Archive for August, 2006

Now we’re afraid of T-shirts

August 30, 2006 11 comments

This is a poor example for a free people to set to the oppressive nations of the world:

Mr Jarrar’s black cotton T-shirt bore the slogan “We will not be silent” in both Arabic and English. 

He said he had cleared security at John F Kennedy airport for a flight back to his home in California when he was approached by two men who wanted to check his ID and boarding pass. Mr Jarrar said he was told a number of passengers had complained about his T-shirt – apparently concerned at what the Arabic phrase meant – and asked him to remove it.

He refused, arguing that the slogan was not offensive and citing his constitutional rights to free expression.

Mr Jarrar later told a New York radio station: “I grew up and spent all my life living under authoritarian regimes and I know that these things happen. “But I’m shocked that they happened to me here, in the US.”

After a difficult exchange with airline staff, Mr Jarrar was persuaded to wear another T-shirt bought for him at the airport shop.
- BBC News: Arabic T-shirt sparks airport row

We’re not ANY safer with people like that minding the store.  How did forcing Mr. Jarrar to change his T-shirt make anyone safer?

The terrorists have us jumping at our own shadows.  At an architect wearing a T-shirt with Arabic letters on it.  We’re jumping at the sight of cold cream.  They must be laughing at us.

Grow up, everyone.


Categories: Geeky, Security

Bush/Ahmadinejad debate?

August 30, 2006 1 comment

Socialist Swine asks, “What if Bush and Ahmadinejad were to debate?”  It’s pretty funny stuff, if you don’t mind laughing to avoid being depressed.

I saw Ahmadinejad on 60 minutes, and thought he came across as a very smart guy with a sharp political focus.  This is not unexpected given his engineering background – he is used to difficult topics.  It is worrisome because he is certainly not friendly. 

Our own president is legendary for being inarticulate, though his supporters say he’s smart on the inside where it counts.  I certainly hope so. Kathleen Parker’s theory on Bushisms is that he is very smart and articulate when speaking in his native dialect, which is Texan.  He stumbles when speaking to an audience that – he thinks – would demand a more generic dialect. 

She may be right about this.  I once saw a video of Bush giving a speech when he was governor and he was a very strong speaker.  If this is true, I wish Mr. Bush would quit trying to impress us and just speak as he is comfortable speaking.  Most of us have seen enough episodes of “Dallas” or “King Of The Hill” to be able to navigate Texan, to say nothing of memories of Lyndon Johnson.

Whatever the case, I am not impressed when people say; “Bush may not be the smartest president we’ve had, but he is a man of conviction.”  Convictions can be wrong, and certitude without depth is a recipe for wrong decisions.  Belief is not a substitute for knowledge and understanding, especially in the biggest job on Earth.

Categories: Politics

It is time.

August 30, 2006 2 comments

Not sure why, but the first panel of Get Fuzzy sort of cracked me up today.  I think it would make a good coffee cup.  Or a one-panel in Tricycle magazine.

The rest of the strip was a little dull, though.  Oh well, Darby Conley will have another day tomorrow, unless he doesn’t, impermanence being the fact of our existence.

Categories: Humor, observations

Anyone have trouble signing in?

August 29, 2006 2 comments

A reader emailed me to say he was unable to create an account.  Whaaa?  There’s some problem with Expression Engine and I am having problems figuring it out.  Has anyone else had trouble logging in, or creating an account?

Please let me know any login/account-creation problems you have had and any information will be appreciated.  This one will probably go to technical support.  I want to take good care of my readers!  :coolsmile: 

Categories: Blogging, Geeky

You certainly are, Hassan

August 27, 2006 1 comment

BBC News reports Hassan Nasrallah says he’s sorry for the scale of the war that resulted from kidnapping Israeli soldiers.  Well at least he’s tacitly admitting it was his organization that is responsible.  It’s a step in the right direction, Hassan, but do you know how long the road is?

Categories: defense, Politics

Darwin and Hitler, friends forever?

August 27, 2006 3 comments

You can’t say that creationists aren’t, well, creative.  After trying to redefine all of biology with the help of a mathematician and a lawyer, and having their asses handed to them on a plate in court, they’re reverting to an old standby: that Adolph Hitler was supposedly inspired by “Darwinism”…

In a new documentary, Darwin’s Deadly Legacy and a book, The politically incorrect guide to Darwinism and Intelligent design, D. James Kennedy and Jonathon Wells try to discredit evolutionary biology by claiming that the holocaust was the love child of Darwin and Hitler.  That’s right; they’re down to the old reliable ad hominem fallacy,  a sure sign that the well is getting pretty dry.

Historical experts have already deconstructed that association, but I would like to make a different point:  It would not matter even if Hitler curled up every night with his copy of Origin Of Species and required all the Waffen SS soldiers to pass a test on evolutionary theory before going out to do their ‘field work’.  The moral qualities of those who believe in a theory have no bearing on its truth or falsity.

As someone once said, what matters is evidence, mountains of it.  And plains and riverbeds and cliffs and gulleys full of the fossil record of life’s long struggle from whatever (call it God if you like) started it all somewhere on this planet.  What matters is the concord of other scientific disciplines like genetics, physics, and astronomy, which provide congruence in their own experimental results.  What matters is that evolutionary biology does a good job predicting how species will change.

That is what makes evolution true, and creationism false.  It doesn’t make the slightest difference who believes in either one.

Hitler, like most politicians, presented himself as a ChristianMein Kampf is full of references to God, to Christ, to the factuality of Christianity.  The Reich made extensive use of Christian themes in its social expression.  But this association does not make Christianity responsible for the holocaust, either.

Hitler is responsible for the holocaust.  If he had been a cook he probably would have found justification for his madness in the Betty Crocker cookbook.  It is a horrible thing to use the suffering of the holocaust’s victims to try to push one’s own agenda, and Kennedy and Wells should be ashamed of themselves.  If they have any shame.

Categories: Religion

Pluto couldn’t give a rat’s ass what we call it

August 27, 2006 3 comments

For centuries we sort of toddled along without a real definition of a “planet”, but we finally got one at the recent meeting of the International Astronomer’s Union in Prague:

  • it must be in orbit around the Sun

  • it must be large enough that it takes on a nearly round shape
  • it has cleared its orbit of other objects

Really a pretty good definition.  Planets don’t orbit other planets; those are moons.  Planets are big enough to pull into hydrostatic equilibrium, so they’ll be pretty much round – thus excluding every irregular chunk of rock from being called a planet.  And a planet’s orbit will be cleared of other stuff, either by the planet pulling it in, or winging it off with its gravitational field.  This alone excludes Pluto from being called a planet, since its orbit transects the plane of Neptune’s orbit.  Only the obliquity of their respective orbits has kept Neptune from clearing Pluto…

But people are pissed off about it.  Predictably, someone’s making money selling T-shirts and “Honk if Pluto is still a planet” bumper-stickers (I wish I’d thought of it!).  All I can say is, with all the issues there are in the world, if your choice for the advertising space on the back of your car is whether Pluto is called a planet, you need to get out more.  It’s just nomenclature.

The universe cares nothing for the Post-It notes we stick on every object.  It doesn’t even make a practical difference to us, other than as a convenience.  What matters is the physical reality of the object.  Our labels do not make a millimeter’s difference in Pluto’s orbit, nor a gram’s difference to it’s mass, or its potential as a future tourist location (none). 

On another level what matters (to us, not the universe) is sound, predictive scientific theory.  Newton’s “laws” (really theories) of motion give us a predictive handle on the stuff wheeling around in our solar system.  That could be really important someday, given the energy differences of our planetary orbit and that of a misdirected asteroid.

We could call Pluto a turnip if we wanted, but then we’d have to call turnips something else.

See also:

Categories: Science & Technology

Fear itself

August 25, 2006 1 comment

***Dave proposes real War On Terror, as he points out that we’re pretty much doing exactly what the terrorists want us to do.  And his comments link to a Wired editorial from “Schneier On Security” that lays down a major slap of good sense.  Thanks, we needed that.

“No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.”
- Edward R. Murrow

Categories: Uncategorized

Congressman Jerry Weller, pick up the courtesy phone in the lobby…

August 25, 2006 1 comment

Congressman Jerry Weller sent me a nice letter in response to an email.  He proudly announces:

“I am pleased to inform you that I joined over 250 of my colleagues in supporting H.R. 2389 on July 19, 2006.  H.R. 2389 is currently awaiting action in the U.S. Senate…

…H.R. 2389 would amend the Federal judicial code so as to deny jurisdiction to any Federal court, and appllate jurisdiction to the Supreme Court, to hear or decide any questions regarding the interpretation of the Pledge of Allegiance or its validity under the U.S. Constitution.  H.R. 2389 would not be applicable to courts of individual states…”
- Jerry Weller, letter dated 9 August, 2006

Jerry, you may be pleased, but I think it’s a horrifying piece of legislation…

Imagine for a moment that this was a predominently Muslim country.  The pledge of allegiance said; “One nation under Allah” and your children were being forced to say it that way or not say it at all (facing the social consequences).  You had sued to get the government to uphold the plain sense of its constitution, that it should be neutral regarding religion.

And then your congressman writes you to say; “We are using a technicality in the judicial code to make it impossible for the courts to protect minority citizens of the states from their local religious majority”.  Would you be OK with that?

How about another example.  Suppose the courts of some state made self-defense illegal, and the NRA sued to correct it.  Then your congressman simply said; “Sorry, that’s up to the states.”

The US Constitution should thread all the way down to the level of protecting individual citizens.  Who can doubt that this is what the founding fathers intended?  Otherwise, the states can excuse any crime by saying; “State’s Rights!”

Freedom from ideological coercion is fundamental to what it means to be “American”.  Far from being “pleased”, you should be ashamed of yourself, Congressman Weller.  What you have done may please some of your constituents, but it muddies the clarity of our national definition.

Our country somehow struggled along without a phrase of religious coercion in The Pledge for 62 years.  In that time, we grew to a World power and won two World Wars. 

Categories: Politics

Foie gras and flag-burning

August 23, 2006 5 comments

It’s big local news around these parts that the Chicago city council has banned foie gras, a fatty treat made from the diseased livers of force-fed geese.  The whole thing started from animal-rights activists, of course, so the council has jumped the goose, if not the shark, by deciding such an abhorrent practice cannot be permitted.

So what happened?  Restaurants meekly removed the offending item from their menus and Chicago sailed off into a brighter, cruelty-free future, right?

Not exactly…

Some city restaurants launched a lawsuit on Tuesday, and said they would meanwhile continue to serve foie gras, without charging customers for it. Managers at Cyrano’s bistro and wine bar in the River North district say foie gras sales have tripled since news of the ban hit the headlines. BBC News

In fact, restaurants that had never served the grey goop before have added it to their menus.  The animal rights activists’ original goal was to reduce the amount of swollen goose-liver eaten.  The law they got passed had the opposite effect.  Most people had never even heard of “fwaa-grass”, but you tell them they can’t have any, then…

OK, I’m not totally insensitive to cruelty, and the way foie gras is made, is horrible even by the low standards of the livestock industry.  But passing a law results in several layers of irony.  If you wanted to prevent cruelty to geese, maybe you should educate people about the pain a goose is likely to experience when force-fed through a long funnel for three to five weeks, until its liver has swollen to ten times normal size.  It’s a good bet a heck of a lot of people will turn their noses up at it once they know.  Some chefs may refuse to prepare it.  Eventually, a lot fewer restaurants will serve it.  And wasn’t that the original point?