellent and informative post, and he links to a handy-dandy radiation chart at xkcd which should help put some minds at ease.

The reason for my sarcastic characterization of Coulter’s scientific nonsense is because her article uses many of the same tactics as any denialist. Chief among these is that Coulter takes the germ of a scientific controversy and then uses it to try to imply that the scientific consensus is fatally flawed. In this case, the scientific controversy is over how dangerous low level exposure to radiation is used to imply that the radiation from a nuclear disaster is not potentially harmful.

Every time someone mentions Dr. Oz to me, I cringe. This is why:

Or, one could say that there are times when Dr. Oz’s knowledge isn’t equal with that of skeptics who actually pay attention to these things. Otherwise he wouldn’t be so amazed by Edward’s transparent schtick. But he is, and once again he uses the argument from incredulity. Worse, he uses his position as a physician to create a false argument from authority. Just because he can’t imagine a scientific explanation for what John Edward does, Oz assumes that there isn’t one, and most of his audience accepts his authority as a surgeon as being reason enough to accept his assertion that science can’t explain Edward:

But I can’t make up an explanation for what John Edward does. And, again, what was most eerie was his level of detail, the concreteness of it all.

Which is, of course, what psychic mediums do. It’s what they do and have done for hundreds of years, if not longer. It’s not for nothing that John Rennie characterized Oz as the “great and gullible.” Dr. Oz was gullible when it came to faith healing and quackery, and he surpasses himself in gullibility in his treatment of John Edward and psychic mediums. What they do and how they do it are not mysteries to, for example, James Randi or Joe Nickell, who quite properly described Edward as “hustling the bereaved.”

For more on cold reading, see my recent post, Sunday Morning Video: “But, the psychic knew things no one else could know!”

PZ Myers on the Republican abortion police:

Why are they doing this? Because they are spoiled children who refuse to think that a few pennies from their pocket might end up helping some horrible woman who got pregnant.

Desert Beacon explains: H.R. 3: The More You Look The Worse It Gets

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I posted this on my FB wall when Greenwald first posted it: Libya and the familiar patterns of war

All that said, it is striking how wars — no matter how they’re packaged — ultimately breed the same patterns.  With public opinion split or even against the war in Libya (at least for now) — and with questions naturally arising about why we’re intervening here to stop the violence but ignoring the growing violence from our good friends in Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere — the administration obviously knows that some good, old-fashioned fear-mongering and unique demonization (Gadaffi is a Terrorist with “deadly mustard gas”who might attack us!!) can only help.  Then there’s the fact that the same faction of war-loving-from-a-safe-distance “hawks” that took the lead in cheering for the attack on Iraq — neoconson the Right and their “liberal interventionist” counterparts in The New Republic/Brookings/Democratic Party officialdom world — are playing the same role here.  And many of the same manipulative rhetorical tactics are now wielded against war opponents:  the Libyan rebels are the new Kurds (they want us to act to protect them!), and just as those who opposed the attack on Iraq were routinely accused of indifference toward if not support for Saddam’s tyranny, those who oppose this intervention are now accused of indifference to Gadaffi’s butchery (as always:  are those refraining from advocating for military intervention in Yemen or Saudi Arabia or Bahrain or the Sudan or dozens of other places indifferent to the violence and other forms of suffering there?).

Finally, Gaius on our warrior culture.

The prestige of soldiers goes hand in hand, as the propagandists of NRO well know, with the prestige of war.

Together, these have led us in a little over 200 years from a struggling birth to being the world’s unique hyper-puissance, spending all on our own almost as much on military power as the whole rest of humanity, combined, in support of a global military presence and of wars fought in regular sequence as far as half a world away.

Is that what we want?

If not, then with all due respect for the remarkable Senator Webb, I must say we can no longer afford the customary American admiration for martial virtue.

[ . . .]

The American love of war, victory, and soldierly virtue has made us what we are, today.

Like it or not.