28 August 2005

War: What It's Good For

Hanson remarks on crackpot commentary on the war from Left and Right, and interesting Pew research on Middle East public opinion highlighted by Jonah Goldberg.

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


How the hell did we transact before the Internet? In the history of commerce, this is on par with the invention of writing, currencies, moneylending, and insurance. In much the same manner as I roar angrily away from the occasional gas station that doesn't have credit-card payment at the pump, I now dismiss companies with sub-standard web pages. I buy Xmas gifts almost exclusively online. I bank online. I research online. I quest for free pictures of nekkid ladies online. I even talk to myself, here, online.

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.

Roleplaying Purity Test

God...I haven't seen the sun in days....

Ultimate Roleplaying Purity Score
CategoryYour ScoreAverage
Enjoys the occasional head-lopping
Sensitive Roleplaying72.15%
Will talk after everyone important's been killed
GM Experience82.61%
"Um... You guys are in a 10'x10' room..."
Systems Knowledge95.06%
Played in a couple of campaigns
Livin' La Vida Dorka66.67%
Goes nuts on the weekends
You are 80.14% pure
Average Score: 68.8%

16 August 2005

Mr. Picassohead

Yes, I should be working, but I'm doing this instead. You may want to as well.

07 August 2005

Faith-Based Math

This guy's obviously not a statistician. It does not follow that because there are only two possible outcomes in a given analysis, the likelyhood of those two outcomes is equal. 'Either I'm actually a fairy princess trapped in the body of a nondescript human male, or I'm not,' would be a similar assertion. You might as well randomly assign a probablility of 99% to the existence of god.

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:

  1. The probably of God's existence is one in two. That is, God either exists or doesn't.
  2. The probability that God became incarnate, that is embodied in human form, is also one in two.
  3. The evidence for God's existence is an argument for the resurrection.
  4. The chance of Christ's resurrection not being reported by the gospels has a probability of one in 10.
  5. 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

God and the Rule of Law

Doesn't the argument that government officials being religiously neutral is an attack on religion, while acting in government office on the basis of faith is simply doing god's will prove the point of those of us who worry that mixing god and government will damage our pluralist tradition?

Catholic Justice
Quit tiptoeing around John Roberts' faith.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Aug. 1, 2005, at 1:27 PM PT

Will Roberts keep the faith? Click image to expand.

Will Roberts keep the faith?

Everybody seems to have agreed to tiptoe around the report that Judge John G. Roberts said he would recuse himself in a case where the law required a ruling that the Catholic Church might consider immoral. According to Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University, the judge gave this answer in a private meeting with Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., who is the Senate minority whip. Durbin told Turley that when asked the question, Roberts looked taken aback and paused for a long time before giving his reply.

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 bĂȘtise. 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

My laptop's shot, so sue me!

Which Simpson are you?

My Metrosexual Quotient

Perhapse this is not the most accurate thing out there, but it had really gay dance music, so here we go: