Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama's Appeal to "Our Better Angels"

In Philadelphia This Morning, Obama to Call for "A New Declaration of Independence"

January 17, 2009 7:43 AM

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- Here in the City of Brotherly Love this morning, following in the footsteps of his hero President Abraham Lincoln, President-elect Obama will call for "a new Declaration of Independence" and ask Americans to invoke the same spirit of our Founding Fathers to get through these challenging times.

"What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that our founders displayed," the President-elect will say, calling for a new declaration of independence "not just in our nation, but in our own lives – from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry – an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels."


Our better angels.  A reference to the mystical, the spiritual, the unseen.  From small thinking, prejudice and bigotry.  Bigotry as in homophobia.  How will the bigoted homophobes in the fundamentalist christian churches react to this call for 'our better angels'?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dubya, Drawn and Quartered

From  Bruce McCall of Vanity Fair

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."

NewScientist posted an article  today that has this curious line in it:   "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."

The GEO600 is an ongoing, 6-year German experiment attempting to 'catch' gravitational waves eminating from large space objects.  Spoiling the experiment [like Flemming's penicillin experiment] was a large set of interference coming from somewhere out in space. 

The story picks up from there:  For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.

If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."

The Beatles lyric comes to mind, "We all live in a yellow submarine." Back in the 90's two physicists Leonard Susskind and Gerard 't Hooft suggested that the same principle might apply to the universe as a whole. Our everyday experience might itself be a holographic projection of physical processes that take place on a distant, 2D surface.  Weird science for sure.

The article then loses me, at least at this late hour of the day, much like being trapped in a black hole which, in fact, consumes much of the rest of this story.

God and Science: An Inner Conflict

LiveScience posts the story God and Science: An Inner Conflict  today:

God and science are inherently at odds, or so goes the story with roots that reach back nearly 400 years to the Inquisition's trial of Galileo on suspicion of heresy.

The ongoing effort of U.S. creationists to inject doubt about evolution into science classrooms in public schools is an example of that conflict, not to mention the polarizing arguments over the decades offered by numerous members of the clergy, politicians, and some atheist scientists and scholars including Richard Dawkins.

Now a new study suggests our minds are conflicted, making it so we have trouble reconciling science and God because we unconsciously see these concepts as fundamentally opposed, at least when both are used to explain the beginning of life and the universe.

Experiments headed up by psychologist Jesse Preston of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her colleague Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago provide some data to support the argument that the conflict is inherent, or hard-wired. They found that subjects apparently cannot easily give positive evaluations to both God and science as explanations for big questions, such as the origin of life and the universe, at the same time.


There you have it.  God, angels, miracles, signs and wonders are found in some brains while evidence, data, and analysis are found in others.  No wonder the fundamentalists denounce science so vehemently and cling to their Bibles.  They can understand all of that mystical stuff and perhaps even visualize it during some periods of their consciousness.

Brains hard-wired for either God or science, but not both.  Done.

Bush Cartoon: Head Held high

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Regrets, He's Had a Few

And now, the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain
I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and ev'ry highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Lyrics sung by Sinatra as a summation of his life:  My Way.  George Bush sings his farewell song on Thursday, if anybody cares to listen.  He did it his way and has few regrets.  The nation has many.  Few tears will roll down cheeks across this nation, only from hard-core loyalists and apologists.

He did it his way and that's for certain.  Hunches rather than wisdom and advice. An adolescent mind-set filled with bravado and ignorance, he played the role of president as if it were an off-Broadway play. The tune of My Way was originally named Comme d'habitude which fittingly was also the musical basis for David Bowie's 1973 single, Life On Mars.  Life on Mars- exactly.

Yet the words of Comme d'habitude [as usual] have this repeated phrase throughout:   On fera semblant, Comme d'habitudee. We will pretend, as usual.

Pretending to be the president seems clear as I look back on this disastrous 8-year nightmare. His first 8-months in office were a collection of jokes, cutting brush on the ranch, and looking bored at the job of president. The dust collected on the PDB which sat on his desk during his month-long vacation at the ranch. The PDB titled, 'bin Laden determined to strike in US.' That one.

The 8-month fantasy blew up in his face on the 11th of September whilst reading My Pet Goat to the children during a photo op, a photo op that is etched in the memories of millions of Americans. A bewildered man, sitting in shock, unable to function, having to be led off by the Secret Service as an old man with dementia.

The rest of the story is even more sad to recall- his adolescent mind flooded with revenge and vengeance for the attacks. A mind easily programmed by the elder advisers of the naive and befuddled man. There names were Rumsfeld and Cheney. Nine-eleven was a stroke of luck, an opportunity to unfurl the secret plan, their long awaited revenge on Saddam Hussein.

Four thousand soldiers and Marines now lie in their graves because George Bush, inexperienced, and a mere apprentice in global affairs, heeded the advice of the sly elder advisers.

He leaves office in 6 days with that war continuing to consume our resources, both in blood and treasure. Tens of thousands of our military men and women are permanently disabled and scarred for life, their future hopes and dreams deferred. Countless others will suffer PTSD, ruining families and jobs. But.

He did it his way. 

He has few regrets and no apologies.

And we are all-the-worse for that 8-year adventure.

Booing the Preacher

I will be standing on The Mall next Tuesday when Rick Warren leads the opening prayer of the  inaugural ceremony.  Several million supporters of Barack Obama will be surrounding me, hoping to catch a glimse of the man who changed the course of politics in America.

Sadly though, the very first words that we will hear will be from the bigoted right-wing evangelical who has equated gay marriage with incest and pedophilia. His intolerant bigotry is not something in the past: last week he sent out invitations to the bigoted Anglicans who split from the Episcopalian Church over recognizing gay clergy, inviting them to join his church.

The first words we are forced to listen to are words of bigotry cloked in religion.  That idea is as ancient as the nomadic tribes of the Middle East.  Its consequences can be heard as I type this comment- in every bomb landing in Gaza City, in every rocket landing in Israel.

Bigorty disguised as religion has relegated countless millions of people to early graves throught time.  The homophobe prays that their god will correct this 'abomination.'

When will the first 'Boo!' erupt from the assembled masses?  When is name is mentioned?  When he first opens his bigoted mouth?  It will happen.  Only the 'when?' isn't yet known. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Men With Long Ring Fingers

The future is digital. So says Professor John Manning, a psychologist and self-styled “finger expert” who has developed an unsettling academic obsession with other people’s hands. He claims that he can inspect a stranger’s fingers – specifically his index and ring fingers – and instantly know whether or not they have an aptitude for running or football.

Manning is the author of The Finger Book which theorizes that in the early stages of pregnancy, fetuses are bombarded with sex hormones (testosterone and oestrogen) that affect the way they develop. Fetuses that are exposed to more testosterone, for instance, have a much better chance of becoming athletically superior to their less testosteronised contemporaries. Manning compares the length of the ring and index fingers and the ratio is the key.  Finger ratios are calculated simply by measuring the index finger of the right hand, then the ring finger, and dividing the former by the latter The average man's ratio is about even or 0.98.  Men with a ring-to-index lower than that, the author says, are better athletes.

NewScientist adds another dimention to the finger ratio phenominom: financial acuity. 
NewScientist says:

Successful financial traders may be born, not made. That's the implication of a new study which found that traders who excel at short-term or "high-frequency" trading may have been exposed to higher levels of testosterone in the uterus. Last year, John Coates at the University of Cambridge, UK, and his colleagues found that traders who started their days with elevated testosterone made more money than those who didn't.

Again, the finger ratio is the key and, as with athletic prowess, the larger the ring-to-index ratio, the better the financial wizardry.  

Previous studies have also suggested a link between a low index-to-ring-
finger ratio and autism.  They have found children with the disorder tend to have unusually long ring fingers, compared to their index fingers. This physical feature is associated with high levels of testosterone in the womb. Manning and his colleagues studied 49 children with full-blown autism and 23 with a milder variant of the condition, known as Asperger's syndrome. Manning's team found that children with autism had extremely long ring fingers compared to their index fingers, and children with Asperger's were not far behind.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Why is U.S. Foreign Policy Hostage to Israel?

Dr. S. Amjad Hussain, editorial writer for The Blade, is indeed a brave man for penning this article this morning.  Several months ago he was verbally assaulted and harassed by a right-wing nut over another of his columns.  And here we go again.  Dr. Hussain begins:

THE ongoing carnage in Gaza raises some disturbing and sobering questions for the people of conscious everywhere, and that includes Toledo. At the time of this writing, close to 700 Palestinian men, women, and children had died and three times as many had been injured.

The pivotal question is why Hamas, the ruling Palestinian faction in Gaza, resumed firing rockets into Israel after six months of relative calm following a cease-fire put in place in June.

A cease-fire requires a lack of hostilities between the parties. On Nov. 4, Israel, in clear violation of the cease-fire, went into Gaza and killed six Palestinians who Israel declared were terrorists. That incident and an ongoing siege and blockade of Gaza were enough reasons for Hamas to resume hostilities against Israel. It was retaliation plain and simple. Israel has been preparing for this onslaught for the last six months and chose this time because George W. Bush is still president.

After detailing more history of the conflict, Dr. Hussein says:

Why is American foreign policy hostage to Israeli whims? It is for historians and writers such as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, former Congressman Paul Findlay, former President Jimmy Carter, writer Norman Finkelstein, etc., to analyze the phenomenon, which they have done at their peril. The question, however, begs for an answer. Why does an Israeli cause become an American cause? And why does a Congress elected by the people of this country become beholden to the interests of a foreign country?

Indeed, why?   A good question for American Jews to answer as well.  Along with this column in today's Blade, two pro-Israel letters to the editor were published.  Quite interesting was the conclusion of one of them penned by Stephen A. Rothschild.  He concluded:

Until American Muslims take the lead to stop the violence and hate of non-American Muslims that is directed at the rest of the Western world, the world will have no peace.When will American Muslims take that lead?

When?  Perhaps after following the lead of American Jews.  

Sunday, January 11, 2009

As the Church Closings Scroll Across the Bottom of my TV Screen

Who knew that there were so many churches in northwest Ohio? As I watch Face the Nation and Meet the Press this Sunday morning, a bevy of church closings scroll across my screen, the day after the snowfall. Amazing number and array of names. I often say that I belong to the Second First Agnostic Church; the first was pillaged and burned to the ground by righteous Christians.

Frank Cottrell Brice of The Guardian penned a piece he called, Losing My Religion,  which is written around the film, God on Trial.  He begins:

People start to write because they think they can change the world for the better. In the end, you find that it's hard enough to make your writing better. Occasionally, though, you can change something, even if it's only yourself. You probably already know this story: a group of prisoners in Auschwitz convened a rabbinical court, put God himself on trial - and found him guilty. I'm pretty sure now that it's an apocryphal tale...

Further in his article, Brice says, "So God On Trial stopped being about theological arguments, and became about the fact that people might be capable of having a theological argument on the way to the gas chamber."  

The dream of the Man in the Sky Above continues.  If the deity does exist, why the suffering and hate?  Oh, those soaked in Scripture will be quick to pull one out to cover this issue or any other related to a question raised.  As if the quote actually assuages the thought and puts it to rest. "We know not the..."  Exactly.  That's the point of the inquiry.  Folderol.

On the way to the gas chamber...  

Say It With Shoes

"Say It With Shoes" is a group for all those who want to take action to prevent the horrific violence we are seeing day after day in Gaza, and to help bring about a just peace in the Middle East, in accordance with international law. It is a group for those that are not prepared to tolerate in silence our Government's continuing military support for Israeli aggression and atrocities. It is a group for all those who want to go beyond writing emails and signing petitions, to join with others in making a direct, physical statement to our Government.

The phrase, 'our government' is the U.K., not the U.S.A.  No, nothing like this is even thought about here in the states: we are numb to what is going on in Gaza.  Numb and dumb from the preemptive Bush excursion in Iraq which, by the way, was 'won' in May 2003. We Americans, of course, must be 'sensitive' to the Israeli State as stated to us by each president [especially in their campaign].  Compounding this is our personal distress with our financial situation which makes us draw inward to take care of ourselves and family first.

It reminds me of our common national attitude towards Nazi Germany up until December 1941. There must have been much frustration among many citizens that our government stood by while the Nazi war machine rolled through Europe with abandon.  Compare that with the lust for war in our nation in March 2003 as the propaganda of the Bush Administration convinced most Americans on the need  for preemption in Iraq.

After just 6 years since this bloody Patriotic fervor played itself out, we Americans apparently are now suspect of any preemption on the part of this government. Yet, are we to remain silent as we witness another nation play the preemption card just as we did?  At least an old shoe for justice sake? Are we so emotionally drained that we simply  turn our backs on another's aggression?  Has narcissism enveloped our nation like a great miasmic fog?

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