Sunday, December 18, 2005

Those wiley Jews!

I finally read Is Paris Burning? last week, at my parents' urging. They'd read it when it first came out and have told me about it my whole life. After seeing the movie version a couple of times, I finally got out the book. Wow! I couldn't put the thing down, and I had it finished in three days. I have a newfound respect for the French Resistance and even some understanding for de Gaulle.

So I went online tonight to look for pictures of Paris under the German occupation. There are photos of Hitler in front of the Eiffel Tower, for instance. It's such a surreal image--I hadn't thought about Paris under the occupation, back when it seemed like the Germans might actually pull it off.

Serves me right. One of the sites with photos of Hitler in Paris is some pro-Nazi web site, as I found out after scrolling down the page. Apparently, everything was hunky-dory in Paris under the Nazis. The French just loved Hitler. No Jews were harmed during the making of this occupation, etc.

With the sick fascination of wondering where this guy was going with it, I clicked on the links to his page on "The bloodlines of WW2 Leaders." Guess what? Everybody except Hitler was Jewish! Huh. Who would have thought? Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Churchill, and even Stalin. Oh, and the Poles started the war, bragging they'd conquer Germany within three days.

Going to the main page on the site, I was intrigued to find that the Jews, and more recently the Mossad, have been behind every major terrorist attack in the past century. Even Kristallnacht itself:

When government officials were away, Jewish-paid thugs went on a rampage in Berlin and some border towns.
Nazis were blamed, and world opinion favored Jews

Oh, and then there was that raid on Entebbe:

1976 ... Entebbe
Israel faked a hijacking to Kenya (Idi Imin was an Israeli puppet), and then pulled a rescue, portraying themselves as elite commandos.
Arabs looked like monsters and the Israelis, having suffered countless persecutions, have decided to fight back.

In basically all of the other attacks, even if it was Arabs who were caught, it was those wiley Jews who had put them up to it, just to make the rest of us pity them. Shame it didn't work, considering that Israel is still hated by the same enemies.

OK, back to reality now. I know I'm being naive here, not having encountered this kind of person before, but how can any sane person really believe that there's such a perfect, grand conspiracy that the Jews have managed to direct all of the events in history? And yet somehow failed to deceive this guy. This is not the work of a stable mind.

Incidentally, If I were Jewish, I'd be proud to claim Eisenhower, Roosevelt, and Churchill, if it were really true. Heck, I'm not Jewish, and I'm still proud that, for instance, the GOP nominated even a half-Jewish Presidential candidate in 1964.

I'm reminded of what one blogger wrote during the forged Texas Air National Guard memo fiasco last year. When the more fevered leftists were starting to claim that if the memos were fake, then Karl Rove was behind them. One conservative responded that if Rove was able to pull off a scheme this elaborate, then the Democrats should just give up and surrender now. He's clearly too much of an genius mastermind, and you'll simply never win.

In a similar vein, if the remaining Nazis in this world really believe that the Jews have been behind all of these elaborate schemes, and have successfully gotten everybody elese blamed for them, then you should just give up and die now. You'll never beat them.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Assassination Attempt on President of Iran?

Over at National Review's The Corner, Michael Ledeen says he's heard that the President of Iran is in the hospital after an assassination attempt killed some of his detail and injured him.

From a usually-reliable source, he says, but I haven't seen any confirmation elsewhere yet. This is the kind of thing I'd expect to see up on Drudge soon.

Douthat on Limbo

Ross Douthat has a well-thought-out article on Limbo in the Weekly Standard. He correctly (in my mind) takes on the excessive and overconfident speculation of the mediaeval theologians who wanted to fill in the details left out of the Bible. It's interesting to me that the name of Limbo is well-known among us Protestants (although we don't always understand what it's supposed to be), even though it's apparently not been an active concept among Roman Catholics for some time. As he says, few tears will be shed for its demise. Well, these kinds of speculations very often have a long life in the popular imagination. Just think of all the details people think they know about angels, most of which comes not from the canonical Bible but from apocryphal books, plus a bunch of later theology. Douthat points out the rampant speculations about the nature of Heaven as a further example.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Astronomers' adventure games

Stromlo: A Cosmological Mystery Or, Zork updated for scientists. Paul Francis, a planetary scientist at the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Australia, has an interesting-sounding game out. It's a text-based adventure game (you type in commands to find out things and move the plot forward). The premise is that you're a bright young astrophysicist at the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Australia, and you are trying to find out how the universe came to be.

You type in commands (like, "ask dr winkle about the telescope") to work your way through the game. As Francis' description states,

You will wander around Mt Stromlo, make observations with its telescopes, analyse the data, chat with other staff members over morning tea, read books in the Stromlo library and attend seminars. Slowly you will accumulate the clues which will allow you to solve the mystery and win the game.

At first, I wasn't sure if this was real or a tongue-in-cheek joke. It seemed like a parody of one of these adventure games. (This is basically an "adventure" game that simulates my day at the office!) But now that I've read the whole description, I see the value of this--he means it as a teaching tool for high school or college students, both to show them how astronomy is done (not just what the pictures look like, but the whole astronomy environment) and to teach them the material itself. It's really an ingenious idea.

Huh. I wonder if we could make one for quasar host galaxy research, too? The new character would be a bright, young astronomer (ahem!) newly arrived from NASA as a professor, and you type in commands to prepare your lectures, write observing proposals, analyze data, weasel out of serving on committees, try to convince the travel office that visits to your out-of-town girlfriend were really "observing runs," carry on long discussions on Star Wars at Tea Club when you should be researching, and fall asleep at theory seminars. Slowly you will accumulate clues that should allow you to solve the mystery and win fame, the girl, large research grants, and tenure, but which will probably sit in a growing pile on your desk without having all of the dots connected.

Ooh, I like this one!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Speaking of thinking of yourself as a liberal first...

Speaking of people who think of themselves as liberals first, there's this report by my overpoliticized Methodist bishops, criticising the war in Iraq and only briefly touching on actual genocide in the Sudan.

It's time for a full-scale revolt within my church. The kind of people who really want to become bishops are overwhelmingly the lefties who spend so much time spouting off on politics. That has to change. We're really a conservative denomination, but the church hierarchy is dominated by people who don't represent us laymen.

Thankfully, Methodism is traditionally not focused on doctrine, and as a result, our bishops don't go telling us what to believe on religion. With this bunch in charge, that's something to be thankful for.

Like the ADL and certain Jewish leaders who spend their efforts shooting their friends and ignoring their true enemies (see the previous post), the Methodist bishops shoot their wad on America's work in Iraq (which is bringing democracy and an end to mass-murder and tyrrany), and they've got hardly anything left to say about anti-Christian genocide in the Sudan. I don't think that our government should be immune from any criticism in principle, but this particular criticism is wrong-headed.

Julia Gorin on Abe Foxman

Julia Gorin comes down hard on Abe Foxman's anti-Christian comments. This is very strong stuff. You can tell she's peeved about the whole thing, with Foxman and this Yoffie guy slamming conservative Christians who are on the side of the Jews. As I've commented before on this site, Foxman et al. are shooting at their allies.

Well, maybe not. Considering us conservative Christians "allies" would require Foxman and Yoffie and the rest to think of themselves as Jews first, rather than as liberals first.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The American state of Guyana?

Huh. Here's a website devoted to getting Guyana to join the United States. (Link via Albion's Seedlings)

I don't know how Guayanan Representatives would vote in Congress, but I'm impressed that the website for the movement lists as advantages of statehood:

1) The people of Guyana would be fully self-governing with their rights secured under the United States Constitution, which would be the the supreme law and have the same force and effects as in other states of the Union;

2) The sovereign State of Guyana would be in permanent union with the United States, and powers not delegated to the Federal Government or prohibited to the States by the United States Constitution would be reserved to the people of Guyana or the State Government;

Interesting. I've got to admire their admiration for us!

The fun of being an academic

My day, now that school's out: Get up late and have a relaxing cup of coffee while watching Fox & Friends and then eat breakfast listening to Laura Ingraham. Get into the office and catch up on e-mail and surfing the web. Dinner with a couple of other professors (lunch dinner, not supper dinner), while discussing philosophy (well, that's going to be tomorrow). Do research and prepare a conference presentation while listening to Rush and Hannity. Interview with newspaper reporter. More research (a breakthrough--woohoo!) while listening to Mark Levin. Decide I'm hungry, so go home and fix supper. Watch TV while reading science books. Ahh, not a bad day! I can't complain about being paid for nine months of the year, when I get to spend the other three like this.

Eminent Domain

Some Florida mayor is on the phone with Sean Hannity right now, defending his move to seize private homes in order to build condos and a yacht club. Apparently last night on Hannity & Colmes, he called some of the poor victims of eminent domain "selfish" for wanting to keep their homes! ARRGGHH!

This issue and gun rights are two things that are guaranteed to bring out an anti-government streak in me. I cannot imagine the callous attitude it must take to be that cold-hearted to somebody wanting to keep his home and property.

TVA provides us with other good examples of this mindset, and for this it is widely hated by us East Tennesseeans, especially by us who live out in the country. Some years ago, when they flooded Tellico Lake, they seized the property of farmers who lived above the waterline. The reason? They didn't want these folks to profit by having a public lake adjoining their property. And then a few years later, TVA sold the land off to developers. At the time, we were absolutely astonished, but with the recent eminent domain fights in the press, we've been treated to countless examples of similar abuses.

Goldblatt on Goldblatt

More from the article I just linked to:

I'm roughly Dowd's age and have never been married — a fact I account for not with an anthropological hypothesis but with the rather narrow observation that I've yet to find a supermodel PhD whose standards were low enough to have me.

Heh, heh! Perfect!

Incidentally, that being the goal of so many of us men, I feel extremely fortunate to have found someone who meets those sorts of standards.

Goldblatt on Maureen Dowd

I've never read any article by Maureen Dowd but only see the excerpts her critics enjoy quoting. If her own writing were half as good as her critics', when they're laying into her, she'd be well worth reading. In that vein is today's NRO article by Mark Goldblatt:

Maureen Dowd begins her book Are Men Necessary? with a confession: "I don't understand men." If only she'd left it at that, we could simply add "men" to the long list of subjects into which she has no particular insight: history, psychology, philosophy, religion, economics, literature, art, constitutional law, international diplomacy, and several other topics upon she comments in her twice weekly column for the New York Times.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Smack murder pride

Today I learned a new name for a collection of something: a group of jellyfish is a "smack." Wow--you can practically make an entire sentence out of unusual group names, as I halfheartedly tried to do in the subject line.

The thrust of the article is that there is an unusual rise in giant (and poisonous) jellyfish off Japan, and they're hurting the fishing industry. The odd little nomenclature tidbit is at the very end.

Interactive baby name ranking

This is really neat: a website that shows you a name's popularity over time. (Link via The Corner) Type in a name, and you see its popularity plotted since 1880. Interestingly, when I typed in my parents' names, both names were near their popularity peaks about the times my parents were born. What's also fun is to try putting in a name you think of as being annoyingly trendy for babies right now, and see just when it started to be used.

Start saving your frequent flier miles...

...and turn them into a suborbital space flight. Virgin Atlantic had already announced it was forming "Virgin Galactic" for space travel, and it looks like Richard Branson is stepping them forward towards the goal. Thanks to a NASA friend for the link.

I wonder when "SpaceShipTwo" will be built?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Oh my gosh! The Grand Unified Theory's been done!!!

Wow! It's like the scales have fallen from my eyes, and now I finally see the fundamental truths to the universe! Boy, I've gone back and forth from thinking the guy was an overambitious amateur, to a complete crackpot, to a really funny parody, to... well, I'm not sure right now. I'm torn between thinking that he's a crackpot and thinking he's an ingenious parodist with 'way too much time on his hands.

By the way, this reader's review totally convinced me:

"Brilliant! Having read this, I feel like a person who is aware that the Earth is round, walking among those who still believe it to be flat!"

A challenge for our readers: Check out the page on "Science Flaws" and see if you can, with say a freshman physics background, correct several of his discoveries of supposedly conventional-science-killing flaws. The meaning of "work" in physics comes into play, as well as motion in a gravitational field.

Chavez solidifies his political power

I have never thought that voter boycotts of elections were a good idea, unless you were in a regime like Hussein's where there wasn't the slightest point in "voting." In democracies and semi-democracies, where the votes are actually important (even if there's some fraud on the fringes), a boycott is really just cutting your own throat. Still, the poor turnout (hmm--a boycotted Venezuelan election has turnout not much below a normal American one!) might actually embarass Chavez.

These two reports, here and here, are worrying, though. It seems as though Chavez and his allies have completely taken over the congress. What's to stop him now?

Now, it's fair to ask why we are upset about a budding dictator in Venezuela, when we're able to work with more open dictators in certain other countries, like Pakistan. Good question. We'd like to have them become democratic, but while they're not, our relations are determined by whether they're on our side in this war. And even our dictator allies receive pressure from us, often quietly, to open up politically.

Pakistan and some of these other countries are helping us with intelligence on al-Qaeda. Venezuela is cozying up to Castro and other enemies of this country. (Including some in the Middle East.) He's spending money to fund leftist guerrilas to destabilize now-democratic Latin America. Like they need to go through that again!

We have been willing to sacrifice relations with some countries that have cracked down too much on domestic freedoms, like in Central Asia (I've forgotten which one). We can't do it in all cases; we need to take our own safety into account, after all.

"Dude, where's my country?!"

The perfect caption for this photo.

More Lileks quotes

This is what? the third I've quoted today? “What’s astrology, daddy?” “It’s a system of belief for people who cannot handle the intellectual demands of Scientology."

Heh, heh, heh...

Lileks on Limbo

Although I imagine Satan would enjoy watching the Limbo Community sue God; it would be like spring training for his next batch of middle managers. But I digress. ERROR –36!

It makes more sense in context, and it's just as funny. Actually, that's the same link as below. So be it.

Lileks visits the Apple store

Here's the funny quote: Apple stores never started stinking until iTunes went cross-platform!

Heh, he's saying it tongue in cheeck, don't worry. But it is kinda funny.

The rewriting of history

I'd known of this before, thanks to buying Biblical Archaeology Review, but it's always instructive to read it again. The Moslem countries in the Middle East are trying to deny the importance of Jerusalem to Judaism. You'd think the connection betwene the two would be pretty obvious to anybody who'd read his Bible, right? And even Islam places its ultimate origins in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. So they should know their Old Testament, right? Well, no--not if you're in a place like Saudi Arabia, which prohibits Bibles. (At least their importation--are Saudi Christians even allowed to own them?) And the Koran says that it has "corrected" Biblical history. You see, those devious Jews falsified much of the Biblical account to make themselves look better. For instance, no "prophet" (this term--at least its English translation--is applied by Islam to, say, David and Solomon as well) could never do anything bad. Therefore the accounts of David's sin with Bathsheba must have been made up by the Jewish writers later. That's just one example.

So all of those accounts of Jerusalem's importance to the Jews? The, you know, Temple? The building, destruction, rebuilding, and rebuilding of the Temple? Nah. Never that big a deal.

Now, as long as Israel has control over Jerusalem, we're OK. But watch out for any compromises with their neighbors over the city. The other side wants to deny even the archaeology. They want to destroy the physical record beneath the hill--there are plenty of photos of archeological debris being dumped, out from under the mosque there. Israel needs to put a stop to that destruction. It's a scene from 1984 put into action.

Iran to "end" Christianity in the country

Pamela at Atlas Shrugs has this sad report out of Iran. "I will stop Christianity in this country,” Ahmadinejad reportedly vowed. This was followed a few days later by the brutal murder of a Christian preacher, who was a Christian convert. Ten other Christians were tortured and released. According to the article, "house churches" are sprouting up across the country. Good for the Christians in Iran! They're braver than any of us need to be. I hope we in the West will give them support somehow.

Jewish carnival up

This is the first time I've heard of the Jewish blog carnival "Haveil Havalim" (Vanity of Vanities); it's a good one, and I've already clicked on a half-dozen of the links.

Incidentally, my Hebrew vocabulary is pretty rusty. At first, I was trying to make out that name as "The veil of the veils"! ("ha-" = "the")

Limbo and doctrine

Thanks for that last post, Figulus. I've just read (, anyway) the Catholic Encyclopedia entry you linked to. It's interesting the details you mentioned--that it doesn't appear as an actual doctrine, although it's listed in an index. The Encyclopedia entry seems to say that the earlier Augustinian idea (that the souls of unbaptised babies go to Hell) was considered an article of faith. (Or at least that Augustine intended it to be.) So if (still a big "if") the Committee were to announce that the souls of unbaptised babies go to Heaven, as many expect, wouldn't that be a change of official doctrine?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Limbus Infantium

Do any definitive answers exist at all in cyberspace? Insofar as they may, the most definitive answer to the question of limbo can be found here.

As far as doctrinal definitions of Limbo go, apart from those listed in the above link, the closest to one that I know of is in paragraph 1261 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The above two links are about as comprehensive a central clearinghouse as you can get to the centuries-old theological war on limbo. But I completely agree with the comment that Jonah made that this blog could use more intrigue and gossip. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that any will be forthcoming, because I don't really think there is anything to the original story.

The story reports that an "international theological commission will advise Pope Benedict to eliminate the teaching about limbo from the Catholic catechism." The problem is, there is nothing to eliminate. Limbo is never mentioned in the text of the Catechism; it does not appear in the index of the English edition of it nor of the old Catechism of the Council of Trent. The word "Limbus" does appear in the index to the Latin edition of the Catechismus Catholicae Ecclesiae, which references paragraph 1261, but you won't find it in the actual text.

I suppose this commission could recommend that "Limbus" be dropped from the index of the Latin edition, since it doesn't appear in the text. A fly on the wall that overheard the merits and demerits of such a recommendation might die of boredom, and I wouldn't want our readers, or Jonah, to share its fate.

The reason that limbo is hardly mentioned in doctrinal documents is that limbo is not an actual doctrine that can be defended or refuted. It is simply a Latin word that means "on the fringe." There are many fringes to any decent body of knowledge, and the knowledge of who may or may not be saved is no exception. As is told in the first link above, there is the fringe of the pre-christian fathers, and the fringe of the infants, not to mention the fringe of virtuous pagans, the fringe of fools, and the lunatic fringe. The word "fringe" is an apt one, since it is by the fringe of a garment (Mk 6:56) that "we cannot but entrust [ourselves] to the mercy of God."

Oh, nuts.

Human-to-human transmission of H5N1?

(link via Riehl World View, via Instapundit)

House to investigate college bowl system

WHAT are they thinking?!! Seriously!

1) We have a war on, idiots! There are about a thousand things more important on any government official's list of things to be worried about than college football.

2) (And most importantly) It is unconstitutional for Congress to say anything about the operation of college sports. Go. Right now. Read your copy of the United States Constitution and tell me, chapter and verse, where it says you can go screwing around with college sports. I said go read it! Is it in there? No? Then shut up about it!

"Republicans," you should be ashamed of yourselves. The quotation marks are intentional. Part of conservative ideology is a respect for the Constitution, and you're trashing it by sticking your nose into things that aren't any of the government's business. "A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, charged with regulating America's sports industry, announced Friday..." Really? The Constitution gives Congress power to regulate sports? Find it! Now, I know, you're going to whine, "but it crosses state lines!" The Constitution doesn't say you can regulate any aspect of any sport (or business in general, for that matter), just because one part of it crosses state lines. Here's exactly what it says:

Article I, Sec. 8. Congress shall have Power [...] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes...

Is the decision on who makes it to the Orange Bowl "commerce"? No. If there's a sale--an exchange of money--made across state lines, then yes, you have the power to regulate it. But that's basically it.

Am I mad about this? Yes, I am. It should be a small thing to get so worked up about, but it's unconstitutional and therefore none of Congress' @#*! business, and anytime Congress goes and sticks its nose into unconstitutional areas, it ticks me off!

Plus? It's a sport, for crying out loud! Get on with killing the terrorists, like we pay you for! Leave the BCS for colleges to work out on their own. ...grumblemumble...%$!)$...stupidpoliticians...(%)!$^...

(Link via Instapundit.)

Honored son of Tennessee has passed away

Vice Admiral William Porter Lawrence, aged 75. He was a naval aviator, and, as James Michener wrote in Space, "perhaps the ablest flyer, all things considered, that Pax River was to produce." (A heart condition kept him from the astronaut corps. Nuts.)

From Thomas Smith's post on The Corner (linked above), I read that he was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and held as a POW for six years. During that time, he wrote what is now the state poem of Tennessee (quoted in part):

Beauty and hospitality

are the hallmarks of Tennessee;

and o'er the world as I may roam

no place exceeds my boyhood home.

And oh how much I long to see

my native land, my Tennessee."

Rest in peace, Admiral.

More on Limbo

Amy Welborn, at open book, has a more detailed account of what's really going on on the question of Limbo. Actually, she excerpts an article from the National Catholic Reporter, but it gives the procedural context I've been wondering about. It turns out that it's the International Theological Commission (the primary advisors to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Roman Catholic Church's organization for doctrine) which is working on this question, and they're expected to recommend to the Congregation that limbo "not be revived." I'm not sure what that "revived" means, here. I have heard that the doctrine has languished in recent years, but I would assume that it's still on the books, in some sense, and merely passed over in practice.

Incidentally, a recommendation by the International Theological Commission doesn't necessarily get rubber-stamped by the Congregation. The CDF has passed on these before, or issued decisions with different approaches than the ITC recommended.

UPDATE: Lots of interesting discussion in the comments section at Amy's site. Some of it frustrating, some of it illuminating (well, even some of the frustrating entries can be illuminating).

Coddled union grad students get self-indulgent

Good item at the Wall Street Journal on a graduate student strike at New York University. When I was a grad student at Pitt (quite recently), some of the lefties over in some humanities department wanted us all to unionize, but it never took. Grad students, at least in physics, get a full ride on tuition, plus a stipend that's enough for one to live on. In return, we're expected to work 20 hours a week teaching or grading papers (the details often depend on which professor you're TA'ing for). It's a great deal, and while it's a hectic time, we've got an education, teaching experience, and a stipend, with no debts to worry about once we're out! My medical school friends would love to start their careers that way.

The self-indulgence it takes to go on strike under those conditions is astounding. I almost wish Pitt grad students had unionized and struck, just so I could publicly refuse to. After all, I did manage to wear out one of the four members of the Campus Socialists one day. They were handing out fliers, and I decided I had the time for a debate, so I took her up. 45 minutes later, she started making excuses that she had to go somewhere. I offered to take back up where we left off, but she said no, that was OK. Ahh, that felt satisfying.

WHO rejects hiring smokers

The World Health Organization has decided they will no longer hire smokers. I agree that the WHO has the right not to hire a smoker. I also think this is an obnoxious intrusion into their employees' private lives outside the office, and they should not do this.

There's plenty of debate on this today, and most of it centers on the slippery slope argument. I think there's a lot of merit to this--will they refuse to hire people who do X next? After all, once this has been in place for a while, people no longer think much about it, and then it's on to the next step.

The WHO says their decision is based on health concerns. One thing about the health arguments on banning smoking is that smoking is a fairly long-term health problem. Drinking alcohol, on the other hand, has an immediate effect on self-control, as well as long-term effects on health. I'm disgusted by smoking (except a pipe, for some reason; pipe smoke, from a distance, doesn't smell so bad) and have never done it myself, but I think that alcohol is a bigger problem.

While cancer or emphysema caused by smoking can kill you after decades, alcohol can lead to your death very quickly, if you get behind the wheel while under the influence. I'm not one for lowering the legal blood alcohol level to these ridiculously low fractions that so many states are doing, but in general, alcohol should be considered a more serious problem than smoking.

Proving that no government organization ever dies

Fox News is just reporting that the September 11th Commission, which created the 9/11 Commission Report, has decided not to ride off into the sunset. Why should they? People might stop paying attention to them.

Instead, they have reorganized themselves into an advocacy group. Not a big surprise here. I've forgotten their new name already, though.

Now, I think that's not a bad thing in principle, but I've heard enough form these people already, and I think a lot of this is just ego. There's nothing special about them, aside from their experience in having been on the commission, and some of them were (partly) responsible for various problems we had before 2001 (Mrs. Gorelick, ahem!). Commission Chairman Tom Kean didn't impress me in the least. His reaction to criticisms of Gorelick's membership was one of sheer arrogance. He actually told the public it was none of our business!

Dad has often said that you never get rid of a tax. I think that the 9/11 Commission is hoping to establish a new rule: you never get rid of a government commission, either.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Great lecture at Rhodes

Nuts! I find out about this a day late. My alma mater, Rhodes, had a lecture by historian Wilfred McClay on "The Moral Complexity of Foundings: Israel, Rome, and America." Sounds like it was great topic. Wish I could have been there. Thanks to Michael Debow at Southern Appeal for publicizing this.

The Speculist on Bigfoot

Here's a good little article on a giant ape from Southeast Asia that coexisted with Man 100,000 years ago. (That was a big sucker--look at the drawing!) Stephen Gordon wonders if these might have been an ancient (very ancient!) inspiration for what became the bigfoot, yeti, and sasquatch legends. It's a thoughful article; he presents both sides and tries to work out the problems with this, as well.

Like one of the commentators below the post, I have often wondered if these were leftover tribal memories of coexistence with the Neanderthal. They survived in what is modern Israel until about 35,000 years ago, if I remember right. Trouble with this idea is that the Neanderthal weren't all that big. But what about "wildman" legends, as the commentator also mentions?

If Noah's flood is a story passed down from the inundation of the Black Sea, 10,000 or more years ago (that's still a big "if," but it seems plausible), then could some other events or creatures also have been memorialized from a bit farther back?

New Space Blogroll

I've just added a new Space blogroll to our template. You should see it (with its own scrollbar) on the right side of the screen now.

Thanks a lot to Ed Minchau at "Robot Guy" for making the list and linking to us here! I've already noticed the traffic bumping up.

More on Barrett firearms

I forgot to link to this response (in PDF) to the biased & error-prone AP article. It's there on the Barrett homepage.

Rules for gunfights

Listening to Liddy on the radio right now. He's just read the purported "Rules for Gunfights" for each of the branches of the armed forces. It's partial to the Marines, of course. My favorite:

Everything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Remember--ammo is cheap, and life is expensive.

Of course, if you've got a .50 Barrett, you might not need that second shot! (See previous post.)

The AP falsifies a firearms story (big surprise)

Worse, they lied in a story about a Tennessee firearms company. Oh, now you've done it, sister!
My fellow Rocky Top Brigade blogger Say Uncle has the details.

AP reporter Rose French contacted Barrett Rifles, a Middle Tennessee company, about doing a "business feature" (her words) about the company. That was the first lie. Her article, which I read over the Thanksgiving weekend, was mostly an anti-gun piece. "Controversy," or similar language, about whether we puny private citizens should ever be allowed to own such a powerful war machine as a .50-caliber rifle! Heavens to Betsy!
A large part of the article is apparently stale anti-gun material from the so-called "Violence Policy Center."

Well, it was a lie to Barrett, not to the readers, so that makes it OK, right?

But on top of it, French made a lot of factual mistakes within the article. Say Uncle (linked above) has an email from Barrett's Media Relations guy to the AP, correcting them. Typical. I doubt avid reporter French knows her way around a firearm to begin with. Barrett's media guy says she seemed very confused about the equipment.

What should we citizens do as a result of all of this? One thing would be getting the AP to issue a real correction. They issued a partial one (also at Say Uncle). Wanna bet it gets even half the publicity the original story did? Right. The second thing would be to go out and buy a Barrett rifle for yourself. They're expensive, though, but if you shop now, you might be able to get it in time for Christmas!

Incidentally, Barrett is not one of those wimpy firearms companies that's been bought out by foreigners and then buckles under to every two-bit anti-gun politician to spout off on the floor of Congress. Check out their website--they're proud defenders of the right to keep and bear arms.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Umberto Eco on superstition and religion

It's not what you think. I'd always pegged Eco as anti-religious. I'm not sure that this was anything more than a vague impression, but I'd picked it up from somewhere. So I was happily surprised to read this. Eco says that he has left the Church himself (I don't know if he means Catholicism or Christianity in general, but he implies the latter), but he shows a respect for organized religion. Furthermore, his article mostly talks about superstition. I've long been averse to this topic, because so many who proclaim themselves enemies of "superstition" lump Christianity, or even all religions, in with superstitions. Eco doesn't do this. In fact, he approvingly quotes Chesterton that, "When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn't believe in nothing. He believes in anything." Further comments:

The "death of God", or at least the dying of the Christian God, has been accompanied by the birth of a plethora of new idols. They have multiplied like bacteria on the corpse of the Christian Church -- from strange pagan cults and sects to the silly, sub-Christian superstitions of The Da Vinci Code.
The existing religions just aren't big enough: we demand something more from God than the existing depictions in the Christian faith can provide. So we revert to the occult.

These are some strong words. You don't often see columnists decrying occultism, except in "my, those kids today!" joking terms. It's like when the preacher gave a sermon against idolatry a few months ago--he meant real idolatry, not "we make idols of money, power, fame, ..." Worshipping rocks and graven images and the like; things we tend to belive have fallen away in the modern age. It was refreshing. The sermons against figurative "idols" are important, but every now and then we need to be reminded of what they are figurative references to.

Hanged by a Mobius loop

Scroll down to the bottom of Lilek's Bleat today.

Limbo Central

Jonah Goldberg has asked who will set up a "Limbo Central" of sorts, to keep track of the various arguments that might fly around on the subject. Well, we might as well start that here, as best we can. Figulus, care to chime in? You certainly know about the theological side of these things. I'm really looking in on it as an outsider. We need to get a Catholic perspective on the record.

As far as other opinions flying around the web, I haven't seen much commentary, yet. Surprising.

The Universe, a Catholic newspaper out of Great Britain and Ireland, just reprints The Scotsman's article I linked to below.

Kathy, at Relapsed Catholic, links to The Universe's story and adds (to the statement that the new teaching will be that unbaptised babies will go to Heaven): Which 99% of Catholics believed all along, since limbo was never officially part of Catholic teaching.

Nothing yet at Quenta Nârwenion.

Old Oligarch has been silent for a couple of months. Can't wait 'til he's finished with the dissertation and gets back to blogging.

Also nothing at Eve's site.

Well, we're off to a slow start. But like Goldberg, I'm interested to see how this whole process goes, so we'll be keeping track of it, here.

Abandonment of Limbo?

UPDATE: Welcome Corner readers! Thanks to Jonah Goldberg for linking to us here. Since this entry, we have posted more on the topic here and here, and because we'll be following this for a while, I recommend you go to our main page here. In fact, just keep clicking on the update button like a monkey in a psychology experiment. You'll thank me for it later. (Sorry for mangling Goldberg's analogy.)


There are reports out this week that the Roman Catholic Church is planning to abandon the concept of "limbo," the idea of a place where the souls of unbaptised babies go if they die.

I'd never been clear on what limbo was supposed to be, and I reckon many or most of us Protestants confuse it with the idea of purgatory. I always did--I thought they were two names for the same thing.

It will be interesting to see how the actual decision and announcement are made, assuming this is actually in the works. For some reason, I've gotten interested in studying the bureaucratic aspects of institutions like churches, so I'm curious to see how all of this works, in the technicalities.

Since this is not an idea with scriptural origins, I'm glad to see that it might be done away with. Of course, the question it attempts to answer is a fair one--what does happen to such souls? I'd have to look up the actual passage, but I think one of Paul's letters goes into this and says or implies that being born into a Christian family is enough for a baby--the parents' faith takes care of the child until the child can really think for himself.

Of course, Paul himself often seems to go beyond what Jesus actually said, but his letter is probably the most direct answer you're going to get.

One more thing on the actual theology--the Scotsman article I linked to, above, says that Thomas Aquinas, the major Christian theologian of the 13th century, was the first to come up with the concept in its modern form. I've never read much of Aquinas, but I'm often in disagreement with the bits of him I have read. Maybe it's that he's an Aristotelian, while I favor Plato (at least, out of these two choices). But from things like this, he seems to exemplify the tendency of philosophically-oriented theologians to extrapolate waaaaaay too far from shaky foundations. Kind of like anchoring a cantilever construction to mud. There's a natural human desire to find systems and patterns to the world, and theologians aren't exempt from it. And sure enough, there are patterns to nature and this physical universe. Science and mathematics rely on their existence. God has made us a relatively comprehensible universe, as Isaac Newton so famously found. There are rules He laid down for its operation.

But it's risky to take the strict, rule-based operation of the natural world and try to apply it to the supernatural. Sometimes this leads to Man trying to constrain God Himself. As if, while God might like to act in different ways, hey--His hands are tied. To be sure, there are some religious rules God has laid down. But these are things He's laid down for us, not Him. (Actually, though, the Covenants with Israel do show that God is willing to promise us what he will do in certain areas--so there is a positive self-constraint, there.) My problem is with Man trying to extrapolate from what's actually there in Scripture and "discover" other rules. Especially those rules that make it seem like God is something to be conjured up and ordered about by magic formulae, as if He cannot tell what we actually think and feel in our hearts.

This is not a criticism of one denomination's theologians, by the way. While I started out talking about limbo and Thomas Aquinas, I mean this as a criticism of many theologians, Protestant as well as Roman Catholic (and not all of these). The desire to fashion doctrines out of thin material is wide-spread. (And I should add here that the future pope said in 1984 that, "Limbo has never been a defined truth of faith.")

Now, I'm not saying that all doctrines are bad to have. While I prefer fewer official doctrines, you can go too far the other way (attention, Bishop Spong!). And to be considered even Christian at all requires some basic doctrines (Jesus as the Messiah, for instance). I remember reading somewhere that Emerson left the Unitarians because he thought they were too doctrinare! That's a group about as doctrineless as you can possibly get. And note I didn't say the Unitarian Church. I think they no longer regard themselves as Christian.

Dean Barnett on Abe Foxman

Over at Soxblog, Dean Barnett also jumps onto Abe Foxman's case, making a much more thorough job of it than I ever could. He also mentions a certain Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who is head of the Union for Reform Judaism (itself liberal group), and who makes similarly wild statements against conservative Christians. Yoffie compares our views of homosexuality with (can you see this coming?)...Adolf Hitler's!

The terrorist war has fostered a rising alliance between Jews and conservative Christians (some of this was already there, of course, but the war has husbanded its growth). One liberal Jewish friend of mine in particular has changed her political views to a great extent. I think that this is the sort of effect that Foxman and Yoffie are alarmed about.

Shame on them. We have greater enemies abroad than at home these days, and these men, of all people, ought to be aware of it.

Conservative superhero comics

I've never read comic books, but from this article in NRO, it sounds like this would be fun to get: Liberality for All. It's an over-the-top conservative fantasy (maybe "anti-fantasy" would be more appropriate) of the world of 2021, in which the hard Left has taken over America and imposed its top-down style of government over the country. Underground conservative heros G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, and Sean Hannity battle the oppressors in usual comic-book hero style, bionic arms and all. Over the top, like I said, but it seems like a fun read!

I heard interviews with the creator, Mike Mackey, on both Liddy's and Hannity's shows, some time back. This is the first time I've checked out the website, which has a 5-frame preview of the first installment available. In a similar vein, take a look at this fantasy-art depiction of Rush Limbaugh protecting ladies Justice and Liberty from a Democratic hydra.