The group behind the recently passed Denver city ordinance that makes it legal to possess 1 ounce or less of marijuana says it's going to put the issue to a vote Colorado-wide. One might say that it's a good next step for those that want to legalize the drug. But there's also the small issue that Denver city officials are ignoring what their constituents voted for and ordering Denver city cops to bust marijuana possession based on state law.
You might think that Denver city officials' hands are tied -- state law supercedes city law. Not necessarily. Denver has "home-rule status" and successfully challenged a state law that prohibits Colorado cities from banning pit bulls. So it now has a law banning pit bulls while the rest of the state can do no such thing. Likewise for gun control. Denver has more restrictive gun laws than the rest of the state despite state laws prohibiting such.
What makes the pot law different? Is it personal distaste on the part of the politicians? Are they playing to the minority that voted against the measure? Are they allowed to do that?
The Colorado state government had something similar a little while back with Amendment 2, which forbade laws that prohibit discrimination against homosexuals. The amendment passed 53% to 46%. State officials defended the amendment all the way to the US Supreme Court (*). Which is what they were supposed to do. I'm sure many state officials found the amendment distasteful. But they are employees of the people and the people spoke.
Now how about Denver city officials start doing their jobs?
* The amendment, passed in 1992, was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1996.
Friday, December 30, 2005
at 8:49 PM
The NY Times has an article today titled "A Cellphone and a Plan for Just About Any Situation". Under "The Bargain Hunter", Seán Captain touts different vendor's $40/month plans and notes, "[a]s with all plans, you will spend several dollars extra in taxes and surcharges". (In some cases it's more than several. My brother has a $60 plan that ends up costing $80+ every month even when he doesn't go over his allotted minutes.)
Bah! You call $40/month a bargain? How about if you only use your phone a couple minutes a day on average or want one just for emergencies?
I went shopping for such a phone when my daughter was close to being born and my employer decided I should be "on call" (and did not volunteer to pick up the tab). If you don't mind their young-hipster marketing, the best deal I found in the US was at Virgin Mobile.
Right now you can buy a basic phone for $20 and, if you sign up for auto payments with your credit card, you only have to add $15 to your balance every three months. (Without the auto payment, it's $20). That's $5/month (or $7). Minutes are 25-cents/minute for the first 10 in a given day, 10-cents/minute after.
Incoming text messages are free, outgoing are 10-cents each. No taxes, no extra surcharges, no roaming fees. Charges are taken out of your account balance. The account balance rolls over indefinitely (up to some maximum like $150). If you're like me and don't use the phone every day, your balance adds up so even if you use the phone a lot in a given month if you do not drain your balance you don't pay extra.
At the time I was looking there was no competition. Some pre-paid plans had your minutes expire after a short time. Others had a per-day charge (which Virgin offers if you want a lower per-minute rate, but it's not required). Now it seems that some of the other wireless companies are offering similar deals, but I haven't found anything better yet. If you have information about other deals, add a comment!
Update #1: Looks like Virgin is changing its charges for text messaging. Starting
15-Mar-06 14-Jun-06 it'll be 5-cents to send a message and 5-cents to receive a message.
Update #2: Virgin's rates have completely changed. Read my update.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
It appears that the Vatican is going to officially drop the theological idea of limbo. Though never an official doctrine, the "theological hypothesis" (as Cardinal Ratzinger described it) has been around since the Middle Ages.
Unlike many issues - the recent emotional debate over homosexuality in the priesthood, for example - limbo seems to garner unanimity that it should exit the church's stage, even if, at the moment, the exact doctrine that will replace it is unclear. (NY Times)
I don't suppose a "we don't know exactly what happens but trust in God's love and justness" would suffice?
at 11:50 AM
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Confronted with all the begetting in the Old Testament, the modern mind says, "Well, naturally, these primitive societies were concerned with children. They needed someone to provide for them in their old age." In advanced Western society, we don't have to worry about that; we automatically have someone to provide for us in our old age: the state.
But the state -- at least in its modern social-democratic welfare incarnation -- needs children at least as much as those old-time Jews did. And the problem with much of the advanced world is that, like Elisabeth, it's barren. Collectively barren, I hasten to add. Individually, it's made up of millions of fertile women, who voluntarily opt for no children at all or one designer kid at 39. In Italy, the home of the Church, the birth rate's down to 1.2 children per couple -- or about half "replacement rate." You can't buck that kind of arithmetic.
Of the great powers of the 20th century, America's still healthy birth rate, like its still healthy Christianity, is now an anomaly.
at 2:07 PM
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Associated Press is reporting that a California judge is temporarily blocking a new California law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minors.
U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte said the Encino-based Video Software Dealers Association and the Washington, D.C.-based Entertainment Software Association "were likely to succeed" in their lawsuits arguing that the law violates free-speech rights.
At the least, "serious questions are raised ... including the question of whether there is a causal connection between access to such games and psychological or other harm to children," Whyte wrote in a ruling issued late Wednesday.
"For the sixth time in five years, federal courts have now blocked or struck down these state and local laws seeking to regulate the sale of games to minors based on their content," said Doug Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association.
Enjoy the "victory" while you can. It won't last for long.
at 3:24 PM
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
The increases in 2003 and 2004 followed a brief dip in emissions in 2001 and 2002. Government officials said that decline reflected a slowdown in the economy, the departure of some manufacturing industries overseas, and emissions cuts in other industries.
Less than two weeks ago, Bush administration officials at climate-treaty talks in Montreal repeatedly cited the short-lived drop in emissions after 2000 as evidence that President Bush's climate policy, using voluntary measures to slow growth in the gas releases, was working.
No, it's not.
at 7:26 AM
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
The NY Times reports today that Sunnis in Iraq are challenging early election results. It appears that the Shiites are getting the most votes.
Maybe you're like me, scratching your head and asking, "Well, what did they expect?" Shiites, after all, make up the majority of the Iraqi population. Right? Maybe.
Sunni Arabs are widely believed to make up a fifth of Iraq's population, yet many of them claim they are the majority in this country. That line of thought could help explain their anger over the results. (NY Times)
Wow. Is anything less than Sunni parties getting over 50% of the vote going to provoke accusations of voter fraud? Is that what most Sunnis think?
at 3:02 PM
Many developers compare the state of Christian video games to the Christian music scene a decade ago: evolving into a flavor that's palatable to more than the faithful.
As happened with purveyors of Christian music, long accused of lacking daring and originality, Bogost wonders if game designers will be inspired to create innovative products or just fill this new niche with derivative entertainment.
If one feels the need to slay a hellspawn, well, they can play "Doom" for that. (IndyStar)
Except, if you did that you'd be sending money to those bad boys at id software and not restricting your milk-drinking to a Christian cow. I imagine for some Christians the morality of the actual purchase -- and how it will affect them spirtually -- ranks paramount, but for others it's more a matter of keeping the money "in the kingdom" and enriching other Chrisitians. Very insular and more than a bit unbiblical.
"What I'd love to see are games that try to explain the rhetoric of religion. What are these beliefs? What is the history? How does your life change in behaving in accordance?" he said. "My great fear is that people get in this business and not do something unique for faith through games."
If the Christian game industry ends up anything like the Christian music industry, I think this great fear will be more than realized.
at 11:15 AM
The Associated Press has a story today titled "2005 May Be Warmest Year Ever". Read down to the third paragraph, however, and you see:
In New York, NASA's Goddard Institute projected that 2005 will surpass 1998 to end as the hottest year globally in the 125 years since reliable records have been kept.
Since when does 125 years qualify as "ever"? I'm as worried as the next guy about global warming, but note to headline writers: you don't help the cause by over-exaggerating.
There is one interesting statistic in the article:
The atmosphere now holds more than one-third more carbon dioxide than it did before the Industrial Revolution. In fact, European scientists reported last month that analysis of ice cores from Antarctica shows that today's level is 27 percent higher than any previous peak looking back 650,000 years.
650,000 years? Now we're talking. Of course, even that's not much compared to the billions of years Earth is supposed to have been around.
Ack, it looks like Google will be using and pushing more graphical ads. This is part of the deal Google's negotiating with AOL.
The executives close to the talks said that at AOL's request, Google would begin to test various forms of graphical ads and that it would make the same formats available to other advertisers. Google has started to sell graphical ads for placement on other sites; plans to do so on Google itself were accelerated by the AOL talks
Is this the beginning of the end? Anyone out there remember how nice Yahoo used to look before the dam broke and it became cluttered with graphical ads?
at 10:40 AM
Monday, December 19, 2005
Democratic senators Hillary Clinton, Joseph Lieberman and Evan Bayh have introduced legislation that would prohibit the sale of violent or sexually explicit video games to minors. Selling or renting a video game rated "Mature," "Adults-Only," or "Ratings Pending" to anyone younger than 17 would be a federal misdemeanor.
The president of [the Entertainment Software Ratings Board], Douglas Lowenstein, said the proposed measure was unconstitutional and infringed on the industry's creative rights. "We place our trust in parents, not Congress, to decide what's right for their families," he said in a statement. (Reuters)
And yet we don't place enough trust in parents to allow merchants to sell alcohol, cigarettes and pornography to children. I wonder why.
And I fail to see how this infringes on the "industry's creative rights". Will the industry be financially unviable without selling inappropriate games to minors? Will these creatively violent games not be made otherwise? Are they specifically targeting underage kids, despite the adult ratings, like the movie industry was caught doing?
But Lieberman said he was confident the law was constitutional, because it did not impinge on freedom of expression, only restricted sales to minors. There has been no ruling on the matter from the U.S. Supreme Court, he noted.
"Courts in America have not been hesitant to uphold laws that limit children's access to pornography. It's very ironic that courts have now struck down attempts to limit children's access to violent materials," Lieberman said.
at 10:22 AM
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Rest in peace, Internet Exporer for Mac.
I was going to say that no one uses this outdated browser any more but, lo and behold, 3 or 4 percent of the last 200 visitors to my other sites did. None of the last 100 visitors to this page did. Obviously you are a progressive, "with it" group. ;)
Saturday, December 17, 2005
About 50 protesters took part in Saturday's demonstration, organized by religious leaders. Dick Otterstad of the Church of the Divide donned a Santa Claus costume and greeted shoppers with the message: Don't forget about the meaning of Christmas. (Associated Press)
For his next act, Mr. Otterstad will be dressing as the Easter bunny and admonishing folks to not forget the true meaning of Easter.
Friday, December 16, 2005
I suppose everyone knows that Americans work longer hours than Europeans. Anyone know why? Is it cultural? James Surowiecki doesn't think so. In 1970 the French worked 10% more hours than Americans (compared to 28% less today).
What has changed since then? Higher taxes? Yes. But, more importantly, Europeans have more powerful unions and a more tightly regulated labor market.
The end result?
In the American model, then, you work more hours and use the money you make to pay for the things you can’t do because you’re working, and this creates a demand for service jobs that wouldn’t otherwise exist. In Europe, those jobs don’t exist in anything like the same numbers; employment in services in Europe is fifteen per cent below what it is in the U.S. Service jobs are precisely the jobs that young people and women (two categories of Europeans who are severely underemployed) find it easiest to get, the jobs that immigrants here thrive on but that are often not available to immigrants in France. There are many explanations for the estimated forty-per-cent unemployment rate in the banlieues that have been the site of recent riots, but part of the problem is that voluntary leisure for some Europeans has helped lead to involuntary leisure for others.
at 12:33 PM
Human beings are religious animals. It is psychologically very hard to go through life without the justification, and the hope, provided by religion. You can see this in the positivist scientists of the 19th century.
They insisted that they were describing the universe in rigorously materialistic terms -- yet at night they attended seances and tried to summon up the spirits of the dead. Even today, I frequently meet scientists who, outside their own narrow discipline, are superstitious -- to such an extent that it sometimes seems to me that to be a rigorous unbeliever today, you have to be a philosopher. Or perhaps a priest.
Umberto Eco writes about the silly beliefs people substitute for religion.
at 11:18 AM
During the past century Western intellectuals have been more than willing to trace European imperialism to Christian origins, but they have been entirely unwilling to recognize that Christianity made any contribution (other than intolerance) to the Western capacity to dominate other societies. Rather, the West is said to have surged ahead precisely as it overcame religious barriers to progress, especially those impeding science. Nonsense. The success of the West, including the rise of science, rested entirely on religious foundations, and the people who brought it about were devout Christians.
Rodney Stark in an essay adapted from his book The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success
at 9:27 AM
Two years ago, in America’s Weekly Standard, Joel Engel pondered that favourite hymn of sentimental secularists, apparently so anodyne and unobjectionable that, in a world twitchy about the insufficient multiculturalism of ‘Jingle Bells’, never mind ‘Away in a Manger’, the holiday concert at my kids’ school nevertheless gaily programmed John Lennon’s fluffy nihilism as an appropriate sentiment for the season:
Imagine there’s no heaven,
It’s easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
Living for today...
‘Okay,’ wrote Engel, ‘let’s imagine that; let’s imagine six billion people who believe that flesh and blood is all there is; that once you shuffle off this mortal coil, poof, you’re history; that Hitler and Mother Teresa, for example, both met the same ultimate fate. Common sense suggests that such a world would produce a lot more Hitlers and a lot fewer Teresas, for the same reason that you get a lot more speeders/murderers/rapists/embezzlers when you eliminate laws, police and punishment. Sceptics and atheists can say what they like about religion, but it’s hard to deny that the fear of an afterlife where one will be judged has likely kept hundreds of millions from committing acts of aggression, if not outright horror. Nothing clears the conscience quite like a belief in eternal nothingness.’
That sounds right. There’s an important exception, of course: the challenge of Islam is precisely that it’s a religion whose afterlife appears -- at least according to many of its more bloodcurdling spokespersons -- to reward ‘wars and bigotry’. But the question then is what kind of society is best equipped to defend itself against such a challenge? It’s not just that a radical secularist present-tense society will produce more Hitlers and Stalins -- not all of us want to work that hard -- but that millions more will lapse into the fey passivity of Lennon’s song.
What’s so rational about putting yourself out of business? On both sides of the Atlantic, the godly will inherit the Earth: in the United States, blue-state birthrates mean that in 20 years America will look a lot less like John Kerry’s Massachusetts and a lot more like Texas and Utah; Europe will look a lot less like an Amsterdam sex club and a lot more like Clichy-sous-Bois. Post-Christian Europe will also be post-European. If you’re cool with that, fine. If you’re not, you might want to rethink the lazy slurs about America’s ‘neo-fascist’ religiosity. Merry Christmas. Happy Eid.
It's depressing how quickly many Christians will overreact to the slightest provocation, and start crying about being persecuted. Folks, Christian peacemakers held hostage in Iraq... THAT'S persecution. Polly Toynbee's hateful and irrational rant against the Christian faith in The Guardian, that's dismaying prejudice. But some criticism of sub-standard CGI?
Jeffrey Overstreet on some Christians' reaction to secular critics of the Narnia movie.
at 6:07 AM
As a Roman Catholic, I'm not a bit offended to see "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" or "Holiday Sale" at Macy's, Target or Zumiez. At Victoria's Secret in Everett Mall, the window display says "Give Me Sexy." That, I don't know.
I do know that the essence of what's being celebrated can't be found in a store, whatever the American Family Association says. If you're looking for spiritual meaning in line at the cash register, you've got thornier issues than which stores to boycott.
Julie Muhlstein continues the series.
at 5:49 AM
Christmas began as a pagan holiday to the Roman gods, and if we were to really celebrate the historical birth of Jesus, it would either be in early January or mid-April.
Southland Christian Church senior minister Jon Weece explains why their not having a Christmas service shouldn't be a big deal.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
The effort by some cable TV hosts and ministers to force commercial establishments into wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas" might be more objectionable to the One who is the reason for the season than the "Happy Holidays" mantra required by some store managers.
I have never understood why so many Christians feel the need to see and hear "Merry Christmas" proclaimed to them at stores by people who may not believe its central message.
I do not care if a mall employee wishes me a "Merry Christmas," or not, or if mall managers favor snowpersons over manger scenes, or erect trees they call "holiday" and not "Christmas." It isn't about their observing this event, giving us a "religious rush" and creating a false sense of security that culture is better than it is. It is about people who believe in this historic event observing it in a way that recalls the birth of the Savior of the world (not the savior of the bottom line): silently, wondrously and worshipfully.
Let the world get drunk at its office parties. Let it consume material things, pile up credit card debt and embrace other trappings of this counterfeit "Christmas" road show. I prefer the "original cast."
Cal Thomas (more eloquently) echoing my earlier "bah humbug".
President Bush reversed course on Thursday and accepted Sen. John McCain's call for a law banning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of foreign suspects in the war on terror.
Bush said the agreement will "make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture, whether it be here at home or abroad." (Associated Press)
Very good. It was a battle the President was going to lose, but I'd like to think that he had a change of heart and thought it was the right thing to do.
Now let's just make sure that, once the law is passed, it is enforced.
at 3:31 PM
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
we evangelicals often criticize the Catholic’s for their belief in the popes’ words as “ex cathedra.” But we too have often committed similar offenses when we deviate from the doctrines of Calvin and Luther and call people heretics for that.
Tony Campolo discussing "generous orthodoxy".
at 10:28 PM
Attention, pastors: You have just four weeks remaining to work a lion, a witch or a wardrobe into your next sermon. Walt Disney Pictures is so eager for churches to turn out audiences for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which opens Friday, that it's offering a free trip to London - and $1,000 cash - to the winner of its big promotional sermon contest. (link)
At least it's for a good cause. Right?
at 10:11 PM
Volunteers from Indonesia's largest Islamic organisation will guard churches across the world's most populous Muslim nation on Christmas amid fears of terrorist attacks on those places, the group said on Friday.
[a] spate of bombings in 2000 killed at least 19 people, including a Banser member guarding a church in East Java. (Reuters)
I'd like to see more of this. If the extremist Muslims do not represent Islam, the moderates have to take over.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
recent research, including a University of Munich study of 174,000 students in thirty-one countries, indicates that students who frequently use computers perform worse academically than those who use them rarely or not at all. (Orion Magazine)
Why I, a computer programmer, am not going to let my (now 20-month-old) daughter use a computer until she absolutely must.
at 5:36 PM
Japanese automakers have announced plans to bring high-mileage city cars to the U.S. market, once considered inhospitable to such small runabouts. The Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and Nissan Versa will arrive next year packed with fuel-saving technologies that generate up to 40mpg. (Newsweek)
Friday, December 09, 2005
"For 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, my colleagues and I are killing monsters," said a 23-year-old gamer who works here in this makeshift factory and goes by the online code name Wandering. "I make about $250 a month, which is pretty good compared with the other jobs I've had. And I can play games all day."
"It's unimaginable how big this is," says Chen Yu, 27, who employs 20 full-time gamers here in Fuzhou. "They say that in some of these popular games, 40 or 50 percent of the players are actually Chinese farmers." (NY Times)
Call me old fashioned, but I'm one of those guys who think games are fun. Why someone would pay someone else to play for them, I don't know.
at 12:45 PM
Said the Rev. Mark Ashton, whose title is pastor of spiritual discovery: "We've always been a church that's been on the edge of innovation. We've been willing to try and experiment, so this is another one of those innovations."
Rev. Ashton explains why Willow Creek is cancelling services on Sunday, December 25. (NY Times)
at 12:25 PM
Gmail's web clips functionality is interesting but more from a business point of view than a consumer's. It's pretty well established that users learn to ignore areas of a web page that always have ads. So what does Gmail do? Create an area that sometimes has information of interest to you (that you've configured with your favorite RSS feeds) and sometimes (or most of the time) has ads.
It's very annoying. I turned the functionality on, configured some RSS feeds that were of interest to me and, lo and behold, I kept looking to the area only to find an ad there. Did I learn to ignore it? No! Because sometimes items of interest would appear.
Very tricky. Web clips off.
at 9:57 AM
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
On December 13th, the world will sit down in Hong Kong for trade talks that have the power to transform millions of lives through fairer trade. On the table will be proposals to change the rules so trade becomes part of the solution to poverty, not the cause.
Sign the ONE Big Noise letter and ask our leaders to do more to make trade fair.
at 5:03 PM
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Am I the only Christian that would rather Christmas be celebrated less?
The NY Times has an article about how some conservative groups are trying to garner support for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito by saying he will "save Christmas."
"Liberal groups like People for the American Way and the A.C.L.U. have opposed public Christmas and Hanukkah displays and even fought to keep Christmas carols out of school," declares a radio commercial paid for by the conservative Committee for Justice beginning Monday in Colorado, Wisconsin and West Virginia, states whose senators are considered pivotal votes on Judge Alito.
"Some courts and judges have supported this radical agenda, but not Judge Sam Alito," it continues. "Throughout his career, Judge Alito has consistently upheld the Constitution's protection of free religious expression."
Good for him! I'm all for Alito's support for religious expression such as the right of "Muslim police officers in Newark to wear beards for religious reasons." But when you attach this to the current "holidays vs. Christmas" culture war, count me out.
The effort coincides with an unusually vigorous campaign by allied groups like the American Family Association and Focus on the Family to pressure retail chains to mention Christmas specifically, instead of referring only to "holidays" in their advertising and store displays.
You know what? I would much rather the secular commercialized version of Christmas now being celebrated in shopping malls and the media be referred to as generic "holidays." Please, please, please stop associating Christ with this annual orgy of consumerism. Call it "the holidays" and leave Christmas out of it.
Why do other Christians feel the need to hassle retail chains who omit "Christmas" from their store displays and (can I say it?) holiday flyers? Is it a need for cultural affirmation in order to stay strong in the faith? Is it a perception that this is yet another battle in the war against secularism that must not be lost?
I don't know. All I know is that I wish to spend my Advent and Christmas in peace, in the quiet of my own home and church and do not want to hear the squabbling, arguments and cash registers.
A college professor whose planned course on creationism and intelligent design was canceled after he derided Christian conservatives said he was beaten by two men along a rural road early Monday. University of Kansas religious studies professor Paul Mirecki said the men referred to the class when they beat him on the head, shoulders and back [...] (Yahoo! News)
That'll show him the love of Christ (not).
This guy may be making the entire thing up. (He already has quite the dislike for "fundies".) But if it did happen, I wouldn't be surprised. Too many Christians think they have to "win" in a worldly way. According to them the battle must be won in the courts, in politics, in public opinion and in wars between nations or all will be lost. Fortunately for us, they're wrong.
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ [...] (Philippians 3 )
Gain Christ, my friends, don't worry about the rest.
at 11:08 AM
Monday, December 05, 2005
In a 53-page ruling, Judge Kennelly defended games as a protected form of free speech and dismissed the state's scientific evidence suggesting causal links between violent games and violent behavior. He called the wording of the laws unconstitutionally vague. [...] He specifically brought up the recently released action game God of War and mentioned the game's minigame in which main character Kratos has implied sexual relations with two women.
"Because of this one scene, a game such as God of War, which essentially parallels a classic book like The Odyssey, likely would be prohibited for minors under the SEVGL, because the statute allows a game to be regulated based on one scene without regard to the value of the game as a whole. Such a sweeping regulation on speech--even sexually explicit speech--is unconstitutional even if aimed at protecting minors." Gamespot
So is it also unconstitutional to limit the sale of sexually explicit books, magazines and movies to minors? I don't understand the difference.
And what are the game companies thinking? God of War is rated "M", as in 18 and above. Why would they be against a law that prohibits the sale of rated M games to minors? Are they serious about game ratings and willing to target games to appropriate ages or not?
at 4:24 PM
at 4:21 PM
Russia will sell missiles to Iran. The latter being the country whose president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) recently said Israel should be "wiped off the map." The Russian Foreign Ministry assures us that "all Russian weaponry supplied to Iran is purely for defensive purposes."
That's a relief.
at 10:53 AM