Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 
Friday, March 30, 2007

Bristol Video Up at KNS

I'm not one to toot my own horn (except for four years of blogging) but I shot some video for the Knoxville News Sentinel during my weekend in Bristol. It's posted here if you're interested.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Senate Supports Timetable for Troop Withdrawal

Okay, for all the folks who are rejoicing over the passage in the Senate of troop withdrawal deadline, I have a few questions for you.

  • Do you think it is likely that knowing that American troops will be pulling out of Iraq regardless of the conditions on the ground will embolden and encourage the insurgents?
  • Do you think it is likely that given this information, the insurgents will work harder to overthrow the Iraqi government in favor a more militant and anti Western one?
  • Do you think it is possible that Iran will seize upon this instability to draw Iraq into its sphere of influence as another Lebanon?
  • Do you think a weak Iraq will contribute to stability in the Middle East, or will it be a destabilizing factor?

    And finally,

  • Having answered the above questions honestly, can you think of anything good coming from establishing a troop withdrawal deadline? Anything at all?


Except of course, for getting a Democrat into the White House. And that's really the whole point, isn't it?

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

MT Gurus, Your Assistance Please

OK, the clean install solved and endless stream of annoyances, but there is one remaining. When a comment is sent to moderation limbo, a fate that should happen much less frequently now that I've got a captcha working, the comment window goes blank. How and where do I find the template for comment moderation and give it a little more life?

Posted by Rich
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Fixing Problems

OK, I've had it with the problems from my last upgrade so here is what I'm going to do. I've backed up my entries and templates, and I'm going to clear the decks and do a clean re-install of the latest Moveable Type. If I can't make things go the way I want them to, then it's time to leave MT behind and go to another blogging package.

So, if things look strange for the next little bit, you know why.

Posted by Rich
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No Posting till Tuesday

Bristol Bound Baby!

5 days of living like a refuge, which should give me good practice for the upcoming Hillary! Presidency.

Yep,I'll be roughing it,sleeping in a tent on an air mattress, watching the Vols play on the satellite TV on the projector, and grilling a steak or two.

Do ya' feel sorry for me yet?*grin*

If you ask nicely, I might bring back some pictures...

Posted by Rich
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Killing Kids in Texas

Emilio Gonzales is a sick 16 month old boy in Texas, and you know what that means, right?

In Texas, if you're sick, and your doctor thinks you won't make it, they can pull the plug, regardless of your wishes, or your family's wishes. Now, regardless of your position on the whole right to die issue, think about this for a moment.

We are already familiar with how HMO's cut care to save money; they've degraded medical care by forcing the bottom line to the top of the page. What happens when they are given legal sanction to cut required care based on futility?
  • How many cancer patients will be denied chemo or radiation therapies because they are considered terminal?
  • How many years of life will these patients lose out on because of the denial of treatment?
  • How many cardiac patients will be allowed to die without CPR because their prognosis isn't favorable? (Yes,CPR is included in the wide range of life saving techniques that can be withheld)
  • How many people with terminal progressive illnesses will go without treatment since they're going to die anyway?

Here's a quick sanity check: Why are we so eager to destroy embryos to create treatments that we're going to turn around and deny to those who need them because their conditions are terminal?

Does this make any sense to anybody?

So Emilio will have his life support pulled on Thursday and he'll be dead in a day or two, freeing up a bed for the next victim, err patient.

All I can say is that it's a good thing that doctor's don't make mistakes when it comes to things like declaring a patient brain dead. That would be down right embarrassing. wouldn't it?

Meet Haleigh Poutre. She's a 12 year old girl that doctors said was in a vegetative state, and in an irreversible coma. They petitioned to pull life support and the courts agreed. Fortunately for Haleigh, she began coming out of her coma the very next day, before the doctors could proceed with the mercy killing. According to reports from her grandmother, who has been barred from seeing Haleigh with no explanation, Haleigh is verbalizing, reacting to her environment, eating on her own, and possibly even writing and drawing.

So much for doctors not making mistakes.

Here's another sanity check for you. Those opposed to capital punishment say that the standard should be even one innocent man executed is too many, yet those same people don't hold the same standard when it comes to euthanizing kids. Shouldn't we hold the state accountable to the same standard of perfection when death is on the line, whether the victim is a criminal or a child?

Why are we so willing to invest doctors with some mythical infallibility, one that they are patently not worthy of, and one that we refuse, correctly in my opinion, to grant to our own government?

So, I'll fling down the gauntlet to all of you. If you believe that the possibility of killing even one innocent man is reason to oppose the death penalty, then you also ought to oppose any futile treatment laws with equal fervor for the very same reason. Otherwise, you're a hypocrite of the first order.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

This is the Truth

God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th.

Now some folks find that a bit hard to swallow, so they say instead that this is the truth

Nothing existed. Zip, Nil, Nada. No time, no space, no thing at all.

Except.

According to quantum theory, we can't be sure that nothing was there because uncertainty is too big when you get down into the sub atomic world. It's not that we can't measure precisely at that range, it's that there's no such thing as measuring precisely at that range. (There's a difference between accurate and precise. Accurate means you've measured correctly. Precise means you can duplicate the measurement. The distinction is crucial in the quantum world.) Without getting too technical, at the sub atomic level, the universe itself is uncertain about where and how much stuff there is. We can measure it accurately 100 different times and come up with 100 different answers, and each one is accurate, but the precision of the measurement is limited by the quantum nature of the universe. Now you have to understand that we are not limited by our ability to measure; we are limited by the construction of the universe.

So, since we can't know what the actual state of nothing is, whether it's actually nothing, or maybe a little something, or a little less than nothing, (yes, less than nothing is an actual possibility in the quantum world) then all we can say is that statistically, there was nothing, or on average, there was nothing. Now this gets kinda funky, because remember, it's not our measurements that are in error, it's an uncertainty inherent in the structure of the universe. This means that it's not a measurement of nothing that is varying, it's actually nothingness that is varying.

A provocative concept.

I see a question from the back?

Variance is a measure of change over time. If there was nothing, no matter, no space, and no time, then how could nothingness vary?

Ah, very good, very perceptive question!

In order for us to have variance in a system, we have to have time. But in 0 dimensional space, you can't have time. Just ask Mr. Einstein. So we have to invent a different kind of time. Physicists call this new kind of time imaginary time and according to them, it runs at a right angle to our conventional time, so we don't notice it.

So, getting on with our story, nothing was fluctuating through imaginary time, when suddenly, due to a mathematical anomaly in the statistical variations of nothing, the value of nothing explodes into something, and we get a universe filled with matter, energy, space and, oh yeah, real time. Like most imaginary playmates, imaginary time disappeared, having been replaced by real time.

Let's sum up: According to our best and brightest scientists, in the beginning, there was nothing, but that nothing might have been something, or less than nothing, and it varied between those three states in imaginary time, until something happened, and nothing became something, at which point, we had our universe in real time.

And they say scientists lack faith...

Posted by Rich
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Friday, March 16, 2007

A Question on the PlameThing

I need somebody to explain, leaving out all references to partisan politics why the one guy we know for a fact blew Plame's "cover" to a reporter isn't being charged?

Now maybe I'm missing some key pieces to the puzzle, but didn't this whole flap start when Plame was outed in Bob Novak's column? And didn't Richard Armitage admit to being Novak's source?

Since we know who talked, what is being investigated in the hearings?

I'm serious about this. Are the folks in Washington so stupid that they can't find the guilty party even when he turns himself in? Or are they partisan hacks who are using every excuse to try and tear down an administration? Or am I missing some piece of information, not rumor, not spin, not hearsay, that makes this worth the cost?

Anybody have anything?

By the way, Plame testified before the House that she had nothing to do with getting her husband sent to Africa, even though her bosses said she did during Libby's trial for perjury. This brings up an interesting question:

Do her statements before the House committee constitute perjury? And if they do, is it the Clintonian perjury that isn't really perjury or is it the Libby brand perjury that is perjury?

One last question before I go: Is it any wonder that people are sick and tired of the D.C. circus, and don't bother voting?

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

John Edwards: Spine of Jello

A new book coming out written by Bob Shrum says that John Edwards was actually against the war in Iraq when he voted to support it. According to Shrum, Edwards was pushed into voting for the war because nobody would take him seriously if he voted against it. Edwards says that it isn't true, that he really was for the war before he was against it.

But still, nobody takes him seriously.

Posted by Rich
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Pelosi and Pace

Regarding Gen. Pace and his statement that homosexuality is immoral, Nancy Pelosi said:
We don't need moral judgment from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Ironically,she felt somewhat differently during the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Posted by Rich
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Evangelicals, Politics, and You

Last week I wrote a very short post that dared to suggest that the since Rudy Giuliani was polling so well among conservative voters, that perhaps the Christian right was not as dominating a force in conservatism as our friends on the left would have us believe. The post was linked by Instapundit, which resulted in an avalanche of comments, one of which, from a guy names Gary, really struck me.
If you belong to a church who would support a nominee who is: pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and pro-gun control, then either you, or your fellow church members, do not understand the definition of the evangelical movement.

The "reason of being" for the evangelical movement is to support like minded candidates in the political arena. Not to put aside those values, and to say, "What the heck, he would be a good CINC." If your church would support Giuliani, then whatever it may be, it is not, repeat, not, truly evangelical!


Now, I'm not an expert, but the last time I checked, my Bible didn't say anything about Christians gathering political power in order to enforce God's law on the nation. In fact, I'm pretty certain that God called on his people to live apart from the world; in it, but not of it. But I can understand where Gary gets the wrong impression because there are an awful lot of people who call themselves evangelical who seem to believe that they are called to be the guardians of other people's morality.

They re missing the point.

Before I get too deep into this, a bit about my religious background. I was born and raised a Catholic, but began to fall away from the church when I was young, maybe 13 or 14. It started at one Sunday Mass when the Gospel reading was about Jesus throwing the moneychangers out of the Temple. Unfortunately, the Homily that followed was a 30 minute exhortation to convince all of us that all good Catholics should subscribe to the Liguorian magazine. Following my disillusionment with the Catholic Church, I was still a Christian, but a very noncommittal one. Recently, I've been studying and learning the Bible, and I've moved towards a fundamentalist view. I tend to take the Bible more literally than I was taught as a Catholic. As far as morality goes, this doesn't present much of a switch for me; I've always been fairly conservative in my beliefs and behaviors.

With exceptions of course; I'm no saint, not by a long shot.

But the point here is that politically I'm still very much a libertarian. While I hold myself to certain standards, based on the Bible, I've yet to find anything in there to tell me that I should force other people to hold themselves to the same standards. That's God's job, not mine. My job is to simply let them know that there is a higher standard of behavior, one that supersedes the law of the jungle. Whether they choose to follow that law is up to them, not me.

That being the case, why do we so often see Evangelicals agitating for laws that force others to live according to those standards? The answer is simple; it is the most common of human failings. We all want to be in charge. We want to tel the other guy what to do. Add that failing to a conviction that we know what is right, and you get a nearly irresistible combination leading to the Gary Bauers of the world. They take a step too far, going from evangelists to inquisitors.

Take gay marriage for example. Most conservative Christians are against it, seeing marriage as a sacred union, blessed by God. A decided minority are ok with it, as long as it is not given the name marriage, and is purely a civil matter. So which group, if either, have it right?

I side with the second group*. Marriage as we know it consists of two parts, a religious ceremony and a state sanctioned legal contract. As a libertarian, I don't think the state has a compelling interest in determining who marries whom, as long as provisions are made for any offspring, and for the dissolution of the contract. Children are protected, both by the provisions of the contract, and by the fact that minors cannot enter into a contract, which answers the frequent "child bride" critics. Of course, this approach would allow for many different types of marriages, including polyamory, as well as homosexual marriages. That's a feature, not a bug. The government has no business telling me who I sleep with or have a relationship with as long as all parties consent to the relationship.

This does bring us to a curious place, one that will involve a great deal of thought. Suppose that the federal government moves forward with a plan like I've described. They separate out the religious ceremony of marriage from the civil union of the state. Now traditionally, ministers have been granted the authority by the state to perform functions simultaneously. What happens when a gay couple wishes to be married, but their minister refuses to perform the ceremony on religious grounds? Under the principle of equal treatment under the law, would the state be able to compel the minister to perform the ceremony anyway? Before you answer, consider the case of the cabbies in Minneapolis who want the right to refuse to carry passengers who are carrying alcohol. If a minister has the right to refuse to marry a gay couple, don't the cabbies have the right to refuse to carry the passengers?

Tricky, isn't it? If we allow religious exceptions in one area, aren't we required to honor them in other areas, even if, or especially if they are from a minority religion? The First amendment guarantees that:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;


We bend over backwards to honor the first phrase, but are comparatively lax in enforcing the second, except in prisons, oddly enough. The practical solution is to completely separate religious marriage from civil contracts, and have a different official for each function. This takes the ministers off the hook, but leaves our Muslim cabbies still dangling.

Like I said, it's tricky.

Now what is the job of an evangelist in this situation? Well first of all, we have to remember that God judges us on the content of our hearts as well as our actions. That is a huge double edged sword. On the plus side, if we want to do good, but fail because we are weak, or are compelled or forced to do something wrong, God will see that. On the other hand, if we want to do something wrong, whether we do it or not, God sees that as well. We all remember Jimmy Carter's confession in Playboy of committing adultery in his heart. (Odd place for a Baptist boy to o his confession, but we'll move along). So what should all of this mean to the evangelist?

Simply this, even if you make homosexuality illegal, and prevent all homosexual acts from ever taking place, you haven't saved a single soul. You've spent all your time, all your effort, and all your money fighting the wrong foe. As an evangelist, your single task is to let people know about Jesus Christ, and that only through him can your sins be forgiven.

Period.

That's it.

And you don't need political power to do that.

Again, I'm relatively young as an active evangelical, but I'm pretty sure I've got this part right.

*For my personal views on homosexuality, click for


Posted by Rich
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Monday, March 12, 2007

The Death of Gaia

I'm filing this under religion partly to tweak those who think the Gaia hypothesis (It doesn't meet the criteria to be a theory) is the neatest thing to hit ecological science since Darwin sailed on the Beagle, but mostly because as a theory, it's DOA. It's no more scientific than Intelligent Design, and for roughly the same reasons. Of course, that doesn't stop the Granola Gang from running around spouting nonsense about the "planetary organism" any more than it stops creationists from babbling about "irreducible complexity." But it does make it much easier to make fun of their delusions.

Let's take a closer look at the Gaia Hypothesis for just a minute. There are two main components to the theory. The first is that all the organic and inorganic systems of the planet work together to achieve a certain goal. The second is that the goal is homeostasis. For those of you who slept through biology, homeostasis is a fancy way of saying that nothing changes. If you apply a pressure to a homeostatic system, it will react in a way to return to the status quo. If you try to make it hotter, it will react in a way to cause things to cool off. If you try to push it to the right, it will rebound to the left.

Think of it like a balky teenager. No matter how hard you nudge, they go about their own business, ignoring you. That's the essence of homeostasis.

Fortunately for us, Gaia isn't so good at maintaining homeostasis. In fact, she downright sucks at it. The history of the Earth is one of frequent and usually abrupt changes in topography, climate, heck, everything. Check out this timeline of the various geological eras. Note that for over half of its life, this planet had no free oxygen to speak of. That's 2.5 billion years of nothing to breathe. Fortunately there were no critters around during that time that needed to breathe.

In fact, when free oxygen began appearing in the atmosphere, it was utterly devastating to the existing ecology. Oxygen killed off most of the life that existed on the planet over the course of a few million years. But that wasn't the only mass extinction. The Permian period saw 90% of all life on the earth wiped out. What happened? All I can tell you is that it wasn't caused by SUV's. The dinosaurs also died out in a mass extinction, this one possibly caused by a collision with a big asteroid causing global cooling.

Speaking of which, check out the chart on this page showing the temperature variation over the earth's history.

Not a whole lot of homeostasis there. In fact, that chart looks like it would make for an awesome roller coaster.

The Gaia hypothesis arises from two main factors, ignorance and hubris. We've already demonstrated the former; let's take a look at the latter. Homo sapiens has existed for roughly 100,000 years, give or take. The earth has existed for roughly 4.5 billion years.

That's 4,500,000,000 years vs 100,000. That means that we've been around for about 0.002% of the time that the earth has existed and we have the audacity to think that because we evolved in this climate, that this is the climate that Gaia "prefers."

That's the hubris, folks.

If you look at it without anthropocentrism, the earth has spent a lot more time in climates decidedly unfriendly to our evolution. Wouldn't those be the "preferred" climates for homeostasis?

Hey, maybe they are! Maybe that's why Gaia spun out the human race. It's our job to spew out greenhouse gases into the environment and bring about massive deforestation to get rid of all that nasty oxygen in the atmosphere, so things can get back to normal around here.

So when you see me driving around town in my pick-up with the windows down and the AC on, don't get angry with me. Just realize that I'm doing my part to help Gaia get back into shape and look the way she did when she was young and in her prime.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Why Fred CAN Run

If you read AC Kleinheider's analysis of a potential Thompson candidacy, you'll see he's put a great deal of thought into it. He's figured out the scenarios dealing with finances, support, endorsements, and the like, and the upshot of it all is that the field of candidates is full already. There simply isn't room for Fred to run.

Of course, there's one, teensy, tiny factor that he doesn't address.

The voter. You and me. You know, the folks who actually elect the President. Reading ACK's post, you won't find us mentioned anywhere.

Isn't that curious? It's as if, when it comes to politics, the voters just don't count anymore. It's all handled in the back room.

I happen to think that the voters do still matter, and that many, if not most conservative voters are deeply dissatisfied with the slate of candidates we've been offered so far, and that sense of dissatisfaction is providing the energy for the Draft Fred movement. If Fred decides to capitalize on that energy and run for President, then the money and support will follow.

And isn't that the way it's supposed to be? The money follows the candidate chosen by the people, instead of the people being forced to accept the candidate chosen by the money?

Or am I hopelessly naive?

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, March 10, 2007

300: The Movie

It was the scene during the council meeting where Theron rapes Queen Gorgo for the second time. A voice rang out in the theater, "He must be a Democrat."

OK, it was my voice.

The comparisons between Greece during the Battle of Thermopylae and today's society are inescapable, and friends and neighbors, we don't come off so well. Can you name any national leader that would not have knelt to Xerxes? Any at all? And I'm not limiting this to American leaders. Is there any leader in the world today that would have had the guts to stand against overwhelming odds, knowing that they would go down in defeat, but doing it anyway simply because it was the right thing to do?

Anyone?

And for the sake of argument, should such a person exist, could he be elected to any position of authority?

The answer, my friends, is no.

Compromise is the name of the game today. Bipartisanship is the way to go. Forget principles; the only principle that really matters anymore is "Go along to get along." The only time our "leaders" stand on principles is when they want to raise the asking price for selling out those principles.

Fanboys in the audience may clap and cheer at Leonidas' courageous stand with his 300, but as for emulating him, forget about it. They're too busy being XBox heroes to be bothered doing it for real. It's much safer that way. If you look to 300 to see a reflection of ourselves, check out Ephialtes the traitor. Ugly, useless, and weak, his is the face we would see reflected in that mirror.

Can you imagine what would happen if that battle took place today? The Greeks were encouraged by the brave men who died at Thermopylae. We'd see the same thing and cry for mercy. Think of the headlines:

"Our troops routed at the gates!!!"
"President's policy leads to disaster!!!"
"Foreign juggernaut is unstoppable!!!"
"Give peace a chance!!!"

The talking heads on TV would go on and on about how we should be trying diplomacy, and that the enemies who slaughtered nations weren't really bad guys, and that we should try to understand them instead of killing them. The minority party in Congress would be busy opposing the plans of the majority, whether for good or ill, because being in charge is much more important than petty concerns like defending the nation against an enemy.

It's depressing, the depths to which we've fallen, and sickening to realize how much farther we can fall. Despite my crack at the beginning of this post, it isn't just the Democrats at fault. It's all of us. We allow it to happen. We watch as our schools are corrupted and do nothing. We watch as our politicians steal the country blind and do nothing. We watch as faceless nameless unelected bureaucrats defile everything this country was founded upon and we do nothing. We live in a country where the police can break into your home and shoot you dead for no reason, and get away with it because they were following proper procedure.

Now think about that for a minute. The police have a procedure that allows them to kill you in your home for no reason, and the penalty they face is suspension, or maybe the loss of their job. And we do nothing about it.

So what will we do when the war comes to our gates of fire? Nothing. And if any among us try to do something, we'll label them as "racists" and "nativists" and revile their names, then pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves on how very civilized we are. But we aren't really civilized; we're decadent, and the root of that word is decay. We are less than we once were, and sadly, greater than we will ever be again.

This rambling rant is just my way of circling around a very personal question as my son prepares to ship out to Iraq later this year. It's not a question of whether we are fighting the right opponent; we are. Islamofascism isn't limited to the Taliban in Afghanistan; it exists in Iraq, and Syria, and Iran as well. They are all fronts in the war against terrorism. The real question is this: "Is my son fighting to defend a country that is no longer worthy of defense?"

I just don't know anymore.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, March 05, 2007

What Does Giuliani’s Popularity Say About Conservatives?

Instapundit links to a WaPo article discussing Rudy's popularity among conservatives. He remarks that he's not too surprised by it, but doesn't address why Rudy gets a pass on most of his socially liberal stands.

To me, it's a pretty simple answer really. Conservatism has never been dominated by the religious right the way liberals have always pictures them to be. Fiscally conservative socially liberal conservatives are a dime a dozen. It just doesn't make for good campaign fodder for either side to recognize their existence. Hey, my ideal candidate is one who is strong on defense, a champion of the balanced budget, and believes that the best government is the smallest government. Show me a candidate like that, and he's got my vote no matter what letter comes after his name.

Or her name for that matter.

Posted by Rich
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