Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Obama Gripe #2


Maybe this is a petty gripe, but I have a few problems with Obama's pick of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.

First, of course, is Warren's anti-gay stance. I understand that Obama may be trying to reach across the isle and win some evangelical support, but would he accept an invocation by a pastor who opposes interracial marriage? And let's not forget that Warren is not just opposed to gay marriage, but has said that practicing and unrepentant homosexuals cannot join his congregation. What if he didn't let black people join his church? Or immigrants, or the handicapped, or any particular group of people? Where should we draw the line on accepting those who perpetuate hate?

My second issue here is why do we have an invocation at the inauguration of our president? What happened to the separation of church and state? Can't we have an official state function, from Congress to the courts to the inauguration of our president, that doesn't begin with appealing to sky fairies?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Witness Bush's Cat-Like Reflexes

Seriously, do you think this president walks around anticipating that someone is going to throw something at him?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Top Ten Healthiest and Unhealthiest States

Forbes recently put out a list of America's healthiest and unhealthiest states.

They calculated categories which included: Prevalence of Obesity, Air Pollution, Lack of Health Insurance, Immunization Coverage, Primary Care Physicians, Poor Mental Health Days, Cardiovascular Deaths, and Cancer Deaths.

Here are the final top ten lists:


Healthiest States in the US
Vermont
Hawaii
New Hampshire
Minnesota
Utah
Washington
Maine
Idaho
Connecticut
Massachusetts

Unhealthiest States in the US
Georgia
Nevada
Arkansas
Oklahoma
Florida
Texas
Tennessee
S. Carolina
Mississippi
Louisiana


When I looked over the list, I immediately wondered why Forbes failed to point out one glaring indicator of whether a state is healthy or unhealthy: Whether it's a red state or a blue state.

8 of the top ten healthiest states are blue.

10 of the top ten unhealthiest states are red.

Here's a visual aid: [Image deleted by the internets]


I have some personal theories about why blue states are healthier; Democrats are more likely to fund public programs for disadvantaged families as well as public projects like parks, and after school programs. (You know, those gosh-darned tax-and-spend Liberals, always whining about the general welfare and what not!)

But when it comes to making the case for why blue is just all around better than red, I can't top The Letter to the Red States, so I won't try.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Obama Gripe # 1

In my new endeavor to find points on which to criticize Obama, I realized that there is one glaring irritation that I had willfully overlooked while rooting for him during the elections, and that is his willingness to lump Hugo Chavez together with the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, and at times even Hamas.

The anti-Chavez movement in this country is so ridiculous that it is carried out almost entirely as innuendo and vague associations. It is carried out in this Rovian manner because when pressed, no one can name any specific threat that Chavez has ever posed to his neighbors, the US, or anyone other than obsenely wealthy Venezuelans who prospered at the catastrophic expense of the general Venezuelan population for generations.

My gripe with Obama on this issue is not so much that he has pushed anti-Chavez sentiment himself, but that he has never attempted to separate Chavez from heads of state that actually pose a threat to the US or our interests when answering questions where all these leaders are lumped together.

The overall effect of associating Chavez with Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the same as when the Bush administration used Sadam Hussein in the same sentence with 9/11 over and over: the general public leaps to conclusions which have no basis in reality.

In a discussion on Chavez on this blog some time ago, I begged my detractors to come up with ONE specific reason for their feverish hatred of Chavez, and no one could.

I think it would be honest and honorable of Obama to say, "Look, whatever problems we may have relating to Venezuela, let's not include Chavez in the list of leaders of terrorist organizations and rogue states."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Say What?

I'm looking over my blog and I'm shocked to see that it has become a love-fest for Obama.

I am way too anti-authority for this.

As of tomorrow, I vow to find something for which I can criticize our soon-to-be-President or his emerging administration.

Yes, I can!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Economy, Stupid

The ailing US and Global economy has been an interest of mine for about ten years. Suddenly, everyone has this deer-in-the-headlights look on their face as they struggle to comprehend the grim sounding jargon spewing from talking-heads on the 24-hour news networks.

Now, I should be clear that I'm no math whiz or economics major, so if I can understand some of the basic principles at work here, anyone can.

First I think we can agree on some familiar colloquial gems: 1) That power corrupts and 2) That money is power.

So let's think of money as a bag of Halloween candy, and financial institutions as small children.

If no one is supervising a child with a giant bag of candy, what's the logical outcome? He's going to stuff himself with candy until he pukes, right?

This happened once before in our history; stock prices were over-inflated and banks were extending too much credit. Although these weren't the only reasons for The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and The Great Depression that followed, which were decades in the making, the important point is that there was little or no government oversight of financial institutions, and they gorged themselves on candy until their gluttonous waste was spontaneously purged all over the American economy.

In order to rebuild our country and ensure that such a chain of events was never repeated, FDR helped broker the Bretton Woods Agreements, which instituted domestic and global financial rules, and set up government oversight of financial institutions.

To put it simply, instead of trusting the child to regulate his own intake of candy, the government keeps a close eye on him and makes him account for everything in his bag. This is called REGULATION.

Okay, now here's the important part; over the last 30 years, the government has been involved in a systematic DE-REGULATION of our financial system. This deregulation led to things like gambling in the stock market and predatory lending practices. Gambling in the stock market led to inflated stock values, and predatory lending helped contribute to inflated home values since no price for a house seemed unreasonable as long as everyone could get financed.

With the upcoming Presidential elections, I am obligated to point out that McCain has been a driving force for deregulation for almost all of the 30 years that it's been happening.

For far too long, our legislators have operated under the Adam Smith principle of the Free Market: that corporations and financial institutions will do what's right, without oversight, because in the long run, doing what's right will bring them more success.

But this notion fails to take human nature into account. For instance, it's a fact that if a child eats a little of his candy at a time, his candy will last a lot longer and he'll get more enjoyment out of it in the long run. But even if the child is fully aware of this fact, he's still more likely to eat too much candy if no one is watching.

Republicans in particular like to present us with the notion that if corporations and financial institutions are allowed to make money without government restrictions and supervision, they will make a lot more money, and all that profit will naturally trickle down to the rest of us. That's the equivalent of saying that if you allow a child to fill his bag by snatching candy from smaller kids, he'll eventually have plenty to share with everyone!

The obvious action we can take immediately is to get Obama into the White House. He's going to need to invest unprecedented amounts of money into building our infrastructure, which only a Democrat (Like FDR) would be willing to do.

Why invest in infrastructure when we're already in debt?

1) Roads, buildings, train tracks and schools have actual value, as opposed to the subjective value of stocks or even money.

2) Building stuff puts people to work.

3) Putting people to work gives them confidence in themselves and their country, and when they get their paycheck, they'll go buy stuff, which will drive our economy back to where it needs to be.

See, when Republicans scare people with talk of "Big Government," they're talking about the kind of government that regulates corporations and protects the average citizen and small business owner. One example of this strategy is when they talk of universal healthcare: "Do you want a government bureaucracy standing between you and your doctor?" You mean in place of the corporate insurance bureaucracy that's standing between me and my doctor right now?? Why, yes, I do.

So, in conclusion, if everyone in this country votes according to their actual financial interests this November, then Obama should win 95% of the vote and McCain should win 5%.

Of course, that prediction is not taking human nature into account.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I'm a Bright

I had heard of Brights once before, while researching Camp Quest for my kids, but I didn't know what they were until I read about them in Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion.

Afterwards, I checked out the Brights' site to learn more about them.

What is a bright?

  • A bright is a person who has a naturalistic worldview
  • A bright's worldview is free of supernatural and mystical elements
  • The ethics and actions of a bright are based on a naturalistic worldview
So, the basic idea is to put people under two umbrella categories: Brights and Supers (Supers include anyone who believes in the supernatural). The benefit of this is that everyone with a naturalistic worldview can come together under one banner.

My personal beliefs do not reflect the beliefs of the Brights community in general, except the qualifying naturalistic worldview that is free of mystical elements.

I like the noun "Bright" because it gives me the opportunity to talk about what I believe, where "Atheist" or "Agnostic" is more focused on what I don't believe, which leads most people to immediately assume that I believe in nothing.

I believe in everything that I can see and touch and smell and feel. I believe in most things that logically make sense based on what I have seen and touched and smelled and felt in my lifetime.

I believe that my life is as significant as I choose to make it.

I believe that life is rare and precious, and that the lives and feelings of others are every bit as important as my own.

I believe that everything in the universe is in a constant state of flux; that nothing remains unchanged. I believe that when we try to keep things the same, or try to make the world conform to some ideal notion of the way it should be, we are going against the natural flow of the universe. I believe that these conservative ideals are futile and counterproductive.

I believe that it would be immensely beneficial for humanity to let go of all of its conservative ideals and unite with the common goal of marching forward into the stars.

I believe that the universe is indifferent to our existence; that we must be our own saviors.

I believe that the future of our species absolutely depends on us working together for the future of our species.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More on Media Consolidation

[It's been far too long since I put up a post, and in the process of answering a comment on my Blackwater topic, I realized that I had practically written another post. And since it clarifies my views on the issue of media consolidation, I figured I'd just put it up on the main page.]

Mr. Williams,

I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion that I think "Bush controls the media and told them not to run a story about Blackwater," since that's not at all what my post was about.

I specifically said, "Of course, we don't need an official policy of censorship like North Korea or Saudi Arabia."

I went on to explain that all of our major media outlets are owned by six, count them SIX, corporations. I even went so far as to include a handy-dandy link so you could see the actual six corporations that own our news outlets.

See, the thing about corporations is that they exist to make money. Let me give you a really simplified but true example of how the bottom line can come into conflict with delivering important information to the public:

One of my professors at the University of Cincinnati was chosen to host a local weekly television program about health and sexuality issues. One of his proposed show topics was about why women should not use douches. He was told that he could not do a show on that particular topic because one of the sponsors of the show was a company who makes douches. Long story short; the program didn't air, but the point is that an advertizer's money was more important to the production of the program than giving important health information on a show that's purpose was to give health information. That's not to say that the producers were evil people who were willing to misinform women for a quick buck; as a matter of fact, it was a non-profit project, so the issue was that they simply couldn't afford to make the show without their sponsors.

But back to the for-profit sector:

You can buy a newspaper for $1, but that paper cost $5 to make. Granted, the newspaper company has to have readers if it's going to sell add space, but readers are a smaller factor in their equation to turn a profit than advertisers.

Now, if there are twenty other newspapers in town, the companies are going to have to work a lot harder to get people to buy their paper, and consequently, they are going to care a lot more about what you think and where you're going to spend your dollar.

But if there are TWO papers in town, or as in many cities these days, ONE paper, you and your dollar are significantly less important to them, since you have so few options, you're very likely to buy their paper no matter what they do.

Now, take that same scenario and play it out over ALL our media outlets. SIX for-profit corporations owning all our major news outlets is a HUGE problem. Providing you with information is not their primary objective; their primary objective is to make money. When the goal of informing the public about important issues clashes with the goal of turning a profit; turning a profit wins hands down.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Arrrrgh!

I woke up this morning and my blog counter had reset!

I went from 6,000 and some hits to 3. (Not that 6,000 is a lot, but it's better than 3!!!)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Blackwater in the Shadows

Often, when you talk politics, there's a certain disinterested glaze that comes over the eyes of the majority of people. Granted more people are interested these days; more people are seeing the connection between the politics in Washington and their own lives. Still, politics may be considered by many to be a boring subject.

But I can honestly say that I've never seen that glaze come over anyone's eyes when I mention Blackwater. As a matter of fact, I would argue that Blackwater, a private mercenary force hired by the US government that is in the midst of a serious investigation, is a subject that most Americans find very interesting.

I would even go so far as to say that if the government's renewal of Blackwater's license in Iraq were on the front page of a newspaper today, that company would sell more newspapers.

So the facts that a) Americans are interested in Blackwater, and b) the US has renewed Blackwater's license in Iraq, and c) you won't find that information in any major American news publication (let alone on the front cover) lead me to declare that this is a blatant case of censorship in the American news media.

Of course, we don't need an official policy of censorship like North Korea or Saudi Arabia. Fortunately for Bush and his cronies, all the major media outlets in this country are owned by six corporations.

So when something important happens, like the US renewing the license of a private militia that many Americans feel has too much power and too little oversight, where are Americans supposed to get that information? Fortunately for the American people, the government has not yet found a way to censor the internet. You could go to Al Jazeera English and find the Blackwater story on the front page under "Americas".

You could also find this information an at The News is NowPublic.com, MWC News, or Newstin, though it's worth noting that all these sources got the story from Al Jezeera.

So, what I would like to know is why a foreign newspaper is a more reliable source of impor
tant information than all our news outlets put together??

Oh, right; because ALL OUR NEWS OUTLETS ARE PUT TOGETHER!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Atheism and Morality

For people who are raised with religion, it's hard to imagine morality without a god.

As a child I was told that God had a giant book with the names of every human being on Earth, and that he put a check next to your name every time you did something bad. Of course, since God is everywhere, even in your mind, you could get a check next to your name just for thinking something bad. When you die, I was told, God adds up all your check marks from your entire life and decides whether you go to Heaven or Hell.

This wasn't something I learned officially in Church, but for some reason, this was the version of God's judgment that made the most profound impact on me, probably because I'm a very visual person. Every time I even thought about doing something bad, I had a vision of God opening up that massive book and turning to the page with my name. This vision did a good job of keeping me from many little childhood sins like lying, stealing candy and what not (that's not to say that it worked perfectly).

But that's not morality. Refraining from doing bad things because you think someone can see what you're doing isn't the same as refraining from doing bad things because you're a good person.

As for bigger sins, like hurting others, I never had a desire to hurt anyone. When I hurt someone accidentally, I felt genuinely sorry for the hurt I caused that person. Fear of a god had nothing to do with it. So when people say things like, "Well, if you don't believe in God, then you can just rape and murder because there are no consequences," they are saying that their fear of a god is the only thing that keeps them from raping and murdering, and while that statement may be true for them, I don't think it applies to the majority of people.

The fact is that morality is hard-wired. On the broader points like rape, murder, or theft, we all know right from wrong. On the finer points like marriage or prostitution, opinions vary from person to person and culture to culture. How far an individual deviates from their own or their culture's accepted standards of behavior has nothing to do with any supernatural beings in the sky. Individuals, and sometimes entire communities, will either find a way to justify doing something they know is wrong, or they will feel guilty for doing it, but do it anyway. For people who are mentally ill, people whose hardwiring has short-circuited, no supernatural being can convince them to behave morally, even with the threat of eternal damnation. The BTK killer, for instance, was a pillar of Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas, as well as one of the most horrific serial killers in American history.

If gods and religion have no impact on a person's morality, and atheists are just as moral or immoral as anyone else, then how can I say that Atheism is superior to a supernatural belief system?

The aspect of Atheism that is superior to religion is that it is rooted in logic and reason.


Children raised with religion are told not to do bad things because their parents say so; because the preacher says so; because God says so! Faith in authority figures is valued over rational thought. As a result, many children are not given the opportunity to develop their rational mind. They are trained to be motivated primarily by their fear of the wrath of authority figures.

My children are told why something is right or wrong. They shouldn't steal because they're hurting the person from which they steal. They shouldn't lie to their parents because their parents have more experience with the world and wish to guide them through the rough spots; every punishment is done with love and for their benefit, so they must be honest about what they've done and accept the consequences because they will be stronger for the experience. They mustn't lie because lying is weakness. They mustn't lie because there will come a time in their life when all they have is their word, and if they don't have their word, they will have nothing at all.

It is profoundly more difficult to explain the logic behind the values you are trying to instill in your children than to say, "Because God says so," but instilling rational thought as well as morality in a child is immensely more beneficial to them.

In the end, my kids will probably lie or steal as much as the children of the Christians next door, but what my children will not do is believe what they are told without rational explanations. They will not be led into a war on flimsy justifications. They will not follow authority figures simply because they are afraid to question them. They will not be capable of blind faith. They will not shut-up and get in line.


They will be strong-willed and capable of leading others, not as shepherds of mindless sheep, but as leaders of intelligent human beings.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

(Guest Post?) Fighting Words: How to Humiliate -- and Convert -- a Right-Winger

[I don't remember whether this was a guest post, or an email someone sent me...]

By John Dolan, AlterNet

I'd like to suggest a very simple strategy for American liberals: Get mean. Stop policing the language and start using it to hurt our enemies. American liberals are so busy purging their speech of any words that might offend anyone that they have no notion of using language to cause some salutary pain.
Why, for example, not popularize slogans that mock the Bush loyalists as "suckers"? Something like, "There are two kinds of Republicans: millionaires and suckers." Put that on a few bumper stickers and I guarantee a lot of "South Park Republicans" will quit the GOP. They just smirk when you tsk-tsk at them for being disrespectful. They want to be disrespectful; every normal young male wants to be.
And this, of course, brings up a big issue: At some point liberal writers are going to have to decide if it's OK to be young and male at all. For better or for worse, millions of American men hold on to playground ethics long after they leave elementary school. For most of them, the 2004 election came down to a classic playground scene: Would John Kerry defend himself when attacked by bullies? Liberals, still stunned by the way a legitimate combat vet like Kerry was beaten by a combat-dodging spoiled brat like Bush, never understood that for millions of voters, the question wasn't how well Kerry fought in Vietnam but whether he would fight in 2004.
Would he defend himself when called out by the gang of disgusting bullies Bush had gathered around himself? It would have been so simple, so glorious, if he'd just turned on his accusers and reacted like a human being: "You're questioning my record on behalf of a skunk like Bush who spent the war with the Alabama National Guard, and then went AWOL from the Guard?"
Millions of American voters were waiting, hoping Kerry would react like any sane person would have. He never did. I don't know why not; I assume he was in the hands of some Clinton gurus who babbled about "rising above the fray." Well, that sure worked well.
And please, don't tell me you're above such gross playground considerations. The American people are the beneficiaries of centuries of serious Leftist violence, starting with the American Revolution and climaxing in the Civil War. Without brave Leftist warriors slaughtering British and Confederate soldiers in large numbers, the whole tradition of American liberalism would not exist.
And we are the sufferers from the most disastrous wimp-out in recent American history: Carter's debacle in response to the taking of American hostages in Iran in 1979. That refusal to use punitive force to free his country's diplomats may have made pacifists feel nice, but it was an expensive treat; it got Reagan elected, showed a host of evil right-wing PR staffers that all they had to do was talk tough to win, and convinced a huge number of disgusted American male voters that the liberals would not fight back.
Kerry could have turned that around in 2004; it was almost as if a Hollywood scriptwriter had arranged the perfect confrontation, in which the liberal champion could flatten his orc-like tormentors and show the voters that one can be a progressive without being a wimp. Instead, he confirmed a prevalent myth that liberals are "soft" on terrorism and the military -- in other words, like illustrator Gary Larson's Wimpodites: "Though skilled with their pillow arsenal, the Wimpodites were frequent targets of Viking attacks."
And so far, the liberal response, the liberal attempt to reach out to the guys in the big trucks is embarrassing "populist" essays using bad imitations of American slang. Let's be blunt here: "populism" is condescension. If you want male voters' respect, stop patronizing them. (It just creeps them out.) Far better to insult them -- to their face, in their face, telling them bluntly that the talk radio nonsense they parrot is pure crap. They know that themselves. Half of what they say is designed simply to reassure themselves and their friends that they're not the same sort of wimps their social studies teachers tried to make them into. So they're not afraid of being called cruel or insensitive; they're afraid of being suckers.
The minute we start calling them on their suckerdom, they'll change sides -- and we'll finally have some decent troops on our side. But as long as liberals speak in the language of Beavis and Butthead's Mister van Driessen, they'll despise you, even when they know you're right (which they do). We may not be the most systematically intellectual tribe on earth, but Americans are very verbally sensitive. They will not heed Mister van Driessen, even if he's telling them to evacuate a burning classroom. They'd sooner die. You may find this irrational, but when I think back to the progressive mindset I became familiar with UC Berkeley, I understand this reaction very well. I don't condone it, but damn! I sure do understand it.
Liberals aren't generally perceived as fighting the robber barons -- they appear as a secular clergy far more obsessed with cleaning up our gloriously obscene language than fighting back.
Note that I've used the word "fighting." Americans are a violent people -- and I mean that as a compliment. We are a magnificently violent people who value courage above all else. In this, the ordinary American is in total agreement with George Patton, John Paul Jones and John Brown. They were all violent leaders, who sent a lot of Redcoats, Nazis and secessionist slaveholders to an early grave. I consider that glorious; so do most Americans.
John Paul Jones said, "I intend to go in harm's way" and coined a boast that generations of Americans, and even Bugs Bunny himself, repeated with pride: "I have not yet begun to fight." John Brown killed and died to provoke a final conflict over slavery. When American liberals can appreciate, encourage and manipulate the violence of such people, maybe you can talk to your fellow Americans again.
A good first step would be accepting the fact that language is a weapon -- and using it effectively. Most liberals affect scorn for mere words, in the way that I affected scorn for mathematics after flunking algebra twice in high schools. And most of the hardcore academic progressives I've known have tin ears. Their sheer awfulness is adaptive within the academic ghetto, in the way that a lack of any olfactory ability is adaptive for carrion eaters; but it's disastrous when they try to talk to people outside their guild.
It's not really that hard, after all. Just stop trying to be "populists," because frankly you sound like North Korean infiltrators trying to pose as surfer dudes. Try smacking your South Park countrymen in their deluded heads with some bumper stickers of our own, just as down and dirty as theirs. Wanna get them out of their gas-guzzling Dodge extended-cab semis? Stop whining at them and try putting these four little words on the back bumper of your hybrid: "Big truck, small dick." Yeah, you might get yelled at at a stoplight; you might even get hit. You might even consider hitting back.
Liberals have always been good fighters, once they get going.
John Dolan is an editor of the Moscow-based English-language alternative paper, "The eXile." He is the author of, most recently, "Pleasant Hell" (Capricorn, 2005).

Friday, March 14, 2008

My Christian Duty

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. I immediately ran over and said “Stop! Don’t do it!”

“Why shouldn’t I?” he said.

I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!”

“Like what?”

“Well … are you religious or atheist?”

“Religious.”

“Me too! Are you Christian or Jewish?”

“Christian.”

“Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?”

“Protestant.”

“Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”

“Baptist.”

“Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?”

“Baptist Church of God.”

“Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?”

“Reformed Baptist Church of God.”

“Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?”

“Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!”

To which I said, “Then die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off.

[This is not mine. It was copied from somewhere on the web and emailed to me.]

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sheep In Human Clothing: Scientists Reveal Our Flock Mentality

OK, anyone who knows me or frequents this blog knows that this is an issue near and dear to my heart.


You get the idea.
I know it sounds arrogant to equate 95% of the population with sheep, but now I have genuine scientific validation.

"Results from a study at the University of Leeds show that it takes a minority of just five per cent to influence a crowd’s direction – and that the other 95 per cent follow without realising it."


Basically, they sent a crowd of people wandering through a building. They gave a small number of people in the group detailed instructions on where to go, but no one was allowed to communicate with anyone else. And the whole group followed the 'informed individuals' without even realizing they were doing it.

What's even more interesting is that, the larger the group; the fewer 'informed individuals' you need to lead the herd.

Of course, this has both useful and scary implications for crowd control, but surely this information could have more interesting applications.

I realize that our herd mentality exists because, in the past, it has helped our species survive in some way, but maybe this is something we should be trying to overcome. Maybe if people realized that they were marching through their lives with their nose attached to the butt of the sheep in front of them, they would wake up and shake it off. We could see a day where, instead of 5%, 50% of the population would be finding their own path through life, seeking out new ideas and new innovations.

Sure things would be more chaotic, but we, as a species, would be less frightened of chaos.

We could start small, maybe with a study on "black sheep." We could find out what happens if you send a group of artists and musicians roving through a building.


I'm sure the results would be interesting.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Political Blogs

We live in an exciting time. Maybe it's the ease of internet access or the volatile political atmosphere, but there is no shortage of conversation and debate, and blogs are a great way to find people with whom to toss around ideas.

Here are a few blogs I really like.


The posts are brief, witty, and to the point. Very enjoyable to read.


This is a new one. Very thorough and informative. I don't agree with many Libertarian positions, but I find them to be critical thinkers and always worth debating.


This is a big blog with lots of topics and lots of people. It's also libertarian, but there are a lot of points of view there.

Happy Blogging!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

In the Navy!

This is the Herndon Climb at the US Naval Academy


Basically, they send a thousand freshmen plebes scrambling up a 21 ft granite phallic symbol that has been coated with 200 pounds of lard.

Oh, and they hose the freshmen down while they're climbing.

"The scene is unforgettable to those who watch, as the sweating, grunting, red-faced midshipmen at the bottom, their arms linked, support a human pyramid surging to the top of the monument."

The Navy is thinking about doing away with this hallowed tradition in the name of "safety," though opponents are quick to point out that there's nothing that unsafe about the climb, especially when you consider that these young men are being trained for the military.

Somehow, I get the impression that some high-ranking Navy official saw this momentous occasion on a visit to the Naval Academy and thought to himself, "Now, this is just wrong on so many levels," and went back to his office and said, "I think we should put an end to the Herndon Climb because... it's... it's unsafe!"


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Hillary or Obama?

My first choice was Kucinich.

My second choice was Edwards.

sigh...
Hillary or Obama?As far as decent Democrats go, they're pretty equal. I think they would both make fine presidents, and I wouldn't think twice about voting for whoever gets the nomination.

I think Hillary is more electable.

I think a black man running for president is the one thing that would galvanize the evangelical base of the Republican party. Of course, most of them won't admit in public that they're raging racists, so they'll cling to the shameless Republican attack ads that will link Obama with Islam, and Islam with terrorism. I can hear them already finding clever couplets in which to rhyme Obama with Osama.

Okay, so in my opinion Obama and Hillary are pretty equal as candidates, and Hillary is slightly more electable (I think she's also capable of inspiring conservatives to get out and vote).

But as the California primary draws near, the question I've been asking myself is; what if I could bypass the whole Democratic process and ordain one of them president? All other things being equal, who would I choose?

Well there's all this experience Hillary has. In a few of the debates, she spoke about being realistic and practical in the face of Edwards and Obama's comments about hope and change. But is "being practical" really just a matter of being knee deep in the system for so long that you can no longer see beyond it?

But putting aside all practicality, I would choose Obama for everything he represents. What would it mean to have a black president? What would it mean to millions of marginalized minorities in the country?


As a school teacher, I have stared into the eyes of callous inner-city kids who don't see the point in learning how to solve a mathematical inequality. I pace the classroom trying to tell them, "Wake up! Participate! Learn something. This is your future. This is your life."

How inspirational would it be for all of them to see a black man leading our country? They would begin to see that they do have a future. That this is their country too.

Obama as president would bring us that much closer to the day when skin color will be as relevant to a person's life and social status as hair color or eye color.

Is skin color a good reason to vote for someone? Of course not. But it will be a reason for many people in this country to vote against Obama. And for that, as a country, we should be ashamed.

But for whom shall I vote this Tuesday in California?


The more likely Hillary?

The more inspiring Obama?

Six in one hand; a half dozen in the other.

I still don't know.


Saturday, January 5, 2008

North Atlantic Warming Tied To Natural Variability

ScienceDaily (Jan. 5, 2008) A Duke University-led analysis of available records shows that while the North Atlantic Ocean's surface waters warmed in the 50 years between 1950 and 2000, the change was not uniform. In fact, the subpolar regions cooled at the same time that subtropical and tropical waters warmed.

This striking pattern can be explained largely by the influence of a natural and cyclical wind circulation pattern called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), wrote authors of a study published Jan. 3, in Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science.

Winds that power the NAO are driven by atmospheric pressure differences between areas around Iceland and the Azores. "The winds have a tremendous impact on the underlying ocean," said Susan Lozier, a professor of physical oceanography at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences who is the study's first author.

Other studies cited in the Science Express report suggest human-caused global warming may be affecting recent ocean heating trends. But Lozier and her coauthors found their data can't support that view for the North Atlantic. "It is premature to conclusively attribute these regional patterns of heat gain to greenhouse warming," they wrote.

"The take-home message is that the NAO produces strong natural variability," said Lozier in an interview. "The simplistic view of global warming is that everything forward in time will warm uniformly. But this very strong natural variability is superimposed on human-caused warming. So researchers will need to unravel that natural variability to get at the part humans are responsible for."
In research supported by the National Science Foundation in the United States and the Natural Environment Research Council in the United Kingdom, her international team analyzed 50 years of North Atlantic temperature records collected at the National Oceanic Data Center in Washington, D.C.
To piece together the mechanisms involved in the observed changes, their analysis employed an ocean circulation model that predicts how winds, evaporation, precipitation and the exchange of heat with the atmosphere influences the North Atlantic's heat content over time. They also compared those computer predictions to real observations "to test the model's skill," the authors wrote.
Her group's analysis showed that water in the sub-polar ocean --- roughly between 45 degrees North latitude and the Arctic Circle --- became cooler as the water directly exchanged heat with the air above it.
By contrast, NOA-driven winds served to "pile up" sun-warmed waters in parts of the subtropical and tropical North Atlantic south of 45 degrees, Lozier said. That retained and distributed heat at the surface while pushing underlying cooler water further down.

The group's computer model predicted warmer sea surfaces in the tropics and subtropics and colder readings within the sub-polar zone whenever the NAO is in an elevated state of activity. Such a high NAO has been the case during the years 1980 to 2000, the scientists reported.

"We suggest that the large-scale, decadal changes...associated with the NAO are primarily responsible for the ocean heat content changes in the North Atlantic over the past 50 years," the authors concluded.

However, the researchers also noted that this study should not be viewed in isolation. Given reported heat content gains in other oceans basins, and rising air temperatures, the authors surmised that other parts of the world's ocean systems may have taken up the excess heat produced by global warming.
"But in the North Atlantic, any anthropogenic (human-caused) warming would presently be masked by such strong natural variability," they wrote.

Other authors of the report included Richard Williams and Vassil Roussenov of Liverpool University; Susan Leadbetter, previously at Liverpool University but now a postdoctoral researcher with Lozier; Mark Reed, a computational scientist who also works with Lozier at Duke; and Nathan Moore, a former Duke graduate student now at Michigan State University.

Adapted from materials provided by Duke University.