|The Movie Of Your Life Is Film Noir|
So what if you're a little nihilistic at times?
Life with meaning is highly over-rated.
Your best movie matches: Sin City, L. A. Confidential, Blade Runner
04 December 2005
27 November 2005
| Guy Smiley |
You scored 60% Organization, 55% abstract, and 37% extroverted!
| This test measured 3 variables. |
|My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:|
11 November 2005
Trouble in Gaulistan
Les Muslimerables? No. Les Invisibles
I tried. I really did. I wanted to deal dispassionately with l'affaire francaise. I even resolved to refrain, until my Schadenfreude wore off, from commenting on the situation in the country formerly known as "France." (Possible future names include: Paristine, Gaulistan, Frarabia, and the Algerian North Bank.)
Schadenfreude is a German word meaning to take pleasure at the misfortune of others. And much like La Resistance in '40 (and '41, '42, '43, '44 and '45), I just can't shake off the Germans in this case. Since my Schadenfreude seems inextricably linked to the duration of the French intifada, I can't wait any longer. After all, the troubles promise to go on long enough for the French to lobby the International Olympic Committee to add the "Peugeot Burn" to the summer games.
To be fair, which I have not been so far, I don't actually believe the current riots are about Islam. This puts me to the left of a great many conservative Nostradamuses who've prophesized for so long that France's north African and other Muslim "immigrants" are going to bring jihad to the home front. I don't think their predictions are necessarily wrong, I just believe that this is at best a dress rehearsal.
I put "immigrants" in quotation marks for the simple reason that most of the rioters are no such thing — they were born in France and hold French passports. Their parents or grandparents were from former French colonies. But the French establishment — a term I use in the most catholic sense possible, so as to include Katie Couric and her colleagues — has had a very hard time coming up with a useful vocabulary to describe these events. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy came out of the blocks with "scum," but the uncharacteristic lack of nuance didn't go over well in a culture that has always believed there are two sides of the story for every murderer, never mind every window smasher.
We seem to have settled on "youths," which is as correct as "Muslims" and marginally more accurate than "immigrants," but it will hardly do. It's not as if airport screeners are going to keep a keener eye on young, blond Frenchmen named Jacques because a bunch of guys named Abdul and Hamid looted the local brasserie. And then there's the fact that these "youths" show no signs of being particularly pious Muslims. I don't mean to say that a devout Muslim would never break the peace — I think that theory has been sufficiently falsified in recent years so as to be inoperative, no?
Rather, these "youths" appear to be closer to nothing than they do to a specific something — except, of course, rioters. It is in the rioting that these kids get meaning. Rioting is how they appear on the Gallic radar system. They aren't Les Muslimerables so much as Les Invisibles.
The Islamic leadership in France would clearly and dearly love this to be a Muslim riot. They could then stop it and become true Left Bank Arafats, able to fire up a rent-a-mob whenever convenient and thereby shake down the government for one concession after another. That's why the French government is so desperate to prevent the imams from becoming middlemen. If the riots are stopped by Islamic clerics, they will become Islamic riots — even though they didn't start as that. And once the conflict is Islamified, the conservative Nostradamus scenarios kick in and we can all get ready for talk of "two-state solutions," the need to make Paris an "international city," and so forth.
Their being Muslim surely contributes to these kids' invisibility, but French racism and snobbery is more sweeping. Unlike in America, where snobbery, racism and anti-Muslim bigotry can all operate independently of each other, in France they're always linked in a menage a trios. If a resume arrives at the patisserie with the name Hamid on it, it gets trashed without the recipient wondering whether he was unfair to a Muslim, a black, an immigrant or even a French citizen.
But this type of young person is invisible for another reason. The French "social model" which pays wealthy, educated people not to work much — and prevents poor and desperate ones from working at all — simply has no solution for what to do with these surplus Frenchmen. So they get shunted off to the Islamic Bantustans surrounding the capital, where social pathologies fester.
Unfortunately, France is more likely to embrace Velveeta as the national cheese than to fix this system, and that spells long-term disaster for the country. Sarkozy had the right idea calling the rioters scum — not only because rioters tend to be exactly that, but also because calling them much of anything else would have politicized the rioters into "rebels." The long-term problem is that if you treat people like scum long enough, they'll become rebels. And that's when the battle for Gaulistan will truly begin.— (c) 2005 Tribune Media Services
12 October 2005
People seem to be particularly uncritical about causality when pet causes or recieved/conventional wisdom are involved. Some favorites:
"Crime is down, but the prisons are fuller than ever." Do I really need to point out the flaw here? Maybe, just maybe, more of the people prone to committing crimes are in jail!?!
"Women earn $0.70 (or whatever) on the dollar compared with men." While there is no doubt some sexism involved, there are certainly other contributing factors which are a second-order effects of being a woman at best. For instance, women are the sex capable of bearing children and often choose to do so, taking time off from careers to facilitate thier choice. Women may be impacted by cultural gender roles which teach them to be more supportive and less assertive than men.
"We're having the Third Great Awakening!" Could it be that the trend towards conservative evangelical Christianity in the U.S. is not a result of the deity 'pouring out his spirit upon all flesh?'
Consider that the single greatest predictor of a person's religion is the religion of her parents. Consider also that the world over, religious fervor is directly related to a tendancy to breed, both of which are inversely related to education. So in the U.S. we have people who take their religion seriously and breed, increasing the numbers of the seriously religious. We also have people who don't take their religion as seriously, or, like Yours Truly, don't take it at all. These people tend to be more educated, and therefore more "liberal," since that seems to be the choice in our country -- anti-reason by virtue of religion or utopian politics. These folks tend to bear fewer children due to a focus on education/income and/or because of the rather effective, if sometimes questionable, means available to ensure the non-bearing of children.* Of course, evangelicals are having abortions too,** but at a lower rate, and this is more than made up for by the tendancy to breed. Given this, is it any wonder that demographics are shifting as they are?
* This has been described elsewhere as the "Roe Effect."
** About 20% of women getting abortions describe themselves as born-again/evangelical.
There are many women who will not like this one bit. New research from Britain's Institute for Social and Economic Research has shown that married men make more money than their bachelor friends as long as their wives stay home and do the housework, reports Reuters.
Specifically, researchers Elena Bardasi and Mark Taylor found in a 13-year study of 3,500 men who held all types of jobs from unskilled laborers to professional and executive positions that when a married man's wife did not work outside the home and took primary responsibility for the cooking and cleaning, that man earned about 3 percent more than single men with similar jobs. But when the wife went to work or didn't do most of the housework herself, the married man's wage premium evaporated.
Why? Taylor has two possible explanations.
1. When a woman takes full responsibility for the household chores, it allows her husband to better concentrate on his paid work, which in turn increases his productivity. That has a positive impact on his wages.
2. When a man is married to a wife who does the household work, he then has time to sharpen his work skills, something that could trigger a higher salary.
13 September 2005
"Consider an AP report, about Gaza: "After rushing into the settlements, Palestinians set fire to empty synagogues in the Morag, Kfar Darom, and Netzarim settlements, as well as a Jewish seminary in Neve Dekalim. In Netzarim, two young Palestinians waving flags stomped on the smoldering debris outside the synagogue, and others took turns hitting the building with a large hammer."
So, any moment, Jews will start demonstrating, rioting, and killing. And the world will excuse them — right? — given what the Palestinians did to the synagogues and seminary. Just like the world understood when Christians demonstrated, rioted, and killed, after the PLO desecrated the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Oh, no, wait. Sorry.
But wait'll someone tries to flush a Bible down a toilet!"No kidding. There's a tendancy to excuse ideas and behavior because they arise from religion. A similar tendency excuses all manner of things done by members of an approved vicitm group. In Muslims, these two unfortunate practices coincide.
28 August 2005
I've personally heard enough stupidity about the war to last me a good while. Everything from (responding to Cindy Sheehan) "Waaul, the Bible saays you gotta let the dead lie" to (essentially), "Does it make me un-American that I like sugar and spice and everything nice?" I know people who, in all seriousness, can't fathom why we haven't nuked the whole of southwest Asia. I also know people who's biggest concern about the world--as militant Islamists disembody and disembowel, as clitorides are lopped by Muslim whackos, as rape is swept under the rug everywhere from Africa to the Vatican to the U.S. prison system, as humans slave and starve in North Korean concentration camps, etc--is the fact that we have a petrochemical-based global economy. I'm sick of people who have absolutely no sense of scale, whether it's of the 'lets annihilate billions to deal with totalitarian regimes and holy warriors,' or the 'let's buy a fucking Prius while the inhumanity and oppression continue' variety.
If you hold, as I do, individual freedom as good, then that which prevents or opposes freedom is evil. Death is not a pretty thing; the blood and brains and bits of a human should be disturbing to us as self-aware beings, but there is (goddammit) a moral difference between killing someone who lives, whether from simple power lust or the projected power lust if a god, to deprive others of their freedom, and someone who is simply trying to muddle their way through life.
24 August 2005
I think I may have an obsessive streak. I used to check bank and investment accounts daily (now the missus has wrangled much of that away from me). I cut my pancakes in a square, rotating the plate. I fixate on something for a time, to the detriment of "serious" work, only to move on to a new fetish. I was one of those kids who couldn't step on a crack. In fact, cracks alone began not to be enough, so I imagined lines originating from the corners of buildings, mailboxes. Then it moved indoors as I stepped awkwardly around nonexistent lines extending from doorways, tables, desks. It was exhausting.
I've checked "My eBay" at least five times today. Have I been outbid? Will I get that item for 25% less than Amazon? How high can I go? What the hell is this guy's reserve price anyway? Will my wife kill me if I spend any more money on roleplaying books and music gear?
I think I've found the perfect drug.
Ultimate Roleplaying Purity Score
Enjoys the occasional head-lopping
|Sensitive Roleplaying||72.15% |
Will talk after everyone important's been killed
|GM Experience||82.61% |
"Um... You guys are in a 10'x10' room..."
|Systems Knowledge||95.06% |
Played in a couple of campaigns
|Livin' La Vida Dorka||66.67%|
Goes nuts on the weekends
|You are 80.14% pure|
Average Score: 68.8%
16 August 2005
07 August 2005
At very least you should give a fair shake to the thousands of other gods currently and heretofore postulated. Can you really assign a higher probability to one over another?
Premise, like location, is critical.
Math Proves Christ's Resurrection?
It is faith, not proof, that makes Christians believe in Jesus Christ's resurrection, the central tenet of the religion. Until now.
Oxford University professor Richard Swinburne, a leading philosopher of religion, has seemingly done the impossible. Using logic and mathematics, he has created a formula that he says shows a 97 percent certainty that Jesus Christ was resurrected by God the Father, report The Age and Catholic News.
This stunning conclusion was made based on a series of complex calculations grounded in the following logic:
- The probably of God's existence is one in two. That is, God either exists or doesn't.
- The probability that God became incarnate, that is embodied in human form, is also one in two.
- The evidence for God's existence is an argument for the resurrection.
- The chance of Christ's resurrection not being reported by the gospels has a probability of one in 10.
- Considering all these factors together, there is a one in 1,000 chance that the resurrection is not true.
"New Testament scholars say the only evidences are witnesses in the four gospels. That's only five percent of the evidence," Swinburne said in a lecture he gave at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. "We can't judge the question of the resurrection unless we ask first whether there's reason to suppose there is a God. Secondly, if we have reason to suppose he would become incarnate, and thirdly, if he did, whether he would live the sort of life Jesus did." He says that even Jesus' life is not enough proof. However, the resurrection is "God's signature," which shows "his approval of Jesus' teaching."
The calculations that Swinburne says prove the resurrection are detailed in his book, "The Resurrection of God Incarnate."
03 August 2005
Quit tiptoeing around John Roberts' faith.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Aug. 1, 2005, at 1:27 PM PT
Will Roberts keep the faith?
Attempts have been made to challenge Turley's version, and Sen. Durbin (who was himself unfairly misquoted recently as having made a direct comparison between Guantanamo, Hitler, and Stalin when he had only mentioned them in the same breath) probably doesn't need any more grief. But how probable is it that the story is wrong? A clever conservative friend writes to me that obviously Roberts, who is famed for his unflappability, cannot have committed such a bêtise. For one thing, he was being faced with a question that he must have known he would be asked. Yes, but that's exactly what gives the report its ring of truth. If Roberts had simply said that the law and the Constitution would control in all cases (the only possible answer), then there would have been no smoke. If he had said that the Vatican would decide, there would have been a great deal of smoke. But who could have invented the long pause and the evasive answer? I think there is a gleam of fire here. At the very least, Roberts should be asked the same question again, under oath, at his confirmation.
It is already being insinuated, by those who want this thorny question de-thorned, that there is an element of discrimination involved. Why should this question be asked only of Catholics? Well, that's easy. The Roman Catholic Church claims the right to legislate on morals for all its members and to excommunicate them if they don't conform. The church is also a foreign state, which has diplomatic relations with Washington. In the very recent past, this church and this state gave asylum to Cardinal Bernard Law, who should have been indicted for his role in the systematic rape and torture of thousands of American children. (Not that child abuse is condemned in the Ten Commandments, any more than slavery or genocide or rape.) More recently still, the newly installed Pope Benedict XVI (who will always be Ratzinger to me) has ruled that Catholic politicians who endorse the right to abortion should be denied the sacraments: no light matter for believers of the sincerity that Judge Roberts and his wife are said to exhibit. And just last month, one of Ratzinger's closest allies, Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna, wrote an essay in which he announced that evolution was "ideology, not science."
Thus, quite apart from the scandalous obstruction of American justice in which the church took part in the matter of Cardinal Law, we have increasingly firm papal dogmas on two issues that are bound to come before the court: abortion and the teaching of Darwin in schools. So, please do not accuse me of suggesting a "dual loyalty" among American Catholics. It is their own church, and its conduct and its teachings, that raise this question.
If Roberts is confirmed there will be quite a bloc of Catholics on the court. Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas are strong in the faith. Is it kosher to mention these things? The Constitution rightly forbids any religious test for public office, but what happens when a religious affiliation conflicts with a judge's oath to uphold the Constitution? Some religious organizations are also explicitly political and vice versa—the Ku Klux Klan was founded partly to defend Protestantism—and if it is true that Scalia is a member of Opus Dei then even many Catholics would consider him to have made a political rather than a theological choice. The Church of Scientology is now a member of the American Council of Churches, and good luck to both of them say I, but are we ready for a Scientologist on the court rather than having him or her subjected to the equivalent of a religious test? I merely ask.
Another smart conservative friend invites me to take comfort from Justice Scalia's statement that a believer who finds his conscience in conflict with the law should forthwith resign from the bench. I wish I found this more comforting than it actually is. In the first place, Scalia's remarks had to do with a possible reluctance, on the part of a Catholic, to impose the death penalty. The church's teaching on this is not absolute and is not enforced by the threat of excommunication, though it's nice to know that Scalia regards weakness about executions as a "litmus." In the second place, it is not at all clear that Scalia admits the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution in the first place. In oral argument in March this year, on cases dealing with religious displays on public property (Van Orden v. Perry and McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky), he described the display of the Ten Commandments as "a symbol of the fact that government comes—derives its authority from God. And that is, it seems to me, an appropriate symbol to be on State grounds." At another point, he opined that "the moral order is ordained by God. … And to say that that's the basis for the Declaration of Independence and our institutions is entirely realistic." Display of the Ten Commandments, he went on to write, affirms that "the principle of laws being ordained by God is the foundation of the laws of this state and the foundation of our legal system."
To the extent that this gibberish can be decoded at all, it is in flat contradiction to the Declaration of Independence, which is unique precisely because it locates the just powers of government in the consent of the governed, and with the Constitution, which deliberately does not mention God at any point. The Constitution was carefully drafted and designed to guard against majoritarianism, another consideration ignored by Scalia when he opines that "the minority has to be tolerant of the majority's ability to express its belief that government comes from God." (Sandra Day O'Connor, in her last written opinion, phrased it much better when she said, "We do not count heads when deciding to uphold the First Amendment.") Speaking to the Knights of Columbus in Baton Rouge, La., in January, Scalia implored them to "have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world." Whether for "Christ" or not, Scalia is certainly a fool. He should have fewer allies and emulators on the court, not more. And perhaps secular America could one day have just one representative on that august body. Or would that be heresy?
01 August 2005
29 July 2005
|Do We All Worship the Same God?|
|By Lee Harris|
When the British philosopher Bertrand Russell was put in prison for his opposition to the First World War, he became quite friendly with one of his jailors. Once, during an amiable discussion, the jailor happened to ask Russell about his religion, whereupon Russell replied that he was an agnostic. The jailor reflected for a moment, then said, "Well, I don't suppose it matters what we call him -- we all worship the same God."
Believers always have the option of believing that they and other believers really do worship the same God. They can always assume that God will listen to everyone's prayers, and that it will not terribly concern him what exact words they use to invoke his attention. God, Allah, Gott, dieu, dios -- all of these names can serve equally well to connect us with the one supreme being.
The atheist or the agnostic, however, does not have this option. Non-believers, after all, do not believe that there is a supreme being who is able to recognize that the prayers of a Muslim and those of a Southern Baptist are really intended for His ear, despite the different names that are used. For the non-believer, it is all equally mumbo-jumbo no matter whose prayer it is. (Imagine several billion telephones ringing in a room with no one to answer them.) All religions are simply illusionary systems. This is what August Comte thought; it is what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels thought; it is what Sigmund Freud thought. de
From the non-believer's point of view, it might seem utterly irrelevant to inquire into the specific nature of the different illusions that have animated different human beings under the guise of religion. For example, in the eyes of many modern atheists, all religions are simply bad, and all need to be outgrown by the human race. Furthermore, from their point of view, not only is religion something that mankind does not need in the future -- it was something mankind never needed at all. How much better off we would have been if, on our descent from the apes, we had never been tempted onto the pernicious paths of religious enthusiasm and devotion. How much wiser we would have acted if our early ancestors had immediately begun to arrange our lives with the orderly rationalism of
From this point of view religion is bad, was bad, and will forever be bad. Nor does it make the slightest difference which religion we are talking about. All are evil, and none has ever served any useful purpose in promoting human progress.
Yet this purely dismissive approach to religion is not the only way in which non-believers can respond to religion, considered purely as a cultural phenomenon. At the turn of the nineteenth century, for example, there was a number of thinkers who argued that, even if all religions were illusionary, it still made a huge difference which illusion a group of people chose to cling to. The American philosopher William James, a profound student of religion, argued that a man's religious illusions were not mere phantoms without any impact on the world; on the contrary, he saw in these illusions one of the most powerful forces for the transformation of both individual human beings and of entire communities. Vilfredo Pareto, the Italian economist turned sociologist, made the same argument in analyzing whole societies, as did the French sociologist Emile Durkheim, as well as the German sociologists Max Weber and Werner Sombart. So what if there was no God, all these secular thinkers agreed in arguing -- the absence of a supreme being did not make men's religious faith a bit less capable of moving mountains or making deserts bloom or stifling economic progress or of producing capitalism.
The atheist, when confronted with two distinct religious illusions does not jump to the conclusion that they are both aimed at invoking the same supreme being. Instead of looking up toward the transcendent object of the illusion, he is able to look at the quality of the illusion itself, and to the practical and concrete consequences of this illusion on the lives of those who subscribe to it. Religious illusions, when approached from this direction, clearly reveal themselves as distinctive as different forms of social organization -- as distinctive as feudalism and capitalism, communism and meritocracy. Indeed, the atheist will quickly see that few things can differ more profoundly than the diverse ways in which human beings have imagined the nature of the Divine.
Leaving aside the social, economic, and political consequences of certain religious illusions, it is also possible for the atheist to analyze the illusions themselves in terms of the foundational metaphors upon which the illusions have been constructed. Starting from the premise first articulated by Xenophanes, and later developed by Feuerbach and Marx, the atheist can immediately see that the religious illusions of men will naturally reflect the immediate world, both natural and social, in which they have been reared and in which they must struggle to survive.
For a warrior elite, the gods will live lives very much like their own. There will be plenty of battles, much drinking and carousing, and a wanton disregard of all sexual proprieties. For those who must toil so that the warrior elite can live the same life as their indolent hell-raising gods, these gods will naturally appear to be capricious and dangerous -- forces to be appeased and placated, like the warrior elite itself.
On the other hand, consider those men who have created communities in which hard work, and not brute courage, is the key to high status -- what kind of god do you think they will project upon the heavens? Certainly not the worthless bums of the warrior pantheon. Indeed, the first step that such a community will naturally take in the religious field will be to debunk the gods of the warrior elite.
The semi-legendary Persian religious reformer Zoroaster is the paradigmatic example of this debunking process. In his eyes, the old gods of the warrior pantheon were nothing more than demons -- and as demons they deserved to be hated and reviled, and not worshipped and groveled before. In their place, Zoroaster offered an entirely new vision of a supreme god of light and truth -- a hardworking god who was constantly aiding and helping out the good peaceful hardworking people, and fighting valiantly against the demons from the dark side.
If you had asked Zoroaster if we all worship the same god, he would have quickly told you that no we don't. Some worship demons; others worship a god of light.
The atheist, on hearing Zoroaster's response, would say that neither the demons nor the god of light really existed; yet if he were a sociologist of religion, he would be bound to notice the difference in the way in which these two radically distinct illusions have manifested themselves in human communities. Indeed, he would be forced to conclude that there was in fact nothing that distinguished societies more than the illusions that they entertain about the divine. The Aztecs worshipped cruel and ruthless gods who demanded mounds of freshly ripped out human hearts; the Zoroastrians worshipped a god of light who spent day and night watching over men, struggling against evil and working always for the good. Both forms of worship were based, from our point of view, on pure illusion -- and yet what a profound difference it makes to a society which illusion it chooses to go with.
Few things matter more than how men chose to deceive themselves.
On Netscape.com: "Discovery Wing Possibly Struck; Return Uncertain"
When you click: "Discovery's Astronauts to Inspect Shuttle"
...In which we learn that the return is not, in fact uncertain and they're not that concerned.
27 June 2005
25 June 2005
Rand and Aristotle are no surprise, but I wasn't expecting Kant to be so high. More reading is, as usual, in order.
|1.||Ayn Rand (100%) Click here for info|
|2.||John Stuart Mill (78%) Click here for info|
|3.||Aristotle (68%) Click here for info|
|4.||Kant (65%) Click here for info|
|5.||Jean-Paul Sartre (59%) Click here for info|
|6.||Plato (59%) Click here for info|
|7.||Aquinas (58%) Click here for info|
|8.||Epicureans (58%) Click here for info|
|9.||Jeremy Bentham (55%) Click here for info|
|10.||St. Augustine (52%) Click here for info|
|11.||David Hume (48%) Click here for info|
|12.||Thomas Hobbes (48%) Click here for info|
|13.||Nietzsche (46%) Click here for info|
|14.||Prescriptivism (45%) Click here for info|
|15.||Spinoza (40%) Click here for info|
|16.||Stoics (39%) Click here for info|
|17.||Cynics (36%) Click here for info|
|18.||Ockham (25%) Click here for info|
|19.||Nel Noddings (11%) Click here for info|
17 June 2005
I have a man-crush on Hanson. I think he's my favorite Democrat.