Dark, but funny dig from Talking Points:
In unexpected dig against Jeff Greenfield, entire Bush war cabinet adopts Ahmadinejad look.
By celebrating Richard Dawkins' new book, The God Delusion, you show how out of touch you are with the overwhelming majority of the world's population.
... So much for tolerance and open-mindedness. In Dawkins' view, and presumably Singer's, religion is the source of all evil, while atheism is the path of enlightenment, brotherhood and liberation.
... And never mind that even non-religious academics, such as Prof Rodney Stark, have claimed with massive amounts of documentation that Christianity created Western civilisation.
Prof Stark points out that most of the benefits of the West, such as freedom, democracy and prosperity, are largely due to the Christian religion.
Another secular author says that for all the slaughters in the name of religion over the centuries, there is another side of the ledger.
Every time I travel in the poorest parts of Africa, I see missionary hospitals that are the only source of assistance to desperate people.
God may not help amputees sprout new limbs, but churches do galvanise their members to support soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics that otherwise would not exist.
Religious constituencies have pushed for more action on AIDS, malaria, sex trafficking and genocide in Darfur.
Believers often give large proportions of their incomes to charities that are a lifeline to the neediest.
I am not aware of any hospitals or charitable works set up by atheists.
And never mind that many noted philosophers have pointed out that it was the Christian emphasis on reason that gave rise to modern science.
Singer and Dawkins are way out of their depth, showing their ignorance about the gospel accounts in particular and theology in general. They really should keep silent on subjects they clearly know so little about.
... Singer says we should all worship at the altar of reason.
That is just what the revolutionaries argued in the French Revolution when churches were ransacked and believers were sent to the guillotine.
The truth is, a lot of open minds need to be closed for repairs. The nasty diatribes launched by Dawkins and Singer are examples of secular fundamentalism and intolerance.
Indeed, they seek to make a sharp distinction between faith and reason, between religion and science. They claim that science gives us truth, but faith is simply myth.
But more sober minds on both sides of the debate recognise these to be false polarisations. Faith, at least in the Christian religion, is informed by reason. It may at times go beyond reason, but it does not run counter to it.
And the scientific enterprise is also characterised by faith commitment.
There are all kinds of unproven assumptions and presuppositions which may or may not be testable.
The myth of complete scientific neutrality and objectivity has been countered by many important thinkers.
Singer is free to engage in her simplistic thinking and crude materialism, in which only matter matters.
But for billions, non-material things such as truth, beauty, justice, love and even God are very meaningful realities, which the narrow world of atheism will never fully enjoy nor understand.
Environmentalists have asked Australia's military to wage war on cane toads, which have spread across the country's north in near-plague proportions.
The toads, introduced in a batch of 101 from Hawaii in 1935 in a failed bid to control native cane beetles, have spread 3,000 km (1,900 miles) from northeast Queensland to Darwin in Australia's tropical north. There are now more than 200 million.
"We need as many people on the ground as we can possibly get, and if the military can work out strategies for controlling toads on their ground, well that's fine with us," Frog Watch spokesman Ian Morris told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Wednesday.
Cane toads are one of Australia's worst environmental mistakes, ranking alongside the catastrophic introduction of rabbits.
The spread of the toads, whose skin is poisonous, has led to dramatic declines in populations of native snakes, goanna lizards and quolls. A quoll is a cat-sized marsupial.
Killing the hardy toads with anything from golf clubs to air rifles has become a northern Australian pastime, and their carcasses are turned into comic tourist ornaments and fertilizer.
Which is why these little rovers mean so much to me. They're MY eyes on Mars, my representatives there. I talked in that last poem about Spirit about "walking alongside" the rover, and that's really how I feel. Like many "Mars enthusiasts", I check rover-related websites (Exploratorium, UMSF etc) several times a day, looking for new pics, following the latest leg of the journey. Every time the rovers move and bring a new horizon into view I feel a genuine thrill of discovery, of exploration. That run-up to the edge of VC was UNBEARABLE! Every day so close, so close... then we were there, "Oppy" and I, on the edge, looking into and across it... well, Steve Squyres' long, tight-throated pause in his interview with Doug Ellison on the Unmanned Spaceflight forum (Google it, you won't regret it) described my own feelings superbly. It was like the very first time I saw Yosemite Valley, after emerging from that long tunnel into the sunlight to see The View, where giant hands had reached down from the heavens and wrenched the Earth apart. Look. At. That.
HENRY: You know, going back to September 2001, the president said, dead or alive, we're going to get him. Still don't have him. I know you are saying there's successes on the war on terror, and there have been. That's a failure.
TOWNSEND: Well, I'm not sure -- it's a success that hasn't occurred yet. I don't know that I view that as a failure.
NEAR THE END OF THE MOST RECENT school board meeting, Clark County Board of School Trustees President Ruth Johnson was wailing and begging for mercy.
"I'm not going to allow myself to be attacked! Please don't attack me personally anymore!" she wept.
Trustee Shirley Barber pounded angrily on a table with an I-will-bury-you force.
"I'm going to file an ethics complaint with the Attorney General! You do not control me! You do not control this board!" Barber bellowed back, pinning Johnson against the rhetorical ropes with blow after blow.
"We're violating laws here!" Barber continued. "We have not been honest in evaluating ourselves and our superintendent! This is not acceptable!"
Johnson shrank, punch-drunk, and babbled tearfully about false accusations and her family's honor. Yet that didn't stop Barber from pummeling her. There was no referee. Johnson screamed at the audio man to shut down the microphones. Barber howled at him to leave them on.
The few stragglers in the audience (it was late) were riveted to their seats, wide-eyed, mouths agape.
...But Barber is black. As is a large contingent of the area she represents. For years Barber has watched schools in her district struggle without basic necessities while schools in more affluent areas have flourished.
...This gruesome threesome that Barber consistently condemns as impediments to progress in the school district are Johnson and trustees Sheila Moulton and Mary Beth Scow. An unspoken implication of their cat-fighting is that the rumble is, sadly, really about race and religion.
"The past is not dead," William Faulkner said. "In fact, it's not even past."
... What finally stopped it? I did. In 20 years of teaching I've stopped hundreds of such fights. That's part of what I do. I'm a trained professional. I started applauding loudly while the women were going at it.
... "Thank you! That was excellent! I love performance art! You should be proud of yourselves! I'm sure 18,000 teachers in the district would appreciate the incompetence you have demonstrated here tonight as they slave for poverty-level wages in the trenches of our overcrowded classrooms! Bravo! Beautiful! Thank you!"
THE drought gripping southeast Australia is due to natural variations in climate rather than the greenhouse effect.
... "It is very, very highly likely that what we are seeing at the moment is natural climatic variability," researcher Barrie Hunt told The Australian, saying the CSIRO's model of 10,000 years of natural climate variability put the current drought into perspective.
... Mr Hunt's research focused on three 500 sq km sites in Australia: one on the Queensland-NSW border, going down to the coast; southeast Australia, which included Melbourne, Sydney and much of the Murray River basin; and southwest Western Australia, including the Perth region.
He looked at the frequency of dry sequences lasting eight years or longer.
"In each of those places there are about 30 occasions over 10,000 years where you get one of these eight or more years sequences," he said.
"The longest sequence was 14 years in Queensland-NSW, 11 in the southeast and 10 in the southwest."
Mr Hunt said the Queensland-NSW area had had an 800-year period without an eight-year dry, "but there is another period of 462 years where you get five of these".
Mr Hunt said the onset, duration and termination of the long dries could not be predicted because they were due to random processes. He said the current drought was an example of a dry sequence that began with an El Nino weather system.
"It starts a drought and you get sea-surface temperatures flickering backwards and forwards a bit. The rainfall may go back to fairly near normal but it is still below average, and then you get another El Nino," he said.
"This can go on for a decade. Eventually it breaks. You don't know why, it is a random thing. This is just part of the beauty of the climatic system."
Most of Victoria is in a 10-year dry sequence, the Murray River is in its sixth year of drought, while Brisbane and much of NSW are also experiencing a six-year dry.
"It is important that people realise that natural variability says it will break. It may not break next year, because one of these things went on for 14 years, but it will break," Mr Hunt said.
... Mr Hunt said the dry sequence in the southwest was different, with a decline over 30 years, which included the odd year of above-average rainfall.
"It isn't violating what I am saying, but it is a very unusual sequence of events there," he said.
“It never occurred to me to call 911 or my physician,” Dr. DeBakey said, adding: “As foolish as it may appear, you are, in a sense, a prisoner of the pain, which was intolerable. You’re thinking, What could I do to relieve myself of it. If it becomes intense enough, you’re perfectly willing to accept cardiac arrest as a possible way of getting rid of the pain.”
But when his heart kept beating, Dr. DeBakey suspected that he was not having a heart attack. As he sat alone, he decided that a ballooning had probably weakened the aorta, the main artery leading from the heart, and that the inner lining of the artery had torn, known as a dissecting aortic aneurysm.
No one in the world was more qualified to make that diagnosis than Dr. DeBakey because, as a younger man, he devised the operation to repair such torn aortas, a condition virtually always fatal. The operation has been performed at least 10,000 times around the world and is among the most demanding for surgeons and patients.
...He refused to be admitted to a hospital until late January. As his health deteriorated and he became unresponsive in the hospital in early February, his surgical partner of 40 years, Dr. George P. Noon, decided an operation was the only way to save his life. But the hospital’s anesthesiologists refused to put Dr. DeBakey to sleep because such an operation had never been performed on someone his age and in his condition. Also, they said Dr. DeBakey had signed a directive that forbade surgery.
As the hospital’s ethics committee debated in a late-night emergency meeting on the 12th floor of Methodist Hospital, Dr. DeBakey’s wife, Katrin, barged in to demand that the operation begin immediately.
In the end, the ethics committee approved the operation; an anesthesiology colleague of Dr. DeBakey’s, who now works at a different hospital, agreed to put him to sleep; and the seven-hour operation began shortly before midnight on Feb. 9. “It is a miracle,” Dr. DeBakey said as he sat eating dinner in a Houston restaurant recently. “I really should not be here.”
The last possibility might make sense if people are overextended on credit - the consumer economy of the last decade finally sailing into the coral reefs of debt. But you'd never guess on appearances alone!
There were other vignettes too:
I am Jaguar Paw! This is my forest! My sons and their sons will hunt here after I am gone!Nevertheless, there were plenty of cringe-inducing moments, like the whole locker-room, boys-will-be-boys opening, or the conflation of Mayans with Aztecs. Plus the fortuitous, unanticipated total eclipse of the sun (Central Americans knew their calendar, so the priests at the very least would have known long in advance of an eclipse).
As a result, some of the biggest sellers of the year -- from Disney's "High School Musical" and "Cheetah Girls" soundtracks to the "Kidz Bop" series -- are those aimed at the grade-school set.
By contrast, longstanding industry staples like rock and even hip-hop have far less commercial potential. "When we sell 150,000 albums from a new rock group, we think we've set them up pretty well," says Bob Cavallo, chairman of Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista Music Group. The "Hannah" soundtrack, meanwhile, sold nearly 274,000 copies last week alone.
Christmas is a time to think of the neediest. Although I think that the free market is the best philanthropist, every year at this time I make a tax-deductible $20 charitable donation to some worthy cause against my better judgment. ... But who?Health care insurance issues may defy both conservative and liberal cures, because health care is often inefficient and error-ridden. Nevertheless, there is hope, particularly now, with the example that digital rectal probes can cure hiccups as well as diagnose enlarged prostate glands. The assembly-line brought us cheap cars: it can also bring us cheap health. With a regrettable loss of identity and dignity, of course, but what is that compared to saving money?
Then I stumbled over this tragic story on The Corner, which brought a tear to my eye. Conservative pundit and humanitarian John Derbyshire received some devastating news this Christmas: "My health insurer has just notified me, in a brief form letter, that my monthly premiums are to rise from $472.33 to $857.00 on January 1st....
My heart went out to Derbyshire....
You might expect liberal bloggers to feel some compassion for what he is going through, but instead they have reacted with shockingly uncharitable glee, gorging themselves on Schadenfreude pie. "Was he somehow unaware that his own principles leave him with no grounds for complaint when something like this happens?" sniffed Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings. "You see, John, there is this thing called the "'market,'" Brad DeLong explained with just a smidgen of condescension. A Washington Monthly reader wrote: "I've heard people say a conservative is just a liberal who's been mugged. Then maybe a liberal is just a conservative who suddenly got this in the mail."
Are liberals really living up to their principles when they seem to care so little about Derbyshire's tribulations? That is why I would like to challenge them to consider making John Derbyshire their charity this Christmas....
Although I haven't seen the movie It's a Wonderful Life in a long time, since I rented an edited version from Wal-Mart, the ending always makes me cry. If I remember correctly, at the end of the film irascible but good-hearted capitalist Mr. Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore, discovers he is about to go bankrupt. So the people of Pottersville, remembering how he helped them build modest but affordable homes with loans whose interest was only a little above the market rate, rally around him. They scratch together what little money they have left after paying their mortgages to Potter's bank, and give it to the old man who is brought to tears by their generosity. So this Christmas let's think of John Derbyshire as our Mr. Potter. Let's show him that Americans really are a compassionate people.
In an evolutionary twist, Flora has become pregnant all on her own - with no male help. The timing is auspicious: the seven baby komodo dragons are due this festive season.
"We were blown away when we realised what she'd done," said Kevin Buley, a reptile expert at Flora's home at the Chester Zoo in northern England. "But we certainly won't be naming any of the hatchlings Jesus.
... Other reptile species reproduce asexually in a process known as parthenogenesis. But Flora's virginal conception, and that of another komodo dragon this year at the London Zoo, are the first times documented in komodo dragons. The reptiles, renowned for their intelligence, are native to Indonesia. They are the largest lizards and have no natural predators, making them on par with sharks and lions at the top of the animal kingdom.
L'etat c'est moi!
Bush may formally be a President, but he is, in fact, a Monarch. A strange, 21st-Century Monarch who believes in the American Dream. He can be anything he wants to be, including a salmon-colored prime number, if he believes in himself and works hard enough at it. Anyone who says otherwise is probably European. Or amongst the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Things You May Not Mail To Australia
Picky, picky, picky!
We regret to say that the Dec. 16 Julia Othmer benefit concert for DMTC has been cancelled due to lack of interest/pre-sales. She may perform later as part of a another concert, but we couldn't ask her to travel here with just a few tickets sold. If you have assisted DMTC in publicizing this event, thank you very much. If you have purchased tickets, please come to the box office at your earliest convenience for a refund.Come on people! These are great musicians!
UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE - DISTRICT 1Sigh.....
PATRICIA A. MADRID Democratic 105,125 49.8%
HEATHER A. WILSON Republican 105,986 50.2%
ONCE again, Australian school kiddies are in big trouble. According to a new report commissioned by the nation's education ministers, bucketloads of the ignorant little buggers don't know why we celebrate Australia Day, have a governor-general or whack a Union Jack in the corner of our flag.
...Australian students are a bunch of lazy pinheads who should be sent to a corner to think about what they haven't done. And while they're down there, why not force 'em to start memorising important dates such as 1788, 1901 and 1947 - the latter marking one of many previous media panics about ill-educated Aussie youngsters unable to write in proppa sentences.
Here's the thing, though. If students are required to swot up on subjects politicians think are important (namely history, civics and blindly swallowing spin), surely politicians should have to gain a rudimentary knowledge of something young people rate highly, namely pop culture.
Last week during the electioneering in Victoria, punters were treated to what has become a pre-poll staple: candidates making tokenistic appearances on yoof media programs and revelling in their dearth of pop cultural knowledge, wearing their ignorance (or at least their professed ignorance) of Paris Hilton's shaggin' habits like rosettes of honour.
On the penultimate day of the campaign, Steve Bracks and Ted Baillieu accidentally ended up on air at Fox FM at the same time. Neither was able to answer questions about Jessica Simpson, Australian Idol or even the winner of the Melbourne Cup.
...It's easy to dismiss the nipply adventures of Hilton, Simpson et al as low-brow ephemera, but this could well be at politicians' peril.
Insisting that citizens develop more interest in crucial matters of state won't change the fact that many are not interested - or at least not as interested as they are in whether bootleg honeymoon videos reveal that Britney Spears is bisexual and threesome-eager (to quote one popular, saliva-dripping internet site).
One Australian broadsheet - regarded as a quality publication - regularly charts the most clicked-on stories from its internet site ... the A and AB-demographic readers of this particular organ prefer feasting on fast food features about grisly baby deaths, celebrity sex romps and cyclops kittens. On Monday, the fifth most popular story here was Crocodile yak: Elton shouts at shoes - 321 words about Elton John dashing off stage for a Down Under chunder during the first performance of his latest Australian tour. Apparently a guitarist masked the knighted pianist's sudden and wordless exit by noodling an impromptu solo.
While I'm not suggesting that knowledge of such an event be tested in HSC exams, it is worth ditching the heated, high versus low culture debate for a moment and looking at the situation from a realpolitik perspective.
Growing political disengagement among young people is regarded by many pundits as a serious threat to democracy, with party membership, trust in office-holders and interest in traditional politics plunging faster than a Brownlow Medal ceremony neckline.
Reaching these voters requires learning to speak their language or, at the very least, not taking such elitist delight in disparaging it.
Since the Pentagon has decided to discuss its new strategy in gambling parlance, it should at least use the proper terminology. Today's LA Times article says that a Pentagon official has referred to the option of sending more troops in to Iraq as a "double down" strategy. The reference is to a bet in blackjack when, based on the cards that have been dealt, the player seeks to maximize a payoff that is more likely to occur in that hand, given the probabilities. The double down is a calculated bet, made from a position of strength when the odds are favorable to the bettor.
In Iraq, we are certainly not in a situation where the odds are favorable to winning. Our bet is not a double down. Let's call it what it is: double or nothing. This is more like the gambler who has been on a bad losing streak deciding to empty the savings account and put all of his chips on red, hoping that the roulette wheel will spin his way and bring him back close to even. Double or nothing is a desperation play. It is an ill-advised way to gamble, with chips or human lives, and such a strategy inevitably leads to another appropriate gambling term. Gambler's ruin: winding up completely broke.
This afternoon I was down at SaveMart picking up E-Coli samples for some research I am conducting and noted this 4 page research report on the library rack near the checkout. I know that you are interested in Titanic Research and thought I should draw it to your attention. As is well known, most research leads to information that you were not even looking for, and I saw this other report that contradicted your recent research on drain swirl effects. Maybe you should tweak your parameters and try again (justifying NSF funding for another trip to OZ?). Also a small Item that would make a good footnote to your excellent description of various flora and fauna that you encountered.Here are edited versions of some of the JPEGs Jim sent:
Anna Miles, also 15, concurs. “Theater is literally like my home. I’ve never experienced any feeling that’s better and more amazing than when I’m onstage. I love it, and I can’t ever stop.”
Much of southern Australia and coastal Queensland has experienced a protracted downturn in annual rainfall which has intensified since the 2002 El Niño event and has most severely affected the eastern states and the southwest corner of Western Australia.
Some areas of central Victoria, southern New South Wales and south east Queensland have had continuous lowest on record or very much below average rainfall since 1997.
A sequence of seven failed autumn breaks in the Murray-Darling Basin has not previously occurred in the records. Chances of a break in the current Autumn are fast receding. There is no sign that the months up to December 2006 will lead to any major relieving rainfalls, with rainfall in the southeast and even the summer rainfall in north-eastern Australia likely to be below average.
Indeed, the presence of a developing El Niño event suggests that it is very unlikely that Australia will see extensive drought breaking rain before the autumn of next year.
Major urban water storages are low and well below average for this time of the year across the south eastern part of Australia and south eastern Queensland. Storages for virtually all the major urban centres of Australia are being progressively drawn down, with no signifi cant inflows for a number of years.
Tough water restrictions, which include complete bans on the outdoor use of water, are already in place in Goulburn, Gosford, Bendigo and Toowoomba. More cities, such as Brisbane, Gosford and Ballarat, are likely to follow in the immediate future. Sydney has had a ban on sprinklers for three years. Significant water conservation measures are already in place and contingency measures for augmenting water supplies in the face of a deteriorating situation are also well in train.
In rural areas, inflows to dams in the Murray-Darling Basin System over the past five years have been the lowest on record. Consequently, irrigation allocations are significantly below entitlement.
Storages such as in the Wimmera Mallee in central Victoria have received no substantial inflow for six years.
The impact on individual farm incomes will vary depending on the way irrigators respond to low water allocations. The ability to trade water under the NWI will assist farmers adapt to the shortfalls.
Victorian Premier Steve Bracks said the weekend conditions could be compared with the 1939 Black Friday fires that killed 71 people and destroyed several towns.
Black Friday is considered to be Victoria's worst day of bushfires.
Incarcerated in their own karaoke ward room, Karaoke Bedlam presents the work of a series of artists exploring karaoke and music video clip culture as it can be channelled through the lens of hallucination and surrealism, chaos and nihilism, subconscious and the unconscious, sanity and schizophrenia. From delusions of grandeur that surround the cult of the pop-idol celebrity, to booty RnB strip-tease role-playing, to fantastical visions of mermen singing sea shanties, Karaoke Bedlam invites audiences to enter the Karaoke Bedlam wards and become voyeurs into claustrophic worlds of audio-visual madness and karaoke induced psychoses.I hope to return to this and see more of what they have there.....But if I fail, there's always our friend, the Internet.