Monday, April 30, 2007

Atheism: A Rough History Of Disbelief

There is a three part special coming to PBS from England called this. Just saw a brief segment of it on YouTube and thought it worth posting.

More video on this can be found at YouTube

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Democratic Presidential Debate

I recorded it and watched it last night, and the pundits are all wrong. I'd say everyone did well except for Richardson, and Gravel was interesting but took on the role of court jester, being funny while saying some biting truths, but I don't see him as presidential material. This was the first time I got a good look at Kucinich and I have to say I was impressed, but not enough to put him in the top tier.

Edwards and Obama did not stumble at all, both were good and I would give the win to Edwards. He was thoughtful and forceful and, most important, he was original. All the others were parroting party lines in many cases but he had some unique things to say including a story about how poor his father was. Hillary did do the best I've ever seen her. Wasn't stiff or being a bad actor, but was on her game, intelligent and strong. Obama did worst of all three but still not bad at all. But I have long been expecting Obama to blow everyone away with the force of his personality and he didn't do that at all. If anything he seemed like someone in a bit over his head.

So the result is that Edwards is still my main man (unless Gore comes in). From what I've heard the guy is incredible in person, as magnetic as Bill Clinton was (and is) and he's been all over Iowa holding townhall meetings and leads the pack in that state. If he can take the Iowa caucus, and it looks like he can, he could take the whole thing.

Ed Schultz did a Townhall meeting with him last week and I was amazed at the sense of awe in his voice at the end of it and at how much he liked Edwards. His stand has always been that as a radio guy his job is to get all candidates on his show and give them a platform and let the listeners make up their own minds. If he endorses any candidate that could ruin that whole idea so he doesn't. But the way he talked about Edwards after meeting him personally sounded like he was ready to endorse him on the spot and just barely held back.

In conclusion I don't think Obama is going to overtake Hillary, she's been in the lead all along and I see her keeping that lead after this debate. Edwards is kind of the stealth candidate who can go to each state as their primaries are coming up and build up huge momentum for himself, enough to take the lead. So I think it will be a race between the two of them and Obama will be the VP of the winner.

Jefferson Quotes

"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."
[Thomas Jefferson]

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."
[Thomas Jefferson,letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper February 10, 1814]

"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology."
[Thomas Jefferson]

"Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."
[Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, Aug. 10, 1787]

"The truth is, that the greatest enemies of the doctrine of Jesus are those, calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them to the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his Father, in the womb of a virgin will be classified with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated Reformer of human errors."
[Thomas Jefferson, to John Adams, Apr. 11, 1823]

"The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man."
[Thomas Jefferson, to Jeremiah Moor, 1800.]

"[When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom ... was finally passed, ... a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination."
[Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, 1821]

"Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State." -- to Danbury Baptists, 1802.

"He is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong."
[Thomas Jefferson]

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."
[Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 1791

Bertrand Russell quotes

Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

I believe in using words, not fists. I believe in my outrage knowing people are living in boxes on the street. I believe in honesty. I believe in a good time. I believe in good food. I believe in sex.

I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn't wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine.

I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.

It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.

Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.

Many people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.

One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.

The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.

The secret to happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible.

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.

There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Another Olbermann Commentary

I love Keith Olbermann's special commentaries. He seems to be the only TV news person who has the guts to call the Republicans what they really are and call their words what they really are. In this one he gets really intense, I think that comes from an huge dislike of Giuliani and anger at how he did nothing from the time of the first bombing of the WTC until it's destruction, and instead of getting terrible blame for that has been lauded as a hero.

There's a transcript of it but much better to watch the video to see his intensity.

The Tudors Part 2

They hooked me in again. One comment about Francis of France being capture by the Spanish army and I'm searching the web to find out about it. He was indeed captured and spent some time in Madrid until he was ransomed, he ruled France for 32 years and Carlos of Spain was his nemesis the whole time, and Henry never did get to rule France although the British kings called themselves Kings of France since before Henry's time up until the 1800.

Francis was a good king in some ways, was the man most responsible for bringing the Renaissance to France, a great patron of the arts. He is also responsible for Canada, sent Cartier exploring up the Hudson and appointed Canada's first governor. But when the protestants in France got too pushy he persecuted them hard, practically creating a civil war and even wiped out whole villages. And he was always losing to Carlos, who was the king not only of Spain (and also beat Francis out of being the Holy Roman Emperor) but the king of Germany and northern Italy, so he had Francis surrounded. It is said that when he died he complained about the weight of the crown that he thought was a gift when he first got it.

It's hard work being a king, just ask Bush.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bill Maher

I'm a big fan of Real Time with Bill Maher and never miss a show. I'm constantly amazed at how knowledgeable he is on so many subjects, but this week he really let me down so I fired off an email:

I was very disappointed with you on Friday's show, usually you are very well informed but you let one lie and one error go from your very annoying English guest. First of all Partial Birth Abortion is not a medical term, it's made up by the Christian right for propaganda purposes, second of all, it is never used on a viable baby. Abortion past the 2nd trimester is illegal in most, if not all, 50 states. This procedure is done only when the fetus is NOT viable and the mother's life is in danger. So no late term abortions of a healthy fetus are happening, yet you let that clown say that's what was happening. What the Supreme Court ruling means is a woman MUST submit to the far more dangerous and invasive C Section surgery.

The other thing you should have commented on was his statement of what happened when we pulled out of Vietnam. Yes it was true but all the years we spent in Vietnam did not prevent that from happening in any way, it just got a lot more people killed on all sides before it happened. This is the same thing in Iraq, whatever will happen there when we pull out, and we must pull out eventually, WILL happen. We could spend 10 more years there, get many Americans and Iraqis killed, bankrupt our country, and it will still happen when we pull out. All we are doing is keeping a lid on things by force, not solving any problems. The longer we stay the greater the problems become as more and more resentment is built up on all sides and the worse our leaving will be. There is no way we can stay long enough to prevent anything from happening. The Soviets held a lid on Yugoslavia for 50 years but all hell still broke loose when they pulled out.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Crossing Jordan

Normally this isn't a show I'd consider worthy of reviewing, I watch it mainly because they have a lot of colorful characters, especially those played by Miguel Ferrer and Steve Valentine. But last Wednesday's show is worth mentioning. In it the medical examiner called Bug (his area of expertise), played by Ravi Kapoor, is abducted by Homeland Security, threatened and interviewed while being accused of all kinds of things he never did and never would have done. He was told he would lose his citizenship and be sent to Guantanamo Bay - indefinitely. He was not allowed to see a lawyer, and then they brought out the electric shock machine, where he said he doesn't know anything that he can tell them. They didn't show the torture scene, probably thought that was over the line. Macy, his boss, enlisted the support of the Boston DA to try and get him him out and she enlisted the aid of a prominent judge to talk to the HS agent doing all this, the agent will not listen to anyone or talk to anyone and the judge says because of the patriot Act he has no jurisdiction. Macy refuses to give up and keeps approaching the agent with new information showing how he got the wrong the idea about Bug. The whole show was very chilling. Macy eventually told the agent that he needs to do his job but the one thing he has to make sure of is that he gets it right, not destroy innocent people, and by wasting his time on the innocents lets the guilty get away. The show ends with everyone at Jordan's apartment when there is a knock on the door and it's Bug, big hugs all around, but Bug has what can only be described as a haunted look. How would it feel to have your government kidnap you without a warrant and torture you for having done nothing and almost made you disappear? That's how Bug looked. The fact that they didn't show the torture but you knew it happened and Bug didn't look damaged except for that look, made it all more terrible. None of his friends really knew what he'd been through.

When I was a kid these were the kind of stories we heard about the Soviet Union, but America was better because we weren't like that. Now, thanks to Bush and his cronies, we ARE like that. I applaud cast and crew for dramatizing this so well, not many would have the courage to tackle this subject at all, let alone so brutally and honestly. Too many of us can't relate to abstract ideas, the idea that Habeas Corpus no longer exists in America is the kind of thing most people don't think about or really appreciate what it really means. It means we are no longer a free country, because
Habeas Corpus is required for that. A show like this makes it all personal and people can then understand just how important it is, and also understand that Bush has destroyed this country. Not damaged it, destroyed it, most people just haven't felt all the effects of that yet so are unaware of it. Can we come back? Yes, but I don't have a lot of confidence in the whole process these days. Theoretically, what Bush has done shouldn't have been possible, but the system did not stop him. Maybe a show like this one will wake up a few more people to the danger we are in as a country.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Painkiller Jane

Sci Fi Friday is back! Yay! It's about time, I really hate the long hiatus that most shows seem to have these days. Although I have to admit that Stargate is getting a bit old, the two shows seemed like they'd been done before. I mean, how many impossible, absolutely inescapable situations can they get out of? Last season for Stargate SG1, I don't think I'll miss it except I'll be sorry to see Ben Browder out of work again. He's going to start thinking he's cursed. Stargate Atlantis seems a bit ho hum, too. I'll still watch it, after all, even mediocre sci fi is worth watching.

But the good news is there's a new show on this time, Painkiller Jane. I was expecting it to resume where the movie left off but instead they started completely from scratch, new characters, new concept, everything. I liked how this time no one knew why she was different including her. She falls from 46 floors and survives, and she's as surprised as anyone. And then there's Kristanna Loken, what's not to love about a big, beautiful Viking woman, yum. Must be my Scandinavian heritage coming out. Too early to tell how good the series will be but I definitely like Loken and will definitely be watching next week.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Darcy's Birthday

Today is 9 years since her lung transplant, she calls it her birthday. Back then there was a 20% 5 year survival rate. Of the 5 other people transplanted at USC at around the same time all were dead at the 5 year point, only Darcy is left. 9 years is really quite a long time for lung transplants and the drugs she takes have definitely taken a toll. She looks like skin and bones now, hardly any muscle to speak of, and her skin looks thin as paper and just as fragile. And she is too sick to go out more than once a week now. Breaks my heart to see her like this, I can only hope we have more time. Her friend Gail made it to 11 years.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Tudors

I love English history so I might not be the most objective one to write a review of this, it probably isn't as good as I think it is but it has me picking up the computer and doing Wikipedia searches for things I don't know or have forgotten.

For instance, the Tudors were Welsh and weren't a long dynasty, it started with Henry's father, Henry VII, goes to Henry the VIII, then on to his first daughter Mary for a short reign, then to Queen Elizabeth, and that was the entire Tudor's royal line. Yet Henry and Elizabeth are two of the best known rulers of England and turned them from being a backwater island into the beginning of a world power, and Henry changed world religion as well, not a small feat.

There was one very ironic scene in the last episode. Henry writes a pamphlet condemning Martin Luther and Protestantism and praising the Pope with the help of Sir John Moore. He then tells Sir John to go out and find as much of Luther's writings as he can and burn them. Ironic because Henry later becomes a Protestant himself and breaks all of England away from Catholic Rome, and he had to put down some rebellion - you don't mess with a man's religion - and he had the most prominent Catholics executed, one of whom was Sir Thomas Moore.

My one big objection is that everyone looks far too clean, after all, they were pretty primitive back then, no indoor plumbing, showers and washing machines. I suppose they felt some dirt would cheapen the whole thing but I appreciate realism.

The Tudors is on Sundays on Showtime and plays several times during the week.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Owner - Operated

The hoe has moved closer and will stay there until tomorrow morning. Hard to believe, at this point, that they are going to be able to turn that mound of dirt (or giant cat box depending on your point of view) into anything that looks halfway decent.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

My Backyard

This is the view right now from my patio. Some months ago the apartment owners decided to do a major renovation of the entire complex, since this involves 8 large buildings and the grounds surrounding them this has been one big project. Didn't bother me for a long time since I'm in building #7, but they finally got to me a couple months ago. Since then there have been major hassles with the patio blocked off, loud machinery running all day long and various other annoyances. At first I was glad they were starting up front and wouldn't get to me for a while, now I see that was very bad. They got all the front building done amazingly fast, by the time they got here they must have gotten tired because they are now as slow as molasses. All last week they had a back hoe in here tearing up the lawn, so this is the sight I've had to view for the whole weekend, and it's been very cloudy all day, making things dim, cold and feeling like I'm in a foreign land without modern amenities. All the neighborhood cats have been delighted, like all cats they think everything is all about them so they think people were nice enough to build giant cat boxes just for them.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

The Dresden Files - The Book

I finished Storm Front, the first of the Dresden series and I've got to say I'm a quite disappointed. Story was good and it was well written, nice flow to it and easy to read, I like that and hate books I have to plow through. Use of magic was well done, especially when he wrapped some sunlight in a napkin then pulled it out when being attacked by a vampire. The sunlight burned her and saved Harry's life, quite clever.

What disappointed me was the character, the way Jim Butcher writes him he's a total loser who makes a mess of everything and manages to succeed - and stay alive - by sheer luck more than anything else. Twice people sneak up on him and beat him up. What good is it to be a wizard if people can sneak up on you? In both instances Harry should have died and didn't through no effort of his own. When he gets in a battle the first thing he does is lose his staff so he can't fight well, and he spent half the book dressed in sweatpants and cowboy boots because he didn't have anything else to wear. Not a good image.

If I hadn't been watching the TV series and already liked Harry because of the excellent job Paul Blackthorne does I might not even have finished the book. As it was I wasn't sure if I was going to buy another one, but eventually decided I would just to see if he makes Harry any more competent in the future. I can understand him not wanting to make a wizard character too powerful and to keep him more human and vulnerable but he went too far in the other direction to the point that I had to wonder how a doofus like this ever became a wizard. Then he'll suddenly have Harry doing amazing deeds of awesome power. Very inconsistent. But, like I said, I will buy the second book to see what he does with Harry next time - when I get around to it. No real rush.