Monday, October 31, 2005

Compare and Contrast the Following.

I can not believe I am having to post about Scientology and Kabbalah again. (Sigh)

In this article there are two interesting paragraphs. Compare and contrast them.

Interesting paragraph number 1:

But in an interview in America she (Madonna) said it is "very strange that it's so disturbing to people", adding: "It's not hurting anybody." Madonna, 47, likened herself to Tom Cruise, whose devotion to Scientology has similarly alienated fans and drawn negative press. "If it makes Tom Cruise happy, I don't care if he prays to turtles. And I don't think anybody else should," she said. (emphasis mine)

I don't think anybody else should pray to turtles either but now that a celebrity has mentioned it there will be a booming trade in pet-store turtles (some carry salmonella so be careful people).

Interesting paragraph number 2:

Shaul Youdkevitch and a number of rabbis running the Israel Kabbalah Centre are accused of persuading Leah Zonis (a terminally ill cancer patient) and her husband Boris to make what they called a "significant and painful donation" if she wanted to recover, and sold her bottles of "holy water" under the Kabbalah label at inflated prices.
I think Madonna and Tom should get together and discuss their beliefs and ask themselves what the response would be from their respective communities if either decided to jump ship. "She dismissed claims the religion is a cult and suggested people should be more tolerant." In response I think someone should ask her how tolerant she thinks Scientology is to competing beliefs. She "believes people are negative about both belief systems because they have so little understanding." This is, of course, incorrect. People were ambivalent about both belief systems when they had little understanding. People are negative about both belief systems now because they have discovered much about them in recent months. It is a shame that Madonna does not bother to look into the criticisms of ex-members and educated skeptics before she blows the criticisms off as due to ignorance.

Maybe they could work out a merger.
Kabbalology?
Scientabalah?

Che Dresses Up as Hugo Chavez for Halloween.

Or is that the other way around?

Either way it makes for one hell of a frightening costume. But he does not want people to get into the habit of celebrating Halloween. It is to much of a "game of terror"
"Families go and begin to disguise their children as witches. This is contrary to our way,"
Hey Hugo? You do know that you do not have to be a witch right? You could be a ghost or a goblin or a vampire (that one should not be much of a stretch for a communist wannabe like you). If those are too scary you could dress up as a fairy princess. Halloween is a night when you can dress up as anyone or anything; to take on a completely new identity and Hugo, lets face it, if anyone needs a night like that, it's you.

Hugo, do you know that by attacking Halloween you are on the same side of the fence as people like Pat Robertson? (If that is not a Halloween scare you need to check to see if you still have a pulse.) And the way you are running your country Hugo, you are really going to need the proceeds from those UNICEF boxes.

Yes Hugo, the Europeans are poo-pooing Halloween but they don't need creepy hobgoblins. They have France! (Sorry France, that was just too good to hold in.) And where is this whole "Halloween is American imperialism" meme coming from? Halloween was here by different names and customs long before America and it will be here long after she is gone. Even the centuries of Church doctrine could not pry it out of human observance because (Hold on to your hat here Hugo) it is fun. People need holidays, people need to laugh at death and evil and people need to exercise their imagination now and then. Most people anyway, Hugo. Speaking of needing a holiday... Hugo? Are you still reading this?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Bosnian Pyramid

Update - October 31st: I should know better than to trust the media. The "pyramid" seems to have been discovered by someone involved in "alternative history" see comments.

What is thought to be Europe's first pyramid has been discovered in Bosnia. The general estimate is that it was constructed by an early civilization at about 12,000 years ago, though older estimates have been suggested - one as old as 20,000 years ago. Even 12,000 is mind boggling when you consider that the ice age was only just ending. It seems to be about 100 meters tall which makes it about two thirds as high as the Great Pyramid at Giza. If all this is true (only the first stages of excavations have been started) it means that the society who built it would have had to have been surprisingly advanced for the time. Seeing how little of humanity's time on this planet has been during the known period of civilization and seeing that some of the oldest known cities are some of the most recently discovered, there are still plenty of chances for finding surprises. (Calm down crystal grippers! It's not like they have found the fiber-optic cables of Atlantis.)

There is one thing I take issue with about this story though. I have lost a link to an article about this (there is little in any of them beyond the initial discovery of the site) but one claimed that "this hill could not have been formed by nature" I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they made this statement as a result of the first excavation. While I admit that the hill did look like a pyramid (after reading the article) it also looked like a pyramid shaped hill. Natural geological formations can often look like artificial constructions, leading to "discoveries" like an ark shaped rock in Turkey, an "Atlantis road" shaped line of rocks off Cuba and countless "pyramids" on Mars. The claim that nature never uses right angles may be common in the new age movement but it is not taught in geology courses and nature follows the laws of physics, not the expectations of humans.

Speciation in the Fast Lane.

Here is an interesting article about speciation. While geographic isolation and the resulting genetic drift is not the only mechanism for this process, the article gives an interesting insight into why tropical regions have such a high biological diversity. It also helps illustrate that once the divergence of two groups of organisms goes beyond a tipping point where mating with the other population produces less well adapted offspring, there is suddenly a selective pressure against those who are willing to jump the mating barrier. (Jumping the mating barrier? I don't know why but that sounds like more fun than I meant it to.) Speciation becomes self-reinforcing.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Worrying About the Wrong Things Again.

Now I should preface this by saying that my feelings on H5N1 are complex. Not that I am not completely against it. I should make that clear; I am not some nut that thinks that a good pandemic is just what the world needs these days. Rather the complexity is in regards to whether the amount of fear being generated is to much, too little or just right.

From a public health point of view I am pretty optimistic. There are several lines of research being pursued in regards to anti-virals, vaccines, even RNA interference technologies coming down the pipe (though iRNA technologies are less still some way off). Even if an infectious pandemic began yesterday, it takes some time to spread both geographically and within local populations.

There is also the possibility that the mutation(s) needed to allow the virus to pass easily between humans could reduces the mortality rate of the virus. From what I understand it is currently attacking deep in the lungs which makes it more damaging but less infectious. If it is to adapt to the higher respiratory tract it could mean that the body gets a chance to start fighting the disease before it spreads to the lungs giving the immune system a valuable head start. This is just speculative on my part but it sounds plausible. It turns out that in the past the greatest number of deaths during these new human flu pandemics were caused by dehydration and secondary infections, both of which we now have much better treatments for these days.

But when a minority of doctors come on TV and radio and tell people that they are being foolish for being concerned about the possibility I am not so sure I agree. The actual epidemiologists have been warning about this virus for years and politicians have been rather unimpressed. It is only now that the exact predictions they made about the H5N1 virus began coming true (first you would see isolated cases, then clusters from the same farm exposure, then being passed by close family members who are caring for sick people, then small clusters in small communities would pop up and disappear) that the public got scared and only after the public got scared that we suddenly realized how poorly prepared we are for an infectious pandemic. The merely contagious pandemic of AIDS was a slow motion debacle that is still playing itself out via political interference and insufficient levels of funding. Here are some quick questions:

In the event of a pandemic, who gets to make the decisions of where medical supplies like masks and gloves and drugs and I.V. bags go?

Can doctors be reassigned against their will to areas which the states thinks are high priority but the feds think are low?

Are quarantine laws well crafted?

Who can lawfully decide to suspend transportation links?
These questions and many others need to be answered by people who are afraid of the consequences of getting them wrong.

Even if the right level of concern is being expressed, is it being directed properly? When people hear about wild birds with H5N1 being discovered in Europe they ask questions like "Will it lead to mass culls of Europe's poultry?" or "Will it spread to North American birds?" What should really be disturbing people is that European birds migrate to Africa. I suspect that Africa has a wide range of poultry practices from industrial type farms (with some having good health practices and others having less so) to subsistence level rural farming with chickens, pigs and wild birds mixing in one small plot just as they do in some affected areas of Asia. There are also populations of people there with malnutrition, HIV stricken immune systems and variable levels of health care and monitoring systems. Does anyone think that Robert Mugabe is competent to handle something like an outbreak of H5N1?

In short, support the medical and biochemical research and overthrow dictators. And while you are saving the world try picking up after your dog when you walk him or her. You know who you are.

Iran Proposes Final Solution to Mid-East Tensions


Posted by Picasa

Iran's president thinks he knows how to achieve peace in our time (or shortly there after). It only involves some ideas from an Austrian philosopher of the 1930's.

France is naturally aghast. (The last time this technique was implemented it involved foreign occupation of France.)

"France's foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, learning of Mr. Admadinejad's comments, said "I condemn them very forcefully," adding that he will summon Iran's ambassador to Paris to ask for an explanation, Agence France-Presse reported."
"Forcefully" is being used metaphorically here of course.

Perhaps I could get someone here in Canada to translate "Israel must be wiped off the map." into French so that the Iranian ambassador does not need to suffer through an evening of small talk and offers of wine he can't drink and cheese that no one can eat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

One Option to Oil.

In this article there is an important lesson.

Israel is not a major oil producer. Many of its enemies are. These enemies are not democratic so they can spend lots of money on scud missiles, training terrorists etc., because they are not accountable to their people and economies for taxes. Sure, Israel is economically developed and has a high-tech military that has been supported by the US but their enemies have their sponsors too.

But it's interesting how a good education system and a commitment to science and technology research can be used to turn a disadvantage into an advantage.

I had heard about this technology being developed but I had not realized that Israel had brought it so far and answered so many of the practical questions.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Karma? Irony? Proof of Divine Humor?

I am not exactly sure what to call what is happening in Dover but...

William Dembski is one of the Discovery Institute's leading lights. He feels that he has mathematically proven via probability theory that the theory of evolution is false though he ignores criticisms of his work except occasionally when he attack the qualifications of certain of the critics. The only reason I bring him up is that he once said:

"I am waiting for the day when the hearings are not voluntary but involve subpoenas in which evolutionists are deposed at length on their views. On that happy day, I can assure you they won't come off looking well."


"I can assure you they won't come off looking well." Posted by Picasa

Well Dembski must have worded his wish poorly because it is Intelligent Design proponents like Michael Behe who are being deposed at length on their views at the Dover trial and it is not pretty. The York Daily Record has been following the trial and I highly recommend these articles, especially any article with "Behe" in the title. They are like a documentary of someone throwing their academic credibility away. Dembski did this some time ago but it seems that Behe is now ready to don the mantle of complete loon. He has redefined science (in his own mind) so that it includes everything from Astrology to Intelligent Design; something that the Kansas school board failed to convince anyone that it had the power to do. He has claimed that a ten minute discussion of his popular press book between the editor and someone who never read the book is "more rigorous" a review process that what peer reviewed papers go through. He insists that there is no evidence in existence supporting evolution because he simply does not accept it as rigorous. Strange how all those scientific peer reviewed journals did.

Behe, in short, did not come off looking well. I hope he knows that the Discovery Institute does not tolerate failure.

The sad thing is that it seems to me that this is a prime example of people getting so emotionally involved in a belief that is false that in order to protect the belief, every other aspect of reality must be sacrificed. When reality suffers for our beliefs, madness is the only relief. This is the greatest pitfall of the learning process and it is why logic, the scientific method and peer review are so important. Without them, the dark side is stong.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Apesnake Free For All

Is there any blog tool that allows me to set to set up a system where anyone can start an informal post and ask questions of the great and magnificent Apesnake? Why don't I ask if anyone has any open ended questions at the moment and I will try to answer them in this post?

Less Violence?

So it seems that violence is decreasing world wide. Should we sit home and cheer or fight to capitalize on this benefit? Should we try to encourage freedom and democratic values?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Bill Joy and Ray Kurzweil in Tune?

While the fact that Bill Joy (the future doesn't need us and grey goo/nano bots will take over our jobs and consume our flesh) and Ray Kurzweil (The techno-rapture is near and we will all soon be immortal gods and live in cities on the moon) are in agreement over something may be one of the signs that the apocalypse is upon us, it will not be for the reason these gentlemen think.

Of the two, I am more inclined to be on Kurzweil's side of things, being a techno-optimist and seeing many of his arguments for the existence of an accelerating and self-reinforcing trend of technological advancement as an astonishingly profound observation (regardless of whether or not it culminates in the predicted "technological singularity"). Whereas I find Bill Joy's predictions of technology deciding that it hates us or that we are an annoyance to be somewhat improbable. The more intelligent and educated of our species tend to be less likely to want to wipe out other species. Why would this not be true of even more intelligent robo sapiens?

While both of these gentlemen may be knowledgeable technology pundits, it is important to remember that they are not medical or biology experts. When they call for the recently published genome for the 1918 influenza virus to be "unpublished" and for access to the data to be strictly controlled, they are not voicing the common view of the experts in these fields and I feel there is good reason to reject their suggestion.

Yes, it is easy to envision every doomsday cult from al-Qaida to Aum Shin what's-er-name in Japan not to mention individual loners getting hold of this data and cranking out the angel of death in a backyard lab. But the truth is that making a virus from scratch, even with all the known genes is not an easy thing to do.

Lets think for a moment about the type of person who would try to recreate the virus from scratch with evil intent. Someone wanting to create a lethal pandemic would need to be irrational enough to sacrifice their own people, whoever they may be. Sure there are no shortage of such individuals. They must also have the funding and resources to equip a lab with some pretty decent equipment without drawing attention to themselves. These two conditions do not overlap as much as Hollywood would have us believe. Even fairly insane nations are going to realize that creating a pandemic is going to piss off some really well armed people so we are down to a few Bin Laden wannabes. (Bin Laden before he wasted all his money trying to wage war with the world's only current superpower, not today's Bin Laden who is selling painted rocks to buy milk crates to make furniture for his dirt condo.)

Now lets look at the type of person who would be able to create the virus. You need to know more than a thing or two about biology. I am talking here about modern biology not the kind you get from reading nothing but the Koran or the Bible for 18 hours a day for 30 years. You need to be skilled in the use of specialized lab equipment and if you want to do this without killing yourself before you can deliver the virus to a significantly sized city or airport, you need to know how to handle infectious agents and have the equipment to do so. You also need to either share the fanatical desires of the person funding you or be the kind of person who can be easily blackmailed or bought. I think that people might be surprised how hard it is to get someone to cause a pandemic for you. While scientists are only human they are not less than human as many seem to believe. I don't have the required skill to do this but if I did and someone threatened my family or offered me billions I would tell them to deep throat my graduated cylinder. (That means no.) Sure, not every scientist who ever lived would say the same but finding someone with all the needed skills plus the motivation or malleability is not a project that would fit in a single season reality show like The Apprentice. Setting up a project to do all of this is expensive, dangerous, time consuming and carries no guarantee of success. The only doomsday cult that ever marshaled any kind of scientific and technical expertise was Aum Shin-Racquetball and their level of "expertise" was significantly exaggerated by the media.

But why take even this small risk? The 1918 flu stopped rather suddenly but that is no assurance that it is gone. In fact, it almost assuredly is not. It was found by scientists by digging up a flu victim who died and was buried in permafrost. How many other flu infected bodies are there in the arctic? How long would it have been before some psychotic history student (you know the type!) figured he would spend a summer with an ice pick and shovel in the high north trying to end the world? Or what about global warming bringing more people and housing to areas where permafrost is retreating? Not all graves from that time are well tended and well marked.

We have also learned that the 1918 flu was a bird flu and it did not merge with another to become infectious to humans. This means it could be remaining in some jungle or island population of birds just waiting for reintroduction. Having the sequence now means that we will be able to work on it now rather than when we are scrambling to catch up with it.

Not that the 1918 flu would likely be as bad today as it was back then.

"The public health risk of resurrecting the virus is minimal, US health officials said. People around the world developed immunity to the deadly 1918 virus after the pandemic, and a certain degree of immunity is believed to persist today. Also, in previous research, scientists concluded that modern antiviral medicines are effective against Spanish flu-like viruses."
While I am not sure how immunity would persist in the population it may have to do with the fact that some antibodies are passed to children through breast milk, plus the virus may have killed off the fraction of humanity who was most genetically susceptible to it. I have yet to complete my studies of the immune system so you would need to ask someone with an older lab coat than mine.

The other argument against keeping the virus genome on a "need to know" basis is simply that we want as many scientists working on these diseases as we can. The more people working on it the faster we will learn about it and the faster we can develop a vaccine. While it is most likely that the next pandemic will be the H5N1 virus which is currently spreading across the planet's wild bird populations, it is by no means certain. We do not have that many examples of high mortality causing flu and the last thing we should be doing is restricting access to the information needed to study them.

Name That Tune.

It used to be that politicians would tell nothing but lies and then get embarrassed when they were caught in the act. Now they have realized that they can say anything they like and if someone challenges them on it they just need to stick their fingers in their ears and say "LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA - I can't hear you!" Even if they loose the respect of a few rational people, they have gutted reason and logic from public education so most people won't notice what they are really doing.

If you want to say that violent video games cause neurological damage and that pornography releases "eroto-toxins" or that creation science and Noah's flood researchers are converting more and more scientists to their view every day, no one can call you a liar because "LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!"

So then why stop at lying. Gerrymandering used to be considered wrong but now-a-days it is just part of the game. Why would a political party in power not do this? Note that the link is an example of Republican gerrymandering but I will eat my own gall bladder if there are not plenty of Democratic examples too. (I happened on to this topic via an article on Wired News fyi.) When it gets pointed out how blatantly unfair gerrymandering is, what intelligent retort puts you in the clear? "LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!"

So then it should come as no surprise that when someone like Kevin Trudeau appears on the "literary" scene, he would adopt this tactic. This is a man who has no medical training, has plead guilty to credit card fraud, has been bared from selling products on TV (other than protected speech like his new book) due to a settlement with the Federal Trade commission (I think that was over his coral powder pills and the claims he was making about them) and who looks young and dynamic on a book cover. He feels qualified (and 4 million members of the book buying public seem to agree with this assessment) to call all of medicine a fraud. That's right boys and girls, modern medicine = fraud.

You know all those young people in cities and towns across the planet who you thought were going to med school to help people and care for sick, suffering and injured people in their communities? Well, somewhere along the line (probably at the university level, that's where all the corruption starts) they were informed that all of the so called knowledge they were learning was all just bunk and that they could get very rich by taking individuals and health plans for a ride. You know what's funny? Not one of those formerly compassionate young people said "NO! I am not going to take people's money for stuff that does not work, especially when it might distract them from the actually helpful therapies like trampoline and magnets." Instead, they all join right in on the fraud. What was that charge which you plead guilty to Kevin?

Kevin: "LA LA LA LA LA LA!"

Hypothetical voice of reason: "Hey Kevin, anyone with even a couple of first year biology or chemistry courses under their belt can see that your claim that the body's pH level causes and cures cancer is asinine. Does that mean that, in addition to modern medicine, biochemistry is a fraud too?"

Kevin: "LA LA LA LA LA LA! I've sold 4 million books! LA LA LA LA LA! I'm a bestselling author! LA LA LA LA LA LA! Everyone who criticizes me is a fraud! LA LA LA LA LA!"

Hypothetical voice of reason: "Doctors say that some of your advice can kill people."

Kevin: "LA LA LA LA LA LA! Who ya gonna believe, some ugly old chemistry type Doctor Fraud guy or smiling dynamic Mr. Natural? "LA LA LA LA LA LA!"

Hypothetical voice of reason: "You say that wearing white is good for staying healthy but you wear black suits. What gives?"

Kevin: "LA LA LA LA LA LA!
LA LA LA LA LA LA!
LA LA LA LA LA LA!
LA LA LA LA LA LA!"
I would imagine that this guy justifies this the way all con men do, by seeing his victims as less intelligent than him and thus deserving of what they get. He may even see the fact that if the cures don't kill you, taking his advise to avoid all orthodox (i.e. modern, science-based, tried and tested) medical treatment for yourself and your offspring just might, as being justifiable on Darwinian terms. If people die because they believe a known con artist over the entire medical profession then their genes should be removed from the population. If he does not think this way then others certainly might but as with all eugenics daydreams, it ignores the inconvenient truth that most people are buying in to his ploy, not because they are intrinsically (genetically) less intelligent but because their politicians have allowed them only a poor substitute for an education. What do the politicians have to say for themselves?

"LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA! We can't hear you!"

What Needs to be Done.

I never thought I would be one of those nut jobs who thinks that the UN is the source of all evil in the world but that shoe is starting to fit me just a bit. I actually think that ignorance and spite are the source of all evil and that the UN is just a major breeding ground for these factors.

This article teaches a few things. Firstly, it proves that Hugo Chavez has never met a monster who he did not want to dry hump. Secondly it shows that, as morally bankrupt as the UN is at any given time, it is always ready to exploit any opportunity to go deeper into the depths of depravity. Perhaps they will next consider putting UNICEF under the supervision of defrocked Catholic priests so that they can collect money for a new "rape the children fund". It could be staffed by those UN peace keepers who were raping refugees not long ago. Is there anything the UN does that is not headed by or supportive of murderous dictators and human rights abusers?

What needs to be done is this: America needs to stop dancing around the may pole by sending mentally unstable people to the UN to shout at them. As much as this may get them worked up it sends the message that the UN is still a game worth playing. Pull out of this disgrace of an institution. You too UK (Canada should too but who are we kidding?). Demand that the UN leave US territory. Yes, New York will lose a few jobs but it is a small price to pay for having an institution who (and I am going to put this in bold and all caps so as to encourage a careful reading of this) HATES YOU, out of your neighborhood. The UN hates America. Why else would they be willing to cheer a murderous, election-stealing, economy-crushing loonaucrats like Mugabe simply because he calls their leader unholy? These are some of the same people who thought that referring to the regimes of Baathist Iraq, North Korea and Iran as an axis of evil was too harsh, right? Who is the UN going to invite to speak next... the upper left half of Joseph Stalin's rotting corpse? You can attract new industries to a city like New York but some things are not negotiable. Like dignity. One more thing that needs to be done is that good relations need to be fostered with the nations who are not in the good books of the UN; those which are democratic, have respect for human rights and are turning their economies in the right direction. Start an assembly of nations which is limited to democratic states and let it compete with the UN for legitimacy. Call it the Free Union of Nations. FUN. Or the Free Union of Capitalist, Knowledge Era Republics and States. I like that one better.

During the cold war the UN was an important arena. In this new era it is the main adversary to global civilization. Remaining within it in an attempt to reform it is futile because it only gives it legitimacy. A global body where nations can resolve conflict and reach agreement is sorely needed but the UN is not only a failure in that regard but an obstacle to freedom, prosperity and development. Kick the UN to the curb.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Question:

Which person in this story has the bigger stick up their butt? The Walmart employee or the secret service agent?

Bonus question: What do you think the "U.S. attorney" told this secret service anal bead when he brought him the poster and asked if giving the thumbs down to the president is an indictable offence?

Jean Ziegler Hard at Work Again.

Remember this Jean Ziegler guy? (The separate archived story does not currently display so here is the archive page itself and the story I am trying to link to is the top one.) He is the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. His job is to basically ignore all the dictators, autocrats, militant Marxist rebel groups and such who are actually causing hunger in the world today. Another of his tasks is to ignore the starving masses who these villains have victimized. But the main task on his job description is to dream up ways to blame the US and Israel for hunger in the world today.

He is at it again. I do not know which is more pathetic, the fact that the UN still employs this man (for lack of a more descriptive term) or that the BBC never includes any information about who this nutbar really is when they air his "pronouncements". I never thought I'd say this about anyone but... the UN may actually deserve John Bolton. I wonder if we can parachute him in to the BBC offices for awhile.

Given that everything Jean Ziegler says is horse-shit, maybe I am going to wait until someone provides a touch of evidence before I buy in to the Americans-are-gleefully-starving-innocent -Iraqis story.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Mugabe's World of Wonder.

Hey, Robert Mugabe! Ever heard of fences? It seems an American Envoy took a wrong turn and Zimbabwe's ever hyper security junta flipped out and claim that they would have been justified in capping his ass.
Christopher Dell had inadvertently walked into a poorly marked military area while walking in Harare's National Botanical Gardens, the US embassy said.

A Zimbabwe presidential spokesman said Mr Dell was lucky to be alive.

Zimbabwe's foreign ministry said Mr Dell had shown "flagrant disregard" for Zimbabwe's security laws.
The presidential spokesman went on to say:

"Elsewhere, and definitely in America, he would have been a dead man."
People out there in cyberspace may correct me on this but I am relatively sure that America and most other nations on the planet do not have "poorly marked military areas" in any sense and they do not tend to have secure military areas next to national botanical gardens where people are encouraged to come and stroll around. Most of the time if you venture towards a military area you are arrested or turned back at gunpoint long before the authorities need to shoot you. But then, since we are dealing with the President of Zimbabwe, aka The Mad Hatter, this "military area" is probably linked to by numerous rabbit holes and looking-glasses so maintaining a secure perimeter might be a challenge.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Wages of Sin Are Death - No Second Chances

As vaccines are developed for the human pappilomavirus which can cause cervical cancer in women and can not be prevented via condom use, you would think that this would be free of controversy right. Not if you work in the religion industry (that would be a government run sector now, since Christianity has been nationalized by the Republican party).

Some people would rather force women who decide to engage in extramarital sex (or who are raped or who marry someone who cheated) to risk dying of cervical cancer than allow people to protect themselves as they see fit. These people feel they have morals and the rest of the world does not! What a joke.

Since there are people in America today who claim that the separation of church and state is "a myth" and that freedom of religion does not include freedom from religion, I would suggest that it is high time to push for a clarification in the form of a constitutional amendment (I know I am a Canadian but I can at least run the idea up the flag pole for you.) Ask your politicians for an amendment that acknowledges the fundamental need for a separation of church and state in words so clear that even the a televangelist can understand and include language which states that religious faith is not a requirement for equal treatment under the law or equal rights of citizenship.

It will never pass or even be taken up as a cause but the reaction it gets from the federal department of the divine will make for some memorable quotes. Or you could just ask that religion be privatized again. It is sort of the same thing but as with all things in life, one way is easy and one requires lawyers.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Smurfs Star in Anti-American Propaganda

So it seems that Europe and the UN have been looking something despicable to work on and since the only UN agency that has not thrown it's credibility away by running interference for oligarchs and human rights abusers is UNICEF, it makes sense that they would get involved.

Now we all know
smurfs are evil. Just look at those little white klan hoods. But the evil need to get their side out too. So they combined with the anti-war crowd under the veneer of UNICEF to portray a smurf village being bombed from the air. Now the overt message was that children should not be affected by war and to their credit, Belgian TV aired it on an adult channel after 9:00 pm. Some few children did accidentally see it and responded by "wailing in terror" but a few traumatized kids is a small price to pay to get your message out right? A nice unobjectionable message that war harms kids. Who could object right?

Well with the smurfs, as with the UN nothing is ever quite as it seems. The "war" that the smurfs (supposedly civilians) are subjected to is an aerial bombardment. Since the only nation that has been recently and conspicuously using an air force is the United States, it is hard to notice that another message is being sent. Most wars that are causing real damage to children on the planet are small scale intra-state civil conflicts or guerilla wars. Yet the smurfs were attacked not by the paramilitary government backed religious police like in Iran or the tribal guerrillas like in the Congo jungle or by Marxist Nepalese rebels with machine guns. They were not blown up by al-Qaida funded car bombers and they did not watch their parents dragged off in the night by Baathist thugs or gassed by Saddam's forces. The Belgians are claiming that the smurfs were bombed by the U.S.A.


Lets assume that George Bush is Gargamel and this attack did happen (Blair would be
Azrael?). The still picture which accompanies the article makes it look like the animation is depicting a carpet bombing of an innocent village. Am I the only one who remembers that the U.S. has smart weapons and has even retrofitted old fashioned bombs to function as precision guided weapons? If these mushroom houses were targeted there is no doubt that they were believed to be of military importance. Why is it that as soon as the smurfs move in to an area, the Care-Bears start disappearing?

Stop the smurfs and their evil propaganda!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Wow Indiana! Just... Wow!

I said I would comment more on the Indiana reproduction regulations. It might seem pointless since everyone else in the known universe has done so now, including someone named Peter Svensson who notes that under this law, the Virgin Mary would have been committing a criminal act, but you don't improve your writing skills unless you practice and this thing is just so unbelievably funny in an I-am-ready-for-my-shock-treatment-now-nurse kind of way.

I will paste in the list of things which a "licensed child placing agency" must ask from the prospective parents [note the "s" on parents - no Murphy Brown types need apply] before those parents can be approved for assistance in reproducing. This list is not the only insane thing about the law but it is where the insanity really shines through. I will add my observations in blue and nice chunky brackets like these [] .

(1) The intended parents' purpose for the assisted reproduction. ["Livestock... I mean nurturing!"]

(2) The fertility history of the intended parents, including the pregnancy history and response to pregnancy losses of the woman. [Let's not dance around the pool here - had an abortion when you were younger? No kids for you, ever! Is there a column for fertility history before being cleansed by the holy spirit and one for after?]

(3) An acknowledgment by the intended parents that the child may not be the biological child of at least one (1) [Thanks for the brackets Indiana. We never would have known what "o-n-e" meant.] of the intended parents depending on the type of artificial reproduction procedure used. [Just in case people come in to a fertility clinic not knowing how these things work. What kind of eugenics program makes allowances for stupid people? Oh yah, one dreamed up by Indiana Republicans. Note to Republican national party: Next convention tell Indiana that the meeting is being held in France.]

(4) A list of the intended parents' family and friend support system. [So that when the parents are off with the kennel club they won't have to leave the kid with some teenager like the common people do.]

(5) A plan for sharing any known genetic information with the child. [Scientists just sequenced the genome of the chimpanzee and the rice plant, your kid is going to need a tutor. Are these not the people on the same side of the culture war as those who believe that genes are overrated and not really relevant to biology?]

(6) Personal information about each intended parent, including the following:
(A) Family of origin. [No Jews or Catholics. Must know father's name]
(B) Values. ["Secular humanism, separation of church and state, protecting the sanctity of the traditional definition of marriage"]
(C) Relationships. ["Does this include extra-marital sexual partners? 'Cause if so I am going to need to write on the back of this form."]
(D) Education. [Must have a higher I.Q. than the smartest Indiana lawmaker.]
(E) Employment and income. [Must be less than zero for the mother-to-be. Must be high enough to donate to the Republican party for the father-to-be. Since welfare and Medicaid do not generally pay for invitro one wonders who they think is coming in with thousands of dollars wanting to get knocked up.]
(F) Hobbies and talents. [What? Is Indiana looking to breed a generation of circus performers (to go with the circus freaks in their legislature)? Or is there a talent competition involved in the implantation procedure? Lady, if you can juggle these sponges for three minutes we will jack up the fertility drugs and give you quints for no extra charge.]
(G) Physical description, including the general health of the individual. [Just check one of the boxes: sexy, nonsexy, ugo!]
(H) Birth verification. [So you claim that you were born. Do you have any proof of that?]
(I) Personality description, including the strengths and weaknesses of each intended parent. ["Honest, paranoid, delusional, narcissistic. No weaknesses"]

(7) Description of any children residing in the intended parents' home. ["Ugly and stupid - that is why we are trying the donated sperm deal."]

(8) A verification and evaluation of the intended parents' marital relationship [Please note that only traditional marriages of one (1) man and one or more (> or = 1) women or female animal count], including:
(A) the shared values and interests between the individuals; [Funny how this is not included as personal information like question 6. I guess to a politician nothing outside their own life is really personal.]
(B) the manner in which conflict between the individuals is resolved; [dueling pistols] and
(C) a history of the intended parents' relationship. [Don't be afraid to get graphic and explicit. At least 20 thousand words please!]

(9) Documentation of the dissolution of any prior marriage and an assessment of the impact of the prior marriage on the intended parents' relationship. ["She messed me up good! I am still in therapy over that one."]

(10) A description of the family lifestyle of the intended parents, include a description of individual participation in faith-based or church activities, hobbies, and other interests. [If you do not want your assessment going straight into the trash you need to include one faith-based activity. Try mentioning your church's Bible Study Hot-tub Club.]

(11) The intended parents' child rearing expectations and values. ["We expect this to go way smother than our last attempt at child rearing."]

(12) A description of the home and community, including verification of the safety and security of the home. [Are there any minorities in your neighborhood? Do you have bars on the windows?]

(13) Child care plans. ["Cage in the basement." Seriously, do they expect you to file the first year of breakfast menus or something?]

(14) Statement of the assets, liabilities, investments, and ability of the intended parents to manage finances, including the most recently filed tax forms. [Are you sure you will be able to support the child given what your lawmakers are going to do in regards to destroying the economy of Indiana?]

(15) A review of the local police records, the state and violent offender directory, and a criminal history check as set forth in subsection (c). [Once again those violent offenders keep coming in with suitcases full of money trying to get invitro procedures. Damn them all!]

(16) A letter of reference by a friend or family member. ["Dear Mr. Indiana lawmaker. Please allow my child to become a parent. He and or she is a very nice person and always comes over on Fridays to help me wash my dog."]

(17) A written consent from each donor, if known, to use of the donation in the assisted reproduction medical procedure. [Letter from sperm donor: "Uh yah, I totally give permission for the recipient of this, my willfully flung spooge, to use for what we all kinda know she is gonna use it for. He he he."]

(18) The recommendation for participation in assisted reproduction. [My friends recommended it. They say it is all the rage these days.]
Indiana. Please take a good long look at your lawmakers and then start a petition demanding that all people campaigning to be lawmakers in your state take an IQ test and psychological evaluation.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Republicans of Indiana Too Inbred to Think

Republicans lawmakers of Indiana have become so inbred that they have decided to dabble in eugenics to improve the state's gene pool. I will comment on this further later on but the law (PDF) is so completely bizarre that it deserves as wide a viewing as quickly as possible. Republicans of Indiana should be immediately required to present evidence of their educational level of attainment and report to the nearest hospital for testing to rule out heavy metal contamination in their blood. If these two measures do not explain this law then the police inform them that glue sniffing is illegal in Indiana.

I found out about this via Boing Boing. I am still only 80% sure it is not some kind of elaborate hoax involving Indiana government website being hacked.

The Flu? Open Fire!

Now George, don't get me wrong. I am not saying that quarantine might not be needed in the event of a killer flu. But before you implement martial law you might want to give some ancient traditional remedies a try - like medicines and doctors and nurses and vaccines. Hey, in a real pinch you could try asking people to wear surgical masks in public for a season or two.

Pandemics happen. They are scary and people die. Calling out the army to put regions in lock-down is not how you deal with it. It makes cities who are free of the disease less willing to report the odd case cropping up here and there until it is too late. Also, traditionally quarantine has been limited to sick people. Cops with masks can usually handle sick people. Machine guns and rocket launchers are not generally required. I know that after seeing how badly a state can screw up a disaster and how you will get the blame, the idea of having generals running the show seems pretty safe - even if they don't want the job and are not prepared for it. But George, asking congress to approve stockpiles of anti-virals and demanding that every state have a pandemic plan put in post haste is a better bet than fighting a cold war against flu. The next thing you know you will be taking press conferences in your pajamas with tissue boxes on your feet.

You know George, you have always had a dim view of scientists due to their tendency to tell you things that you don't want to be true. But you really might want to listen to them on this. They do know a thing or two about diseases.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Making Progress.

Most of this post was drafted before Katrina so some things like the employment stats link will be somewhat dated but they still make the point that Lou Dobbs is a clown.

For those among us who love to wallow in the idea that the world is going to hell in a hand basket and we are all doomed to a long Y2K style apocalypse (the predicted kind not the manifest kind), this might be a rather annoying post so why not stop reading, go pour yourself a cool glass of water and lie down for a spell.
Now that the wet blankets are gone, I sometimes like to save up some of the more positive stories I find and link to them all at once so that someone out there might get a lift from it. I remember one Monday evening after reading one of Chenkoff's Good News from Iraq (this link is to his last such post from him due to his changing career obligations though the series is going to be continued by others), I was watching the NBC nightly news when, after airing one of those pathetic plucky-person-with-no-hope-soldiers-on-with-a-positive-attitude human interest type stories when Brian Williams comes back on with an eyebrow raised and says something like "We will take a little good news wherever we can get it these days." and then he signs off.

Um Brian? If you are looking for some good news you must have your flashlight stuck up your
log flume.

I should not single out NBC. Most people watch the news so they can see how bad the world is. It makes cozying up in a lower middle-class dwelling with someone you never would have married if sex ed had included more than just readings from the Book of Job, seem like heaven by comparison to what the rest of the world is going through. It also gives people something to cluck their tongues about at work while asking, "What is this world coming to?"

But just as Lou Dobbs is not going to mention that his Exporting of America has gone the way of Ross Perot's Great Sucking Sound (see these statistics especially the unemployment rates and this article which puts Dobbs' vision of I.T. workers standing out on the street like depression era farm hands
because of evil India, in perspective), the media is not going to traffic in good news so it is nice that the Internet allows us to find out what our entertainers feel is unimportant to us.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  • The new worlds only literate civilization has yielded another city in the jungles of Guatemala. The information it could yield about the Maya will no doubt be fascinating.

  • There are still a few languages from antiquity which we have text of but we can not read. There are also lots of "language like" systems in nature which are too complex for us to understand easily like genetic information (both DNA and RNA), the "language" of proteins (being able to read a gene and have a guess at what it's protein looks like). But as computers advance in both capacity and sophistication, new tools are emerging to make languages more manageable, even for humans who you would think would be old hats at languages by now. Even as the machine translation field cranks out new and improved, though still not perfect products, other methods of breaking the language barriers between humanity are being used such as computer assisted translation where human translators provide the "common sense" while the computer provides a much larger vocabulary range than the translator might possess.

  • On the political scene, much has been made about the Islamification of Europe. People are worried that the influx of Islamic immigrants will lead to an erosion of liberal secular views in favor of theocracy and feudalism. A small few have mentioned that the same forces which are causing Christian organized (industrialized?) religion to be as popular as syphilis among European youth might have the same secularizing effect on the Islamic youth. Well they may not just be whistling Dixie. (The article refers to them as left-wing but since no distinction was drawn between social and economic left I would hesitate to lump them in with MacDonald hating hippies just yet.)

  • Also in politics or sociology or something... There are people working on ways to create local Internets where anyone with a line of site to someone else's window could access a discussion group and if they find something posted on it to be interesting they can post it on their own. It is called Neighbornode and it offers some interesting tools for local communities (from their FAQ page):
-post messages to a bulletin board for all of your neighbors to see (and reply to)
-post photos to a photoblog, either from your computer or from your cellphone
-set up a neighborhood webcam for people to check out
-link nearby nodes together to create "supernodes" where larger areas can share information resources
-add your own artwork and text to the splash pages, to customize your node.

  • Perhaps future versions or spin-offs will not be net dependent which would make dictatorial control of information flow more of a laughing stock than a serious threat. Especially when combined with solar-powered wi-fi stations bringing net access just about anywhere. I could envision a network of overlapping stations concealed and running some kind of transmitting software that allowed stations to cooperatively fade in and out so that agents for police states would find it difficult to track down the stations but then I am not a programmer or an engineer so whether such a trick is possible remains to be seen.

  • In technology there have been discoveries of a substance harder than diamond and one that is a superconductor in the presence of a high magnetic field and potential methods for making "near-perfect lenses" Why are these two seemingly inconsequential items noted here? After all there are lots of little discoveries being made all the time. That is the point. There are huge numbers of technological applications that were either impossible or un economical before little discoveries like these. In the months and years to come there will be new tools techniques and knowledge generated because of discoveries like these which are below most people's radar yet are piling up at an accelerated rate. Five or ten years from now some new form of MRI scanner with shocking resolution or an automatic tunnel borring machine will be making the news because of little advancements like these but the importance of them currently is invisible.

BTW. The harder than diamond substance could help the researchers in this story test their theory.

  • On the health front, scientists have created mice that can regrow everything but the brain and transplanting their cells can confer this ability (temporarily) to other mice. A refined version of the this work might very well work with humans. There are artificial kidneys on the way - though which will get here first, the artificial kidneys or the regeneration therapy is still up for grabs. Here is a short but interesting introduction to the subject of RNA interference. It is a method where by it is possible to turn off a gene. A virus gene, a bacteria gene, an immune system gene that is activated out of turn in an autoimmune disease, a cancer gene - take every health problems involve genes and realize that this technology will likely have an impact on all of them. It is difficult to overstate the importance to the medical field and that is before you even consider that this technology will allow a gene to be temporarily knocked out in an adult animal where as before you had to knock it out at conception so if the gene had a different use in development than in the adult this could not be studied. You could even knock out a gene in one location but not all so you can see how the gene functions in various. Once neglected diseases are getting attention now.

  • And the study of consciousness is yielding some interesting results. It seems that brain signals which are externally induced don't travel very far after we fall asleep. The signals seem to go the shortest distance in the early hours of sleep which are by the way, the time of night when we dream the least. What this means is still unknown but it might be that waking consciousness and "conscious" dreaming requires large scale integration of the brain and it is the loss of this which causes a loss of consciousness.

  • Holy moly! While Jerry Falwell is still against homosexuality (we assume) he has actually supported homosexuals as persons with a right to exist and rent an apartment and work. When Jerry Falwell starts to make sense - even just a little - it might be time to brush up on Revelations. The world really is coming to an end.

How to Become the Governor of a Highly Fundamentalist State.

So you want to become the governor of a highly fundamentalist state? You're certain?

You take the blue hog-jowl and the story ends.
You wake in your bed and you believe
whatever you want to believe.

You take the red hog-jowl and you stay
in Dixieland, and I show you how
deep the rat-hole goes.

Step 1) Become a lawyer.

Step 2) Become a judge.

Step 3) Get elected to the position of Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court.

Step 4) Do something that seems (to the average person with a short attention span) to be extremely pious yet is completely illegal like putting a big honking Judeo-Christian monument in the state court house to intimidate the heathen. Picking some fights with the ACLU never hurts either. Every majority hates the ACLU and majorities bring in the votes and the bucks. When you lose your job over it you will be able to milk people's beliefs for all they are worth. You will be seen as a martyr for your shared beliefs (whether you actually have any is irrelevant). Have the event videotaped so you can sell copies for charitable funds to increase your profile and gain exposure at the same time.

Step 5) Why, write a book of course. A book is a medium whereby you can completely hammer away your side of the story for 262 pages without having to answer questions like in media interviews or in a political debate.

Step 6) Announce that you are running for governor of the state.

Your only problem now is to decide whether you are going to sit back and enjoy your spoils or actually keep your nose somewhat clean so that you can make a bid for the presidency one day.

My only problem is trying to figure out whether people who follow this plan or the many versions of it (how to become a senator, how to become a congressman, etc.) are really able to use their own sincere beliefs to manipulate and trick others of the same beliefs in order to gain power and influence or if people like Roy Moore are those highly functional psychopaths who are able to adopt the persona of a believer in order to use charm and intelligence to play people like fiddles. I suspect that there are some of each in the religion industry these days. Maybe it is not always an either or question.

Minutemen. Just Five Minutes!

The Minutemen have arrived to keep the Canadian terrorists and pot out of America. I am actually in favor of this and not just because I don't want to see our valuable natural resources like pot being sent south. By giving these people something to do which takes them into the wilderness (especially in the west because that is where the rattle snakes and grizzly bears hang out) they will be distracted from American society which really does not need these people paying attention to what it is really up to. If America could get them to patrol the empty stretches of shorelines (the rocky bits where there are no houses or beaches and the seaweed on the rocks makes things slippery) it would be all the better. Better still - convince them to row out to sea to pick up where the Coast Guard is unable to be 24-7.

An even more delicious result is that the left-wing wackosaurs that roam the BC coast are all up in arms (metaphorically and ironically speaking) and anything that keeps them busy takes them away from their usual job of destroying the economy of that province so that they will have more poor people who's rights they can be paid to fight for.

The nut jobs of this continent need to be kept busy so they don't get ideas. Why not keep them busy watching each other? Unfortunately the Minutemen seem to be having some trouble getting up and running.

Thirty observation posts were to be operating along the border in Washington state but only one was set up.

And it was deserted.

Come on you nut bars. Don't be shy. Your country needs you to go to Washington state, into the Rocky Mountains and out to sea right now! God Bless them, everyone.

PS. Someone told them about the winters up at this latitude once you start getting east of British Columbia right? The Mexican board gets cool at night so I am sure they will be able to adapt.



 


Day By Day© by Chris Muir.