Reasonable Nuts

Sometimes nuts. Always reasonable. We are REASONABLE NUTS.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Reasonable tip of the day

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Atlas Clucked

A little something posted on this Objectivist forum. If the old lady were alive to read this, she either would've (A) Thrown a fit and permanently divorced you from her philosophy, or (B) Laugh at a joke for the first time in her life.

The Semi and the Butcher

An Essay by AYN RAND

If you have ever asked the question "Why did the chicken cross the road?" it is you to whom I write. Is is you who for centuries have held that chickens are either food on your plate, or vermon on the road, giving them no alterative with which to live a life consistent with their values.

Throughout history there have been two kinds of chickens which have come into power whenever society abandon reason-- The Butcher, and The Semi. The Butcher succeeds by the very virtue of those they enslave, by decieving chickens into believing that they are fulfilling their "Destiny" or entering "Nirvana," by sacrificing themselves for "The Chicken Coup." Under The Butcher, the chickens offer themselves to slaughter. But The Butcher ultimately must rely upon The Semi for survival, an agent of fear and muscle with which to dominate those who reject the creed of self-sacrifice. The Semi survives by running straight over any chickens in its path. But The Semi is also dependent on The Butcher for justification of its slaughter.

In either case, the historical product is the mass slaughter of innocent chickens. The Semi which does not regard the values of the lives of the chickens runs right over them, and The Butcher which does not regard the value of the life of the individual chicken leads them to mass extermination for the Whole. These two alteratives are manifestations of the same false ideology-- the lack of recognition for the rights of the individual chicken.

But politics is always a compliment to culture. When you hear the phrase "Why did the chicken cross the road?" -- this is your cue to run. The chicken who says this gives up his ability to think, leaving the world to the Semi's and Butchers. He comes in many forms, passivism-- giving up the world to The Semi's as the Butcher, or aggression-- giving up the world to the Butchers as a Semi. Each false alternative is a manifestation of the same deliberate attack on the chicken's rational faculty.

Why did the chicken cross the road? The question is impossible to answer--we are given no information as to which chicken and which road. We are given only two abstractions without context.. The question itself implies either rationalism, that knowledge is not based in reality-- or empiricism-- that knowledge bears no relation to how chicken's think. the question is a society-wide symbol of epistemological disintegration. Its cultural / linguistic function is to compliment The Butchers and The Semi's, by severing the chicken's mind from reality and leaving him to wallow in what he cannot know. Only by rejecting the question altogether, and its poltical implications, can chickens be saved from mass extermination.

George Mason, unalienable rights nut

Radley Balko has a great piece on George Mason the man and his eponymous University.The salient chunk:
Mason was never president. Nor did he sign the Constitution. But he was enormously influential in helping craft it. In fact, George Mason was probably early America's most eloquent defender of individual liberty. Principled and uncompromising, Mason was a man who loathed politics but understood the urgency of the times in which he lived, and engaged in politics to help ensure his new country put a premium on freedom.

Mason was an unabashed radical, perhaps the foremost defender of individual rights, localism, and critic of government among an already radical group of founding fathers, including Madison, Jefferson, and Paine.

While helping craft the Virginia state constitution in June 1776, Mason single-handedly wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the first universal declaration of individual rights in the colonies. It was Mason's belief, influenced by John Locke, that certain rights were unalienable, and so fundamental to a free society they should be expressly guaranteed in a state's governing document.

It was a principle that would later be tested, and would pit Mason against the more recognizable names in the American founding.

That happened in 1787, when Mason served as a Virginia delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Held in eminent esteem by his fellow delegates, Mason played a critical role in drafting key parts of the U.S. Constitution. But he ultimately couldn't bring himself to sign it.

One of Mason's concerns was slavery. Though he was a man of the south, born into a slave-holding family, and himself a slave owner, Mason loathed the institution, and recognized the absurdity of a country founded on individual rights giving a de facto imprimatur to slavery in its founding and governing document.

Mason recognized the economic necessity of slavery, at least in the short term, but held hope that the practice could be abolished as soon as was feasible. The infamous three-fifths compromise reached by the delegates in Philadelphia left Mason bitter and disappointed. It remains a glaring blemish on an otherwise exquisite document. Had Mason's peers heeded his advice, America may well have been spared the bloodshed and anguish of the Civil War.

Mason's most adamant objection to the U.S. Constitution was its lack of an enumeration of rights similar to the list he'd written for Virginia. He fiercely advocated for the inclusion of such a list, but was badly outnumbered.

Some delegates felt a "Bill of Rights" was unnecessary. Others, like James Madison, feared that the enumeration of some rights might be interpreted by future generations to exclude rights not mentioned (in retrospect, both Madison and Mason were probably correct).

In the end, the Constitution was ratified without a Bill of Rights. George Mason not only declined to sign the document, he actively campaigned against its ratification, souring his relationship with the men he'd stood with through the revolution, including Washington, Madison and Jefferson.

Mason was vindicated in 1791, when the country amended the Constitution to include the Bill of Rights. Those ten amendments, authored by Madison, bore the unmistakable influence of Mason's own list from the Virginia constitution.

English-to-Farsi Online Dictionary

English:
BERLIN (Reuters) - Iran rejected on Thursday a U.N. Security Council demand that it halt uranium enrichment to reassure the world that its nuclear program is peaceful.
Farsi translation: here.

Life Lessons

This is perhaps the most entertaining thing to ever come out of The Learning Channel.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The reasonable faith of Islam

I have many problems with Islam as a reasonable faith, but most of all is this notion that one who abandons that faith should be killed, his family killed, anyone who aids him, killed. This sort of thing belies a worldview which cannot stand the light of the free market of ideas.

Some would (clumsily) counter that this sort of thing happened in the Spanish Inquisition period - notably to Jews who did not convert to Christianity. Apart from the actual merits of that argument, let's just take the simple fact that it is 500 years later! It's 2006, for God's sake (Allah's, too).
Muslim clerics in Afghanistan condemned Rahman's release, saying it was a "betrayal of Islam," and threatened to incite violent protests.

Some 500 Muslim leaders, students and others gathered Wednesday in a mosque in southern Qalat town and criticized the government for releasing Rahman, said Abdulrahman Jan, the top cleric in Zabul province.

He said the government should either force Rahman to convert back to Islam or kill him.

"This is a terrible thing and a major shame for Afghanistan," he said.

Narcissistic way to feel good #34: adopt a child!

Jessica Simpson would appear to be interested in adopting a child or children. Not really newsworthy a story is this. On the cultural angle, however - given she's going through a divorce currently, does this not smack of using a child to fulfill some longing? Why would a person divorce her spouse then adopt a child?

Ah, but there's this myth flying around (more like embedded into the foundation of the culture) that one parent - a parent who is especially cramped for time - is a reasonable, even preferable notion. If there were any doubt the 25 year old is not ready for adoption:
"I want to adopt, and I plan to adopt before I have my own kids...."
Memo to Ms. Simpson: You might consider getting your mind around the notion that in order for your adoptive kids to really get on in life, you'll have to stop referring to "my own kids" in public or elsewhere.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

How could it happen?

It is always a bit ticklish confronting Germans with their past. You ask them why it happened. You ask whether they supported it. Why they didn't rebel against it? How could millions of people not see that they were wrong?
Read on...

HD-PCP

Here's precisely why I will not be buying into the next generation of DVD technology anytime soon. Well, that and the fact that between work, having a kid, and remodeling a house, who has time to watch DVDs? And one more thing - I don't have a TV that can display the resolution of current DVDs! In the vein of my last post, does someone want to buy me a nice large widescreen plasma display?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Good luck (you'll need it)

The following blurb is oh, so sad.
OTTAWA (Reuters) - A bored Canadian bureaucrat fed up with office drudgery is seeking C$1 million ($860,000) in donations so he can quit his job and "do something that makes a difference in my life and the lives of others."
On the surface, it sounds noble really, right? Wrong.

Firstly, each of us can "do something that makes a difference" each and every moment of every day. It is a choice to remain inert. Money will not change this.

Secondly, if a man wishes to raise the capital to move himself out of a career and into another - or out of all such financially remunerating careers - he can and should do so on his own, through the talents, skills, and diligence he has at his disposal. Having others provide largesse will not teach a man what he needs to learn in order to manage his life in profitable ways.

Thirdly, woe to his current employer. No one is ordering the man to work by force, even in near-socialist Canada. Were I his employer, I'd fire him posthaste. Who wants such dead weight on his staff?

Additionally, a job is to some of us a blessing. It's hard to see this when the boss is again doing "her thing" (whatever yours' is), but overall, a job is a blessing.
"Retirement will free up my time for volunteer activities such as tutoring children and counseling people who are going through rough patches in their life. On a daily basis I will be a much more pleasant person to be around," he adds.
Noble goal, buddy. Now work your ass off and save your income so you can make it happen. Oh, and do try to be a "pleasant person" along the way. No one's going to buy your "I don't have enough money to be pleasant" angle.

Not to worry; it would seem most of us are smart enough to deny the man his ill-won gains:
As of Wednesday morning, five sympathetic souls had sent in a total of just C$59.26.
What do you want to bet that whenever this fellow is "retired" he is not "tutoring children and counseling people..."?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A good day to be a Patriot

You don't often find me mentioning my alma mater, George Mason University, but today you certainly do, what with their 86-84 overtime win over UConn, taking them to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.

As a freshman, I recall them making it into the "Final Sixty-Four" and being summarily dismissed by Indiana, 95-69 or so.

Congratulations Patriots everywhere!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Yet another disembodied head

What is it with disembodied heads on this website?Yesterday, it was that of Philip K. Dick and today it is that of the Real Genius himself, Val Kilmer. It would seem Kilmer's mug has been showing up as a form of grafiti art in cities such as Toronto.

"Totally screwed"

Harry Shearer, excellent in many comedic roles throughout the last couple decades, is nonetheless a poster child for Hollywood having gone to one's head.
Shearer, who voices "Simpsons" characters Mr. Burns, Smithers and Ned Flanders, said this week that he believes the show has run its course and that he'd "rather not be there now.

"It makes me sad," Shearer told the Irish Examiner.

His remarks seem to have set a fire on this side of the Atlantic.

"I don't know why I have to defend the quality of the show to Harry Shearer . . . He's a guy who's been a malcontent, in my view," Al Jean, "The Simpsons" long-time producer, told The New York Post yesterday. "For someone earning millions off the show this year . . . I just think it's unfathomable for him to take a shot at us."
Shearer thinks he's getting "totally screwed":
"What I can say is that it's possible to make a very nice living and still get totally screwed."
How much a nice living?
Shearer and his co-stars reportedly pull down over $250,000 an episode.
We should all be so fortunate to be thusly "totally screwed".

Pacifist Shmasifist!

They are lurking.

Note to self: move slowly away from the man in the interesting hats

Yet another reason a democracy is not necessarily a great thing:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi lectured a U.S. audience on democracy on Thursday and said Libya is the only real democracy in the world.
Even if Libya were not the dictatorship it really is, touting democracy as the end-all be-all of governmental associations is not reasonable. I wrote something about this earlier, in regard to the Hamas win of the Palestinian elections.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The head of Philip K. Dick

This is a story stranger than fiction. Personally, I think it was taken off the plane and into the future, in the vein of the campy movie Millennium, for a purpose that can only be imagined in the head of Philip K. Dick.

A simple question

I was left with a simple question last evening, while procuring dinner for myself and my lovely wife. "Is it more reasonable to think that the universe arose from nothing or that it was created in some manner by an intelligence, a God?"

I think most a-theists these days are less non-theists than they are non-any-God-you've-put-before-me-ists. Seperate the issues, I say - that is, take away all personal experience of religions and all knowledge of man's silliness (read: moral depravity) therein and instead consider the question above seperately. Just take the simple question on its surface, without the underlying histories.

On some level, I wonder if this is not what brought Antony Flew to accept a deist's view of the universe.

Editor's note: check out The Skeptical Christian. A skeptical Christian is at least one way I'd term myself; skeptical not of Christ, but of Christianity, for certain.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Marion Barry's marionberries

Gadzooks! Perhpas former D.C. mayor Marion Barry's gasification machine actually works!
DynaMotive is bullish on the syngas route because the technology and infrastructure are well-established. Germany used gasification to convert coal into synthetic diesel fuel during World War II. And South Africa used synthetic fuels as a substitute for petroleum imports during Apartheid-era economic sanctions. Today, gasification is seen as a way to reduce pollution from coal, because the process removes much of the carbon dioxide and other pollutants, such as sulfur.

Last September, DynaMotive announced that researchers in Germany had succeeded in converting its bio-oil into syngas using existing gasification facilities.
Maybe the biomass used could be Marionberries?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The answer is "not nearly to this degree".

The question is:
When George W. Bush first came on the scene in 2000, did you understand him to be a liberal in terms of spending?
Such is how the inimitable Peggy Noonan begins her column at the Opinion Journal this week. She says pointedly,
... if I’d thought he was a man who could not imagine and had never absorbed the damage big spending does—I wouldn’t have voted for him.
Nor would I have. In fact, I did not vote for Bush the first go 'round in 2000, choosing instead Harry Browne. But in 2004, I did vote for Bush, as I deemed Kerry's losing the popular vote more important than sending my tiny message to Washington concerning fiscal restraint.

Oh how I hope the Republicans get their act together and nominate a fiscal heavyweight for chief executive the next go 'round. If not, I'll be searching elsewhere.

Geesh, even the Democrats are harping on the fiscal largesse of this administration.

"I'm a doctor, not an ..." (actor, apparently).

When he died, he was deemed too minor a star to be noted in the "in memoriam" moments of the next year's Oscar telecast.

Shocking figure or badge of honor?

Why is this?
"There's something very different happening with young black men, and it's something we can no longer ignore," said Ronald Mincy, professor of social work at Columbia and editor of a new book, "Black Males Left Behind."
This is a stultifying figure:
Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20s were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000.
As is this:
Incarceration rates climbed in the 1990s and reached historic highs in the last few years. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20s who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30s, 6 in 10 black men who dropped out of school have spent time in prison.

In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school.
Which means that in the inner city, at least 30% of black men, by their mid 30s, have been in prison. Is this a shocking figure or a badge of honor?

Reality vs. Scientology

from the Onion:
South Park vs. Scientology

Following the departure of Isaac Hayes last week, Comedy Central pulled an episode of South Park that lampooned Tom Cruise and Scientology. What do you think?

"Leave the Scientologists alone, already. Don't they have enough to worry about, what with the tyranny of the galactic God Xenu and his evil body thetans?" -- Stephen Grossman, Epidemiologist

"Comedy Central has already insulted Scientology with its glib representations of battling robots." -- Brianna Hodges, Industrial Engineer

"I'm with Isaac Hayes. Shows about testicles, talking feces, and starving Africans are one thing, but discussing Scientology is offensive." -- Jeremy Marshka, Mathematician
See the (hilarious) controversial episode for yourself. As one who's done some research into Scientology, I aver that all salient assertions made in the episode are reasonable (for whatever miniscule weight that adds to your viewing pleasure).

Does Scientology help some? Sure, in the same way that becoming a part of any movement or association can. This is alluded to in the episode. Humans are social creatures - made for relationship. We are also largely goal and / or purpose oriented. When our relationships are unfulfilling in important ways, and our lives seem without goals or purpose, it will be made manifest.

It has occurred to me many times that my friends who know me as a follower of Christ - and know that this decision occurred late in my 20s - might think of Christianity this way, as just one of those movements or associations that give people a sense of belonging and purpose - that Christianity is my Scientology.

All large-scale associations of humans have essential elements of truth to them; this has been my experience. But not all asociations are completely embracing of reality (that is, truth). In fact, few are, insofar as my reasonable experience. When making truth claims, and when these claims run counter to one another among associations, one must judge how such claims align with observable and inferable reality. There is only one best answer - not simply for me, but for all. That is, all such associations can be wrong in their interpretation of truth, but only one can be right. Reason tells the Reasonable Nut as much.

That doesn't mean Christianity is right. But it does mean it is "most right", given again, observable and inferable reality. This is a start. For me, whittling down the possible explanations for all of this to two: following Christ or following nothing (hence, me) allowed me to choose Christ.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Death Eternal Life Sentence

Please pray for this man, but pray moreso for his countrymen.

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan man is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death on a charge of converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under this country’s Islamic laws, a judge said Sunday.

The trial is believed to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over what shape Islam should take here four years after the ouster of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime.

The defendant, 41-yer-old Abdul Rahman, was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian, Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada told The Associated Press in an interview. Rahman was charged with rejecting Islam and his trial started Thursday.

During the one-day hearing, the defendant confessed that he converted from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, Mawlavezada said.

“We are not against any particular religion in the world. But in Afghanistan, this sort of thing is against the law,” the judge said. “It is an attack on Islam.”


Via the AP. Hat tip to LGF.

B for Bush-bashing?

Megan Basham has quite the screed against the film V for Vendetta. I'll leave it to you to gauge whether her points have merit. I am sympathetic to some, while not to others. The most interesting bit of her piece is however not related to her views, but those of the creator of the graphic novel:
Incidentally, after reading the script, creator of the V comic book, Alan Moore, insisted Warner Bros. remove his name from the project. He told MTV, "[My comic] has been turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country… [The film] is a thwarted and frustrated and largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values standing up against a state run by neo-conservatives — which is not what "V for Vendetta" [the comic] was about."
This is an interesting quote, as I have thus far understood Moore to be a leftist. Perhaps he is a leftist in the tradition of Orwell, a socialist who was no less able to criticize the excesses of socialism. It is more likely that this distancing from Hollywood is simply a repeat of earlier experiences Moore has had with the film industry.

B for Burger!



Via Glenn Beck

Sunday, March 19, 2006

"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."

I've been reading a great - profound - book, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb", Richard Rhodes excellent work, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and other awards. It's a history buff's and technoweenie's dream, replete with meaty morsels of technology, mathematics, chemistry, and of course, physics.

But what has struck me as most powerful in this historical tome is not the science, not the steps of logic, the leaps of faith, but the stories - the backstories, the metastories. The technology that led to the synthetic splitting of the atom was based on science and the science, on discoveries, and the discoveries, on the character and interpersonal dynamics of the scientists.

Most things I want to say have been said before far better by others. In this case, by Muriel Rukeyser:
"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Virginiana--3/18/2006: Hunters for the Hungry

It may be too late for International Eat a Tasty Animal for PETA Day, but for some, sharing the delicious sustenance of God's lesser creations is a year-long calling:

Virginiana - 3/17/2006: "Anti-Hillary" or Anti-Christ?!



If the space aliens trying to take over the United States are going to have any chance of success, they need to come up with much better human clones than their current prototype.

With teeth like that, he might me better off running for Prime Minister of Britain.

Via Richmond Times-Dispatch.

"...their pot will always call our kettle black."

VDH has a great point:
If American Rambos can keep alive Muslim jihadists, with their radically different customs, religion, languages, and diets, why cannot the more sensitive Europeans ensure that fellow Europeans don't drop dead in their jails?
And,
The powerful don't care as much to dress up their omnipotence with utopian affectations; the weaker, in lieu of military strength, have only such pretensions. And note how America's forging of closer ties with Japan, Australia, and India somehow does not meet European requisites of "multilateralism" — a neologism for deference to Europe.
And finally,
Are there consequences to this double standard? For a growing number of Americans, who were nursed on affection for things European, there grows now a weariness with the Europeans. We don't listen much to what they say; and we assume that their pot will always call our kettle black.
You'd think he has a beef with popular Eurothink. Geesh.

Hip Hop Republican

Now here's a phrase that a few years back would have seemed an oxymoron: Hip Hop Republican. But the contributors at this site would disagree.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The United States of America will cease to exist on February 5th, 2006

Pravda means "truth" in the Russian language. This fact was a particularly humorous Orwellian doublethink back in the days of the Cold War; "If we call it the truth, then our readers will know the truth." Today's Pravda - the online entity - is no less humorous. Consider this page: "Unwise lessons of democracy from the USA". My favorite headline is, of course, the first: "The United States of America will cease to exist on February 5th, 2006".

Probably just got the date wrong.

Vaughn: "...just an actor making movies."

GOP Vixen has pointed out previously that actor Vince Vaughn may have libertarian inclinations. One comment of his more certainly than anything else avers that he is not a liberal:
"I keep my politics to myself--I am just an actor making movies."
When was the last time you noted a liberal keeping his mouth shut about anything?

Written like a true blowhard libertarian! ;-)

George "Neocon" Clooney

Max Boot has a decent open letter to actor George Clooney, who he notes is Hollywood's most prominent recent proponent of Neoconservative values. A snippet:
Anybody who wonders what U.S. troops are doing in Iraq today should rent "Three Kings." It makes an ironclad moral case for the invasion.

Bin Laden dead

You read it here first: Osama Bin Laden is dead.
Rep. Curt Weldon, who broke the Able Danger story last year revealing that military intelligence had identified lead hijacker Mohamed Atta as a terrorist threat before the 9/11 attacks, now says that Osama bin Laden has died.

Weldon made the stunning claim during an interview Wednesday with the Philadelphia Inquirer, which reported: "Weldon is making explosive new allegations. He says a high-level source has told him that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden has died in Iran, where he has been in hiding."
Well, maybe not, but if so, you read it here. That's the most important part of the story, right?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Can I opt out?

Good news from your U.S. Senate:
New U.S. Debt Ceiling: $30,000 Per American

The Senate voted Thursday to allow the national debt to swell to nearly $9 trillion, preventing a first-ever default on U.S. Treasury notes.

The bill passed by a 52-48 vote. The increase to $9 trillion represents about $30,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States.
Um, any chance I can pay off my share now and be done with it? If that were possible, would it even be wise? Somehow I think all of us are collectively hoping we'll "get ours" (our bullions of Gold) before the whole thing (the United States financial system) goes under.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Eye contact

My lovely wife has often made mention of how important eye contact is in communication. I've noticed in myself a hesitance to maintain eye contact when I am unsure of myself or otherwise feeling "off". I generally have (lately) tried to catch myself in these moments and sally forth eye to eye.

So I read with interest the beginning of this article by Jonah Goldberg:
One of my favorite tidbits about Hollywood that I've gleaned from the starstruck press is that a great many of its most accomplished stars don't allow their staffs to look them in the eye. I'm not making this up. It has been reported that Barbra Streisand not only discourages eye contact among staff, but that she required hotel workers to leave her presence only by walking backward. Jennifer Lopez — who had 75 attendants help her prepare for a cameo on Will & Grace — is also reputed to forbid her subalterns to look into the windows of her soul. Sylvester Stallone won't stand for such effrontery, and Tom Cruise likes to ban eye contact, too, at least while he's working.
Goldberg goes on to write a decent piece on hubris and liberalism in Hollywood, largely represented both today by George Clooney.

Author's note (2006.03.15-10:30): my lovely wife mentioned last evening that she thought the Goldberg piece disjointed - that it really was 2 pieces and that he didn't tie them together well. I thought this as well. What say you?

The "religion" of Scientology

The jabs apparently hit a little too close to home for Isaac Hayes:
Show Shafted
March 15, 2006

LOS ANGELES: Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef on the satiric cartoon series South Park, says he is leaving the shown because of its "inappropriate ridicule" of religion.

"There is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry toward religious beliefs and others begins," the 63-year-old said. Hayes, a follower of the Church of Scientology, did not mention a recent South Park episode that poked fun at Scientology and some of its celebrity followers.

A spokesman said the show's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were disappointed but "feel that it's a bit disingenuous to cite religious intolerance as a reason" for pulling out of the show" because the series has lampooned religion since the start. (source: The Daily Telegraph)
As a long-time (though not recent) viewer of South Park, I can attest to the pretty-much across-the-board lambasting of religion and its adherents. Several epsisodes come to mind wherein the Cartman character leads a religious movement, all too reminiscent of a fundamentalist flava of Christianity.

So Hayes is dismayed that the writers have finally touched the third rail of Scientology.

Isaac, really.

The "church" of Scientology accomplished its greatest feat in having itself designated by the IRS and thought of by most as a religion. It is not. This reminds me of a great line from the film, The Usual Suspects: "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

Religion, in my view, is one's duty to God (distinguished from morality, which is one's duty to man). In Scientology, there is no God, per se, unless you are he. So Scientology is then one's duty to oneself?

Does it perplex anyone that such a narcissistic enterprise would find its full vent in Hollywood?

~------------------~

Editor's note: there's an interesting article in a very recent issue of Rolling Stone regarding Scientology.

Editor's add'l note: Ann Althouse has a (great) detailed account of the "controversy".

Monday, March 13, 2006

Honor and insult

"The work of Muhammad is based on being honored, and the work of Christ is based on being insulted." -- John Piper, on Muslim outrage over the caricatures of Muhammad.
Hat tips to Queen Spoo and Christianity Today.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

When Being Pro-Life Isn't Enough

This morning I visited a church which, after the pastor gave a very good sermon, featured a speech on abortion by Kelly Hollowell. Hollowell is a patent attorney, has a Ph.D in pharmacology and molecular biology, and is an adjunct professor of Bioethics. One smart cookie.

She's also very devout Christian and dead set against abortion. In a stirring, emotional speech, she discussed the facts of abortion which I've heard my whole adult life: One million of them per year in the U.S., originally advocated by Margaret Sanger as a means of eugenics, number-one cause of death in America, Roe v. Wade is universally considered undemocratic bad judicial activism, caused and promoted by welfare-statism and oversexualization of American culture, pure murder, pure evil, etc., etc. She asked for the congregation to be active civically in helping to end abortion, to write to our elected representatives and donate to anti-abortion causes, etc., etc. If I had heard this speech ten years ago, I would have completely identified with Ms. Hollowell 100%.

There's only one problem: If Ms. Hollowell got 100% of the policy changes she proposed, it wouldn't stop one abortion.

I agree the abortion is a sin, an abomination, cold-blooded murder committed for the most venal of reasons: feared,but rarely actual, losses of wealth, pleasure and prestige, or a suicidal notion that life isn't worth living. I've experienced with my wife a prematurely-ended pregnancy, and hearing about healthy babies conceived to abortion-minded mothers is like a punch in the stomach. A baby is a human living soul, with all the moral implications that term implies.

That being said, if a woman wants to have an abortion, she is going to have one. Abortion is not so much a debate about right as it is about power. A woman has absolute power over herself, physical and spiritually. If he doesn't want what's living in her to life, she has the absolute power to destroy it, be it her soul or her child's soul.

Even if the unborn child were to be protected legally, it would take an Orwellian level of surveillance of the mother to keep it alive and healthy, certainly not feasible for the 100,000s of poor souls who want to commit such a murder. Or if caught after-the-fact, what prison sentence could you give to the woman to punish and discourage abortions? Would it be worse than caring eighteen years for a child you don't love? Could you punish a million mothers a year like that?

Every woman--every human--is sovereign in their mind and will. This sovereignty carries over to their actions. In a coerced environment, actions may be prevented by "bargaining with" the mind and will by threats, punishments and disincentives. But there is no force known, or which would ever be morally acceptable, to make a mother have only good, loving thoughts towards their children. Despite how horrid the opposite concept may be. You can't make people do and think what they don't want to do and think. Throughout human history, some of our worse atrocities and tragicomic exercises in futility have been attempts to do just that.

The counter-argument, such as a smart cookie like Ms. Hollowell may make, is that banning abortion would make a marginal difference in stopping some abortions. "Many women," one would argue, "perhaps several 100,000s, are on the fence about having an abortion. If we made it illegal, it would prevent them from doing so, and save lives."

Suprisingly, that's incorrect. According to a 1968 study, before abortion was universally legal throughout the United States, there were an estimated 1.2 million illegal abortions per year1. In 2000, according to the Center for Disease Control, there were an estimated 850,293 legal abortions in the United States2. This is the case despite population growth and the increased sexualization of our culture. In other words, banning abortion does nothing to change the abortion rate! Legal prohibition against abortion has about the same effect as legal prohibition against alcohol. Furthermore, we can only assume it would be harder to re-cap the abortion genie; given the greater technology, information and drug-proliferation in pre-Roe days, "back-alley" abortions would be easier than ever.

(Of course, any abortion statistics published by activist organizations are always subject to question. If anybody can show facts or interpretations refuting these statistics, they're welcome to discuss or link them in the comment section. Like this one: We aroused enough sympathy to sell our program of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the U.S. The actual figure was approaching 100,000, but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1 million--Bernard Nathanson, M.D., NARAL co-founder)

But these studies show a glimmer of hope for anti-abortion activists. The abortion rate went down since Roe and pre-Roe. Why?

One argument is the eugenic one: that first-generation sluts are aborting their baby daughters, who consequentially don’t grow up to be second-generation sluts who would get an abortion. (A variation of this argument was proposed by Stephen Levitt in his bestselling book Freakonomics to explain falling crime rates in the mid-1990s). But this explanation wouldn't coincide with the general population rise.

A better explanation is that, even in discouraging abortion, free-market institutions do a better job than government. For thirty years, churches have preached on the moral consequences of abortion, while more secular activists have taught the public about the practical implications of sex and pregnancy. The consequence has been a new generation that is actually less sexually promiscuous. So congratulations pro-life activists, you’re doing a great job preventing abortion! Don’t ruin it by getting the law involved.

In short, I like the tune Ms. Hollowell is singing, but not the lyrics. If you don't believe in abortion, then don't get one and tell others not to get one. But don't delude yourself into thinking you can wave a magic pro-life juju stick and banish evil from the hearts of men. That will happen only when Jesus comes back and raises up all those dead souls from the grave.


1 Richard Schwarz, Septic Abortion (Philadelphia: JB Lippincott Co., 1968) and Tietze C, Henshaw SK. Induced Abortion: A World Review, 1986. New York: The Guttmacher Institute, 1986. Cited here and here.

2 CDC Statistics here


P.S. In my old blog, I proposed The Maternal Lien as a less intrusive and more realistic way to prevent abortion.

Friday, March 10, 2006

"...we are led to think of God."

Charles White has an interesting point:
Today, numbers from astronomy, biology, and theoretical mathematics point to a rational mind behind the universe. To be sure, they do not point to the personal God of the Bible as such. Yet they are not inimical to the biblical God, either. The apostle John prepared the way for this conclusion when he used the word for logic, reason, and rationality—logos—to describe Christ at the beginning of his Gospel: "In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God." When we think logically, which is the goal of mathematics, we are led to think of God. (xopher's emphasis)
Read the entire piece if you have the time. Hat tip to Queen Spoo.

Congressman Raj?

2nd season Apprentice "contestant" Raj Bhakta is running for Congress. While it's hard to take seriously anyone publicly associated with The Donald, we'd probably not being doing any worse in considering the 30 year old first-generation American than we did in electing such eminent representation as James Traficant. Check out his issues. They're pretty safe territory. I like his rhetoric re: fiscal restraint, however. So is it just rhetoric, Mr. Bhakta?

Editor's note: if you have the ability to look past a few cursewords, enjoy this hilarious Tribute to Raj Bhakta.

For what you are remembered

This story is ripe with so many moral lessons, I'm almost unsure which to address. Reads the first sentence:
London — John Profumo, a former British cabinet minister whose liaison with a prostitute nearly brought down a government after revelations that she was also involved with a Soviet spy, has died.
That's what leads off the news that a once powerful government official has departed this earth. Not that he did wonderful things for his country, his family, society in general, but that he had a tryst with a hooker who also was servicing a Russian spy.

Moral lesson #1: seemingly small choices matter.

The third paragraph:
Mr. Profumo, who spent more than 40 years redeeming himself with charity work for London's poor, was Britain's secretary of state for war when he was involved with Christine Keeler in 1963. At the same time, she was seeing a Soviet naval attaché and intelligence agent.
Moral lesson #2: No matter what good you do afterward (notes to Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon), you'll always publicly have to bear the weight of your poor choices.

Moral lesson #3: Good works by themselves are not healing. They may help those on the other end of your works, but they will do nothing to heal broken relationships.
Mr. Profumo first denied the affair, but after the publication of a letter he wrote her, he resigned on June 5, 1963.
Moral lesson #4: Lies seldom profit.
Mr. Profumo retreated from the public eye and looked for something to do with his life. His wife, actress Valerie Hobson, whom he married in 1954, stood by him throughout the scandal. She died in 1998.
Moral lesson #5: a good wife is a wonderful asset.
Mr. Profumo was a wealthy man, the Oxford-educated son of a prominent lawyer descended from an Italian aristocrat who settled in England in 1880. He owned a large stake in the Provident Life Association, and a Swiss takeover of the insurance firm in 1981 yielded Mr. Profumo more than $12-million (U.S.).
Moral lesson #6: Money is no guarantor of a fruitful life.
About a year after his public disgrace, Mr. Profumo found work as an unpaid helper at Toynbee Hall, a charity for the poor in London's East End. He began as a dishwasher, became a fundraiser for the charity, then its chairman, and eventually its president. He also worked in a social club for alcoholics.
Moral lesson #7: Often when our choices are slim, due to earlier poor choices, the paths before us are blessings. While we'd not have considered them otherwise, doors being closed defers attention to other doors behind which are manifold blessings for others - and ourselves.

Moral lesson #8: Money, by itself, seldom frees one to be generous with one's talents and works. Money, in the presence of other factors (in this case, disgrace and a humilty embraced), can indeed free one to be generous with those assets.
A friend, the late bishop Jim Thompson, said in 1993 that Mr. Profumo “says he has never known a day since it happened when he has not felt shame.”
Moral lesson #9: the worldly ramifications of bad choices never quite go away. The spirit can be renewed as forgiveness is had, but always there are those ramifications.
In 1975, the Queen made Mr. Profumo a Commander of the Order of British Empire (CBE) for his charity work.
Moral lesson #10: the great man is great because he is seeking merely to be good.

Pleasant thought #4733

I never quite know how to take these sorts of news blurbs:
The west's confrontation with Iran over its nuclear activities intensified yesterday after Britain claimed that Tehran could acquire the technological capability to build a bomb by the end of the year.
Is it just so much scare tactics used to entice readership? I'm afraid the mainstream press is something of the proverbial boy who cried one too many stories about nuclear wolves.

Alas, some tales are so serious, you are compelled to believe them each and every time. You do otherwise at your own peril.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Pleasant thought #4732

From the Wikipedia:
The Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) was a United States Navy and Marines project that was demonstrated as feasible in the mid-to-late 1960s, but was never used. The project, which involved a small nuclear weapon, was designed to allow one individual to parachute from any type of aircraft carrying the weapon package and place it in a harbor or other strategic location that could be accessed from the sea. Another parachutist without a weapon package would follow the first to provide support as needed.

The two-man team would place the weapon package in the target location, set the timer, and swim out into the ocean where they would be retrieved by a submarine or a high-speed surface water craft. The parachute jumps and the retrieval procedures were practiced extensively.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States developed several different types of lightweight nuclear devices. The main one was the W54, a cylinder 40 by 60 centimeters that weighed 68 kilograms (the warhead was a variation of one developed for the Davy Crockett nuclear recoilless rifle). It was fired by a mechanical timer and had a variable yield ("dial-a-yield") equivalent to between 10 tons and 1 kiloton of TNT. 300 SADMs were assembled and remained in the US arsenal until 1989.
So what happened in 1989? And does anyone not think a better refined item exists today in the U.S. arsenal? These are precisely what terrorists are looking to obtain.

Character

USAToday has a good piece today on the subject of character, comparing and contrasting the adversities of and choices made by 3 individuals of recent notoriety: Dana Reeve, Barry Bonds, and Gordon Parks. The salient bit:
Perhaps Parks was a one-in-a-million talent, a man who never finished high school but who could teach himself to be anything. But perhaps, like Reeve and so unlike Bonds, Parks was something more: an example, one whose life makes the obstacles that many of us complain about seem trivial.

Happy happy fun fun site of the day!

Hey kids! Let's all gather 'round and click the link to visit The World's Last Chance! What could be more fun than learning how the Papacy and U.S. and other governments are conspiring to bring us all together under the rule of one seemingly benevolent but actually despotic leader! How fun is that?!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Vesuvius


The image above is of Italy's Mt. Vesuvius (map) from Napoli (Naples). Keep an eye on it for the near future, given this recent news item:
March 7, 2006 — Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that buried Pompeii and the nearby towns of Herculaneum and Stabiae on Aug. 24, 79 A.D, has the potential to erupt far more violently, destroying villages and cooking people as far as 15 miles from its summit, U.S. and Italian volcanologist have discovered.

Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo of the Vesuvius Observatory in Italy, Michael Sheridan, of the University of Buffalo in New York, and colleagues have found compelling evidence that nearly 4,000 years ago, Vesuvius produced a most devastating eruption.

Called the Avellino catastrophe, the event destroyed the area of present-day Naples, and sent panicking Bronze Age farmers fleeing for their lives.

Xopher on Jacoby on Browne on the way out of this mess

Jeff Jacoby comments on the unfortunate recent passing of Harry Browne, two-time Libertarian candidate for president (whom I voted for in 2000):
IT CAME as a jolt to learn that Harry Browne -- scholar, gentleman, apostle of freedom, and two-time Libertarian Party candidate for president -- had died on March 1 of Lou Gehrig's disease.
It was a jolt to me as well, as I didn't think of Browne as a particularly old 72. A jolt moreover as I'd come to more than enjoy - rely upon perhaps - his weekly financially-oriented radio show and excellently researched and thought-out articles on various public policy issues. One of those I have listed under my "Recommended" reading items on the left: Whatever Happened to the U.S. Economy? I suppose I'll archive that article here now, as I've no idea what will happen to his site.

I'd no idea Jacoby is such the libertarian:
Twice I had voted for him for president -- a distinction, I once told him, he shared with Ronald Reagan. The first time was in 1996, when I wouldn't vote to reelect Bill Clinton and couldn't bring myself to support either of his two leading opponents, the feckless Bob Dole or the bizarre Ross Perot. Instead, I pulled the lever for the distinguished-looking Libertarian who spoke with such refreshing bluntness about the maddening inability of the state to get things right. Of Dole's proposal that year to use the military for drug interdiction, Harry had said, ''Government can't keep drugs out of the country; it can't even keep drugs out of its own prisons." Social Security he defined as ''a fraudulent scheme in which the government collects money from you for your retirement -- and immediately spends the money on something else."

Four years later, unwilling to back the younger George Bush when the elder Bush had been such a disappointment, I voted Libertarian again.
Browne, as with many Libertarians, strongly differed with Republicans on the idealistic intervention in the Middle East. Today, one wonders if he was not right. Prominent thinkers such as William F. Buckley have recently opined as much. I am sensitive to the argument.

Ultimately, Browne's passion was the sovereignty of the individual, which came across handily in his best writing and speaking. A nation of sovereigns is something close to what the majority of the Founding Fathers had in mind. It worked for a long while.

Where I diverge with Browne is in the interpretation of sovereignty. For me, it is the maximum freedom I can have to guide my own life, but surrendered to my Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. That is, I desire the Federal government reduced to its constitutionally authorized roles (perhaps a quarter the size it is today), the same with the state governments, local governments, the majority of powers transferred to the individual, who then makes the choices what to do with those powers. In my case, the first choice is to ask the question, "Lord, what would you have me do with these powers?" I do not ask this question oft enough.

And I fall prey sometimes to a sense of powerlessness, brought on by analyzing how much power the Federal, state, and local governments have absconded. Still, I must ask the Lord what I should do with what little power remains. And I should not kid myself that I do not still have power within my dominion. A burgeoning family relies on my understanding this.

Transferring power back to the individual might seem foolish, with the individual today largely unprepared to handle that power. But the salient question is "does the government do any better?" And who has left the individual unprepared? Some blame must be assigned the individual who does not take upon himself the onus of quality education, both formal and experiential. But a large bit of blame must also be attributed to the governments which have sought ever greater control over the education and experiences of the individual.

I digress. Goodbye, Harry. I would sooner vote for you deceased than I would most politicians alive. I am praying for your family in their time of grief.

Here is some commentary on the passing of Browne:

Harry Browne, RIP by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
Thanks for Changing My Life, President Browne by Jim Babka
Memories of Harry Browne by Anthony Wile
Harry Browne's Cogent Wisdom, and Why I'm a Libertarian by Anthony Gregory
Remembering Harry by Sharon Harris
How I Found Harry in an Unfree World by Stephan V. Funk
Harry Browne: Right on the megatrend by Peter Brimelow

"UN plan to save world"

The headline "UN plan to save world" caught my eye - yeah, caught my eye as if with a harpoon.
After decades of piecemeal reform that had tackled symptoms rather than causes, Mr Annan said, a radical overhaul was needed because the UN's current rules and regulations "make it very hard for the organisation to conduct its work efficiently or effectively".
Respectfully, Mr. Annan: good try getting on the solution side of the issues plaguing the U.N. I have to wonder if the traditional hatchet job that occurs when a large corporate entity is restructured is going to best play out with the U.N. situation. Might it not be more advantageous to leave in place a crippled and publicly humiliated Annan, who knows that (powerful) people are watching - rather than install a fresh face, devoid of such controls?

My (proverbial) hat off to the Hearld Sun for such a wonderfully subversive sarcastic headline!

Dana and Andy

I read with sadness the passing of Dana Reeve. Sadness not so much for Reeve herself, as leaving this life and entering the next is joyous. Sadness, for her child who also recently lost his father. To be a teenage orphan must be terribly difficult. Such is why the Bible strongly admonishes believers to come to the ongoing aid of oprhans.

Reeve's dying so young (44) of lung cancer, as a non-smoker, reminds many of the fate of Andy Kaufman, who died similarly at 35. It gives me pause to consider that cause and effect is only a precept, not a guarantee in our lives.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Western Europe finds its cajones?

This is hardly a surprise:
A SERIOUS rift opened yesterday between Russia and the West over Iran's nuclear program after Moscow floated a last-minute plan to allow Tehran to make small quantities of nuclear fuel.

The New York Times reported that the proposal prompted US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to telephone International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohamed ElBaradei to make clear that Washington could not support the Russian plan.
The Russian leadership is little more than a self-interested triangulator. What is surprising is that Western Europe has thus far stayed on board with the U.S. Could it be that recent waves of Islamofascist violence in Western Europe is having an effect on their leadership?

Please, think of the kittens

Craig Cross of xxxchurch.com, pretty much the only Christian porn site, recently debated porn actor Ron Jeremy at Northeastern University in Boston. I've been looking for audio or video of the debate, but none has been forthcoming thus far. I'll let you know if I find it.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Brokeback to the Future

From the minds of Emerson College's comedy troupe Chocolate Cake City comes Brokeback to the Future. Enjoy!

Academy Awards roundup

I have not always watched award shows. In fact, I've typically shunned them for myriad good reasons. But togetherness with my wife prevailed and I viewed last night the 78th Academy Awards. I have to admit, it has become somewhat enjoyable, seeing the stars in their finest duds, commenting on those duds, and receiving affirmations of my interpretations from my fashionista wife. Apparently, I have an eye for things fashionable - even though I admit to having more than one t-shirt older than Scarlett Johansson.

Of the fashions on display, I enjoyed this dress and its commentary best:
Charlize Theron took out the Best Performance by a Frock in A Dramatic Role in a black Christian Dior haute couture gown with an asymmetric shoulder puff, which gave the impression she had been gift-wrapped.

Jon Stewart, as host, was simply great. As my wife pointed out, his humor is probably too smart for most in Hollywood, who laughed more reticently (while looking at others for their interpretations) than enthusiastically. Here's CNN's take:
Most jabs aimed at film industry

This year's ceremony threatened to be one of the most politically charged in recent memory because of both the themes of the nominated pictures and host Jon Stewart, who made his name mocking politics on Comedy Central's late-night "The Daily Show," pointing out the absurdities of both parties through election campaigns, scandal and simple Washington inefficiency.

But Stewart confined most of his monologue's jabs to the film industry, however: He praised "Capote" for showing Americans that "not all gay people are virile cowboys." And "Capote" and "Good Night, and Good Luck," he said, "are about determined journalists defying obstacles in a relentless pursuit of the truth."

"Needless to say, both are period pieces," he added.

And after a montage of films that highlighted the social issues of their day, from "The Grapes of Wrath" to "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," Stewart quipped: "And none of those issues was ever a problem again."
Clooney v. Stewart

Indeed, most jabs were aimed at Hollywood itself, which as a whole, takes that self very very seriously. If there's one thing Stewart is seemingly incapable of, it is tolerating those who take themselves too seriously. That last joke practically had us busting a collective gut. It seemed a direct slap back at George Clooney, who had a little rant about being proud to be a member of "out of touch" Hollywood, responsible for bringing AIDS to light and such. Stewart, with a well-written core show beneath him, seemed free to spice things up with ad-lib commentary. When he's in this happy place, he's nearly unstoppable. Clooney, who relies seemingly solely on his good looks and acerbic quick wit, appeared unprepared to offer more than his initial diatribe.

Stewart's comments following the Three 6 Mafia "musical" number were hilarious - not so much for what he said, but the obvious comical overload his mind was going through as the camera scanned his face. There were simply too many jokes to make in a limited time. He later chimed in with "For those of you keeping score, Martin Scorsese: 0 Oscars, Three 6 Mafia: 1".

Of the song itself - its winning an Oscar - my take is probably pointless. I do not like rap music. I appreciate some of the more musical variety with obviously difficult and stacatto delivery, but as a genre, I'm not a reasonable judge. Keep it clean(er) and I'm a lot more inclined to listen. There was some controversy over whether they could clean up the song:
Still, despite toning down the lyrics, Three 6 Mafia was bleeped once during their performance because ABC censors thought they heard the f-word (a network spokeswoman said they couldn't be sure what was said). And they got another bleep during their giddy acceptance speech, for the same reason.
Yeah, that was my take: "Who knows if they were using profanities?" It's yet another liability of a failure to enunciate clearly.

Resse Witherspoon delivered a wonderful acceptance speech for her Best Actress award, with homages to family and hard work. You could see in her that this award was merely the latest notice of her character development, yet not a culmination - a touchstone only. There will be more. She's going to have magnificent kids; you can just tell.

It was interesting to see Rachel Weisz win for Best Supporting Actress, as she just came to my notice the other day, when I posted a commentary on the doings of her boyfriend, Darren Aronofsky, who was seen with her tangentially. One comment to Aronofsky: Dude, if that's your bun in her oven, make an honest woman out of her posthaste!

Of the Best Picture nominees, the only one I'd seen was Crash, which both my wife and I liked a great deal. Brendan Frazier's and Sandra Bullock's characters were utterly annoying, but I think they were intended to be. It is said you never meet yourself - your true character - until under serious pressure. Both Frazier's and Bullock's characters failed their tests miserably. Others faired much better, such as with Matt Dillon's character.

All in all, the Oscars was a surprise. There was little left-wing ranting and more attention to reality than I ever expected. And it was downright funny.

Ironically, the Academy Awards presentation show was far better "date" entertainment than any of the films nominated for best picture.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Other Newscycle

If you ever get tired of internet news only being about politics, then check out EurekAlert!, an agregation of science and technology news releases. In fifty years, politicans haven't changed a damn thing in the world for the better, while engineers and scientists has made the impossible the commonplace. Whom do you think is more important group to watch?

E.g., recent linked articles are:

An algorithm developed to process X-ray diffraction data also solves Sudoku puzzles.

The National Academies put together
fact sheets that provide reliable, objective information on four types of potential terrorist attacks.

Omega 3 fatty acids influence mood, impulsivity and personality, study indicates. Could be related to bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and ADHD.

How much did Romans water down their currency?

Also, check out Ray Kurzweil's site. He's the author of The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near, two of the most frightening books I've ever read in my life.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Kate and Leopold 2: The Fountain

Having thoroughly enjoyed (in 1998) the film Pi, I had wondered what the writer / director, Darren Aronofsky is up to. Appears he is producing a big-ish budget film entitled "The Fountain", that was initially to star Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Apparently, there was friction between Pitt and Aronofsky (fancy that) and production was shutdown. It is being completed with Huge Ackman, er, I mean Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz.

You can see a trailer here.

Forgive the title of the entry, a reference to the awful Jackman / Meg Ryan film, interestingly directed however by James Mangold, who redeemed his talents with the excellent Walk the Line.

McPalatable

Yes! I noticed this yesterday. As our kitchen is in shambles, being renovated currently, I dropped by the local McDonald's for breakfast for my lovely wife and myself. As I sipped the coffee I expected to be the usual subpar lot, I was pleasantly surprised. It tasted almost... fresh. Looking at the cup itself, I noticed it said something about gourmet on it. This explains it:
McDonald's is rolling out a premium coffee in a bid to draw the morning crowd from competitors such as Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks

Be a bling bling dingaling

It's an amazing thought: that on such a small device, you can store the text of the next great document of mankind you just happen to be writing - the next Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution -- or -- you can buy this thing and store back issues of Texas Woman Magazine.

That's our Amos!

Was reading this last night...
Amos 5:21-26 (New International Version)

21 "I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
I cannot stand your assemblies.

22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.

23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.

24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

25 "Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?

26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king,
the pedestal of your idols,
the star of your god —
which you made for yourselves.
It was probably the first time I'd really read the book in more than passing. I found I liked it, in that way that one can (not often) like a very cold shower.

The Wikipedia says (via Easton's commentary) of Amos:
Much of the prophecy of Amos is directed at the heartlessness of wealthy merchants who ignore the plight of the poor, the lack of justice for the righteous, and the emptiness of religious ritual apart from true faith. Amos is a classical prophet, concerned with the well-being of the people and the purity of the faith. He does not have the millennial apocalyptic views of later prophets, nor does he rely on esotericism or mystical signs. The prophecy of Amos is clear and direct. He ends his message with a proclamation of hope and restoration for the people of Israel if they mend their ways: "The days are coming, declares the LORD, when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them, says the LORD your God.” (Amos 9:13-15)
Welcome to America, Amos.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Caption Time!!



The counsel for the Texas Republican Party smiled midway through oral arguments, realizing that his chances of the Court ruling his way suddenly went up.

Many years after the football incident, the sad little boy turned bitter old man finally gets his revenge on Justice Lucy Van Pelt.

"Hmmm . . . let's see what makes this news ticker thingy work."

Shoulder-belts should come standard on Supreme Court Bench, in case of sudden stops of runaway judical activism.

Ruth "drops her pen" to get a look at the new guy's "legal briefs".

Alito sadly wonders why every attempt at intimacy ends up with the woman crying or falling asleep.

"Jeez, how much gum and boogers did Clarence leave under here in the last 12 years!"

Got a better caption, feel free to submit it below.
________

BTW, thanks for all those who expressed condolences at my misfortune this week. "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. "

The other 65

I see this psychological fact played-out far too often:
... Richard Landes, the BU history professor, believes Albrecht may be among those who are seduced by the power of feeling like they are players at the center of world events.

"It's enormously attractive," said Landes. "If you believe you live in the end-times, then everything you do has meaning. You become a warrior, and everything is at stake."

Landes compared the feeling of sharing a collective, apocalyptic experience or narrative as like a near-death experience. "It's an intense, incredibly intimate experience," Landes said.
It's well-documented throughout Christianity that some surrender themselves unto the desire to have a special part in history, a special knowledge (esotericism), really just a greater control over events than that they actually have (none other than that which God has granted them in their personal lives).

One of the essential hallmarks of the follower of Christ is how one sees oneself in light of reality. I have a hard time with this - my pride, that is. I get too caught up in the little control I actually have over things, my place in the world. The Christian way is not a very complicated one and that perhaps bothers some who wish to be followers of Christ, but on their own, complicated, terms. As someone who has spent his share of time analyzing things eschatological, I humbly suggest some of those overly excited about the last chapter of the Bible might spend more time in the other 65.

Okay, bypass Daniel too. 64, then. :-)

Speling is impotent

NICOSIA (Reuters) - You might have the best forgery skills in the world, but it is not much use if you cannot spell.

A Cyprus court jailed Pakistani national Fazal Ur Rehman for eight months for forgery after police spotted spelling mistakes on stamps on an Afghan passport he was carrying -- otherwise it was a near-perfect copy, the Cyprus Mail said Wednesday.

"Ministry" was spelled "Menistry" and the first "n" was missing from government, the newspaper said.

"The passport looked perfect and professionally made ... almost deemed original by forensics," a police officer told a magistrate in the Cypriot capital Nicosia.
Reminds me of when, in 2nd grade, I forged my Mom's signature on a (bad) grade report... in pencil... then erased it... 'cause it didn't look right the first time. Um yeah. That big erasure mark didn't give me away... not at all.

An interesting take on religious commercialism

Rik Swartzwelder started thinking that churches have started becoming too comforatable pitching movies to their congregations, which he realized specifically due to the large push in churches to go watch "The Passion of the Christ." He had no problems with the movie, but he explained what did bother him: "The original idea came when The Passion of The Christ was being released in 2004. I was visiting my brother in Charlotte, North Carolina, and we visited several churches. And every church we went to, we were basically told from up front that it was our duty, or our responsibility as a church member, to buy a ticket to this movie. Now, I don't have anything negative to say about the film at all …"

With that, he created "The McPassion." It is a 4-minute short satire that focuses on the commercialism of the religous. Keep in mind, it will only be shown during Lent, and will disappear from viewing on April 15th at midnight. If you do view his filmic commentary, you may either love it or hate it, but it does give food for thought. (pun intended)