Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Why Are Scientists and the Press Deadset on Destroying Embryos?
The great stem-cell debate has been portrayed in the mainstream press as a conflict between science and religion, between facts and prejudice. This has never been fair, but The Washington Post sinks to a new level in its take on the strongest evidence so far in favor of the administration's refusal to fund new embryo destruction. Their news report on an extraordinary Harvard story reads like an op-ed, and it has the almost incredible title: "Stem Cell Advance Muddles Debate: Work May Stall Efforts to Lift Research Limits."

This reads like a headline from The Onion. Scientists come up with a Nobel-level breakthrough allowing scientists to convert human skin cells into embryonic stem cells. They have the honesty to publish results that are politically inconvenient (because we can now say, "I told you so, ethical science works"). And the press frames their achievement as if it "muddles" the debate—because, of course, it makes it harder for those who want the federally funded destruction of embryos.

Never fear! The scientists themselves are already backtracking. Under intense pressure from the forces in the science establishment who are desperate to manufacture and harvest embryos, they themselves are playing down their results: "This technology is not ready for prime time," said lead author Kevin Eggan. "This is not a replacement for the techniques we already have." And the Post gives the last word to Jim Greenwood, former congressman who is now runs BIO, the trade group that is fixated with the need to clone embryos: "It would be a colossal mistake for any member of the United States Congress to pretend he or she knows enough about this process to foreclose any other process." In other words, forget the science along with the ethics: We know best.

9/11 Commission Getting Long Overdue Scrutiny
Why would the 9/11 Commission fail to mention Abdul Rahman Yasin, who admitted his role in the first World Trade Center attack, which killed 6 people, injured more than 1,000, and blew a hole seven stories deep in the North Tower? It's an odd omission, especially since the commission named no fewer than five of his accomplices.

Why would the 9/11 Commission neglect Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, a man who was photographed assisting a 9/11 hijacker and attended perhaps the most important 9/11 planning meeting?

And why would the 9/11 Commission fail to mention the overlap between the two successful plots to attack the World Trade Center?

The answer is simple: The Iraqi link didn't fit the commission's narrative.

AS THE TWO SIDES in the current flap over Able Danger, a Pentagon intelligence unit tracking al Qaeda before 9/11, exchange claims and counterclaims in the news media, the work of the 9/11 Commission is receiving long overdue scrutiny. It may be the case, as three individuals associated with the Pentagon unit claim, that Able Danger had identified Mohammed Atta in January or February 2000 and that the 9/11 Commission simply ignored this information because it clashed with the commission's predetermined storyline. We should soon know more.

Not All Lawsuits Are Bad: Apple Ordered to Pay Up for Bad iPod Batteries
The class action lawsuit was filed in December, 2003, not long after Apple offered a $99 battery-replacement service. Previous to that, Apple had told customers that they needed to buy another iPod if a battery wouldn't hold a charge.

Apple's problem is that they've been in the computer business, where you expect customers to pay to have your own problems fixed.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Media Quagmire
If journalism were a profession, Peter Braestrup's 1977 book Big Story would be required reading in every journalism school. Braestrup's long subtitle is a little dry: "How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington." But his analysis was memorable. Braestrup showed that the press blew the story of the Tet offensive, portraying a major American battlefield victory as a disaster. In the introduction to the 1994 edition, Braestrup characterized the coverage as "an unusual media malfunction," one "on a scale that helped shaped Tet's repercussions in Washington and the Administration's response."

Many have noted the media's efforts to portray the the current war in Iraq as a replay of Vietnam. These efforts date back to R.W. Apple's invocation of Vietnam on day 24 of the campaign in Afghanistan...

Friday, August 26, 2005

CAFE Fuel Standards and Lives

All articles one big hat tip to TigerHawk.

First, an interesting chart showing the cost of gas. Adjusted for inflation, it looks like we are around 1985 levels.

I read the following about Fuel Standards:
The administration's plan is expected to reopen a vigorous debate about the effects of fuel economy regulations on safety. A leading architect of the plan, John D. Graham of the Office of Management and Budget, has been an author of much-criticized research in the past contending that fuel economy regulations killed thousands of people each year because they gave automakers incentives to make vehicles lighter so they would be more fuel-efficient. Similar findings have been published more recently by the National Academy of Sciences and are at the heart of the plan's structure.

Consumer groups dispute such contentions and raised concerns about the opposite problem, that increasingly heavy S.U.V.'s and pickup trucks have added risks for other drivers. The proposal, as written, could add to the disputes if automakers made vehicles larger to put them into less stringent categories.

I think one of the main drivers for SUV's are the scared soccer-mom who would buy an aircraft carrier if it had wheels on it.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Behold Your God Philadelphia

Jews for Jesus is coming to Philadelphia next month. One of the leaders of the campaign is Larry Stam. I lived with him for a month while we were both in San Francisco working for Jews for Jesus.

I look forward to seeing him soon. I look forward to helping them in anyway this Gentile can. Larry tells me that have "Jews and Others for Jesus" t-shirts I can use.

Cool. I may not be Jewish, but God loves me anyway. And that's good news.

The Real Reason for the Lack of Ideas in Liberalism
Stein [the Democratic strategist overseeing the effort] and his associates are fairly hard-headed in their assessment of the reasons behind the failure of Democrats and liberals to develop attractive ideas and proposals. Liberal groups, they say correctly, are organized mainly to protect an agenda that was enacted by Democratic majorities stretching back to the 1930s. They might have added that they are organized also around a few important Supreme Court decisions, primarily dealing with abortion and affirmative action. In any case, such a posture has made them reactive and reactionary rather than forward looking. As a consequence, they have not adjusted to new political and economic circumstances. This is, as noted, correct as far as it goes, except that it does not go very far in diagnosing what ails the liberals. They should remember, as many Americans do, that liberals had an opportunity to enact their agenda in the 1960s and 1970s, and almost wrecked the nation in the process. It was conservatives and Republicans who rescued the economy, won the Cold War, and saved the cities from crime, stagnation, and welfarism.

Italics mine.

Revjab Has A Short But Spot-on Take on the Chavez-Robertson Mess

Hat tip to John Rabe.
Here's all I know about Hugo Chavez' politics: Hugo Chavez is a Communist. That alone means he's a bad man.

But is it a Christian's business to call for his assassination?

I subscribe to what is called the "just war" theory of military action. Assassination of another country's leaders is a war act. Has Hugo Chavez declared war on the United States, or has his administration perpetrated acts of war against the United States? Not that I know of. Has our Congress declared war on Venezuela? I don't think so (at least, not the last time I listened to the news on the radio).

Did Chavez steal the recent election? The whole thing sounds very fishy, even when reported by rags like Time and Newsweek. Could Hugo Chavez turn Venezuela into a launching-pad for Communist insurgency throughout the Western hemisphere, like the Sandinistas in Nicaraugua did? Yes, it's certainly possible. Should the U.S. work to undermine such a thing from happening? Absolutely. Communism is an ideology of atheism, enslavement, impoverishment, and murder.

Should someone kill Hugo Chavez before he starts trying to do that? In other words, should we kill him because he might or may very likely do something bad? No, I believe that would be murder.

Communism falls under the category of "terroristic activity" no less than Islamic militancy. We need to keep an eye on this man, and seek to deter his greed and foolishness. But Pat Robertson, as an ordained minister and representative of the Savior, needs to not say crazy things. The Apostle Peter said "Honor the king" (1 Peter 2:17), while Robertson said "Murder the king."

There is a point at which a government that exists simply to murder, pillage, and plunder should be replaced, by force if necessary. Who knows what the future foir Venezuela holds? Latin America is a breeding-ground for Communism, because the common people have suffered for generations under the heels of the corrupt, self-indulgent land-owners. Latin America was cursed by the cultural, legal, and political heritage of the Spanish Empire and its parasitic, monarchical, and mercantilist practices.

But preaching "We oughta just go over and kill Chavez, now is better than later" is a blot on the name of Christ.

Shilling for a Nuclear Iran

People Want Politicians to Do Something About High Gas Prices

Here is the problem with this attitude.

Do we want the government to allow drilling in Alaska or off our coasts to increase supplies? No.

Do we want the government to help build more refineries near us? No.

Do we want the government to take away our SUV's? No.

Do we want to bike, walk, or take public transportation? No.

Supply and demand. It really is as simple as that. Use less gas if you want to pay less for gas. But, if it makes you feel better, get angry at politicians.

New York Times Distorts Positive Iraq Story Into Negative

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Sad Misuse of Cindy Sheehan

I heard an audio clip of Cindy Sheehan from her appearance on Hardball. She thinks attacking Afghanistan was wrong and we should have attacked Al Queda instead.

I don't want to crap on the lady. Instead, I have to ask why the media has latched onto her as someone who speaks for all the parents of the fallen. Especially when some of her views are quite out there.

Fired Radio Host Speaks

Hat tip to Greg.

If I had called the Catholic Church a haven for pedophiles because I believed their doctrine of priestly celibacy caused pedophilia, I would still have my talk-radio job today.

If I had called the Christian faith a terror-sponsoring organization because of abortion-clinic and Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph, I would still be an employee of the ABC Radio Company. I know, because I hear these arguments made in the media nearly every day.

But instead, I made the one move certain to endanger my career: I told the truth about a minority group. And in the politically correct nation we live in today, that's the fast track to the unemployment line.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Politcal Correctness and Mohammad Atta

The National Geographic Channel's 9/11 special was incredible. Did a great job of putting you right back to the day and the lead up. I felt the anger I felt that day.

Now, the most interesting thing was the person who questioned Mohammad Atta. He said to himself "if this guy isn't an Arab terrorist, I don't know who is." But he felt bad about stereotyping a guy he didn't know and let him go without a close inspection.

Lesson: sometime you have to go with your gut, even if your gut seems racist.

Second Able Danger Source Comes Forward

NPR Spot on Nickel Creek

John Rabe's Take on Pat Robertson's Comments on Hugo Chavez
Dear Pat,

For the love of all that is holy, would you please shut your incessant pie-hole?

Thank you.

The Entire Christian World

Ok, Hugo Chavez is a buddy of Castro, is running his country into the socialist ground (good thing he has expensive oil), and I've heard is getting buddy buddy with radical Muslim countries. At least some good can come out of this. People will actually know who Hugo Chavez is and possibly care who he is.

Here is a NPR story that probably gives more background.

Pressure for Higher Fuel Standards

Call me silly, but I think higher fuel prices will stoke demand for greater efficiency with or without government regulation.

If you want more in-depth take on the auto industry, I would suggest this NPR interview.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Radio Host Gets Fired For Equating Islam and Terrorism

Maybe he will get his job back if he says he misspoke. He meant to say "Christianity." I wonder if he would have been fired for saying that.

Now, the host did go further than I would and over-generalize. But an offense worthy of termination? Not sure about that one.

Friday, August 19, 2005

'Ice Cold Beer' Worst Phrase in English Language
IN HEAT like this, there's nothing better than an ice cold beer - a crisp, tonsil-chilling, sweat-erasing lager served in a frosty mug.

There's nothing better unless, of course, you actually prefer to taste your beer. Excessive cold deadens the taste buds and masks much of a good beer's flavor.

And therein lies the great dichotomy of our favorite adult beverage: Do we drink it for refreshment or flavor?

According to Martin Schuster, president of the Draught Beer Guild, the optimal temperature for most industrial lagers is 38 degrees. "The main reason is, for most lagers, that's the best temperature range for releasing the most bouquet and flavor... But when you get into serving ales, the temperature range should slide up from there" toward 50 degrees.

"The problem is," Schuster said, "when you get into the 42-degree range for Bud, Miller, Coors and a lot of other lagers, the beer doesn't present itself as well."

Meanwhile, the flavor of ale - especially hoppy varieties balanced with subtle malts and fermented with ester-producing yeasts - is suppressed at cooler temps.

If you don't believe it, try knocking down the remains of a 16-ounce can of Milwaukee's Best that's been sitting around for more than a half-hour. The bouquet is rather like the bottom of your hamper.

Likewise, the flavor of a hearty beer, like Victory Storm King Imperial Stout, is virtually absent under 40 degrees. Let it sit in a glass for even as long as an hour, though, and it explodes with a huge range of roasted, fruity flavors and aromas.

Bruce Bryant, a senior research associate at University City's Monell Chemical Senses Center, said there's some basic chemistry at work here.

When the temperature goes down," Bryant said, "the flavor is actually decreased because the chemical compounds that give beer its flavor are less volatile at low temperatures... It really makes for a less-flavorful beer."

At warmer temps, he said, these volatile compounds evaporate and enter the nose through the back of the mouth. That's where most flavor is detected.

Since a bar would need separate cooling systems to serve ales and lagers at their proper temperatures, guess who loses this battle. Ale-lovers just have to ask for unfrosted glasses and wait for their beers to warm up.
Some skeptics believe the colder temps allow brewers to use cheaper, less flavorful ingredients and adjuncts like rice and corn.

Perhaps, but more importantly the chilling effect is plainly designed to mask bitter flavors that many drinkers - especially younger ones weaned on Coke - just don't enjoy.

At 32 degrees, Bryant said, beer is cold enough to temporarily shut down the nerves in your tongue, where you'd normally detect bitterness. "It's essentially anesthetizing your mouth," Bryant said.

Those who actually savor the complex flavor of a well-made ale may cry heresy. But as Schuster noted, "American beer drinkers are conditioned to colder beer, and that seems to be more important to most customers than how those beers should taste."

Ex-Pat Brit Spreads Cask Beer

The Johnny Appleseed of real ale.

Delaware Valley Breweries Have Good Showing in Top Breweries List

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Phillies' Leadoff Hitter Has an OBP of .312

I'm reserving my playoff tickets now.

The Eagles Overshadow the Phillies in a Playoff Race, the View From Baltimore
Welcome to Philadelphia, where it is all T.O. all the time. And where baseball has become an annoying timeout in between Eagles seasons.

The back page of yesterday's Philadelphia Daily News was a picture of Owens with the caption "T-DAY -- Is T.O. in or is he out? Today may tell."

The Philadelphia Inquirer had two Owens stories and a picture above the fold on the sports front. The Phillies were pushed to the bottom of the page -- while legitimately in a pennant race.

"It's a football town. We hear Eagles chants when we're playing," said Phillies reserve catcher Todd Pratt. "It's a football town, which is understandable because they've won. They've been in the playoffs the past four years; we haven't since 1993."

As a fan of many sports and of baseball primarily, I find the Eagles obsession annoying. But Todd Pratt gets it. The Phillies have stunk more than any other team in sports history. They have been mediocre or bad since 1983 with one exception, 1993. The Phils recently lost their 10,000th game. I was at a Giants game recently when they celebrated their 10,000th win. Disheartening.
Billy Wagner, the Phillies' All-Atar closer, has been here for just 1 1/2 seasons, but he already has got the fans figured out.

"They don't even know what they are booing at most of the time," he said. "They yell and boo and they don't know what they are paying attention to or yelling at. They're spelling 'Eagles' the whole game."

You get used to it, Wagner said.

Does Wagner understand that when they boo when he doesn't pitch a 100mph pitch, they aren't booing him and it is in good fun? He either doesn't understand it, which is sad, or he is entirely too sensitive.
It doesn't bother him that during one of the biggest series of the year, the papers, radio and television stations and many of the city's fans are focused primarily on Owens and his squabbles with Eagles management and players.

There's even some irony here.

Owens' disruptions may cost the Eagles a chance at a fifth straight NFC title game. But, Wagner said, smiling, Owens might actually help the Phillies play in October.

"We love it," Wagner said. "If T.O. wants to take all the pressure off our division race, go right ahead."

Does Wagner understand what he just said?

He just said that the Phillies don't do well under pressure. So even if they make the playoffs, they will fold like a cheap suit.

And the national media wonders why Philadelphia isn't overly excited about a playoff race?

Today We Mourn a Phillies Blog

A Citizen's Blog decides to call it quits. Personally, I think it is hard for any blog writer to keep any one-issue blog interesting for the author. Which is why my blog is "and Other Things That Interest" me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Well Looky, Looky Here

A couple terrorists were arrested in Germany in February 2001. Look at what the article said at the time:
Al-Watan al-Arabi (Paris) reports that two Iraqis were arrested in Germany, charged with spying for Baghdad. The arrests came in the wake of reports that Iraq was reorganizing the external branches of its intelligence service and that it had drawn up a plan to strike at US interests around the world through a network of alliances with extremist fundamentalist parties. [Ed.: It's now received dogma that Saddam could never have allied with extreme fundamentalists.]

The most serious report contained information that Iraq and Osama bin Ladin were working together. German authorities were surprised by the arrest of the two Iraqi agents and the discovery of Iraqi intelligence activities in several German cities. German authorities, acting on CIA recommendations, had been focused on monitoring the activities of Islamic groups linked to bin Ladin. They discovered the two Iraqi agents by chance and uncovered what they considered to be serious indications of cooperation between Iraq and bin Ladin. The matter was considered so important that a special team of CIA and FBI agents was sent to Germany to interrogate the two Iraqi spies.

Freaking war for oil! Israel!


Let's take bets. I bet the next "supposed reason for the Iraq War" will be the Illuminadi.

Time to Learn About Able Danger

Rep. Curt Weldon has uncovered a story about 9/11 intelligence that never made it to the FBI due to lawyers and the "wall". His source has now publicly come forward. Here is an AP version of the story.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Iran and European Appeasement
The Europeans have just collapsed, having been told in public by Iran that the last two years of "negotiations" were designed to buy time so that Tehran could complete its nuclear plant at Isfahan.

They are said to be privately "furious." But the voices of appeasement can be heard all over. Chancellor Schroeder is again waging an America-bashing election, blaming the US for Europe's dismal failures, and Michael Portillo, eternal candidate to head the Tories in Britain, has just told us that "The United States should show Iran some respect."

Stalin would have known the meaning of those utterances from leading politicians, and so does Ahmedinejad. It is a green light for aggression.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Pool of Siloam Mentioned in John Found...

right where John said it was.

Is Philadelphia Becoming the Next New York City Borough?

A lot of NYC ex-pats escaping high cost of living.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The T.O. Situation

Wow. Simply stunning.

First off, I am not excusing T.O.'s behavior. However, this was inevitable.

The Eagles deserve some blame. They gave T.O. no way to save face. We gave Japan a way to save face (keep the emperor) after Pearl Harbor, 4 years of world war, and two A-bombs. The Eagles got total victory over T.O., failed to give him a way to save face, and now have no shot to make the Super Bowl.

Not only are they worse without T.O., they would be glad to have Pinkston and Freddie Mitchel back. How sad is that.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Article on Saint Sixtus Monks, Makers of Westvleteren Beers

The monks are getting upset that the world is beating down their door for their beer.
Most brewers would be delighted; the monks of Saint Sixtus are not. Mr Bode says: "They are worried about the publicity, about the hype around the beer. This is double-edged. It is a problem." He lives in the nearby town of Poperinge but knows how the monks think because he spent a year in their community. "Outsiders don't understand," he says. "They say, 'You are successful, make more beer; you will make more money'. But the monks believe the most important thing is monastic life, not the brewery."

Worth a read. They do indeed make fabulous beer, but I hear the readily available St. Bernadus 12 is very close or even better than their beer. The makers of that beer used to make beer for Saint Sixtus, or so I'm told.

You will get tastes of chocolate and plums in their beer. Truly wonderful.

Philippines Bombed by Terrorists

Obviously the invasion and presence of the Philippino army in Iraq and their steadfast support for Israel is the cause of this. The Philipines have to change their foreign policy.

Wait a second? Oh that's right. I'm making up theories without taking into account all the facts.

Man Makes All His Furniture Out of FedEx Boxes. Fed Ex gets Upset.

Profiles in Rock Courage: Coldplay's Christ Martin Refuses to be Seen with Tony Blair Even Though He Likes Him

Liberals are such a tolerant and loving lot.

Not that conservatives overwhelm me with their love and tolerance, but conservatives are labeled the intolerant ones.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

National League West Stinks in a Historically Unprecedented Way

Christian Terrorist?

Ok, this is weird. Michael Medved's show today a caller brought up Eric Rudolph as a "Christian terrorist" and another caller said "communism was like a religion."

Medved commented and I found this on the web:
Eric Rudolph, who bombed the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, two abortion clinics and a gay nightclub, wrote to his mom about born-again Christians: "They have been so nice I would hate to break it to them that I really prefer Nietzsche to the Bible." His letter was published by USA Today.

Oops, there goes another Christian fundamentalist terrorist.

Rudolph's dark devolution from "pro-lifer" to mass murderer owes far more to progressive thought structures than to any traditionalism, Christian or otherwise. For example, about Herman Melville's "Billy Budd," Rudolph writes home: "It makes a powerful statement" about "the relativity of history, and just who ends up being the good guy or bad guy depends on who gets to write the story."

Social constructionism in a nutshell: The person who writes the story gets to decide who the good guys and the bad guys are. Good and evil, as Nietzsche taught, are just the tastes and preferences of the powerful. Who are the powerful? Well, as Nietzsche also taught, anyone who can write a new storyline and persuade the sheep to follow it. Thus are men tempted to become as gods to their fellow men, to abandon both reason and faith in pursuit of power.

So Eric Rudolph, who was the Christian "terrorist" poster-boy for a number of years, got more inspiration from an adamant atheist, Nietzsche, than the Bible. If you are wondering what irony looks like, this would be it.

Men Are Wimps

I'm home today because of pain in my abdomen. A woman with the same amount of pain would have popped some Motrin or something and soldiered on. Relatively speaking, I'm a wimp and I admit it.

NARAL Linking Roberts to Abortion Clinic Bombings in Ad
Even by the standards of the pro-abortion movement, the new television ad that the group now calling itself NARAL Pro-Choice America has unleashed is particularly mendacious. The ad features a woman injured in the 1998 bombing of an abortion clinic, attempts to link her injury to an amicus brief that Roberts filed in 1991, and says that Americans should oppose a nominee “whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans.” NARAL’s press release disingenuously claims that “we are not suggesting Mr. Roberts condones or supports clinic violence” when that of course is exactly what its ad does.

Besides the slander involved in linking Judge Roberts to terroristic activities aimed at abortion clinics I have a problem. Tarring the pro-life movement with the actions of a few extremists is not intellectually honest. Do you abhor the abolitionist movement because John Brown tried to free slave employing terrorism? Are you pro-slavery? Of course not. Yes, there is a certain logic that appeals to unstable people. Abortion/slavery is wrong, so we have to take things into our own hands. In stable people that is tempered by morality which is in submission to lawful government.

Now, before you bring up Islam as a counter-argument to show my inconsistency, let me bring it up. I do think most Muslims aren't a problem. However, I've read about 3/4ths of the Koran and I'm familiar with what the hadith (the traditions of Muhammad, like the Talmud, which are of secondary authority) teach. When a Christian, nominal or otherwise, strays from the teaching of Jesus to love our enemies and pray for them, I am disappointed, but I understand they are in disharmony from the source teachings of Christianity. When I read the Koran and hadiths, I see no such disharmony. Non-Muslims who tell me otherwise usually aren't acquainted with the source material. They'll usually saying all religions are prone to violence.

Which leads us to this tangent. A gentleman at work said this to me. About how all these deaths over history were over religion (like all those Northern Irish bombings were over the infalibility of the papacy). I brought up the 100 million (and counting) dead that communism is responsible for. "That was pretty much a religion." Ok, an atheist system is a religion. If by "religion" you mean "irrational and crazy."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Psychology of Atheism

I've been thinking about the psychological and spiritual underpinning of atheism since 1996. And I, without much reservation, can say this article may be the most intriguing article on the topic I've seen since reading R.C. Sproul's book, If There's a God, Why Are There Atheists?

Paul Vitz, the author, is a psychologist and former-atheist. He begins his argument by listing the reasons he chose atheism from a psychological point of view. First, he and other classmates were ashamed of their backgrounds for whatever reason.
General socialization. An important influence on me in my youth was a significant social unease. I was somewhat embarrassed to be from the Midwest, for it seemed terribly dull, narrow, and provincial. There was certainly nothing romantic or impressive about being from Cincinnati, Ohio and from a vague mixed German-English-Swiss background. Terribly middle class. Further, besides escape from a dull, and according to me unworthy, socially embarrassing past, I wanted to take part in, in fact to be comfortable in, the new, exciting, even glamorous, secular world into which I was moving. I am sure that similar motives have strongly influenced the lives of countless upwardly mobile young people in the last two centuries.

Secondly, he wanted to fit in with and be accepted by atheist scientists.
Specific socialization. Another major reason for my wanting to become an atheist was that I desired to be accepted by the powerful and influential scientists in the field of psychology. In particular, I wanted to be accepted by my professors in graduate school. As a graduate student I was thoroughly socialized by the specific "culture" of academic research psychology. My professors at Stanford, however much they might disagree on psychological theory, were, as far as I could tell, united in only two things-their intense personal career ambition and their rejection of religion.

Thridly, atheism has a big bonus. You can live without some constraints.
Finally, in this list of superficial, but nevertheless, strong irrational pressures to become an atheist, I must list simple personal convenience. The fact is that it is quite inconvenient to be a serious believer in today's powerful secular and neo-pagan world. I would have had to give up many pleasures and a good deal of time.

Without going into details it is not hard to imagine the sexual pleasures that would have to be rejected if I became a serious believer. And then I also knew it would cost me time and some money. There would be church services, church groups, time for prayer and scripture reading, time spent helping others. I was already too busy. Obviously, becoming religious would be a real inconvenience.

He refrences the famous philosopher, Mortimer Adler, as admitting the motivation of personal convenience.

Psychology, especially since Freud, has viewed theism as a wish-fulfillment of an idealized father. Ironically enough, Vitz theorizes that atheism can be seen as Oedipal wish-fulfillment. In the Oedipus complex, you want to kill your father, supplant him, and get with your mother. But is atheism nothing less that killing your father and supplanting yourself as the utmost important being in your own life? James Bond and Hugh Heffner would be the prime example of this.

Vitz realizes that Freud's Oedipal theory has limited appeal. The most interesting thing to note was the theory of the Defective Father. A ton of famous atheists have had problems with their fathers. The problems fall into the following three categories:

Poor relations with one's father can lay the foundation for rejecting your Heavenly Father. Freud, Bertrand Russel, Marx, and Madalyn Murray O'Hair are mentioned in this article.

And finally...
there is also the early personal experience of suffering, of death, of evil, sometimes combined with anger at God for allowing it to happen. Any early anger at God for the loss of a father and the subsequent suffering is still another and different psychology of unbelief, but one closely related to that of the defective father.

It's not just that some lost their father, but that they are angry that God allowed soemthing negative. I would like, at this point, to mention that if God didn't exist there wouldn't be any ultimate right or wrong and there would be no reason to feel that way.

One omission from Vitz's argument is the primary argument of Sproul. Our natural human reaction to God's holiness is repulsion. That is why the Biblical God cannot be explained as some psychological projection. We would never want or desire a God who is holy, who hates our sin, and can't be bargained with. The Biblical God brings down the mighty and humbles the proud. He does what He wills.

Vitz did show another related flaw in the projection theory.
In the second paragraph Freud makes another strange claim, namely that the oldest and most urgent wishes of mankind are for the loving protecting guidance of a powerful loving Father, for divine Providence. However, if these wishes were as strong and ancient as he claims, one would expect pre-Christian religion to have strongly emphasized God as a benevolent father. In general, this was far from the case for the pagan religion of the Mediterranean world-and, for example, is still not the case for such popular religions as Buddhism and for much of Hinduism. Indeed, Judaism and most especially Christianity are in many respects distinctive in the emphasis on God as a loving Father.

Now, many theists hate the Biblical God and hate God's holiness as well. They make God into a toothless lion. A cosmic bellhop. Maybe atheists are just more internally consistent God-avoiders. They know that a God would be bad, bad news. Instead of making a impotent God, they tell themselves there is no God. That would be my conjecture. Or maybe the aforementioned reasons Vitz discusses is the reason they go with no God instead of a castrated, unbiblical God.

Humility and Sabermetrics: Underestimating the Fog (pdf)

Bill James, the Godfather of Moneyball types, realized that some of their community's methodology (including his) was incorrect. They assumed that any behavior that couldn't be replicated with certain players from year to year, like clutch hitting, was just a product of luck. Well, James realized that there is so much randomness, that assumption just doesn't work. He said it was like asking a VW to pull a tractor trailer.

He discusses the methodology previously used and then revists some of the conclusions. At the end of the day, a baseball player has a lot of dependencies on other players, situations, etc. In other words, the fog is very thick. Which means sabermetrics still has a long way to go.

Friday, August 05, 2005

A Very Thoughtful Analysis of Allowing Songs to be Used in Commercials

I still can't get over Led Zeppelin giving one of their songs to Cadillac. Rolling Stones, don't mind so much for some reason.
It's tricky, as a music fan, to decide where you stand when it comes to the TV commercialization of your favorite tunes. It's nice that Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Tom Waits side with Crowe in not letting their music be used in ads. But they're not exactly hurting for cash.

And there have been plenty of times when I've been thrilled to hear some obscure artist gaining 30 seconds' worth of exposure by virtue of a TV ad, like alt-country weirdo Richard Buckner with a VW Touareg spot, or the Friggs, the defunct South Jersey girl rockers whose "Bad Word for a Good Thing" is also in a Chevy Trailblazer ad (featuring the animated PowerPuff Girls).

So what makes Earle different? Partly it's because he's in the habit of calling himself a "borderline Marxist" who has said he makes "an embarrassing amount of money." (That's why there are Internet discussion threads out there on this subject labeled "Noted leftist singer-songwriter sells out to corporate behemoth.")

But mainly, it's the song that Earle chose to sell. It wasn't "Someday," it was the title cut to his 2004 Grammy-winning album, which also appeared on Michael Moore's Songs and Artists That Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11. And never mind partisan politics; What makes "The Revolution Starts Now" so powerful as music is not that it's a Democratic or Republican anthem. It's that its driving beat brings home lyrics about self-discovery and empowerment: "The revolution starts now, when you rise above your fear / And tear the walls around you down / The revolution starts here."

Google Moon

Google Maps interface for the moon. Zoom in all the way for a surprise.

USA Today Gives Overview of Craft Beer Industry

Good overall article, but it does fall prey to the rise-fall-comeback motif. Craft beer was popular in the 90's. Then, a bunch of breweries closed (like any maturing industry). The media stops reporting on it. A fad that went away, right? Incorrect. But the media is very surprised to see craft beer doing well.

From the article:
The combination of these forces has made craft beers the fastest-growing segment of the alcoholic beverage market: Sales jumped 7.2% from 2003 to 2004. ("Craft beers" is the industry term for intensely flavorful brews made with all-malt recipes by local or regional brewers; they represent 3.2% of the 206 million-barrel American beer market.) More significantly, 135 of the country's approximately 1,400 craft brewers have enjoyed double-digit growth the past few years, according to the Brewers Association.

Ray Daniels, director of craft-beer marketing for the association, attributes the robust sales to consumers' quest for bold, distinctive flavors in all of their foods, a weaker dollar (which hurts sales of imported brands) and greater consistency in the beers themselves. Overall quality also has improved, he says, and regional producers have become more reliable about keeping their products on store shelves.

Though smarter marketing and better quality control have laid the foundation for the surge in interest, the true excitement is generated by brewers unleashing their creativity and honing their craft.
Some so-called extreme brewers, such as Sam Calagione of Delaware-based Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, are doing things that are unclassifiable. His Midas Touch Golden Elixir beer is inspired from an analysis of residue found on crockery in King Tut's tomb; his Pangea incorporates ingredients from each of the world's seven continents; and he's working on a version of tej, an African beverage flavored with hops and honey.

"Imagination is the challenge not only facing brewers but consumers. They have to be willing to allow their own definition of what a beer can be to be expanded."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Philadelphia Number 1 Hotbed of Voter Fraud in America

At Least One German Understands Why Bolton Is Needed at the U.N.
But others disagree, pointing out the UN's many scandals and its inability to act quickly enough to stop the genocides of the 1990s in the Balkans and Rwanda. The UN, they say, is in desperate need of serious reforms.

"The reason why Bolton was nominated is because Bush needs a tough guy at the UN, and wants bottom up reforms," said Jan-Friedrich Kallmorgen of the German Council on Foreign Relations. "Bush is committed to reform, that's why he put someone like that in there. I don't agree with some analysts who say it's a punishment of the Senate or because he's anti-democratic or all that ... He chose Bolton because he needs someone tough enough to take on the bureaucracy."

They need someone to raise hell. For their own good, not to be vindictive.

Christian Hedonism II: God Is a Very Important Person

There was an Everybody Loves Raymond episode where he forgot to acknowledge his wife when he was getting an award at graduation.
When a man forgets to mention his wife as the most important person in his life under God, there is a defect in his love. And when a Christian can talk and write for hours and days about what is important in the world without mentioning God, there is a defect in that person's love.

The healing of that defect, and the opposite of taking God for granted is an hour-by-hour reveling in God and savoring God and admiring God and loving God and treasuring God and standing in awe of God.

One discovery that, for me, has made all the difference in the world is that the reason God does not like being taken for granted is not only that it robs him of glory, but also that it robs me of joy. And perhaps the greatest discovery of all is that these two goals – God's goal to be glorified and my desire to be satisfied – are not at odds. Because God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him.

So for me, and I pray for you, the truth that God is an important person and does not like to be taken for granted, has come to be not a threat but a declaration of the triumph of God's sovereign purpose to glorify himself and satisfy his people in God.

Explaining Irreducible Complexity

Dr. Michael Behe, of Lehigh University, has advanced the argument for Irreducible Complexity in the Intelligent Design movement. Let me explain what that means. (For full disclosure, Michael Behe is a Roman Catholic who believes in evolution above the cellular level.)

Here is the Darwinian model of changes:
A -> advantage, gets passed on to further generations
AB-> even better, gets passed on
ABC-> even better, gets passed on
ABCD-> even better, gets passed on

B, C, and D are mutations.

Something that is irreducibly complex:
A -> no advantage
AB-> no advantage
ABC-> no advantage
ABCD-> advantage

When you see something like this in nature, it makes no sense from a Darwinian perspective. Why would AB be passed on? It doesn't give you an advantage. Only ABCD gives you an advantage. You need ABCD all at once. ABC doesn't it. AB doesn't cut it. Etc., etc.

Michael Behe uses the example of a mousetrap. On the cellular level, he uses other examples, like something that is very much like a boat motor.

Anyway, when you see "Intelligent Design" in the news, I hope this helps sort things out. It is a movement. Some accept more of Darwinian processes than others. But it does have a basis on what is observed in nature. They aren't starting with a particular interpretation of Genesis 1.

Famous former-atheist philosopher Anthony Flew (famous for a philosopher) became a theist because of Intelligent Design. I'm sorry. But this movement isn't a bunch of bunk.

Hope this helps.

Italians Discovering Microbreweries

And their inspiration is from America.
Although certain European nations have a strong tradition of brewing distinctive, on-the-premises products, the fad for microbreweries appears to have sprung to life in Italy fully-formed as a US import .

"I think the concept of brewpubs and microbreweries in Italy has almost nothing to do with nearby countries and their history - such as Germany, Czechoslovakia or Belgium - and everything to do with the America, where these kind of places are enormously popular," said Guido Taraschi, president of the association uniting Italian microbreweries, Unionbirrai.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mentioning Intelligent Design Upsets Some People
Much of the scientific establishment says that intelligent design is not a tested scientific theory but a cleverly marketed effort to introduce religious -- especially Christian -- thinking to students. Opponents say that church groups and other interest groups are pursuing political channels instead of first building support through traditional scientific review.

Hard-core atheists have failed to realize that they have already lost. How do I know this? Every time I turn around there is some article in Time or MSNBC postulating that multiple universes exist. And those who postulate that readily admit that this universe is so fine-tuned to allow for life, there must be other universes...otherwise God exists. And we can't have that.

So from plate techtonics, the moon, a stable orbit, Jupiter being at just the right spot, the weak and strong nuclear forces being just right, the complexity of a single-celled organism, etc., etc., etc. the opponents of Intelligent Design face an uphill battle.

I only know of one side that is afraid of debate and is using dogmatic hegemony to shut down that debate. I'll give you a hint. That side doesn't consist of Intelligent Design folks.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Judge Bork on C-SPAN Today

He was asked what he learned from his failed confirmation process. Let me paraphrase what he said.

He knew that the Supreme Court had become political, making law, and not just a part of the judiciary. But the ferocity of the opposition made that very clear. Because if the Supreme Court is political in nature, why wouldn't it be part of a political fight?

Many Senators showed a lack of knowledge about Constitutional interpretation. They only cared about the results of a Supreme Court decision, not whether it was correctly decided.

Cutest. Kitten. Ever.

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