Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Miaculpa Cartoons

This is my collection of links to cartoons linked to by Diane(Desi) at
Oct 31
High Explosive
Oct 27
Oct 24
'publican attack dogs
Kettle and Pot
Oct 21
Employment of last resort
Bush's New Middle East
Oct 20
Darth Cheney
Oct 19
President Jeffrey saves the world
Oct 18
Won't retire
Oct 15
Nobel reaction

Piano Music Reco

The Scarlatti Piano Sonatas played by Yevgeny Sudbin meets with my (mere listener) total approval.

Free Market Rules!

Since the unregulated free market is supposed to be the best of all possible ways of organizing an economy, why is this NYT article, Chinese Chemicals Flow Unchecked to Market written as a matter of concern rather than congratulations?

Any Libertarians around?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dodd makes a speech

Senator Dodd (on the badly flawed FISA bill):

Mr. President, for six years, this President has demonstrated time and time again that he doesn’t respect the role of Congress nor does he respect the rule of law.

Every six years as United States Senators we take the oath office to uphold the Constitution. Our colleagues on the House side take that oath every two years. That is important.

For six years this President has used scare tactics to prevent the Congress from reining in his abuse of authority. A case and point is the current direction this body appears to be headed as we prepare to reform and extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Many of the unprecedented rollbacks to the rule of law by this Administration have been made in the name of national security.

The Bush Administration has relentlessly focused our nation’s resources and manpower on a war of choice in Iraq. That ill conceived war has broken our military, squandered resources and emboldened our enemies.

The President’s wholesale disregard of the rule of law has compounded the damage done in Iraq and has made our nation less secure and as a direct consequence of these acts, we are less secure, more vulnerable and more isolated in the world.

Consider the scandal at Abu Ghraib – where Iraqi prisoners were subjected to inhumane and humiliating acts by U.S. personnel charged with guarding them.

Consider Guantanamo Bay. Rather than helping to protect the nation, the prisons at Guantanamo Bay have instead become the very symbol for our weakened moral standing in the world.

Consider the secret prisons run by the CIA and the practice of extraordinary rendition that allows them to evade U.S. law regarding torture.

Consider the shameful actions of our outgoing Attorney General who politicized prosecutions – who was more committed to serving the President who appointed him than the laws he had sworn to uphold.

And consider, of course, the Military Commissions Act – a law that allows evidence obtained through torture to be admitted into evidence.

It denies individuals the right to counsel.

It denies them the right to invoke the Geneva Conventions.

And it denies them the single most important and effective safeguard of liberty man has known – the right of habeas corpus, permitting prisoners to be brought before a court to determine whether their detainment is lawful.

Warrantless wiretapping, torture – the list goes on.

Each of these policies share two things in common.

First, they have weakened our ability to prosecute the global war on terrorism – if for no other reason than they have made it harder, if not impossible, to build the international support and cooperation we need to fight it.

And second, each has only been possible because Congress has not been able to stop this President’s unprecedented expansion of executive power, although some in this body have tried.

Whether or not these policies were explicitly authorized is beside the point. In every instance, Congress has been unable to hold this Administration to account for violating the rule of law and our Constitution. In each instance, Republicans in the Congress have prevented this body from telling this Administration that “a state of war is not a blank check.”

And those aren’t my words, Mr. President – those are the words of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who was nominated by Ronald Reagan.

And today, it appears that we are prepared to consider the proposed renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – a law that in whatever form it eventually takes will almost certainly permit the Bush Administration to broadly eavesdrop on American citizens.

Legislation, as currently drafted, that would grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that helped this Administration violate the civil liberties of Americans and the law of this country.

Mr. President while it may be true that the proposed legislation is an improvement on existing law, it remains fundamentally flawed because it fails to protect the privacy rights of Americans or hold the Executive or the private sector accountable if they choose to ignore the law.

That is why I will not stand on the floor of the United States Senate and be silent about the direction we are headed.

It is time to say “no more.”

No more trampling our Constitution.

No more excusing those who violate the rule of law.

These are our principles.

They have been around at least since the Magna Carta.

They are enduring.

What they are not is temporary. And what we do not do in a time where our country is at risk is abandon them.

My father was Executive Trial Counsel at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals during 1945 and 1946.

What America accomplished at those historic trials wasn’t a foregone conclusion. It took courage – when Stalin and even a leader as great and noble as Winston Churchill wanted to simply execute the Nazi leaders, we didn’t back down from our belief that these men—as terrible as they were—ought to have a trial.

We did not give in to vengeance.

As then, the issue before us today is the same.

Does America stand for all that is still right with our world? Or do we retreat in fear?

Do we stand for justice that secures America? Or do we act out of vengeance that weakens us?

Mr. President, I am well aware that this issue is seen as political. I believe that Democrats were elected to strengthen the nation – elected to restore our standing in the world.

I believe we were elected to ensure that this nation adheres to the rule of law and to stop this Administration’s assault on the Constitution.

But the rule of law is not the provenance of any one political party – but of every American who has been safer because of it.

Mr. President, I know this bill hasn’t even been reported out of the Judiciary Committee yet.

But I am here today because if I have learned anything in my 26 years in this body—particularly during the last 7 years—it is that if you wait until the end to voice your concerns, you will have waited too long. That is why I have written to the Majority Leader informing him that I will object to any effort to bring this legislation to the Senate floor for consideration.

I hope that Senator Leahy is able to remove this language – he is a dear friend and I know his respect for the rule of law runs deep.

But if he cannot, I am prepared to filibuster this bill.

President Bush is right about one thing: this debate is about security. But not in the way he imagines.

He believes we have to give up certain rights to be safe.

I believe the choice between moral authority and security is a false choice.

I believe it is precisely when you stand up and protect your rights that you become stronger, not weaker.

The damage that was done to our country on 9/11 was stunning. It changed the world forever.

But when you start diminishing our rights as a people, you compound that tragedy. You cannot protect America in the long run if you fail to protect our Constitution. It is that simple.

Mr. President, history will likely judge this President harshly for his war of choice and for fighting it with a disregard for our most cherished principles.

But history is about tomorrow. We must act today to stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law.

Mr. President, this is the moment. At long last, let us rise to it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Canon 200mm f/1.8

The Canon 200mm f/1.8 is an old lens, no longer manufactured, no longer supported (as far as I know). There is news that Canon is developing a 200mm f/2 lens.

Some incredibly lovely shots by the old lens can be found here (at least for now). The long focal length and wide aperture are essential ingredients of these photographs. (The photographer's skill, the subject and recording medium are other essential ingredients, to be sure.) Be sure to go beyond Page 1.

Until the annoucement of the new lens, the extinct version of the lens was trading reportedly for as much as $4000.

A Trading Proposition

I'm not sure why, but I find this to be very funny: (all of the following is an excerpt)

THIS APPEARED ON CRAIG’S LIST… I’m a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I’m articulate and classy… I’m looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City… Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board?... I dated a business man who makes average around 200–250. But that’s where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won’t get me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she’s not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right?... Here are my questions specifically:… What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won’t hurt my feelings… Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the upper east side so plain? I’ve seen really ‘plain jane’ boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I’ve seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the east village… How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY. Please hold your insults – I’m putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I’m being up front about it. I wouldn’t be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn’t able to match them – in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.

Well, she got an answer:

I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament.

Firstly, I’m not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here’s how I see it.

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a crappy business deal. Here’s why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here’s the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity…in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won’t be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you’re 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold…hence the rub…marriage. It doesn’t make good business sense to "buy you" (which is what you’re asking) so I’d rather lease. In case you think I’m being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It’s as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage… I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.

Unstated but assumed in all of this is what philosopher D. C. Stove, in his book of the same name, would call a Darwinian Fairy Tale, the fairy tale here being that because there is a theoretical evolutionary basis for rich men to pursue beautiful women, they must in fact follow this course.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bush, Rumsfeld implicated in torture

A US vision of a Middle East

Iran is a major obstacle to the U.S. vision of a Middle East, Rice says.


Monday, October 22, 2007



My apologies to those who don't know Hindi. I can't translate.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Guess who is in the news?

As per sitemeter, this blog has been receiving a number of hits from Pakistan, all based on searches for Ijaz/Ejaz Shah.

This blog posting and this one produced the hits.

I was wondering why, until I saw this by B. Raman: Bin Laden's Former Handling Officer Was In Charge of Benazir's Security - International Terrorism Monitor---Paper No. 288

Friday, October 19, 2007

Another Garba picture

The dancers were visibly reacting to the camera in my hands, and my niece N took the camera, (correctly, as it turned out) pointing out that they would not notice as much the camera in the hands of another young woman. Here is one of the results:


#7 in the previous post is also likely by my niece.

A Keeper

This essay on Bush versus History is a keeper.

The plan for governance in “post-Saddam Iraq” does not exist, all discussion of it having been paralyzed by a bitter dispute between officials in the Pentagon, State Department, and CIA that the President will never resolve. The Iraqi “civil society” that he tells Aznar is “relatively strong” will soon be decimated by the prolonged looting and chaos that follows on the entry of American troops into Baghdad. The “good bureaucracy” he boasts about in Iraq will shortly be destroyed by a radical de-Baathification ordered by the American proconsul that he almost certainly never approved. The Iraqi army that he decides in early March will be retained and used for reconstruction will instead be peremptorily dissolved, to catastrophic effect.

If these radical departures from the President’s chosen plan have dampened his optimism and faith — or indeed have even led him to try to discover what happened — there is no evidence of it. When Bush’s latest biographer, Robert Draper, asked him why the Iraqi army had not been kept intact, as the President had decided it should be, Bush replied, “Yeah, I can’t remember. I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’”

The Decline and Fall of the New York Times

But the Times made one more mistake -- one which it alone could make, and which I think ultimately led to yesterday's meltdown. Most newspapers adopted the always dangerous strategy of trying to become more like one's competitors rather than establishing the defensible position of being even more true to oneself. Like most newspapers, the Times decided to become more timely, more hip, and more judgmental than the electronic media -- when it should have become better reported, more objective, and better written; professionalism being the one arena where the new competitors would have a hard time competing. - Michael S Malone, How the New York Times Fell Apart.

This is something I have long believed. The only problem is that perhaps there isn't enough of a market for a better reported, more objective, better written newspaper with high standards of professionalism. This being a country where professionals for whom English is a second language write better than the natives; a country that reelected George W Bush, a country that made Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly into stars.

Neither professionalism nor competence is a value for the majority, and there in lies the real story of the NYT's decline.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Road Sign, Holmdel, New Jersey


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Spirit of Dance

The Indian Culture Society of New Jersey held a series of Navaratri Garba dances at the Dunn Sports Center, Elizabeth High School. pictures of the event are here.
My few pictures are here.

I felt disoriented when I entered the indoor stadium turned dance room:


It is not just the women that were dressed in vibrant colors. While many guys had come in jeans and tee-shirt, some of them did not disappoint. Little children shared in the fun.






The spirit of dance:




Pictures from the East Brunswick Festival

September 16th a fair/festival was held on the grounds of the East Brunswick library. Some pictures from there:






Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why America is in Iraq

The whole of Retd. Air Force Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski's speech should be read.

If not, read below:

In the second half of 2002, a total of 27 different reasons were given by the administration or by Congresspersons as to why we needed to go into Iraq as soon as possible. I know this because a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign wrote her senior honors thesis entitled "Uncovering the Rationales for the War on Iraq: The Words of the Bush Administration, Congress and the Media from September 12, 2001, to October 11, 2002." Devon Largio did a detailed analysis identifying 23 different reasons put forth by the administration, and 4 more put forth by various congressmen in the run up to war.


Today, we generally understand that we were lied to by the Pentagon, and by our government. These lies were repeated and often expanded upon by politicians and our media in 2002 and for several years after the invasion. Suggestions by politicians and media outlets that the truth was actually somewhat different were met by scorn, and accusations of sleeping with the enemy. And we all fell in line, and marched in unison.

There were of course, real reasons for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. There might even be 27 real reasons. But I know of three.

One reason has to do with enhancing our military-basing posture in the region. We had been very dissatisfied with our relations with Saudi Arabia, particularly the restrictions on our basing. There was dissatisfaction from the people of Saudi Arabia, and thus the troubled monarchy. So we were looking for alternate strategic locations beyond Kuwait, beyond Qatar, to secure something we had been searching for since the days of Carter – to secure the energy lines of communication in the region. Bases in Iraq, then, were very important – that is, if you hold that is America’s role in the world. And Saddam Hussein was not about to invite us in.

A major reason for the invasion, and the urgency of it, is that sanctions and containment had worked, and over the years, almost too well. They had become counterproductive. Many companies around the world were preparing to do business with Iraq in anticipation of a lifting of sanctions. But the U.S. and the U.K. had been bombing northern and southern Iraq since 1991. So it was very unlikely that we would be in any kind of position to gain significant contracts in any post-sanctions Iraq. And those sanctions were going to be lifted soon, Saddam would still be in place, and we would get no financial benefit.

Naomi Klein has researched and written many astute articles on our foreign policy in Iraq. One of these, published by Harper’s in September 2003, was called "Baghdad Year Zero." She made a compelling case for the convergence of business interests and a kind of neoconservative free market ideology – and that the invasion and occupation was a clean slate transformation of a command economy into a free trade utopia. Neoconservative ideology does not embrace free trade in the sense that libertarians or Adam Smith might embrace it, but instead prefers significant state involvement in trade, for the good of the nation. However, Klein’s article from 2003 sheds a great deal of light on what we really wanted and intended for Iraq.

Another reason is a uniquely American rationale, and it relates to our currency, and our debt situation. Saddam Hussein decided in November 2000 to sell his Food for Oil program oil sales in euros. The oil sales permitted in that program weren’t very much. But if the sanctions were lifted, the sales from the country with the second largest oil reserves on the planet would have been setting a standard away from, and competing with, US paper.

The U.S. dollar was, and remains, in a sensitive period because we are a major debtor nation now. Our currency is still globally popular, but these days that’s more due to habit than its reliability as a currency backed up by a government that the world trusts not to print boatloads of bills for no productive reason. To the extent that oil, almost the new gold in terms of in-demand commodity reliability, is traded on the euro, global confidence in the dollar and global bank reserve demand for the dollar shifts negatively.

In any case, the first executive order regarding Iraq that Bush signed in May [2003] switched trading on Iraq’s oil back to the dollar.

These, for me are the big three.


Christopher Manion
Ron Paul is right, of course: foreign countries and foreign people are not barbarians, nor are they simpletons who "hate us because we are free." There are millions of intelligent and cultured people in the world who watch what our government does. And they act accordingly. In seven years of occupying the Oval Office, Mr. Bush has not yet learned this simple lesson that any high-school kid who didn’t go to Andover could teach you in ten minutes on the playground.

Karen Kwiatkowski:
What we have done – intentionally or not – is to create an Iraq that today recalls the poorly functioning Ba-ath command economy, after a decade of deadly UN sanctions and periodic American bombing, as a good thing, a lovely memory. Electricity was delivered, water was clean and water systems functional, there weren’t two million internally displaced and another two million refugees in camps in neighboring countries, and people could drive their cars through comfortably mixed neighborhoods to visit, shop, and sell goods – or to visit a museum, library, or park.

As a libertarian, I condemn Iraqi Ba-ath Party socialism, its command economy, its lack of civil liberties and freedom, its crude and warlike dictator who invaded one country after another – first Iran, then Kuwait.

As an American, I am quite simply sick that we have done Saddam Hussein one better in every one of these areas.

Worlds Apart!

From NYT's Metropolitan Diary (perhaps only NJ-ites might appreciate this)
Dear Diary:

I work in a shop near New York University. A month ago, on registration day, a father and his student son came to the store. When they were asked to check their bags, the father seemed surprised and said “They don’t do that where we’re from.”

Expecting he would say they were from a place far from New York, I asked where they lived. The father replied that they were from New Jersey.

When I said that I hadn’t thought New Jersey was that different from New York, the father said: “Oh, yes. We have bears.”

The pair went on to shop and then retrieved their bags. As they turned to leave the store, the father said to his son, “John, you’re in a whole new world.”

Olga Hughes

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fair Game by Jon Swift

Jon Swift is a satirist in the tradition of the original Jonathan Swift, but some things go beyond even his ability to satirize.
Being a conservative means never saying you’re sorry for what other conservatives do. It means justifying the means if you support the ends, whether that involves ruining people’s lives and reputations, invading people’s privacy, violating people’s constitutional rights or torturing them. It means seeing anyone who is not with you 100% as an enemy and seeing every issue as black and white. It means doing whatever is necessary to defeat the enemy even if you sometimes have to violate your own principles to do it and seem like a hypocrite. Being a conservative means scoring political points by going after easy enemies and racking up victories instead of wasting a lot of time with the much harder job of persuading people with the rightness of your cause. It means doing it to them before they do it to us. It means seeing everyone opposed to us, even a 12-year-old boy, as “fair game.” Yes, I am very proud to be a conservative. - "Fair Game"

The context is the battle over S-CHIP, a government program to provide health insurance to children. The President vetoed an expansion of this program. The Democrats chose a 12-year old boy, Graeme Frost, who is a beneficiary of the program to give the Democrats' reply to the President's weekly radio address.

The Frosts' story is that though they are in a way comfortably off - both parents work, they own a house bought way back when housing prices were rational, the children go to good schools - there was no affordable health insurance available to them when both their children were seriously injured in a automobile accident. (The Frosts, we are told, earn a combined $45K a year, and the health insurance that was quoted to them was $1.2K a month). Under Maryland law, which is where the Frosts live, the children were eligible for S-CHIP (the rule was for a family of 4 having income within 200% of the official poverty level or some such).

The Frosts committed at least two cardinal sins, in the eyes of the conservatives. One of them dared criticize the President. Secondly, as a diarist on dkos pointed (sorry, I couldn't find the diary), the Frosts explode the myth that a white American family with all the right values and hard work can make it in America on their own. The reality is that every middle-class family is one serious health emergency away from bankruptcy.

So the conservative attack dogs in the media did a number on the Frosts, and it was so bad that even Jon Swift's unfailing wit did the unthinkable and failed.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The real mood in America

The Congress is intent to bring to a vote a resolution that terms the killing of 1.5 million Armenians around 1915 by the Ottoman Turks as a genocide. Symbolic though it may be, it has made the Turks angry. The Congress is resisting pressure from the President on this. (By Congress, we really mean the leaders of the Democrats.)

Why are Nancy Pelosi and her followers so determined? Because there is a constituency for it. Quote
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will determine whether the Foreign Affairs Committee resolution comes to a vote on the House floor. She comes from California, a state with a large Armenian population, and she's on record as favoring the resolution.

Nothing like doing things one's constituency wants (and seemingly principled, too - who wants to be a holocaust denier?) to put some spine into a politician!

What that implies, (and is noted by Frank Rich in today's New York Times) is that there is no constituency that demands with the same energy or influence for, among other things:

- an end to the policy of torture instituted by G.W. Bush
- a restoration of habeas corpus and an end to illegal surveillance

I don't mention other things, like an end to the war in Iraq, because there are powerful forces other than the President who are in opposition.

But surely no one condones torture or the suspension of civil liberties?

Think about it and let it sink in.

In particular, it means that the liberal netroots plus whatever additional civil liberties constituency is out there, collectively has much less influence than Nancy Pelosi's Armenian constituency. Time and again, the very same Congressional Democrats have given Bush and the neocons whatever they want. One would have thought that the same two things that apply in the Armenian case, a constituency and a principle, would be enough to give them the courage to fight.

We haven't taken to heart Ben Franklin's warning:
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
Americans will countenance anything their government does ,as long as it lets them max. out their credit cards, and allows unscrupulous lenders to give them shady loans. Civil liberties are no good as a collateral for a loan, so who needs them?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Climate news!

Gore and UN panel win Nobel prize
BBC breaking news graphic
Climate change campaigner Al Gore and the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have been jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr Gore, 59, was vice-president under Bill Clinton and has since devoted his efforts to environmental campaigning.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change brings together the world's top climate scientists.

The Nobel committee said it wanted to help the world focus on the threat it faced from climate change.

Is he goofy -2?

At the time of the VA Tech shooting, Russel T. Johnson had written
I've written on this subject before, but here it goes again. Every time I point this out, people roll their eyes and act like I'm goofy, but....

These shootings always occur right after a public health crisis, in this case a big pet food recall. The last school shooting, the one at the Amish school, came right after the big ecoli/green onion scare."
There was a school shooting in Ohio on October 10, in which a student injured five and then killed himself. In other news (this item dated October 11, but clearly the problem had occurred well before the 11th, the alert was issued October 9)
OMAHA, Neb. — ConAgra Foods Inc. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are defending their decision not to recall pot pies linked to a salmonella outbreak, although two East Coast grocery chains made their own choice to pull the product from store shelves Wednesday.

The Banquet and generic brand chicken and turkey pot pies made by ConAgra have been linked to at least 139 cases of salmonella in 30 states. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at least 20 people have been hospitalized, but so far no deaths have been linked to the pot pies.

Consumers have been warned not to eat the pot pies while officials investigate, and ConAgra is offering refunds.

ConAgra spokeswoman Stephanie Childs said the Omaha-based company decided with USDA officials that the consumer alert issued Tuesday {Oct 9} would more appropriate than a recall.

"From the consumer perspective, there's not much difference," Childs said.

But unlike with a recall, the pot pies remain available in many stores.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Contempt of Court

That is what one feels about the current Supreme Court.

So do I!

Such a worthless, spineless pusillanimous set of elected officials, I've never witnessed in my life; in the history books maybe those folks in the Weimar Republic?

Like Cenk Uygur, I too Officially Give Up On The Democrats.

PS: Glenn Greenwald raises faint hopes.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The God We Don't Want

Swami Dayananda Saraswati, in his commentary on the Gita:

If ...He is the author of the world, the one from whom everything has come, then ultimately He is the author of all the people in the world. Why, then, has He placed some people in elevated positions and others in lowly positions?...And if He is responsible, He must certainly have a problem - the blemish of partiality.

Why else would He put a silver spoon in the mouth of one person...and not even a plastic one in the mouth of still others?

If this question cannot be asked and answered, why bother about God at all? It is not enough to say "The differences among people are all according to God's wish and He should not be questioned." This double justification simply means that God does whatever He does and because He is God, no one can question Him. Well, He may be God, but I am the sufferer....

What kind of God is this, that sits above us somewhere, having a wonderful life, where some unfortunate person has to inch along the ground because he or she is lame? And if God must make a crippled person, the least He could do is put the person in America where motorized wheelchairs are readily available. Even this much He does not do for the person! How can we look at such differences and say that God is justified in all that He does. What kind of justification is this?

Further I am told that, not only has God made me, but He has also said I must follow Him. Someone else tells me. The least God could do is come and tell me Himself. Then this would all mean something to me. In fact God should tell everyone.

Instead, someone else tells us that God told him and then asked him to tell us. If God wants me to know this, why does He not tell me Himself. Also another person sometimes comes along, saying that God told him that what He told the first person earlier is no longer current and what we are now going to hear is the latest word from God!

This kind of God is someone we would all be better off without, in fact. If God is something that is to be established, the concept should be a rational one, at least. What is unreasonable cannot be accepted.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

An amazing statistic

history_mom , in a comment on pandagon

...statistically the first year of a child’s life is the period when most marriages end...
Totally shocking, makes me doubt the existence of civilization.


1. We could say that the above is a snapshot of a society in transition, not a permanent state of affairs. One would devoutly hope so!

2. We could say that the above is not a problem to be solved at all. IMO, no pre-industrial society could have survived such a chronic problem. In the modern world, indeed, government is being asked to take up the slack:
Amanda Marcotte:
...we need federally subsidized day care, more worker protections for working mothers, better maternal leave (and maybe even mandatory paternal leave), more flex time at work, and less social stigma on motherhood.

3. Religion and tradition served to hold these types of things in check; but they've been discarded as superstition. Also is argued that the American religious actually have more divorces than atheists. This seems to be based on the work of George Barna. A good critique of Barna is available here. Please read through the entire series of posts.

Perhaps more on this later.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A rejoinder to Ron Paul

Congressman Ron Paul (and now candidate for Presidency), March 2005:

The notion that an all-powerful, centralized state should provide monolithic solutions to the ethical dilemmas of our times is not only misguided, but also contrary to our Constitution. Remember, federalism was established to allow decentralized, local decision-making by states. Yet modern America seeks a federal solution for every perceived societal ill, ignoring constitutional limits on government. The result is a federal state that increasingly makes all-or-nothing decisions that alienate large segments of the population.

This federalization of social issues, often championed by conservatives, has not created a pro-life culture, however. It simply has prevented the 50 states from enacting laws that more closely reflect the views of their citizens....

The idea that the centralized state should provide solutions to the ethical dilemmas of our time arose from slavery and, in the modern era, from the segregation and deeply ingrained racism of the country. The "decentralized, local decision-making" states were the reactionary culprits in these stories. The states have not exactly been beacons of liberty, freedom and the right to happiness.


She collects 'toons.

My favorite is the fourth one.


Via Darksyde on dkos, this Hubble picture of the starburst cluster in NGC 3603.

"Merely" 20,000 light years away.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Root of Loneliness

Swami Dayananda Saraswati in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita had this to say:
Every society has false values and these false values are taught; they grow upon you. When, for instance, the society thinks that to be single means to be lonely, this particular thinking seeps into everyone's psyche. In fact, being single has nothing whatsoever to do with being lonely. A person is lonely when he or she is not understood by another person. Thus, if you want to be understood, you will be lonely. You can be lonely in the midst of a million people. You can live in a house with twenty people and still be lonely, especially if you sit in a corner thinking that no one likes or understands you.


Paul Krugman in today's NYT:
Mark Crispin Miller, the author of “The Bush Dyslexicon,” once made a striking observation: all of the famous Bush malapropisms — “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family,” and so on — have involved occasions when Mr. Bush was trying to sound caring and compassionate.

By contrast, Mr. Bush is articulate and even grammatical when he talks about punishing people; that’s when he’s speaking from the heart. The only animation Mr. Bush showed during the flooding of New Orleans was when he declared “zero tolerance of people breaking the law,” even those breaking into abandoned stores in search of the food and water they weren’t getting from his administration.