Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Financial protest

And in another effort of Christians trying to wreak havoc with other people's pocketbooks, we have a Washington pastor urging people to buy Microsoft stock now and then sell it all on May 1 in an attempt to drive the price down. This is after he urged a boycott of the company's products in retaliation for the company supporting local gay-rights legislation.

Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in the Seattle suburb of Redmond, said the stock-dumping plan had been part of his strategy all along.

"You got to find out how you affect a company," Hutcherson said, conceding that it would be hard to get people to shun products from companies that dominate the marketplace as Microsoft and Boeing do. (Associated Press)

My question is whether this is the way we want to "affect" society around us. Attempting to financially hurt people that don't do what we want strikes me as a bit like the mob offering to "protect" businesses for a small fee. And if it's just a matter of money, how about we start paying people to do what we want? We could pay people to not get drunk, not be promiscuous, not get divorced, spend time with their children, etc, etc, etc.

And then there's the matter of whether this will actually do anything to the stock price. Sounds like a showdown to me. Do you think there are enough supporters of the legislation around the country to go out and buy Microsoft stock on May 1? If Christians want a referendum on their beliefs, they may not like the results!

State of the Union

Unfortunately I cannot watch Bush speeches, so I will be missing the State of the Union tonight. So I must rely on news reports and second-hand analyses. A news release this afternoon says the president will address America's oil problem.

"America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world," he plans to say. "The best way to break this addiction is through technology."

Oil prices are inching toward $70 a barrel, and the president's goal of reducing dependence on foreign suppliers has been issued by the White House over the decades but never realized. Bush's primary proposal is to increase federal research into alternative fuels such as ethanol made from weeds or wood chips, instead of corn.

He also is to push for construction of new nuclear power plants and increased use of wind, solar and clean-coal technologies. (Associated Press)

I'm all for alternative fuels. It's one of the reasons I own a diesel as it is much more flexible as far as where its fuel can come from. (Recycled cooking oil, rape seed, coal, peanuts, etc.) Do I use an alternative fuel today? No, for that I'd have to drive up to Boulder. But I will as soon as one is available closer to where I live.

I'm also all for reducing foreign entanglements in unstable parts of the world. Not only is it risky but we are funding societies that are working against our ideals.

One thing I'd like to see is Bush to encourage America to conserve and to make do with less. Alas, we probably won't hear anything of that. We can have it all. Our grandfathers were asked to sacrifice during WW2; we are asked to spend spend spend to keep the economy going after 9/11. Buying that big-screen TV (made in China, contributing to our trade inbalance) and that new SUV (which consumes said oil) is supposed to be key to our national defense. Weird.

AOL's blasphemies

Some Christians are up in arms about AOL's latest marketing for its AIM service.

America Online is now acting like God – using what some consider to be His very name in a marketing pitch for e-mail, voice chat, video chat, instant messaging, text messaging and other forms of communication.

AIM's new slogan is "I AM."

I didn't know God had a lock on that phrase. He's certainly not what I would have first thought of when seeing slogans such as:



Etc, etc.

"You must immediately change the name of your program," [Ian Millar] told Jonathan Miller, the chief executive officer of America Online, and John Buckley, corporate communications officer for the company, in a pointed letter. "I can assure you that you will lose business over this marketing tactic from people who worship the Almighty. But worse, you have offended Him by your actions; whether they are deliberate or ignorant. To treat as common the name of God is wicked. God is patient, but mankind is today making an error of epic proportions by the deliberate actions of mocking the Almighty; particularly in the technologically advanced society. His patience with the mockery of mankind will come to an end."

In the meantime, while God's patience continues, evangelicals can try to wreak financial havok on AOL's pocketbook. Good luck. (It worked wonders with Disney!)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Automobile fatality rates

People love compact cars as gas prices soar, but there's a sobering cost: The government says they have the highest fatality rate.

Compacts had a fatality rate of 17.76 per 100,000 vehicles in 2004, followed by compact pickup trucks with 16.87 and subcompact vehicles with 16.85, according to a report Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Large vans had the lowest rate, 9.34, while pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles had rates of about 15 deaths. (Associated Press)

OK, so we know how many people are killed while driving in certain sized cars. But how many people are killed by certain sized cars? I'd be interested in statistics that tell me how many people are killed when hit by, say, a large SUV versus a compact. I guess in our individualistic every-man-for-himself society that doesn't matter to the purchaser. Perhaps it should.

Americans not saving

Americans' personal savings rate dipped into negative territory in 2005, something that hasn't happened since the Great Depression. Consumers depleted their savings to finance the purchases of cars and other big-ticket items.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that the savings rate fell into negative territory at minus 0.5 percent, meaning that Americans not only spent all of their after-tax income last year but had to dip into previous savings or increase borrowing.

The savings rate has been negative for an entire year only twice before -- in 1932 and 1933 -- two years when the country was struggling to cope with the Great Depression, a time of massive business failures and job layoffs.

Associated Press

Mac viruses to increase?

eWeek has a "news analysis" declaring "Apple's shift to Intel processors will make it easier to create software exploits in Macintosh systems".

"Attackers have been focused on the [Intel] x86 for over a decade. Macintosh will have a lot more exposure than when it was on PowerPC," said Oliver Friedrichs, a senior manager at Symantec Corp. Security Response.

Correction: attackers have been focused on the *Windows OS* for over a decade. I'm not exactly sure what this has to do with the Mac. Red Hat Linux already runs on Intel -- are there a lot of viruses written for it?

I guess Mac moving to Intel means some assembly code compatibility but what good does this do you if the Mac's memory addressing and file system are different and you lack the usual Internet Explorer and MS Outlook exploits? Time will tell!

In any case, if you want to hear how bad viruses on the Mac is going to get, go to Symantec. They have a product to sell, after all. It remains to be seen whether it causes more problems on the Mac then it solves.

Edit Wikipedia, get caught

Members of US Representative Martin Meehan's staff edited his Wikipedia entry, deleting (among other things) a reference to a broken campaign pledge. (Meehan promised to limit himself to 4 terms -- he is now on his 7th.) Now, instead of this bit of knowledge being limited to those who were around in 1992 and those who somehow stumbled onto his Wikipedia entry, the whole world knows! He's got to love this bit of extra publicity he's getting.

From the Wikipedia entry:

On the House floor in 1995 he scolded members who might go back on their promise to limit their tenure in office. "The best test of any politicians' credibility on term limits," he said, "is whether they are willing to put their careers where their mouths are and limit their own service." In the year 2000 when the Congressman ran for Congress, breaking his 1992 pledge, he called it a disservice to his constituents who continued to want him to be their Congressman.

Why Mommy is a Democrat

From the children's book's website:

"Democrats make sure we all share our toys, just like Mommy does."

"Democrats make sure we are all safe, just like Mommy does."

"Democrats make sure children can go to school, just like Mommy does."

Not as bad as Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!, but then what is?

An interesting aside at Mere Comments:

At first I couldn't put a finger on my discomfort with this until I realized: it's Sunday school material. In Red and Blue America, we've so privatized our religious convictions ("We're going to let Johnny choose whether or not he goes to church, and which one") that all we have left is our political identities.

Since we're not allowed to hate each other based on race or religion(*) I guess all we have left now is politics. (And if you want your child to join the right political party, better start working on them when they're young!) Maybe that explains the increase in venom that seems to pervade political discussion these days. Then again, maybe it's just the increase we have in communication via cable channels and the internet.

(*) Exception made for the non-religious who want to hate the religious. It's okay to be intolerant of the intolerant, y'know.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Google censorship

In different political circumstances, Google already notifies users of its German and French search services when it blocks access to material such as banned Nazi sites in Europe.

"France and Germany require censorship for Nazi sites, and the U.S. requires censorship based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. These various countries also have laws on child pornography," [Google co-founder Sergey Brin] said. (Reuters)

Nazis, copyright infringement, child pornography, democracy and freedom: the scourges of our age.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Pro-life = pro-abortion?

What we need is an explicit pro-choice war on the abortion rate, coupled with a political message that anyone who stands in the way, yammering about chastity or a "culture of life," is not just anti-choice, but pro-abortion.

William Saletan on how abortion advocates should turn the argument around and label pro-lifers as "pro-abortion".

Pentagon's protection of prisoners

A federal judge has ordered the Pentagon to release the names and nationalities of hundreds of prisoners detained at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, rejecting the government's argument that it would be a violation of their privacy and expose them to retaliation by terrorist groups. (NY Times)

The Pentagon's concern for Guantánamo prisoners is touching!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Human Rights Watch report

The latest [Human Rights Watch] report taking aim at the Bush administration said that the president's repeated assurances that U.S. interrogators do not torture prisoners studiously avoid mentioning that international law prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners.

The report said that Alberto Gonzales -- while still the nominee to become attorney general -- claimed in Senate testimony in January 2005 the power to use cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as long as the prisoner was a non-American held outside the United States.

"Other governments obviously subject detainees to such treatment or worse, but they do so clandestinely," the report said. "The Bush administration is the only government in the world known to claim this power openly, as a matter of official policy, and to pretend that it is lawful."

NY Times

Children's programming by Hamas

"Our television show will have a message, but without getting into the tanks, the guns, the killing and the blood."

"Uncle Hazim" on Hamas's new television program for children. But don't worry, Hamas won't be watering down its message:

[the] television show, which begins in a few weeks, will teach children the basics of militant Palestinian politics - the disputed status of Jerusalem, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the Palestinian refugees' demand for a right to return to the lands they lost to Israel in the 1948 war

Ugly church expression

We thought the church had withdrawn from interfering in Italian politics ... but instead there is a terrible resurgence. These are ugly signs for freedom of expression.

Nobel literature laureate Dario Fo expresses that freedom of expression is ugly when the church exercises it.

The big lie

But who tells the truth to the man who is driving straight into the setting sun and thinks he's heading due east? His wife murmurs that, uh, maybe we should look at a map, and he accuses her of being a defeatist who tries to tear him down any way she can in order to conceal her own lack of ideas. The man is heading the wrong way and speeding and the idiot light is flashing -- low oil pressure -- and the idiot is trying to be manly and authoritative but everyone can see he's faking it, hoping for God to rearrange the landscape for his convenience. (Salon)

I think Garrison Keillor is trying to draw an analogy about a present-day politician, but for the life of me I can't figure out who it is.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Sparrow movie

Having seen Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, I am aware that not even God could get a faithful screen adaptation of His book, so what chance does a housewife from Cleveland have? Nevertheless, the studio reportedly intends to retain the religious underpinnings of The Sparrow.

Mary Doria Russell steeling herself against disappointment in the adaptation of her book The Sparrow.

Which, by the way, is a great book. Very entertaining science fiction (or is it fantasy?) and a profitable exploration of disappointment with God. (No easy answers here.)

(Thanks to Looking Closer.)

Condoms cheaper than babies?

Here's a fun keychain from our friends at Planned Parenthood that says "condoms are cheaper than babies". Condom included!

Being Planned Parenthood and all, though, wouldn't a more appropriate saying be "condoms are cheaper than abortions"? But with first-trimester abortions running several hundred dollars, maybe condoms aren't cheaper. Guess it depends on how fertile (read: "unlucky"), you are.


The NY Times had an article about people registering domains and setting up email boxes for their babies.

"Why would anyone do that?" asked Donna M. Stewart, an aspiring artist who lives in Seattle and heard about the baby e-mail fad from a friend. "That's like getting e-mail for your dog."

Ms. Stewart, who has a dog, added that while it seemed understandable to post photographs on a Web site, "nobody's going to actually e-mail the baby." She added, "I just thought that's absurd."

(She confessed, though, that she sometimes sends e-mail messages to friends from the point of view of her dog, a mixed-breed shepherd, whom she declined to name.)

One of the things the article discussed was people doing this because they thought all the good domains will be taken in the future. So it's something of a land grab to get that "valuable real estate" for your kid before someone else gets it. This is what all the domain registrars want you to think anyway! It's a bit silly. If you haven't noticed, there are new domain extentions being created all the time. Yes, there was a time when the only domain extension the newly internetted AOL'rs knew was ".com" but that shouldn't be a problem in the future. And I imagine domain extensions will be even more diverse in 10 or 20 years.

A trend in the article subjects seemed to be getting domains in the form "firstnamelastname.extension". So then you have emails in the form "firstname@firstnamelastname.extension". I've always been a fan of domains in the form "lastname.extension" so you can have emails in the "firstname@lastname.extension" and web URLs "http://firstname.lastname.extension".

Monday, January 16, 2006

Nissan Versa

Here are details of the Nissan Versa, one of the new small cars coming to the US that I mentioned a month ago.

Apple worth more than Dell

In 1997, shortly after Mr. Jobs returned to Apple, the company he helped start in 1976, Dell's founder and chairman, Michael S. Dell, was asked at a technology conference what might be done to fix Apple, then deeply troubled financially.

"What would I do?" Mr. Dell said to an audience of several thousand information technology managers. "I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders."

On Friday, apparently savoring the moment, Mr. Jobs sent a brief e-mail message to Apple employees, which read: "Team, it turned out that Michael Dell wasn't perfect at predicting the future. Based on today's stock market close, Apple is worth more than Dell. Stocks go up and down, and things may be different tomorrow, but I thought it was worth a moment of reflection today. Steve."

NY Times

Friday, January 13, 2006

300 million Americans and counting

Sometime this year the population of the US will reach 300 million.

As of yesterday, the Census Bureau officially pegged the resident population of the United States at closing in on 297,900,000. The bureau estimates that with a baby being born every 8 seconds, someone dying every 12 seconds and the nation gaining an immigrant every 31 seconds on average, the population is growing by one person every 14 seconds. (NY Times)

Looks like our "rabbit-like efficiency" at procreation is getting the best of us again. (Note that the US on average has a higher birthrate than blue-state California with the latter's static replacement level.)

[In 1967] David E. Lilienthal, the former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, warned in The New York Times that unbridled population growth might doom the nation to shortages of water and energy, bury it in pollution and saddle it with unmanageable poverty. "A population of at least 300 million by 2000 will, I now believe, threaten the very quality of life of individual Americans," he wrote.
The Census Bureau projects that even with the nation growing more slowly than ever beginning in 2030, the population will top 400 million less than 40 years from now.

I don't see "unmanageable poverty" in 2045. Nor do I assume that we'll be as economically well off then as we are now. But given the incredibly high standard of living in the US right now, I don't see it as necessarily a bad thing. Certainly not reason enough to snuff out our young.

Budget 2006 deficit increase

The United States' budget deficit for the fiscal year 2006 is now likely to balloon to more than 400 billion dollars, smashing a prior estimate of 341 billion dollars, a top US budget official said. (Agence France-Presse)

Wow. And I remember when having a total national debt of $1 trillion seemed like a lot. Now we're going to add $400 million to it in one year.

[Senator Judd] Gregg said government spending had to be controlled, especially because of looming retirement costs facing the country.

The senator urged the passing of the Deficit Reduction Act, which seeks to save 40 billion dollars over five years, pending before the House of Representatives.

Let's see: $400 million more in the hole this year. Save $40 billion over five years. That'd be $9 billion/year? Oh yeah, that'll help a lot. I guess it's the thought that counts.

Scott Adams on evolution

I’m told that evolution is useful for a whole range of scientific things that I don’t know about or don’t understand. For example, I’m told that if you don’t believe that mammals evolved from lower life forms you’d be a crappy microbiologists. Every time you observed some viruses acquiring immunity you would stop working on a vaccine and sacrifice your first born son.

Scott Adams

Pornification, Jon Stewart and Walter Cronkite

In an essay bemoaning the "pornification of public spaces and narratives" comes this testimony of a father watching Jon Stewart's Daily show with his 9-year-old daughter:

“Came the bit about the gay male escort/model who’d mysteriously gotten White House press clearance torepresent a Republican-funded online ‘news’ service and lob the president softball questions. The show flashed a photo from the escort service’s website showing the man naked, spread-eagled, his genitals blurred. [...] I don’t want to beat up on Stewart; I’m a liberal. Maybe I should have used better judgment, but, man, my parents never had to think about jumping up and shielding my eyes when we watched Walter Cronkite.”

When has Jon Stewart ever come close to approaching Walter Cronkite? Yes, yes, yes, I completely agree with how sick/sad it is the amount of commercial sex that exists in today's media. But guess what, if you're a consumer you're a part of the problem.

This guy doesn't want to beat up on Stewart ... no kidding! He's buying what Stewart is selling. Why does he think shows like Stewart's are being broadcast instead of shows like Cronkite's? Because he's watching them! You want to change the world? Turn the television off. Stop consuming trash.

Mac Windows Media Player discontinued

Windows Media Player for the Mac is now officially dead. It hasn't been updated for years and it was clunky (compared to Apple's QuickTime player) besides.

The good news is that there's now a free third-party plugin, Flip4Mac WMV, that allows to you play Windows media within the QuickTime player. I haven't extensively tested it, but it worked great on a couple test movies. Finally, I can pause a WMV movie and use the scroll widget to fast-forward/rewind.

Of course, when faced with a choice you should always choose the more cross-platform QuickTime media. But for times when there is no choice, rock on.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Sun Microsystems founder Bill Joy talks about the times Apple and Sun almost merged.

Sun Microsystems tried to acquire Apple once and then almost merged with Apple on two other occasions, according to Sun co-founder Bill Joy. Beyond these deals, the two companies almost teamed on three other projects including sharing a user interface and the SPARC architecture.
Many Silicon Valley observers have long seen links between Sun and Apple. Both companies make slick, pricey hardware and are counter-punchers in their respective markets. They also have charismatic CEO figures and strong anti-Microsoft streaks.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Secondhand Windows

Security consultant A.J. Reznor points out that every major worm other than the original Morris Worm from 1988 has leveraged a hole in Microsoft products. Reznor refuses to work with Microsoft products but still actively loathes the company because his network becomes "saturated with crap flying out of [Windows] machines." Spammers route their junk through MS machines infected with a trojan -- a harmful computer program disguised as an innocuous one -- that turns these machines into "zombies." "Even if we don't use them, we suffer from them," he says. "Kind of like secondhand smoke." (Adam L. Penenberg)

Yup. My employer does not use any Microsoft software yet our email slows down during major virus outbreaks due to the volume of email being sent to us by infected machines. I can't imagine how 100% Windows shops manage to operate under those conditions.

State of gasoline alternatives

Here's a good summary of where automakers are (as of the latest LA and Detroit shows) in offering autos that use fuels other than gasoline in the US. No mention of Volkswagen and its current fleet of diesels (TDIs), but I guess that's because VW hasn't had any interesting news lately.

iTunes spying

It appears that iTunes 6.0.2 (released yesterday) tells Apple what song/artist you're playing if you have the new "Mini-Store" enabled. The Mini-Store displays music store recommendations based on what you're playing. Enabled by default, it can be turned off.

PS: Apple now has the feature disabled by default.

Google Earth on Mac

Google Earth is now available on the Mac. Thanks guys!

Oil & the suburbs

The suburban housing bubble and its related activities were predicated on the idea that we could continue building out a living arrangement dependent on cheap oil and methane gas, and that all the subdivisions and strip malls would retain value for decades to come. Of course, this was the central delusion of the suburban sprawl economy, because it was obvious to anyone who gave the situation more than a cursory glance that cheap oil and gas were the things we were least likely to have in the decades to come.

This reality had begun to penetrate the American collective consciousness and will be represented in 2006 by millions of individual choices to not buy a new suburban house, either because the individuals fear the expense of long commutes, or they fear the cost of heating a 4,000-square-foot house occupied by only a few people (or both).

James Howard Kunstler

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

President under the law?

Mark Steyn doesn't think we should be making a big deal of the President bugging Americans' phone calls.

The arthritic $44 billion intelligence bureaucracy is insisting it still needs another five to 10 years to have a clandestine service capable of infiltrating al Qaida operations in the field, but, while we're waiting, don't think of using that $44 billion to keep tabs on their phone calls, because the Dems will impeach you.

According to a Rasmussen poll, 64 percent of Americans believe the National Security Agency should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorist cells overseas and persons living in the United States; 23 percent disagree. What is it the Democrats and media don't get about this? (Chicago Sun-Times)

What is it that Mark Steyn doesn't get about the President and his administration needing to follow the law? Polls are irrelevent. The President is either authorized to do these wiretaps or he's not. Whether or not his actions are impeachable has nothing to do with opinion polls and everything to do with what the law is. If the law is too restrictive it needs to be changed, not ignored.

Fear of children

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article about Californians' views on birth control. What gets me is the assumption it makes that its population problem is due to Californians having too many children.

As Californians proliferate with rabbit-like efficiency, the state's residents are surprisingly of one mind about how to deal with overpopulation. Whether they're liberal Democrats or evangelical Christians, they favor sex education and access by the young to birth control.
-- Fifty-three percent mistakenly see immigration from abroad as the biggest cause of the state's population growth, even though births to residents are mainly responsible for the increase -- something only 12 percent of respondents realize.

Okay, now that you've read that far, what do you imagine California's birth rate to be? Too high? Would you be surprised to hear that it's basically at replacement rate? In 2004 California's Total Fertility Rate was 2.13. Replacement rate (which basically keeps the population stable) is between 2.1 and 2.2.

When we look at the actual numbers, growth via birth is higher than via immigration, but not by much. Every year around 500,000 people are born in California and around 340,000 people immigrate.

I am not anti-immigration. But to suggest that a healthy birthrate is bad and needs to be curbed via birth control (including abortion) is sick. It's this sickness that's led to sub-replacement birthrates in Japan and Europe. (It's problematic trying to maintain social programs when your workforce and tax base is shrinking.) It's this sickness that's leading to population growth in most of America's (conservative) "red states" compared to its (liberal) "blue states".

Liberals need to wake up and smell the coffee. If they want their ideals to thrive, they need to stop being so afraid of children.

Women killing women

A woman's right to choose is resulting in less women being born in India.

As many as 10 million female fetuses may have been aborted in India over the past 20 years as families tried to secure male heirs, according to a study published Monday in The Lancet, the British medical journal. (NY Times)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

BLUETEC diesels

Also at the Detroit auto show, Mercedes announced its upcoming BLUETEC diesels. In the US come Fall 2006.

Honda Fit

The Honda Fit, which I mentioned several weeks ago, made an appearance at the Detroit auto show. Expected in the US in April.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Volkswagen motorcycle?

Check out Volkswagen's three-wheel auto/motorcycle crossover concept, just unveiled at the LA auto show. 0-60 in 5.7 seconds, 46 MPG and possibly available for sale in 2007.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Christian death

Christianity is about the conquest of death, not its enlightened acceptance, and that in the absence of a resurrection, no pious words can make either the miners' deaths or our own anything but a horror.

Ross Douthat

What's a plowshare?

Salima Abu Maghaseeb is angry over the disruption of her plans to travel to Egypt with her daughter for her daughter's wedding this week. Gunmen took over the border crossing out of Gaza.

"I don't know why the Palestinian Authority is allowing them to do this," said Abu Maghaseeb, who had her documents checked at the impromptu roadblock. "Those people should use their guns ... to protect people and not to come and terrify us. They can go to the border and clash with the Israelis. God only knows what the future holds for Gaza."

Indeed. What does the future hold for a culture that has glorified violence and fostered thugs who have nothing to do when they're not fighting Israelis?

Rationalizing torture

We all know it happens. That isn't the question. The question is, are we ashamed that it happens?

You can tell a lot by knowing what someone is ashamed of.

Feeling appropriate guilt and rationalizing behaviors by instituting policies that justify and support them publicly are two different things. That difference makes all the difference between a society that can't always live up to its ideals and one that has forgotten where it put them.

Richard Thieme

The future of television & Firefly

Obviously, we'll see advances in technology. TiVo, iPods, streaming video -- the way we watch TV is changing dramatically. It's on our phones, in our cars -- even projected on specialized eyeglasses. But don't listen to the talk about having shows beamed directly into your brain. That's science-fiction nonsense. Shows will be stored in the pancreas and will enter the brain through the bloodstream after being downloaded into your iHole.

And what of me? My short-lived series Firefly was the basis for the epic action film Serenity (now available on DVD! I have little or no shame), and the future will see even more incarnations of this visionary work, as it returns to TV as Serenity: The Firefly Years, then back to film as Firefly: Serenity's Sequel, back to TV as SereniFly, and finally end as the direct-to-eyeglasses series Choose a Damn Name Already. I promise it'll be as heartwarming and exciting as the original Serenity, now available on DVD. (Explain again this thing you call shame....)

Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy and Firefly (and Serenity!).

Orthodox Jews & Intelligent Design

Orthodox Jews may be starting to take up the Intelligent Design cause.

some Jewish leaders, like [Rabbi Moshe] Tendler, have begun to quietly embrace the theory. And several of them went public with their support during the Sixth Miami International Conference on Torah and Science [...] "The fundamental question the theory answers is, accidental or intentional?" [Rabbi Sholom Lipskar] explains. "If it's accidental, then what's the point? But if there's design, we're here for a reason."
Nathan Katz, who heads the Center for the Study of Spirituality at FIU and was one of the conference organizers, says the enthusiasm some Torah devotees express for intelligent design reflects a growing alliance between traditional Jews and evangelical Christians. The two groups have found themselves on the same side of many culture war battles. And evangelicals have funneled tens of millions of dollars into Israel. "The monstrous evangelical support for that country has led some Orthodox Jews to be willing to listen to evangelicals on other issues," Katz explains.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Another state legalizes medical marijuana

Today Rhode Island became the 11th state to legalize medical marijuana.

Federal law prohibits any use of marijuana, but Maine, Vermont, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington allow it to be grown and used for medicinal purposes.
Federal authorities, however, have conceded they are unlikely to prosecute many medicinal marijuana users. (Associated Press)

Christians at the most risk from radical Islam

My show is produced for the Western world and for Christians who are at the most risk from radical Islam

Hal Lindsey explains why he won't water down his criticisms of radical Islam for TBN.

I hope he's not saying that Christians in the Western world at the ones most at risk. Maybe I'm in the minority but I haven't suffered near the persecution of Christians in Muslim nations.

Children not safer in SUVs

Children are no safer riding in sport utility vehicles than in passenger cars, largely because the doubled risk of rollovers in SUVs cancels out the safety advantages of their greater size and weight, according to a study.

Researchers said the findings dispel the bigger-equals-safer myth that has helped fuel the growing popularity of SUVs among families. SUV registrations climbed 250 percent in the United States between 1995 and 2002.

"We're not saying they're worse or that they're terrible vehicles. We're challenging the conventional wisdom that everyone assumed they were better," said Dr. Dennis Durbin, a pediatric emergency physician who took part in the study, published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics. (Associated Press)

Okay, I'll say it then. SUVs are worse than cars. They may be "equal" as far as occupant safety goes, but they're worse as far as the resources they consume and the damage they do to others in accidents. Don't buy or use one unless you really need to. (No, looking "cool" isn't a "need".)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Real men

[Brokeback Mountain] doesn't offer any model of successful heterosexual masculinity, or of successful heterosexual relationships in general. The straight men are all either strutting oafs, bitter bigots like Jack Twist's father, or "nice-guy" weaklings like Alma's second husband, whose well-meaning effeminacy contrasts sharply with Ennis's rugged manliness. Jack and Ennis are the only "real men" in the story, and their love is associated with the high country and the vision of paradise it offers - a world of natural beauty and perfect freedom, of wrestling matches and campfires and naked plunges into crystal rivers - and a world with no girls allowed. Civilization is women and babies and debts and fathers-in-law and bosses; freedom is the natural world, and the erotic company of men. It's an old idea of the pre-Christian world come round again - not that gay men are real men too; but that real men are gay.

Ross Douthat

Give me that old time (exploitation of) religion

So ... the Democratic party is getting religion. As Joseph Loconte relates in the NY Times:

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, sounded like an Old Testament prophet recently when she denounced the Republican budget for its "injustice and immorality" and urged her colleagues to cast their no votes "as an act of worship" during this religious season.

This, apparently, is what the Democrats had in mind when they vowed after President Bush's re-election to reclaim religious voters for their party.

Is this a good thing? Not if the spiritual left repeats the sins of the religious right.

There is another worrisome trait shared by religious liberals and many conservatives: the tendency to moralize in the most extreme terms. William Sloane Coffin of the Clergy Leadership Network was typical in his denunciation of the Bush tax cuts: "I think he should remember that it was the devil who tempted Jesus with unparalleled wealth and power."

This trend is at its worst in the misplaced outrage in the war against Islamic terrorism. It's true that in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, some Christian conservatives shamed themselves by blaming the horror on feminists and gays, who allegedly incited God's wrath. But such nonsense is echoed by liberals like the theologian Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University.

"The price that Americans are going to have to pay for the kind of arrogance that we are operating out of right now is going to be terrible indeed," he said of the United States' response to the Qaeda attacks. "People will exact some very strong judgments against America - and I think we will well deserve it." Professor Hauerwas joins a chorus of left-wing clerics and religious scholars who compare the United States to Imperial Rome and Nazi Germany.

People of faith need to be involved politically. Their faith should inform their political decisions. But what we have in the Republican party today and are starting to have in the Democratic are secular organizations exploiting and trying to co-opt religion for political gain. Unfortunately it works, for the most part. But when faith can be bought it is cheaper because of it.