Sunday, January 31, 2010

From the "Missing the point" department

Classic win from the Times.

A week ago, Brit Hume broke all three rules at once. On a Fox News panel, Hume suggested that the embattled Tiger Woods consider converting to Christianity. “He’s said to be a Buddhist,” Hume noted. “I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith.”

A great many people immediately declared that this comment was the most outrageous thing they’d ever heard. Hume’s words were replayed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, to shocked laughter from the audience. They were denounced across the blogosphere as evidence of chauvinism, bigotry and gross stupidity.

. . .

The Washington Post’s TV critic, Tom Shales, mocked the idea that Christians should “run around trying to drum up new business” for their faith. Hume “doesn’t really have the authority,” Shales suggested — unless of course “one believes that every Christian by mandate must proselytize.” (This is, of course, exactly what Christians are supposed to believe.)


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Call for National Fiscal Responsibility

I've been thinking a lot lately about our national debt. I've only just recently been reading up on how big it is, how we accumulated it, and why we should be concerned. I think as Americans we sometimes have a tendency not to worry about debt. We are used to racking up huge amounts in student loans, in taking out mortgages, making car payments, and sadly even run up huge credit card bills. Since we can manage to have thousands of dollars in debt, and still have a fairly decent quality of life, sometimes this debt doesn't seem real to us. It's not until that debt gets in the way of something we need or want in life, do we realize that it's a problem.

I think most of us don't think of the national debt as something that's real. It's like an imaginary number that somehow indicates our economic health, but doesn't really affect our lives in anyway. Like someone who racks up credit card debt and just keeps spending and living the way they want, we think that somehow this national debt isn't real, or won't directly affect us, or we can worry about it later.

But eventually it is going to catch up to us, and it will probably be our children and the next generation that will have to suffer most from our deficit debauchery. I began looking into groups that advocate for fiscal reform and encountered The Concord Coalition "non-partisan, grassroots organization dedicated to educating the public about the causes and consequences of federal budget deficits, the long-term challenges facing America's unsustainable entitlement programs, and how to build a sound foundation for economic growth." They have lot of articles that point to information on the national debt and have educational resources on their site. I also found out that there is a group of Democrats in the House who advocate for reform, called the Blue Dog Coalition. They don't much information on their site, but it was interesting to learn about this group, because I had never heard of them before and am interested to see what they actually produce.

Why don't people care about this more? Why is this not a bigger political issue? Probably because advocating for reform usually means tightening our belts, spending less and taxing more, and those are unpopular measures for any politician.

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Free speach

Criticism of a company is a dangerous thing. Good reason to support Wikileaks. Anywho.

Rather than responding to the substance of the criticisms, Apex took the matter to court to try to remove them from the internet. On December 23, Judge James Hurley issued a prior restraint against, and, ordering the websites to remove all postings about Apex Technology Group or its President, Sarvesh Kumar Dharayan, until further order of the court. The court also ordered the sites’ ISPs/domain name registrars (DiscountASP.NET,, Domains By Proxy and Network Solutions) to stop hosting and “immediately shut down and disable” the websites. Finally, the order requires the ISPs to provide identity information about their customers.

This order dangerously overreaches. By restricting access to entire websites, it places a prior restraint on all of the speech on the websites, even if that speech is unrelated to Apex or Mr. Dharayan. Imagine if a court could order or shut down because of a disparaging review of a single product.

This despite the fact, of course, that there is an actual law that says what they're doing is legal.

Yet, section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act protects websites that host content posted by users, providing immunity for a website from state law claims (like defamation) based on the publication of "information provided by another information content provider."

Never let the law get in the way of a good lawsuit, that's what I say. The best bit is this, though:

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Apex Technology Group, is a staffing and consulting services company. . . . The dispute apparently started when someone uploaded a document purporting to be an Apex employment agreement to, and noted several terms the poster considered unfair to H1-B workers (copy of original post). The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. The defendant websites allegedly linked to this post and document, and Apex demanded its removal. Curiously, Apex simultaneously claimed that the document defamed them and that they were its copyright owners. This is unusual, since people rarely defame themselves with their own copyrighted works.

That's pretty classic. I think I'm going to publish a tell-all book, and then sue any bookstore that sells it for defamation. Profit!

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Billions for futile research, not one cent for sanity

LOS ANGELES, California, January 29, 2010 ( - California's Institute for Regenerative Medicine came into being five years ago, fueled by a conviction that the Bush administration's restriction on embryo-destructive research in the National Institutes of Health was stifling the progress of science.

But after years of fruitless work, the Institute has now quietly diverted funds from embryonic stem cell research (ESCr) to adult stem cell research - which has already produced dozens of treatments and all-out cures for maladies ranging from spinal cord injury, to Alzheimer's, to type I diabetes.

Better late than never, I suppose.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

New comment system

So apparently Haloscan died an untimely death. Oops. I've shifted comments to this 'Echo' service, which looks disturbingly like Facebook. We'll see how that goes for a little while.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ice Cube in a Furnace

President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs, and for increases no greater than inflation after that, an initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit, administration officials said Monday.

The freeze would cover the agencies and programs for which Congress allocates specific budgets each year, including air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and national parks.

But it would exempt security-related budgets for the Pentagon, foreign aid, the Veterans Administration and homeland security, as well as the entitlement programs that make up the biggest and fastest-growing part of the federal budget: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The payoff in budget savings would be small relative to the deficit: The estimated $250 billion in savings over 10 years would be less than 3 percent of the roughly $9 trillion in additional deficits the government is expected to accumulate over that time.

[Emphasis added.]

What kind of freeze is this? Who are they kidding? They are throwing ice chips in the fire!

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Perverse incentives in Microsoft software

So this is the situation I'm in: I have to pay $25 and wait a week or two to reinstall a copy of Windows Vista that we already have a legitimate license to use. I'm failing to see what the Windows Genuine Advantage is here.

Sometimes playing by the rules gets you little but the shaft.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nuns Dish it Up

A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns,” by Madeline Scherb, those tourists may head for the gift shops first, to stock up on the wines, spirits, beers, cheeses, condiments and sweets, often from centuries-old recipes, that are made at many monasteries.

Ms. Scherb tells you who makes what at two dozen religious retreats in Europe and the United States, and includes recipes, like an unusual pear clafoutis baked with caramels from Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey near Dubuque, Iowa, and a hearty bacon and potato salad with tripel, a bitter ale, from Westmalle Abbey near Antwerp, Belgium.
I've had some pretty tasty food with religious, but usually in the quest of vocation, not vacation.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

NFP more popular with the Planned Parenthood crowd

EDMONTON, Alberta, January 14, 2010 ( – Contrary to the popular understanding, Catholics are not the only ones interested in or promoting natural family planning (NFP). One secular organization in Edmonton, despite being avowedly in favor of “reproductive freedom,” has responded to the increasing body of evidence highlighting the dangers of hormonal contraceptives (i.e. the pill) and is now working to convince women that NFP is a far better method of controlling fertility.

Geraldine Matus, founder of Justisse Healthworks for Women (JHW) has been teaching natural family planning since 1977. She uses the Justisse method, which tracks mucus secretions, temperature, and cervical position.

Well, I guess stranger things have happened.

“If I'm taking a pill that requires no knowledge of how my reproductive system works, and actually suppresses the true nature of how my reproductive system works, that takes me away from knowing my body,” she said. “If I experience my menstrual cycle month after month after month over many years, I start to learn about myself.”

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Update on Baltimore CPCs

Not much media on this story. I seem to only be able to find articles from pro-life sources or pro-choice sources, all of which are written more like editorials than news stories. I was trying to find out if in fact the bill requiring crisis pregnancy centers in Baltimore to post that they do not dispense birth control or provide abortions. I confirmed through my local sources that in fact the bill was signed by Mayor Sheila Dixon, who by the way, is resigning as of Feb. 4, due to her guilty plea to perjury and embezzlement charges brought up against her last month. The bill went into effect Jan. 1.

In this pro-choice coverage of the bill, the author compared abortion clinics to crisis pregnancy centers to apples and oranges. Actually, it is even more dramatic a difference than that. Planned Parenthood and many other abortion clinics make tons of money, but are tax-exempt, and receive federal subsidies. Pregnancy centers have never claimed to be comprehensive health care organizations. They purely non-profit and receive most of their funding from private donors and faith-organizations. They are more like social services, providing counseling, resources, and referrals to doctors who will provide health care without pressuring women into abortions. Because they do not claim to be abortion clinics, or even clinics at all, I do not see why they have to post signs stating what medical services they do not provide. Maybe we should pass a law to have abortion clinics post signs that state: "Warning to pregnant mothers: we terminate the lives of unborn infants and dispense medication can interfere with your fertility."

More bad news: City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who sponsored the bill, will become mayor when Dixon steps down. Also, Montgomery County also has pending legislation for an even more restrictive bill. According to NARAL's website:
This bill would require Montgomery County non-medical CPCs to provide clients with a disclaimer that the information that the limited service pregnancy center provides is not intended to be medical advice or to establish a doctor-patient relationship that she should consult with a health care provider before proceeding on a course of action regarding her pregnancy.
These bills set a very bad precedent for the rest of the country.


My ability to blog is inversely proportional to the amount of schoolwork I have. Hence my frequent absences on this blog. I may have some free time next week. Until then... this is a teacher who must report to duty.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Everyting except the last

This is heady stuff. My understanding of quarks and relativity is pretty limited. My preferred domain is that of poetry, not physics. Physicists tend to get irritated when poets attempt to turn mathematical formulations into metaphors. Nevertheless, the two domains share a similar appetite for knowledge: Why are we here? How does something come from nothing? How did the universe begin? Is there a supreme intelligence behind creation?

John Olson's "Strange Matter", The American Scholar, Winter 2010, p. 66.

I had always thought that physics was concerned with the processes of the universe, not with those beyond the universe. To some, however, the subatomic structure of matter is somehow related to religion.

I think those may be orthogonal issues, insofar as knowing a lot about exotic states of matter doesn't really tell you a lot about exotic concepts of the afterlife.

Metaphysics, I think that's the word he's looking for. Beyond physics.

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Saint Jean Baptiste de la Salle, beginning comments in a meditation on vigilance:

Vigilance is the virtue which makes us diligent and painstaking in
fulfilling all our duties.A teacher needs this virtue both for himself and
for his pupils.

In other words, eyes in the back of your head, and plan your lessons thoroughly! Otherwise it is both your demise and your students'. One of my great sins in teaching last year was laziness, although it was usually a product of exhaustion. One can never plan enough, and one can never be vigilant enough in the classroom.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010


Introductory paragraph from a meditation on wisdom by Saint Jean Baptiste de la Salle:

Wisdom is a virtue which gives us knowledge of the most exalted things
through the most excellent principles so that we may act accordingly.
It differs from prudence for the latter merely presupposes a praiseworthy
end, whatever it may be. Whereas, wisdom considers directly its object,
and does so not only as good and praiseworthy but also as being very great
and important.
I have begun reading meditations on virtues of a good teacher by Saint Jean (he enumerates twelve virtues) and have come to the humbling conclusion that I am sorely lacking in most of these. It is a bit of a frightening revelation. Reserve, prudence, wisdom, these are not terms I would use to describe myself. Moreover, my education in science leaves me poorly educated in the areas of philosophy and morals. I don't have a good understanding of virtue in either the classical or Christian sense. I think I need to do more reading and meditating in this area.

I once more lament my poor catechism. I am so far behind! I only hope that someday I will have the luxury of taking a long break from this busy world and can afford to contemplate such things


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