Sunday, December 23, 2007

Another stem cell breakthrough

A team of American scientists reported Sunday that they had widened the scope of a Japanese breakthrough in stem cells that many experts have hailed as the greatest medical achievement of 2007.

In November, Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University and colleagues announced they had reprogrammed human skin cells to have the multiple potency of stem cells culled from human embryos. [...]

Reporting on Sunday in Nature, a team led by George Daley of the Children's Hospital, in Boston, Massachusetts, say they have been able to use the same four genes to derive iPS from foetal lung and skin cells, from neo-natal skin cells as well as from skin samples taken from a healthy human volunteer.

The research is important as it marks a step forward to "patient-specific" stem cells -- in other words, transplanted stem cells that carry the same genetic code as the patient and thus cannot be rejected as alien by the body's immune system, they say.

I've always been too cowardly to take a stand on abortion, as the logical conclusion of most positions are odious to me. It's one of the mercifully few issues in American public life where our ideals of liberty and morality are in direct conflict. So developments like this are most welcome here atop my fence.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


In renewed sympathy to Mike Hendrix, proprietor of, who's had the memory of his late wife befouled by a progg-blogger who shall here go unnamed, and only semi-linked.

"When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.

"For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost. When I'm feeling most ghost-like, it's your remembering me that helps remind me that I actually exist. When I'm feeling sad, it's my consolation. When I'm feeling happy, it's part of why I feel that way.

"If you forget me, one of the ways I remember who I am will be gone. If you forget me, part of who I am will be gone.

"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom," the good thief said from his cross (Luke 23:42). There are perhaps no more human words in all of Scripture, no prayer we can pray so well."
--Frederick Buechner

Another counter-intuitive global warming datum

What is one of the dire consequences of having the arctic icepack melt? It then re-freezes at a record rate, come wintertime.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What a surprise!

Sen. Sam Brownback in the On The Square section of First Things! He's applauding the recent stem cell research breakthroughs.

This shifts the debate fundamentally. Those who had moral reservations about research on the youngest of humans but were persuaded of the need to pursue treatments can now support this promising research without compromising their pro-life conviction. At the same time, those who claimed that embryonic research was the only promising way forward can unite around a promising new technique that presents no ethical dilemmas.

What the vast majority of Americans want is now possible: the pursuit of promising research that does not cross ethical lines, honors human dignity, and preserves innocent life.

As is so often the case with science news, the actual facts aren't quite so pat as the headlines make them out to be. We're still years away from putting these discoveries to any practical use. But it is a ray of hope, in what had been an increasingly ugly ethical war.

The Wheels of Justice Grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly...slowly

Imagine if the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi high command had not been held until the year before the United States' Bicentennial. Imagine if the secret speech Nikita Khrushchev gave denouncing Stalinism had not been given until the year after the Apple MacIntosh was introduced.

Got it? Now imagine if the first trials of the top Khmer Rouge cadres had not been held until, oh, last week.

Heart surgeon by day, attack copter pilot by night...

...or on his days off.

This story has been wending its way through the wires over the past couple of weeks, in various forms (i.e., some versions don't include the successful outcome of an Arab baby's heart surgery). An Israeli heart surgeon, "Yuval", regularly saves the lives of Arab children. He also regularly fires on Arab terrorists, as a Cobra attack helicopter pilot.

Yuval’s oldest son was born in the 1990s, after the Oslo accords. He dreamed that his son wouldn’t be drafted. Then, in 2000, the second Palestinian intifada erupted. Suicide bombers blew up Israeli discos and cafés.

Israelis responded with force. Palestinians from Gaza were banned, including the men who labored with Yuval. Yuval flew targeted assassination missions, killing about 15 intifada members, he said. After a strike, Yuval said, he would emerge from his cockpit successful, yet feeling bad, his hair wet with sweat, his neck reddened with tension.

Some pilots quit. They criticized the military. Yuval called them “unforgivable.”

As he snapped pink pajamas on his daughter, Yuval said, “If you think you’re more moral, stay in and fight the battle the way you think it should be fought.”

Such is the life of citizen-warriors, who dwell in a land where their mortal enemies are but a brief bus ride away. It's actually a touching story, and although this Jewish news media watchdog group found reason to carp, it's actually a fair slice-of-life bit of reportage. If some psychic conflict is intended to be suggested here, I didn't find it. In fact, one immediately thinks of the lack of psychic conflict among the Palestinians, murdering Jews one minute and coming to Israeli clinics the next. The doctors there do their jobs without bias, but admit: when Jewish terrorism victims are brought in through the Arab waiting room, it gets hard when they cheer.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Pope on why atheism leads to tyranny

"The atheism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is—in its origins and aims—a type of moralism: a protest against the injustices of the world and of world history. A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering, and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God. A God with responsibility for such a world would not be a just God, much less a good God. It is for the sake of morality that this God has to be contested. Since there is no God to create justice, it seems man himself is now called to establish justice. If in the face of this world's suffering, protest against God is understandable, the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false. It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice; rather, it is grounded in the intrinsic falsity of the claim. A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope. No one and nothing can answer for centuries of suffering. No one and nothing can guarantee that the cynicism of power—whatever beguiling ideological mask it adopts—will cease to dominate the world."

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Creation Museum Report

Gifted science fiction author John Scalzi visits Kentucky's Creation[ist] Museum, and is badly over-matched by the sheer idiocy of the place. The first goodly chunk of his report is little more than a string of awed expletives. He collects himself long enough to make this point:

The problem with this is that creationism isn’t a theory, it’s an assertion, to wit: The entire universe was created in six days, the days are 24-hour days, the layout for the creation and for the early history of the planet and humanity is in the first chapter of Genesis and it is exactly right. Everything has to be made to conform to these assertions, which is why creationist attempts at science are generally so damn comical and refutable.

Then he turns his attention back the museum, and his muse is trumped again, as back come the expletives. Then he finishes up with a "to each his own" dismissal of the whole enterprise.

In case John is still curious about what creationists say happened to the dinosaurs after the Flood, I humbly direct him to this Jack Chick tract. Better duct tape your head first, though.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Nature + Sin = Consequences

The rates of sexually transmitted diseases are ticking up, after a long period of decline. From a NYT article:
The incidence of gonorrhea, which had declined sharply, has risen in the last two years in this country while the number of chlamydia and syphilis cases continue to rise, federal health officials said yesterday.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two most common diseases among those doctors must report in the United States. And the 1,030,911 cases of chlamydia in 2006 are the highest ever recorded for any nationally reported disease in any year, the officials said in releasing their annual report on sexually transmitted diseases. They said that because of underreporting, a more accurate estimate is 2.8 million new chlamydia cases annually.

(There's also some shocking demographic aspects to these data, but that's for someone else to parse.)

So back to the Seventies we go, when the ripples from the Sexual Revolution's Sixties splash first spread out over the pond of our society. And may the consequent Great Relearning not be far behind. People forget that we didn't always live in a time of medical miracles, and thanks to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we may yet outlive said age. A syringe in the ass can't bail you out of all the possible trouble your naughty bits get you into.

What's the best defense? A happy marriage, which the Constitution unfortunately only guarantees the right to pursue, not to have.

What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life--to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent, unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting.
--George Eliot

Marriage enlarges the scene of our happiness and of our miseries. A marriage of love is pleasant, of interest, easy, and where both meet, happy. A happy marriage has in it all the pleasures of friendship, all the enjoyments of sense and reason, and, indeed, all the sweets of life.
--Joseph Addison

No fleeting piece of nookie will ever be worth all that. If you have steak at home, you don't have to sneak out for hamburgers. Tainted hamburgers, as it happens.

Related: In case someone suspects me of Christophallic judgmental triumphalism, I direct your attention to this sad bit of red state notoriety. As someone once said, the Anglo-Protestant moral ethic doesn't stop people from sinning. It just stops them from enjoying it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

People watching in traffic court

So there I was, sitting in traffic court, waiting for our turn to plead our case. My wife had gotten tagged for a couple of moving violations, but she insisted to fight them in court. So we had gone in to plead, then come back on the trial date, only to have it postponed because the officer was on "court leave". It was rescheduled for a couple months later, on a bad day for me, as it turned out. But I couldn't reschedule, even though my reason was at least as good as whatever reason the officer had blown off the first date.

We were among the last to be tried, so I had time to watch the other people go through. The jump-suited prisoners from the city prison were dealt with first. Then it was on to the "civilians". Of note were these cases:

Most were traffic cases, and most of the defenses (few of them had lawyers) were along the lines of "you must have clocked someone else in front of me". One Afro/Carib woman's defense was that everyone else was illegally parked, so why ticket her? Another tried to be slick and file a motion requesting the court to re-enact the traffic stop, or something like that. This guy also pleaded his status as a military veteran, a soldier in Desert Storm. The motion was denied, and the solicitor threw his veteran's status back at him: "Many of us are," he said, and then proceeded to reel off years of speeding and red light running tickets the guy had collected over the years. Guilty.

One case was for disorderly conduct. A single mom, a hash-slinger at Picadilly's, had blown up at her slumlord about her roach-infested apartment, and was jailed. The judge and solicitor were sympathetic, found her guilty, and sentence her to time served and let her go.

The only not guilty verdict of the day came on an expired tag charge. The man had a paper from the DMV of another state saying that his tags were still current at the time of the stop. The judge apparently decided not to punish him for a government paperwork snafu, and let him go.

Finally it was our turn. We were given a fair trial and found guilty on both counts. The judge asked for "mitigating or aggravating" circumstances before handing down sentence. The solicitor recommend a light fine, since she had no prior convictions, and the violations were due more to confusion than recklessness. So, we got off lighter than if we had paid the fines straightaway. All in all, quite an educational experience.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Pictures of transitional fossils

Here is a nice gallery of transitional fossils, from the Cambrian on up to the advent of prehistoric man. They're from a new book by paleontologist Donald Prothero, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters. Looks like a good pushback against creationists and their lies, if anyone who's on the fence happens to read it. Coverage of a Q & A with Dr. Prothero is here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Giving Charlie Brown the Mommy Dearest treatment

I watched a few minutes of the PBS special on Charles Schulz, in which his kids were carving him up. I didn't like it. However unequal to his familial responsibilities he may have been, those adult kids are betraying him, and for what? For what?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Healthcare costs money? Those damn conservatives!

I've boycotted Daily Kos since his despicable "screw them" remark about murdered American contractors in Iraq a few years ago. But even I can feel a pang of sympathy, when a Deep and Real and Concerned and Pissed Off progressive bumps into the fine print in his health insurance.

I feel sorry for Kos, if this is his first big run-in with insurance red tape. I got it hot and strong early on, and by the time my oldest was in kindergarten BC/BS had paid a third of a million for her. Pretty much all of the trouble I had to unsnarl was the result of muddle, not malice, on the part of the insurance or the healthcare provider. There are plenty of people out there who really ought to be stocking the salad bar at Golden Corral, and not messing around with medical records. The trick is to keep records, know your deductibles, copays, and out-of-pocket obligations--and don't yell at the phonebots. I once got a collection notice, and through patient sleuthing discovered that the hospital's data had become corrupted when they migrated it to a new server, erroneously showing me in arrears.

When The Hillarycare Revolution comes, there will be no more fine print. Just an infinite number of competent, dedicated, government health & insurance workers, and an infinite amount of money to pay them.

And I want a pony for my birthday.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Little Stalins at the University of Delaware


These university speech code reeducation handbooks could save trees and boil things down to the nitty-gritty thus: Everything that antagonizes progressives is forbidden; everything that antagonizes conservatives is compulsory.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rage Boy makes the big time--Corrected: it's not him

So I was walking past a magazine rack, and saw the current issue of Newsweek. There was a tightly-cropped group of gesticulating demonstrators, framed so as to imply hundreds out of a handful. (Zombie is great at exploding that kind of photo-journalism on the Left Coast) And in the middle, glaring at the camera with the most histrionic face of all, was apparently Shakeel Bhat, known to journalists covering south Asia as "Rage boy". [deletia][update follows]
I then wrote a post about it, but learned from the proprietors of The Nose On Your Face blog that it isn't him. So, nevermind.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Senator Brownback hits the wall

Two-time Kansas senator Sam Brownback's presidential campaign finally wheezed to a halt this week. He was almost out of cash, and had failed to make his case, after last year's initial splash, as the next family values candidate.

At least that's what they're saying in the MSM. The real reason is that Sen. Brownback was in violation of an unwritten law of American Presidential politics:

No American president shall have an excessively picturesque English name.

That's right. In this great republic, created by and for decades dominated by men of English descent, there have been no Presidents with frightfully, awfully, thatchy, tweedy, sedge-y English names. No President Laidlaw. No President Coolbroth. No President Bullcalf. There have been not one, not two, not three, but four Presidents with Germanic names. Yet, we're still waiting for our first President Rakestraw.

This is of course not to say that there is no place in American national politics for people with names like Moneypenny and such. Senator Brownback himself is evidence of that. Certain other politicians have had long and satisfying careers whilst saddled with among the most rusticated monickers imaginable.

Yet, the invisible barrier remains to the top post. The closest any of them have come have been Vice-Presidents Burr and Quayle. Someone may someday discover the reasons why we will never have a President Brokeback, a President Lackland, or a President Truepenny. But whatever they are, the knowledge comes too late to be of any use to Senator Brownback, victim of America's least understood political taboo.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A previously unknown way to have fun with Google News

Search the keyword phrase "previously unknown" in Google News. As of this writing, you get news of:

A previously unknown tribe of Brazilian Indians

A previously unknown Primo Levi manuscript, found at Yad Vashem

A previously unknown Modigliani painting, discovered in Serbia

A previously unknown 18th-century Philadelphia tea table, which topped six million at auction recently.

And previously unknown structure-specific functional mechanisms of flavonoids.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Iraq: Time to declare victory and leave?

This article in Prospect magazine lays out an argument for declaring victory: with al-Qaeda being increasingly rolled up, and the civil sectarian strife no longer threatening to blow up into full scale civil war, the U.S. military mission is becoming a flea hunt. Baghdad is not going to become Brussels anytime soon, but this article alleges that, while the current situation is undoubtedly very bad, the worst is over.

It is good to hear an assessment highlighting the, er, highlights for once. But so long as Iran is sending arms to the enemy, and Syria is sending fighters, and Saudi Arabia is sending money and inspiration...well, that's a rough neighborhood for a nascent democracy to try to sort itself out in. Left to itself, Iraq might well grow their democratic government in these arabian sands that are historically unreceptive to democracy. We can only hope. Especially so, if the American military has done everything that can reasonably be done in Iraq.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ahmadinejad warns against passage of Holocaust bill

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has urged Iranian legislators not to pass a resolution declaring the killing of Jews by Nazi Germany to be genocide. He said the bill's passing would result in a "significant weakening" of his country's ties with itself.

Iran admits many Jews died in World War II but denies genocide.

"This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings," Mr Ahmadinejad said just before the Parliamentary Subcommittee for Meting Death to Sons of Apes and Pigs began debating the resolution. “I have been trying to warn the lawmakers not to make a historic mistake. I urge members to oppose the Jewish genocide resolution now being considered." Ahmadinejad told reporters in a prepared statement he made on the Eternal Victory of the Sons of Martyrs nuclear research station's front porch. "We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Jewish people that began in 1934. That is, we would if we were ever able to get any scholarly confirmation of it. This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to our relations with ourselves as we are presently constituted. I mean, I know for a fact that I'd just have to nip off and duct tape my head before even reading the thing."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I've been a big fan of microcapitalism for a long time, and was glad when micro-financier Mohamed Yunnus of Bangladesh won the Nobel Prize for his work in this field. So, I'm very glad to learn of this organization, . They connect small business people in the Third World with ordinary donors in the First World, who give small amounts, to be repaid over several months. I read about them in the current issue of Smithsonian, in their list of young innovators. I'm looking forward to settling down and combing through the site, to see if there's any opportunities in there for me to participate.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Animated gifs

I recently learned how to make animated gifs from video clips, thanks to a couple of helpful French (I think) folks elsewhere on the net. Blogger won't load animated gifs without some underhanded code spoofing, so I hosted them on Picasa instead. Here they are. Click on them to activate the animations. You're welcome to take them for avatars or whatever; if you can remember to spare me a mention, all the better.

Obama to stop wearing flag lapel pin

He's going to give all a dose of the ol' higher patriotism that soi-disant dissidents are always congratulating themselves about. You know, "dissent is the highest form of self-congratulation", or something like that.

This reminds me of this spoof from the Blame Bush blog, from a few years ago.

"The meeting lasted for another 4 hours, and then we finally agreed on "Support Our Troops*" for a name. Tomorrow, we will hold our first "Support Our Troops*" rally out at Fort Lewis, so I'm probably going to be up all night sewing swastikas onto U.S. flags."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

[sneer quote]Foreign Bad Guy On Campus[/sneerquote]

Professor Richard W. Bulliet's article drawing parallels between Fidel Castro's visit to Harvard University in 1959 and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia U. this week is depressing. The watchword throughout seems to be épater les bourgeois. Where has the man been these past fifty years? Castro's long, bloody rule is almost entirely in the books by now. Yet such is the totalitarian temptation among academics, and such is the pull of youthful nostalgia, that the only image Prof. Bulliet can summon is the excitement-charged crowd being harangued by El Jefe from the balcony of the Field House. With great difficulty, academics can be gotten to admit that yes, Castro eliminated thousands of people. And yes, many were innocent, even through the political lenses of progressives. And no, all those refugees who've been fleeing to Miami for the last half-century can't all be evil kulak oppressors. But, but, but....

But the dream of a better world, coupled with a superior dissatisfaction with the humdrum here-and-now, minus a developed sense of compassion for real people (as opposed to The People), just seems to dissolve progressives' sense of perspective. An example from not too long ago:

The advantages of the "left" regimes and movements in the eyes of the world media have...not disappeared. They do not have to pursue "left" policies so much as to adopt "left" stances. Anthony Howard, then editor of the left-wing _New Statesman_, once pointed out that if Huey Long had only used left-wing phraseology he would have enjoyed wide support from the New York and London intelligentsia.
-- Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century, 2000

Being flattered is like being drunk: we never think we are least so, as when we are most so. Castro has a long record of playing norteamericano sophisticates like a pawnshop Gibson in a Pete Townshend impersonation contest. Count Professor Bulliet among the duped, and pray for the sake of the next generation of students, if Ahmadinejad's charm is as seductive to progressives as Castro's was.

Also: HA!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ken Burns' "The War"

So I watched the first hour, then turned it off to bundle the kiddiwinks into bed, and didn't really feel like turning it back on. All I could think about was, it's a Ken Burns® film.

In the course of sighing over another PBS doco some years back, Michael of 2Blowhards blog had this to say:
Over the years, I've taped a bunch of PBS shows on good topics, and there on the shelf the tapes still sit. I'd love to know more about their subject matter, but I know in advance what the shows are going to deliver: yet more mournful piano and guitar music, yet more shots of sunsets and water, yet more sepia photographs, and yet more earnest academics denouncing racism -- more brain-dead hours in someone else's church.

Burns' work is snappier than that, I admit. In his film The Civil War, he was limited to panning into, out from, or across old photos, so that when the moving footage of the reunions appeared toward the end it had quite an impact. With this war, he can splice the endless supply of footage into whatever collage his vision desires. The visual points of emphasis, the cinematic exclamation points, are just what you'd expect, if you're familiar with his work.

Thing is, I don't see what supposed to be so new and different about it. I've been listening to Burns on NPR's chat shows this past week, giving his the-making-of interviews to the hosts on Weekend Edition and such. He makes much of the democratic aspect of the film--it isn't going to be just some grand biopic of famous generals and politicians. Plus, it's going to show the war's real gore and grue, which nostalgia has bleached out of nation's memory.

Eh? Has anyone ever seen a WWII documentary, at least since the fortieth anniversaries, which didn't have crusty old vets and gracious old ladies, reminiscing about how it was in the long, long ago? And has everyone forgotten that documentary that one of the broadcast networks aired for the sixtieth anniversaries, with all the unedited battle film clips? (If you didn't, suffice it to say that death by flame-thrower is not instantaneous.) Other than Burns' trademark black title boards and his innovative framing of still photos, I just didn't see what was supposed to be so different about this one.

But, if it's time to dust off the oft-told tale of The Greatest Generation yet again for a new crop of young people, then all this can be ignored, and they can watch it and be duly edified. As only PBS can edify, if you believe them.

Addendum: If you think you might not be able to go the distance on "The War", here's an overlooked gem of a song that will make the same points for you, in much less time. The faux-period jazz that Wynton Marsalis composed for The War is pretty cool, but this would have been a perfect backdrop against which to roll the credits.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting Ground Zero is like Mussolini visiting the City Of London after the Blitz.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Talk like a pirate day? Humbug!

I prefer to celebrate Don't Do Anything Like A Pirate Day, myself.

Senate fails to pass stealth troop withdrawal legislation

Let it not go unnoticed that ever since 9/11 the Dems' response to The Jihad has been 100% poll driven. Bush's efforts have been more dogged than deft, but no one can claim he's been at this for popularity's sake. A politician acts with an eye on the next election, a statesman acts with an eye on the next generation. Six years after 9/11, I haven't been attacked, but thousands of terrorists have. Thanks, Mr. President.

O.J. Simpson--I can't resist...

If he's acquited of these charges, will he declare that he's going to search for the real kidnappers?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

First Things is still shackled to the Intelligent Design scow

It is curious to note the old sea-margins of human thought. Each subsiding century reveals some new mystery; we build where monsters used to hide.
-- Longfellow

This article, God and Evolution, on faith and reason by Avery Cardinal Dulles sadly includes this howler:

An important school of scientists supports a theory known as Intelligent Design. Michael Behe, a professor at Lehigh University, contends that certain organs of living beings are “irreducibly complex.” Their formation could not take place by small random mutations, because something that had only some but not all the features of the new organ would have no reason for existence and no advantage for survival. It would make no sense, for example, for the pupil of the eye to evolve if there were no retina to accompany it, and it would be nonsensical for there to be a retina with no pupil. As a showcase example of a complex organ all of whose parts are interdependent, Behe proposes the bacterial flagellum, a marvelous swimming device used by some bacteria.

The august Cardinal surely knows better. Intelligent design has been disproven in every jot and tittle, a hundred-fold over. Even the editors of First Things were chastened, for awhile last year, to back down and pronounce it more metaphysical than scientific.

The Cardinal has simply been outpaced by developments. As the genes of living creatures unspool under the gaze of geneticists and their ever-advancing techniques of understanding, many mysterious things are no longer quite so mysterious. Very simple mutations can give rise to quite striking morphological differences. As for the irreducible complexity of the eye, he should be embarrassed to bring out such a weary old fallacy. Suffice it here to say that the eye is found in all levels of sophistication and precision throughout nature, and that human eyes are not even the best there are. And once again Intelligent Design is presented as a real opposing theory in the arena of ideas, rather than the rabble of flat-earthers it is, trying to shout down real scientists trying to do their work.

Then there's this:

Much of the scientific community seems to be fiercely opposed to any theory that would bring God actively into the process of evolution,[...] Several centuries ago, a group of philosophers known as Deists held the theory that God had created the universe and ceased at that point to have any further influence. Most Christians firmly disagreed, holding that God continues to act in history. In the course of centuries, he gave revelations to his prophets; he worked miracles; he sent his own Son to become a man; he raised Jesus from the dead. If God is so active in the supernatural order, producing effects that are publicly observable, it is difficult to rule out on principle all interventions in the process of evolution. Why should God be capable of creating the world from nothing but incapable of acting within the world he has made? The tendency today is to say that creation was not complete at the origins of the universe but continues as the universe develops in complexity.

Funny, I don't feel Deist...Seriously, anyone can see the problem with this. If we admit the supernatural as an agent in the natural world, then out the window goes science itself. Because of course God could intervene however He wished, and He would not be constrained by any natural laws, and thus could not be predicted by any scientific experiment or theory. That way lies intellectual stagnation and fatalism. For example:

...our opponent claims that the agent of the burning is the fire exclusively;’ this is a natural, not a voluntary agent, and cannot abstain from what is in its nature when it is brought into contact with a receptive substratum. This we deny, saying: The agent of the burning is God, through His creating the black in the cotton and the disconnexion of its parts, and it is God who made the cotton burn and made it ashes either through the intermediation of angels or without intermediation. For fire is a dead body which has no action, and what is the proof that it is the agent? Indeed, the philosophers have no other proof than the observation of the occurrence of the burning, when there is contact with fire, but observation proves only a simultaneity, not a causation, and, in reality, there is no other cause but God.

That's the medieval Muslim philosopher al-Ghazali, credited with killing off whatever scientific spirit the Islamic world ever may have had. With no reason to investigate, since everything is determined by the Creator, there is nothing to do except switch off your mind, marvel at the panoply of nature, and prostrate yourself before The Infinite.

We certainly need to have a robust element of reason in our daily faith. I only wish I were more familiar with the riches of the Thomist heritage. Maybe I'll dig into it when I retire. And we must of course be wary of another onslaught of atheistic scientism, as happened in the first third of the previous century. But atheistic scientism is not science, and it is hardly a Christian attitude to misrepresent it as such.

No Farking around with kids!

My children are getting old enough so that I've got to be careful what I have on the computer screen when they're in the room. I was on just now, and my young daughter saw the word "dumbass" onscreen. "Ooh!" she exclaimed. I quickly minimized the screen. "Shoo!" She paused to explain, "If you take off the letters A-S-S it spells "dumb" and that's a bad word to call somebody!"


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Man struck by lightning becomes pretty good pianist

If you have

*a piano
*a child who won't practice
*jumper cables

then you probably shouldn't read this.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

President Bush's address on Iraq

An isolated impression:

Note Bush's insistence on "flexibility" for his commanders. TIME magazine's Joe Klein says that Bush is hiding behind General Petraeus, but a comparison with Vietnam is helpful here. One of the reasons that U.S. bombing of North Vietnam was ultimately unfruitful was because it was so predictable. And one of the reasons that it was so predictable was that, during Lyndon Johnson's administration, the flight plans of the bombers were drawn up by the President himself. Dates, times, courses, everything. According to people who were there at the time, the rigidity of these telegraphed blows resulted in quite a lot of American deaths. (Not that proggy "world citizens" would give a post-pee shake about that, but that's another rant.) Kudos to Bush for avoiding that particular trap.

New Zealand pol bagged by "dihydrogen monoxide" hoax

How long has the "ban dihydrogen monoxide" campaign been around, anyway? I remember its predecessor, back in the late 70s. Someone's syndicated newspaper column asserted that water would surely never be approved for sale in this country, if it were put on the market today, because the swarming panic lobbyists (in Tim Blair's phrase) would never abide water's many hazards.

Yet here is this New Zealand MP apparently falling for the hoary old gag. I guess it's a good sign, that she has a life too full and busy to bother keeping up with internet pranks. But, I hope she's not on any science committees in the kiwi parliament!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Memo to self: don't forget to live!

But it is better to be a fool than to be dead. It is better to emit a scream in the shape of a theory than to be entirely insensible to the jars and incongruities of life and take everything as it comes in a forlorn stupidity. Some people swallow the universe like a pill; they travel on through the world, like smiling images pushed from behind. For God's sake give me the young man who has brains enough to make a fool of himself! As for the others, the irony of facts shall take it out of their hands, and make fools of them in downright earnest, ere the farce be over. There shall be such a mopping and a mowing at the last day, and such blushing and confusion of countenance for all those who have been wise in their own esteem, and have not learnt the rough lessons that youth hands on to age. If we are indeed here to perfect and complete our own natures, and grow larger, stronger, and more sympathetic against some nobler career in the future, we had all best bestir ourselves to the utmost while we have the time. To equip a dull, respectable person with wings would be but to make a parody of an angel.
-- Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881

There's many a current self-help guru who'd give their time-share condo to be able to write like that!

The hospitality of the Deobandis

Via Family Security Matters comes this affront to multi-cultism in The Times of London: "Hardline takeover of British mosques"

It concerns the proliferation and entrenchment in Britain of the fundamentalist Deobandi branch of Islam, named after the north Indian city of Deoband where the sect is based. Pull quote:

A commentator on religious radicalism in Pakistan, where Deobandis wield significant political influence, told The Times that "blind ignorance" on the part of the Government in Britain had allowed the Deobandis to become the dominant voice of Islam in Britain's mosques.

Khaled Ahmed said: "The UK has been ruined by the puritanism of the Deobandis. You've allowed the takeover of the mosques. You can't run multiculturalism like that, because that's a way of destroying yourself. In Britain, the Deobandi message has become even more extreme than it is in Pakistan. It's mind-boggling."

Alarming stuff, however depressingly familiar it may be by now. However, the story reminded me of this anecdote, which was the fist I'd heard of the Deobandis, by name at least:

I had not realized it was possible. But the mullahs of Deoband, the center of Islamic orthodoxy in south Asia, had managed to circumvent a fatwa[...]out of courtesy to me. They did it so that I could drink a cup of coffee. I was visiting Dar-ul-Uloom--the House of Knowledge--a large Islamic school in the town of Deoband, about ninety miles north of New Delhi. [...] I was sitting on the ground in the study of Maulana (an honorific given to learned Muslim men) Abdul Khalik Madrasi, vice-chancellor of Deoband, with a group of his students [in October 2001...]

The burly Maulana, whose beard almost reached down to his rotund belly, then asked if I wanted a refreshment. I said I would like a Nescafe, which is the only kind of coffee usually available in north India outside the cities. "No, no," he said sternly. "We have issued a fatwa forbidding the faithful from buying any American or British products." I tried in vain to argue that I was not one of the faithful so the fatwa should not apply to me. They laughed it off. Then I tried and failed to convince them that Nescafe is owned by Nestle, which is a Swiss company. But they had either never heard of Switzerland or could not see the difference. In much of India the word *Angrezi*--English--simply means "foreign", or "Western". No, they said, wagging their fingers, as if they had caught me pulling a fast one, Nescafe is Angrezi.

Then something occured to the Maulana, who was a member of the committee that issues Deobandi fatwas. "I have thought of a legitimate loophole," the Maulana announced with a smile. "The fatwa applies only to products bought after September 11. Does anyone here possess Nescafe that is older?" A student raised his hand. The mildewed sachet of instant coffee that he fetched from his room considerably predated 9/11. It was one of the most satisfying coffees I have ever had.
-- Edward Luce, In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of
Modern India, 2007

Cute, eh? In a creepy sort of way? So maybe I do have a suitable 9/11 anniversary post, after all. Maybe the common courtesies, which Near Easterners have historically been so famous for, will have some hand in bringing about peace. Wouldn't bet my kids' futures on it, but wouldn't it be...sweet?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 Anniversary Post

Sorry, not up to it. I remember it like it was this morning, and I'm still furious; it's just that I don't have anything different to say than I've said in years past. But, if you haven't found a good anniversary post yet and are hankering for one, try this one at Blonde Sagacity. It's a repeat post, she says, but that's okay. We're still close enough in time to the event to have the same emotions as in earlier years. That creeping seducer, "Perspective", can wait until the big, even anniversaries roll around--for those who weren't here on 9/11.

Israel air strike in Syria

According to CNN, there really was an Israeli air strike inside Syria. Likely target: a delivery of weapons for noted Islamic charity Hezbollah. Guess the IAF thought they'd save the UN the trouble and expense of interdicting those weapons, before they got deployed under the peacekeepers' noses in south Lebanon.

Wish we could do the same about the flow of jihadists infiltrating Iraq on Syria's other border.

The Petraeus Report

The Petraeus Report, replete with maps, bar graphs, and other PowerPoint accoutrements, is here.

Monday, September 10, 2007

On the recent spate of combative atheist books attacking religion

Via Patrick Kurp, I find this excerpt from this Theodore Dalrymple piece: How To Hate The Non-Existent

Perhaps one of the reasons that contemporary secularists do not simply reject religion but hate it is that they know that, while they can easily rise to the levels of hatred that religion has sometimes encouraged, they will always find it difficult to rise to the levels of love that it has sometimes encouraged.

I haven't sat down with Dennett, Hitchens, and Sam Harris, and probably won't save possibly for Hitchens, but I wonder how closely this fits any of them. It's gratifying to think of oneself as a lonely, even desperate voice of reason, trapped in a world of mindless pod people. Maybe it takes a conscious effort, some learned life skill, to not turn into the stereotypical "village atheist", and instead just take one's own rather unique but hardly unheard of place in the larger society. Yet something has set off the hardline atheist intelligentsia these past few years, as the flood of new, hard-hitting books attests. What could it be? 9/11? Advances in science? The Bush administration and its talk of "faith-based initiatives"? Do they sense an opening for a fresh offensive, or do they feel they are holding a line? Whatever, these new books may mark (or announce) the beginning of a pervasive anti-religious tone in educated society, the like of which we haven't seen since Voltaire.

However it may play out, there's one thing that's for sure:

We can keep from a child all knowledge of earlier myths, but we cannot take from him the need for mythology.
--Carl Jung, 1912

Well, here's one way of boosting your blog's traffic!

Live to age 95! Congratulations to the senora on her advanced years, and her popular blog.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Appropriate technology

Via Reynolds, I read this article by Megan McArdle about a bizarre new form of assuaging one's eco-conscience: Turning the locals into human gerbils, during your adventure tour.

The bit about the treadle pump reminds me of something I heard long ago, during a visit to the Southern Institute for Appropriate Technology. Seems that there was once an idea to help some village mechanize their agriculture without bringing in expensive, high-maintenance First World machinery. So they rigged up a contraption whereby the villagers could grind their grain with millstones connected to bicycles. But, the initiative failed, due to cultural ignorance. In their society, only women ground grain, and only men rode bikes. This was supposed to be the classic example of well-meaning NGO ignorance, I was told.

Update: Welcome, to readers of Andrea Harris! Be sure to click back, if you didn't come there, and catch her funny post there. It reminded me of one time in south Georgia, strolling around a neighborhood with some suburban kids from Michigan, down South for a mission trip. They looked at the laundry on the lines, and I heard one kid say, "How do the clothes get dry hanging out here?

Inhaling popcorn fumes

Microwave popcorn fans worried about the potential for lung disease from butter flavoring fumes should know this: The sole reported case of the disease in a non-factory worker involves a man who popped the corn every day and inhaled from the bag.

"He really liked microwave popcorn. He made two or three bags every day for 10 years," said William Allstetter, a spokesman for National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver where the man's respiratory illness was diagnosed.

"He told us he liked the smell of popcorn, so he would open and inhale from freshly popped bags," Allstetter said. And the patient said he did this for a decade.

Solution's obvious: Throw lots of money at panic lobbyists and grievance shriekers, in Tim Blair's phrasing, and deny non-idiots everywhere yet another simple pleasure of life.

Random Rock Bloggage

I find myself tuning out talk radio, as the presidential election gathers steam. Many of the hosts are still insightful and entertaining, but others are just pure and simple shills. Or worse, wanna-be kingmakers. Once I know the topic they are parsing, I generally know what they and their callers are going to say. I don't mind a good discussion, but I find myself having less and less patience for listening to like-minded people gather together and spraymark. And no, I am not "growing" in my political beliefs. I had even less tolerance for Air America, in the months that it was on the air here, for the same reasons.

The only AM station I can listen to for any length of time anymore is 1690, The Voice Of The Arts. Quite a lot of variety. They never take my requests, same as the other stations in the area, but with them I don't mind, since I always hear something new and interesting most every day.

I can't listen to the lone remaining classic rock station, 97.1, anymore. I'm sorry to say that I've heard as much top-40 classic rock as I need to ever again. I'll switch over to it, hear one chord, one note, even one drum tap, immediately recall the entire song, and then switch away. The former 96 Rock's playlist of nu-metal and 90s rock is just one long expectoration. I pity the millennium generation, who have that dreck as the soundtrack of their teen years. And Dave-FM always seems to promise a lot but never quite delivers. Just a lot of tuneless strumming, to my ears. I'm too old, probably. I'd much rather listen to Artie Shaw blowing the doors down, or Frank Sinatra moaning into his whisky sour, than anything from my own past, nowadays.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Happy Labor Day

And my sympathies if you are in fact a member of the labor force, and therefore have to work on this holiday. Sometimes I think they should just rename all the holidays, "Banks and Post Office Holiday No 1, Banks and Post Office Holiday No 2, Banks and Post Office Holiday No 3," etc.

Lebanese army roots out Palestinian terrorists

Nice shootin', Tex! As you may remember, I don't tend to get all moist and sniffly over these, the Western Left's mascots.

Update: But it isn't over yet.

Nahr Al-Bared, Lebanon - Lebanese military helicopters flew low Monday over the smoking ruins of this Palestinian refugee camp as soldiers scoured the nearby countryside for remnants of the Al Qaeda-inspired group whose three-month battle against the Army ended Sunday.

Fatah al-Islam, which violently burst onto Lebanon's turbulent political scene, triggered the worst internal violence since the 1975-19 civil war. But even though its leader, Shaker al-Absi, is dead and almost all his militants killed or captured, many Lebanese worry that it's just a matter of time before Sunni jihadi violence erupts again.

A weak central government, ill-equipped and factionalized security services, extremist Islamic groups in Palestinian camps, and the tempting target of European-led United Nations peacekeepers in the south make Lebanon a potentially attractive base for operations, analysts say.

Now is the time for the state of Lebanon to finally firm up and spit this slithering filth out.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Larry Craig outing legitimate?

Newsweek has a point-counterpoint interview with two gay journalists on whether Larry Craig should have been "outed". I'm not impressed with the idea of trotting out two gay journalists, as if only like can report on like. But Chris Crain does make a good point about the sanctimonious viciousness of some gay activists:

I'm no defender of public sex, but "outing" activists don't limit their call for such media probes to cases like Craig's. [...] Closeted gay men aren't the only targets of these outing activists. They will go after anyone whose private sex life is, according to them, inconsistent with their public views. In some cases, "outing" activists [...] have gone after nonpoliticians and even openly gay and pro-gay public figures if their private sex lives are deemed inconsistent with their public views. Anonymous ads on online sex sites have been exposed, and the claims of alleged past sex partners have been sought and published. These activists have no boundaries when it comes to the private sex lives of public figures, and they would drag the media into the bedrooms, toilets and phone-sex chat lines with them. It's not legitimate journalism, it invades the privacy of public figures, and (whether they realize it or not) it smears gay people generally by reinforcing the idea that we're all out there furtively looking for anonymous sex.

Of course, there's no reason to be scared of "outing activists", so long as you have nothing to hide. They would surely never lie about anyone, would they? Especially not in these high-speed media days, where an accusation made is an accusation proved? Sure sounds like it's not the inmates, but the brownshirts, who are sporting the pink triangles here.

As for Craig himself, my sympathies and best of luck to him, if he's innocent. If he's really been involved in the "tea room scene", then..."When a man is down, 'down with him!'" Guess we'll see soon enough.

Your First Things tie-in: Richard John Neuhaus and Jody Bottum and crew have been writing about homosexuality rather extensively in recent years, in part because of their election-year run-ins with Andrew Sullivan. But, here's some linky goodness that will get you into plenty of thought-provoking older articles, too.

Plane spotters

This Hungarian news service doesn't know their airplanes, it seems. The story, of a Congressional junket to Iraq being fired on upon departure, is accompanied by the photo in the screen shot, above. It shows an A-10 Thunderbolt, (or Warthog, on account of its ugliness) which is a single seat ground attack jet. I don't know what those flares beneath it are supposed to be. The Congressmen flew aboard a C-130 Hercules, which is a much bigger beast.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Christ-like Bin Laden...

"Another blogger, Marc, praised the artworks' shock value. "Art is supposed to provoke thought and offend you and make you think," he wrote."

Okay, I think this art stinks, and the artist is someone who thinks her lazy épater les bourgeouis paintings communicate anything more than her own deracinated relativism. Next!

All Edges Gilt

Have a look at my new blog, All Edges Gilt. It's a collection of scans of old book illustrations. It's not much now, but these things come my way all the time, and so I'm looking forward to sharing them with whoever may be interested.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Those damn conservatives!

Here's a piece on ABC News about the incremental shariah-zation of Malaysia. Towards the end there's some concerned voiced about ethnic cronyism in government hiring. Radical Islam plus corruption equals...what? According to ABC, this: "Fears of creeping conservatism in Malaysia".

Now, you might think that government corruption is an apolitical blight. Flies are attracted to dung, no matter its source. And what could be more radical, if you will, than stuffing a relaxed, tropical multi-ethnic society into a Wahhabist burkha? But no, mustn't unsettle the newsies' youthful associations with that word, "radical". Probably we should be grateful that they managed to pluck up the courage to even suggest that shariah might not be just another swell fragment of the Glorioius Mosaic of Multiculturalism. So, "conservative" shall this slip-slide into the abyss be termed.

Friday, August 24, 2007

"What you mean "we", kemo sabe?"

I read Mark Lilla's piece in the New York Times Magazine recently, about how liberal secular societies are in danger of being overwhelmed by the inrushing return of Islamic theocracy. A riposte is here, a bit of one-upmanship is here, and a complaint that 'the dog ate my blogpost' is here. I don't have much of anything to add, other than that it's nice to see that even liberal academics can be made to admit that having the West's cultural atmosphere shiver with the schhhwwiinnnnggg!! of scimitars being unsheathed is indeed something that should make intelligent people gulp in apprehension.

But I was puzzled by the way he cast this whole dilemma. He's American, born in Detroit, and spent his entire academic career in U.S. universities, according to the biographical sources I've consulted. Yet, look at how he speaks: "Today, we have progressed..." "We in the West are disturbed and confused." "We live, so to speak, on the other shore. When we observe those on the opposite bank, we are puzzled,..." Yet all the while he's saying "we", he's not talking about we Americans, nor even we rank-and-file Westerners. He's referring to the great figures from the mighty European intellectual tradition, in whose invisible company he's passed his professional life, and from whose stores of wisdom he's furnished his own intellect. The American experience merits barely an aside:

As for the American experience, it is utterly exceptional: there is no other fully developed industrial society with a population so committed to its faiths (and such exotic ones), while being equally committed to the Great Separation. Our political rhetoric, which owes much to the Protestant sectarians of the 17th century, vibrates with messianic energy, and it is only thanks to a strong constitutional structure and various lucky breaks that political theology has never seriously challenged the basic legitimacy of our institutions. Americans have potentially explosive religious differences over abortion, prayer in schools, censorship, euthanasia, biological research and countless other issues, yet they generally settle them within the bounds of the Constitution. It’s a miracle.

He says "miracle", but the tone sounds like he means "fluke". He seems quite divorced from America's spiritual taproot. ("...only thanks to a strong constitutional structure and various lucky breaks"...well, communist China had those things, too--that's how Mao managed to die in bed.) There's no Luther or Erasmus in American history; rather, America's spiritual life has always been more of a people's affair. This can be seen in negative example, in H. L. Mencken's constant (though entertaining) pummeling of the ubiquitous "booboisie". It can been seen in positive example in having simply grown up in small town, church-going America. No theorists needed.

And what European observers never quite seem to get is that separation of church and state freed the church to follow its own purpose in the national life. The fact that it still has a purpose, that it still illumines and sustains the everyday lives of ordinary people, without being a tool of the state, must seem anomalous indeed to post-Christian theorists. It isn't an easy arrangement, as Richard John Neuhaus of First Things once noted:

The problem, of course, is that neither [church nor state] is prepared to remain within its institutional boundaries. Government, if it is to be sustainable, engages beliefs and loyalties of an ultimate sort that can properly be called religious. As the impulse of the modern state is to define all public space as governmental space, so the consequence is a tendency toward "civil religion." Religion, on the other hand, if it represents a comprehensive belief system, speaks to the human condition in all its aspects, including the right ordering (the government) of public life....Thus each institution is, in the eyes of the other, constantly bursting its bounds. Therein is the foundation of the open-ended argument between church and state. Open-ended, that is, so long as a society professes to be democratic.
-- Richard John Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square, 1984

But weal prevails nonetheless, most of the time, on these happy shores. Dr. Lilla is surely a more capable analyst of these things than scribblers such as I. He should turn his gaze homeward more often.

Do you like funny animated avatars?

From a comments thread at Protein Wisdom, I found this guy's blog. These animated gifs are a riot, and I intend to steal most of them, for my own use in certain forums where I use an avatar. So, it's only fair that I throw a bit of my traffic his way, nu?

China's sudden notoriety is really old news. Will we listen this time?

The Chinaman is dreaded because of his power to under- live the white; — the white is equally to be dreaded because of his ability to over-live the Oriental.
-- The Japanese Letters of Lafadio Hearn, 1910

It's been a bad summer for China's image in the international business world. Toys with lead paint, tainted pet food, toxic toothpaste, miners dying like rats in a septic tank, bridges collapsing, and who knows what'll be coming down the pike next.

But they'll get past it. That gigantic market and that spankin' new middle class will get China back into everyone's good graces in no time. Because the very fact of China's pre-eminence on the global business scene makes them a partner the world can't refuse. Whatever happens elsewhere in the world, money and cheap labor are the balm and lever with which China thinks it can make any problems go away. And who will say that they are wrong?

Remember, communist China is the most murderous regime ever to arise in the history of the world, with a body count greater than Hitler's or Stalin's. The revolutionary bloodlust may have abated since Mao's death, but, with the exception of Jiang Qing, the original old guard were either eliminated by Mao or died in their beds. There was never anything like a Western-style carriage of justice for the communist atrocities of the Twenties and Thirties, the Great Leap Forward, the Anti-Rightist Campaign, the Cultural Revolution, and all the smaller, constant undercurrents of repression.

Whatever actions we can prod them into doing or stopping, via "incentives" or something, will not be because we can shame them into it. A country that massacred its own young people live on international TV is not going to be embarrassed over some south Florida bluehair's wiener dog croaking from tainted dog food.

Western firms know all this, and they still fall all over themselves to get in on China's market and exploit her workers. The big internet companies have signed on as auxillary secret police. (Where are their vaunted principles, then? I don't know, maybe somewhere in here.) I fear that, far from absorbing liberty and democracy from the West, as a result of the present engagement, China will instead give inspiration to tyrants everywhere. That it's possibly to deal with the First World on one's own terms, without making any concessions to democracy or human rights. That western businesses and institutions will become conditioned to go along with the trappings of totalitarianism, little by little, as they penetrate China inch by inch. For the few liberty-longing Chinese bloggers, getting extinguished one by one with help from Western internet companies, the coming years will be a lonely struggle indeed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fun with the federal Bureau of Prisons

1. Click here for the BOP's inmate locator.

2. Type in your own name.

3. Let that be a lesson to you. Unless your name is somewhat unusual, that is.

Monday, August 20, 2007

"Walking in your footsteps..."

Wow, here's a whole blog devoted to scolding Sting and The Police for agreeing to play a concert in Cuba. Talk about your single issue websites! Good on 'em, though; too many of our glitterati and intelligentsia have been fatally schmoozed by El Jefe, to the detriment of their moral compasses.

Via a banner at Chicago Boyz

Michael Vick pleads guilty

There's an interesting post and comments thread going on at Wizbang at the moment, on whether Vick will ever come back to the NFL. My opinion: someone will agree to let him suit up in an NFL uniform, as long as he's got talent, no matter what he does. Darryl Strawberry in MLB and Ray Lewis in the NFL are examples of that.

If by some fluke of principle no one will take him, there's always professional wrestling. The names "Animal" and "Junkyard Dog" have already been taken, though.

An overlooked fact about Wikiscanner

Wikiscanner does not see registered Wikipedia users. Users who have Wikipedia accounts have their IP addresses shielded from view, and thus do not show up on Wikiscanner's search results. Funnily enough, it's the anonymous users who leave the trail that Wikiscanner tracks.

So, conceivably, there could be a lot more Wiki-spin going on, from parties unknown, than appears in Wired's rogues gallery. In fairness, Virgil Griffith says as much in the header of Wikiscanner's front page: "List anonymous wikipedia edits from interesting organizations". But most of the bloggage I've seen has overlooked this potentially crucial fact. Is Fox News really monkeying with Wikipedia more than other news outlets? Or do the other outlets just have more users with Wikipedia accounts? It's impossible to say, but it's something to think about.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ordinary human decency revealed via Wikiscanner...

So I was going through a list of left-leaning organizations, searching for dirt on 'em, when I came upon this. Somebody at the Sierra Club repeatedly corrected some extremely vile vandalization of the article on the July 5, 2005 London bus bombings. Well done.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Fun with Wikiscanner

Okay, as of this evening young Virgil Griffith's Wikiscanner seems to be reasonably accessible. I see that a lot of posts I made to Wikipedia before I started using an alias are visible. These are posts on various subjects I made at wor-errrr!!! I mean, when I was away from home... *koff* I mean, c'mon! You click over just out of idle curiosity, tweak a typo, check the history on something else, and before you know it you've blown the afternoon writing out the history of the discovery of the element palladium or some such!

Here are some interesting things I saw while searching some other institutions. Nothing particularly "gotcha", I don't think, just an amusing view into someone's previously private moment. Although I'll admit I'm searching as I'm writing, here. Keep in mind that people who have Wikipedia aliases are truly anonymous, and do not show up in Wikiscanner.

Someone at The Nation changed the name of a photo of John Kerry to John Fortuitous Kerry.

Someone at the same magazine changed the entry on George W. Bush, to label him a British politician. For what, I couldn't tell you.

Some jocular juvenile at Bard College asserted that a family of Neandertals reside in Paterson, NJ. Reason I search Bard was to see if they had anything to say about Alger Hiss, since there is a political science post named after this traitor.

Oddly, or perhaps not, Evergreen State College has only one user listed who edited the entry on that institution's most famous scion, St. Pancake. Less oddly, a young speaker of truth to power, or one of the lefty fossils on the faculty, calls the President retarded. Twice.

Someone at the Islamic Center of San Francisco was quite, quite in a lather, to prove that the Jooooos were behind efforts to besmirch the credibility of that old forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Same dude, likely, slapped the warning label "Zionist" on Robert Spencer in the entry for his webpage Dhimmi Watch. Another American Islamic organization, however, featured wikipedia edits from an Islamic Harry Potter fan.

I didn't see anything from First Things, so it looks like Richard John Neuhaus and Jody Bottum are not riding this fad. At least not at work!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

NPR has no space to report liberals' abuse of Wikipedia...

...but plenty of space to hang their favorite dartboards: Wal-Mart, Foxnews, etc., in connection with that new Wikipedia scanner tool. There's nary a murmur about a jerk at United Nations slandering the late Oriana Falacci, the ACLU slagging the pope, and oh, a whole slew of monkeying around, from all sides. But, trust the group good-think at Morning Edition to whittle it down to corporations, conservatives, conservative corporations, and corporate conservatives.

The template, the template, semper et ubique, the template...

I look forward to playing with Wikiscanner, once its Greece-based server recovers from the traffic tsunami.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What I saw at the revolution...

After this failure [the prisoners] started inflating balloons with smoke. With a following wind they flew quite well, exhibiting inscriptions in large letters to the settlement:

"Save the women and old men from being beaten!"
"We demand to see a member of the Presidium."

The guards started shooting at the balloons.

Then some Chechen prisoners came to the Technical Department and offered to make kites. (They are experts.) They succeeded in sticking some kites together and paying out the string until they were over the settlement. There was a percussive device on the frame of each kite. When the kite was in a convenient position, the device scattered a bundle of leaflets, also attached to the kite. The kite fliers sat on the roof of a hut waiting to see what would happen next. If the leaflets fell close to the camp, warders ran to collect them; if they fell farther away, motorcyclists and horsemen dashed after them. Whatever happened, they tried to prevent the free citizens from reading an independent version of the truth. (The leaflets ended by requesting any citizen of Kengir who found one to deliver it to the Central Committee.) The kites were also shot at, but holing was less damaging to them than to the balloons. They enemy soon discovered that sending up counter-kites to tangle strings with them was cheaper than keeping a crowd of warders on the run.

A war of kites in the second half of the twentieth century! And all to silence a word of truth.
--Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, part V,
chapter 12

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Reformist Koran?

Judging from the blurbs for this new Koran, the forces of moderate Islam may finally have a weapon in their lonely war against the fanatics. If so, let's hope this tome's influence spreads far, wide, deep, and fast.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

If I were Dave Ramsey...

If I were Dave Ramsey, I'd first buy a lot of stock in credit card companies, check cashing joints, car title pawnshops, and tax refund lenders. These are the types of companies that he is always warning his listeners against.

Then I'd add the following to my Financial Peace speech:

"Now, do you have a lot of credit card debt? Do you cash checks at any place other than the bank where you have a checking account? Do you borrow against your car's value, or take out tax refund loans? Full disclosure here. I own stock in all those types of companies. I don't need to. I make plenty of money with my speaking and radio gigs, and with my more socially responsible portfolio. But I want you to know that I am invested in these businesses.

"You may well wonder why I would give my money to these parasites, these sharks, that are eating your futures alive. Simple. I want you to get out of debt, same as I've always wanted. And I want you to get mad at your debt, same as I've always wanted. And the best way to do that, I've discovered, is to get mad at yourself for a) getting into all this debt so foolishly, and b) having to pay a short bald guy on the speaking circuit to tell you how to get out. For just a short while, I want you to get mad at me.

"Because now, with my stock holdings in these predatory industries, I am getting even richer than I already am. If nothing about your present sad situation makes you mad, then I want this to make you mad: I am getting you coming and going. I've already got your money to come hear me speak, and maybe buy a book and audio cd, too. If you take the advice I'm giving you tonight, you will be on the road to get out of debt and be able to live like no one else.

"Or you can ignore my advice. You can heave a sigh and say that it's just too hard. You're just not disciplined enough. Your mate would never co-operate. You're in too deep. And on and on and on. You can go back to paying off one credit card with another, taking out second mortgages for grown-up toys and vacations, piddling away your cash flow on car loans and rent-to-own stereos. If you do that, well...I'm still getting rich off of you. Your bad habits are just going to make me richer and richer. I am getting you coming and going, and that makes you not only a bad steward of your finances. It makes you a sucker. A mark. A fish. Take my seminar to heart, and you'll only pay me once. Stay in your bad habits, and you'll keep me sleeping between silk sheets forever.

"When I'm out on my next vacation, at a gorgeous, exclusive mountain lodge, looking out over the breathtaking view and enjoying the cool, refreshing mountain breezes, know what I'm going to do? I'm going to pull out my blackberry, check my portfolio, throw an extra thousand or two into my fund for my *next* vacation, in just a couple of months or so, and then I'm going to raise my umbrella drink in a toast to you--the undisciplined, spendthrift, whining slob, who's making my wonderful life possible. Here's to you--sucker. Now get mad, and listen up."

That's what I'd say, if I were him.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get

The NOAA is forecasting a busier than normal hurricane season this year. They did last year, too; although 2006 turned out to be much milder than usual. And they did in 2005, and they were right in that case. And they did in pretty much every year for the past decade, and...oh, you'll just have to look up the data yourself, to see if they were right or wrong. The folktale is wrong: the public, or at least the media, is very forgiving of people crying wolf. No one wants egg on his face from having uttered "famous last words", after all.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What I saw at the revolution...

No, it would be quite wrong to say that the Jews "organized" the revolutions of 1905 and 1917, just as it was not organized by any other nation as such.

[But, i]n the case of young Jewish revolutionaries (and, alas, their mentors), as well as those Jews to whom the encyclopedia refers as "the important driving force of the revolution," what was forgotten was the wise counsel of the prophet Jeremiah to the Jews taken to Babylon: "Seek the welfare of the city where I [the Lord] have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf: For in its welfare you will find your welfare." (Jer. 29:7).

In contrast, the Russian Jews who had joined the revolutionary
movement were burning with eagerness to tear that city down. They were blind to the consequences.
-- Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Two Hundred Years Together, vol. 1,
chapter 9

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Poor, oppressed Muslims. No, really!

cross-posted at Protein Wisdom

So I was getting my fill of the daily Jihad over at TROP one day, and started wondering, could there possibly be another side to this? Are there really Muslims who are as despised and persecuted as well-heeled First World Muslim advocacy groups claim that they themselves are? (I exclude Palestinians, since a) their woes are all self-inflicted; b)I remember what a horror-show they turned beautiful, sophisticated Lebanon into in the 70s; c) their hands have been purple and smoking with the blood of Jews and Americans for as long as I can remember, and they recently voted for a gang of killers who promised much more of the same. So, off to the nth power, they should feel free to sod.)

After clicking around, I'd say it's very hard to argue that the Muslims of Gujarat, in western India, have deserved the outrages visited upon them five years ago. Short version: a train of Hindu pilgrims was set on fire, and in retaliation, and with the connivance of authorities in certain precincts, entire neighborhoods of Muslims were wiped out. A Hindu filmmaker, Rakesh Sharma, made a documentary about the atrocity, the chilling conclusion of which is here. On his blog, he tartly responds to non-resident Indians who protest screenings of the film in the U.S. :
"What about the burnt train", thunders a Gujarati NRI, "what happened was a reaction to Godhra". I pose a counter question - " Do you think post-911, every New Yorker should have gone out to on the streets to rape any Muslim woman, murder Muslim babies and kill old and young men? That New Yorkers should have burnt all Muslim cafes and shops, set fire to Muslim homes and that the NYPD should've helped them do it? That mobs led by local politicians should have ruled the streets of New York in the same way they did in Gujarat?" Like a proud American citizen, he recoils and says no.

So, why should Hindus and Muslims battering each other matter to the war on terror? They've only been at it since the 13th century or so. But the matter isn't as localized as it may at first seem. In Edward Luce's excellent new book In Spite of the Gods: the strange rise of modern India, we learn that, while many individual young Hindu volunteers did come to Gujarat to try to help the refugees, the Hindu ultra-nationalist dominated state government pretty much let the victims fester where they fell. There was no institution to turn to--except for Saudi relief agencies. And we all know what baggage comes along with their help.

So, consider: all the al-Qaeda that have been bagged overseas have been Saudi, Paki, British, Jordanian, and etc., but not so much from India. If that changes, if we start seeing Indian Muslims on the battlefields of The Jihad, we can in part thank the BJP and RSS parties of India, as short-sighted as they are bigoted. Let's hope those Indians involved in the Glasgow airport bombing were anomalies, rather than trend-setters.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Random Rock Bloggage

This song floored me immediately, when I heard it on YouTube a couple of weeks ago. I wish the local radio stations would play it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Official Michael Vick Dog Chew Toy


*koff*...I mean, that's not funny...

The War on Britain's Jews

Clicking around in YouTube, I found this British news special about rising anti-semitism. The poster chopped it into six parts; here's the third part:

Nothing new to regular readers of jihadwatch, LGF, Gates of Vienna, and the rest. But it's still appalling to see it on TV. Can British society really be slipping back into this old pit?

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Expanding Universe, Foretold in the Koran

So I was clicking around in YouTube, looking for some good bite-sized science documentaries. I searched "expansion of the universe", and got back a list of clips, every third or fourth of which was Koranic propaganda. And it's not a campaign or a conspiracy. Like believers in creationism, there is apparently a critical mass of dopes who believe this stuff, and spread the tidings as the spirit moves. Scary, since we know that Islamic evangelism doesn't stop at only this...

Charter school

I'm not able to afford private school, of any quality. In order to get into a good public school district, I'd have to move, and then go back to paying a mortgage so huge that it would have a Schwarzchild radius. I don't want to go back to the knee-knockers' current public school. For three reasons. One, first grade was essentially a repeat of my oldest's church kindergarten, academics-wise. She was tops in everything, but she didn't have to try, and I was afraid she'd lose interest and become easily discouraged at anything that took an effort.

The second, third and fourth reasons were a little touchier. The school has been trending black for years, and is now about 80% African-American. That by itself is not troubling, especially in the innocent early years. I myself grew up in 50-50 racial environments. But tell me: in an 80% black school, why is the turnout at the monthly PTA meeting 60% white? Second, I was at Field Day last year, and there was a dj, pumpin' up the rap for the elementary school kids. Ugh! The dirty stuff was edited out, as you could tell by catching the silences in the rappers' cadences. I think that turned my stomach just as much as uncut rap would have. "See? We care about our kids. We're playing 'muthaBLEEPuh-muthaBLEEPuh-muthaBLEEPuh', so everything's cool." Ugh, again.

The deal breaker was one day when I was doing some volunteer work for P.E. Day. But first, tell me: what does an over 60% out of wedlock birth rate mean to you? Poverty? Unemployment? STDs? Crime? What it meant to me on that day was this: I found myself amid a group of curious first-graders, explaining what my wedding ring was. I resolved very shortly thereafter that "diversity" like that could wait until my kids' formative years were a little further along. Yes, they have their own minds and wills and personalities, but they will inevitably soak up as much if not more from their peers than they will from their parents. (I have some sad examples from my own relatives to that effect, which I will not share here.)

So, on to charter school, and its baccalaureate program, its uniforms, its year-round school term, and its horrendous traffic flow (It's in temporary digs for now). The racial makeup is close to 50-50, with a smattering of Indians and other Asians, many of whom are friends from my youngest's kindergarten last year. I hope to contribute something to the success of the school by getting involved, as all the parents are required to do. Since all the parents at least wish for better things for their kids, rather than seeing the school as free day care, I'm looking forward to creating relationships with them. It starts a week from today.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I'm afraid I must report near-total failure. We're still here. Fortunately, we got our children into charter school, more on which in a later post. Plus, we've had this present place paid off for a few years now, so it's not like we're in any kind of financial bind. And knuckling down to real world concerns paid off in other ways, for a while. More on that in a still later post. But, I find myself easing back into the blogs, though I don't intend to plunge in so deeply as before.

I still have the keys to Jeff Goldstein's blog, many thanks to him for which. Here's something about the Michael Vick thing I wrote over there.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

On hiatus

This blog will be inactive for the next several weeks. We have been planning (rhymes with "wishing") on moving to a better school district for quite some time. Thanks to a motivational audiobook I listened to this weekend, I concluded that my foot-dragging was the cause of us still being here, as well as of considerable domestic infelicity.

So, before my mercurial resolve evaporates, I am hanging up my blog, my amazon page, possibly my alt.quotations contributions, and my commenting all over the blogosphere, in order to concentrate more on selling this house and buying a different one. I am one of those types of sudden enthusiasms but feeble follow-through, with a big aversion to dealing with big commercial transactions, so I am going to be working against my grain in a big way. I hope you will wish me luck, and explore the fine sites listed in my blogroll in the meantime.

See you later this summer!

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Idiocy Sufferer

Quite simply, “idiot” is not a nice word to call somebody, and I find myself asking, as Mr. Welch did of Senator Joseph McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” Throughout my life, I have had to struggle to keep from thinking of myself in the limiting way that word implies. So, for the record, I would like it known that I am not an “idiot.” I am a person who suffers from idiocy. Nobody knows what it is like to deal with crippling bouts of idiocy while trying to lead a normal life. The last thing I need is for somebody to make it harder by pointing out what an “idiot” I am. [...]

Those of us unfortunate enough to be afflicted with idiocy are not grotesque caricatures or figures of fun. Idiocy can strike anybody, from the man who says he cleaned your chimney to the President of the United States. Very few of us conform to the old stereotype of the guy in the dunce cap sticking his finger in a light socket. (My wife notes, just parenthetically, that I did stick my finger in a light socket once.) Recently, I was reading a book by Dostoyevsky that I thought dealt with some of these issues in a sensitive way. It’s called “The Idiocy Sufferer,” and I am happy to report that in this new translation the terms that cruelly objectify people like me have been updated more inclusively.

-- Ian Frazier, "What I Am", The New Yorker, May 2, 2007

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It isn't quite the same as mentoring an intern under the Oval Office desk while having a phone discusion on the deployment of troops to Bosnia, but...

Giving a peck on the mitt to an old grade school teacher is enough to scandalize some Shariah enforcers:
Iran president accused of "indecency"

The Israel Project's video conference on Iran

A half-dozen videos from this backgrounder conference is here. It's a valuable window into the inner workings of Iranian politics and, not coincidentally, the Iranian threat to Israel. Caution: All the videos will start playing when you click through; press the Stop button on all except the first one.

Rampage shooters and civil rights

Here's an article worth digesting.

School shooters are problem solvers. They are trying to turn the reputations they live with as losers into something more glamorous, more notorious. Seung-Hui Cho, a student of creative writing, probably didn't get a lot of "street cred" for his artistic side. Young men reap more social benefits from being successful on the football field. When their daily social experience — created by their own ineptness, and often by the rejection of their peers — is one of disappointment and friction, they want to reverse their social identities. How do they go about it? Sadly, becoming violent, going out in a blaze of glory, and ending it all by taking other people with them is one script that plays out in popular culture and provides a road map for notoriety.

Depression is endemic in these young men. Indeed, it can be so bad that they want to die. Why, then, don't they throw themselves in front of trains? That is the wimp's way out; it will not change their reputations. "Suicide by cop," putting themselves in a situation where the police will almost surely kill them, is a more glamorous way to go. Cho probably did not expect to survive this catastrophe. But by taking dozens of other people with him, he insured his notorious place in history and found a way to set the record straight: He was a man to be reckoned with.

If only somebody could have reached behind his walls and helped him find a place. If only he'd have tried harder, too.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Overreacting to tragedy

(Crossposted at Protein Wisdom)

What is the secret to being a liberal hysteric? No secret: just treat adults like children, and treat children like adults. Require adults to ask the government "mother may I" for every least little thing, from hair-braiding to leaf burning to motorcycle helmets to whether or not you want an explosively-inflating airbag in your passenger seat, thus denying your own children the pleasure you had as a child of "riding shotgun". And call the police, file suit, and start expulsion proceedings if a kindergartner hugs a classmate, or if a first-grader draws a picture of a relative in the service, or if a third-grader points a chicken finger and says "bang".

The chain of events that led to the psychopathic Seung-hui Cho murdering nearly three dozen students at Virginia Tech couldn't fail but prompt wise, level-headed school administrators to take a good hard look at possible danger signs in their schools. Unfortunately, it also prompted liberal hysterics to do things like this to students like Allen Lee. His future has been materially harmed. He'll probably be the cause and object of anti-Asian bigotry, which we had so far managed to avoid much of this past couple of weeks.

So, what did this 4.2 grade average senior and United States Marine Corps recruit do? Apparently, just what his teacher told him to do: use his imagination:

The teacher told students: "'Be creative; there will be no judgment and no censorship,"' [attorney] Thomas Loizzo said. "There was never any warning from the teacher that if she determined the paper to be offensive, she would then pass it along to the authorities."

I remember a little bit of how I was, back when I used to have an imagination. My teachers were quite indulgent of my spewings. This young man was in that class for several months, presumably, and the teacher had ample time to get to know him. Would it have been unfair, a hardship, or out of the ordinary in some way for her to, like, ask him Sup Wit Dat?

Smoking gun here. Smoking ears here and here and here

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The American dream, the mystery of sin, the fascination of proximate notoriety, and Sanjay Kumar

If I were to try to come up with a way to foul up my children's lives, I don't think I could beat this: go to prison for a decade during their young adult years, just when they need a father's steadying hand the most. And yes, he'll probably be out in a couple dozen months, like Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky were. But still...

I knew Sanjay Kumar briefly, slightly, a long time ago. I don't think he'd recognize me--there's no reason for him to--without a lengthy, memory-jogging introduction, not even if he were to click on my photo, up there. I only remembered him when I walked past the magazine rack and saw his name on the cover of Business Week, a few years ago. A quick skim through the article confirmed that it was indeed the same man I remembered. A few months ago, out of idle curiosity, I looked him up again and saw that he was taking the fall for one of the biggest accounting frauds in U.S. corporate history, and had been sentenced to ten years in prison. At present, reports say, he's selling off his portfolio, yacht, Ferraris and whatnot to satisfy an investors' settlement. Then, at the end of summer, off to Club Fed.

Having wasted more of my modest potential in my life than I care to reflect on, I really hate to see this befall him. Sanjay Kumar is an American success story straight out of Central Casting. Born in a village in Sri Lanka, a war refugee immigrant to America at 14, a talented computer mind who dropped out of a prestigious college to start his own business, and...well, and he just rode that skyrocket right to the top. What a country!

Surfing around the business blogs, I've seen some people who got a rough ride from him, or who were smacked around in the blowback of his accounting fraud, crowing over his fall. But none of them have said he lacked for capability and accomplishment. Based on what I've read, he did not lack for personal gifts. Vision, drive, smarts, generosity, he had all those qualities a top CEO should have, and more. He was assured and kind when I knew him, too.

But here tragedy, in the classic sense, intrudes. The crucial quality that was lacking was, apparently, honesty. Cooking the books, good god... "Everybody does it" is a teenager's defense; like the old Amoco commercial says, you expect more from a leader. Why? For god's sake, why? He could have had everything he wound up having--the gale-proof portfolio, the swank conveyances, the estate, the wonderful family, influence, honor, respect--he could have had it all honestly, and just as fast. A willingness to take some less-than-rosy quarterly reports on the chin, and he'd still have been clad in silk forever, and never seen the inside of federal court, or prison. Now his name, the name his parents bequeathed him, is in danger of becoming a by-word for white collar corruption. During the Iran hostage crisis, he used to wear a T-shirt that said "I'm not Iranian". Now, maybe there's a market for H1-C visa holding Indian guest workers to buy shirts that say "I'm not Sanjay Kumar". He's too talented and has done too much good with his charity work to be consigned to the fringes of American business, with Milken and Boesky. But, thanks to this tragic flaw in his character, that's what'll happen.

You may wonder why I should care. This isn't a business blog, and I no longer have any connection with him personally. So far as I know, his crime didn't cost me any money. Well, I'm wondering, too. I found myself feeling appalled at what he'd done to himself, his family, his business and his investors. But I also found myself feeling oddly protective of him, solicitous of his well-being, a most unwarranted and impracticable attitude, and one I'm sure he would rightly reject, beyond the core element of simple sympathy. It's partly a natural reaction of rubber-necking at a car crash, partly being aghast when some disaster involves someone you know. And schadenfreude? No. A thousand times, no. Not me. Projection? What would I have done in his place? I don't know. If I were suddenly turned into a leopard, would I be fierce or tame? I don't know. You can't know, until you're brought to the time of testing. All we can do is be aware that the tests are out there, and pray God to fit us for them.