I’ve been busy of late and not keeping up with my blogging duties. Nevertheless, this morning I came across two things which I decided needed a place on this blog.
The first (found at The Awl) is a collection of images from Voyager and Cassini/Huygens which would make both Carl Sagan and Carolyn Porco proud. Note that all of the pictures interlaced in this video are raw image data from the missions… including the brilliant ice geysers of Enceladus. Ungh.
The song is The Cinematic Orchestra -That Home (Instrumental).
Click through to follow up with some fun NdGT adaptations. Read more…
Peaceful protests were plenty in the days leading up to the execution of Troy Davis last night.
This week, the State of Georgia executed Troy Davis in a case that gripped the nation for all of 24 hours, but had earned the attention of anti-death penalty, human rights and criminal justice advocates for years. Davis had been convicted after two hours of deliberations for the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail.
Before going further, I want to express my condolences to the MacPhail family for all they have been put through, from the loss of their Army Ranger, Police Officer and Good Samaritan son, brother and father. There is no question he died off-duty while fulfilling the oaths he took in his service to this country and to the city of Savannah. But this post and this issue is not about him, the victim. That is largely because the primary focus of the criminal justice system – the administration of the death penalty in particular – intentionally is not structured to factor in retribution.
This focus is why criminal cases are brought by the state (whether on the local or federal level) on behalf of the people and society as a whole. Accompanying civil suits may be brought by victims and their family to seek compensatory justice, but they are largely apart from the criminal cases. This is because criminal punishment is in the interests of society as a whole and not on behalf of the victims. It is also why we seek justice itself, instead of retribution.
I rarely just operate as a bookmark to a blog post that I really like, but a gent named Darryl Cunningham put together an incredibly accessible and concise discussion (in cartoon form) of a topic that is dear to me: climate change. To be more precise, I’ve been fascinated by Americans (and, more recently, the Brits) and their ability to be engrossed in climate change denial.
Click the image below to be taken to Cunningham’s blog post and the full, multi-cel journey through the ridiculousness of deniers. For further reading, see the below links.
Click the image to go to http://darryl-cunningham.blogspot.com/2010/12/climate-change.html
I’ve been meaning to write a bit more and clarify my thoughts and feelings on the Cordoba Initiative’s plans for a community center and mosque in lower Manhattan. Last week, I strung together a bit of a rambling post discussing how disappointed I am in the sweeping tide of anti-American behavior taken up in the name of “American values” throughout this nation.
The proposed Cordoba House is an uncomfortable issue for most and brings up conflicting feelings and desires to both defend American freedoms and empathize with the families of September 11, 2001 victims.
Part of my desire to discuss the topic more was the realization that I hadn’t articulated well exactly what it was that I found offensive and anti-American. So let me be clear, opposing the Cordoba House is not anti-American. It is merely the attempts to use the government or government means that is anti-American and, quite simply, unconstitutional.
While technically, the movement to have the former Burlington Coat Factory building landmarked was not specifically tied to the building of a mosque (and it would not have completely blocked the construction, but simply made the plans more difficult as the exterior of the building would have had to be preserved) and was, therefore, not relating to the establishment, promotion or obstruction of religious freedoms. Despite this, few would argue that the facts really hid the between-the-lines anti-Islam motivations thereunder. This would be no different than the post-Edwards v Aguillard move of creationists to remove overt religious references to religion or god in the newly revamped intelligence design movement. Everyone knows the motivation has no basis in science, but in religious ideology.
In the case of the Cordoba House, pushing to landmark and make more difficult the conversion of the building at the proposed site was a measure to use the government to obstruct the construction of a privately funded, otherwise legal religious building and institution. In other words, this move represented an effort to violate the Establishment Clause.
Mike Bloomberg marked the Cordoba House victory from Governor's Island (nee Nutten Island), where the Dutch first settled New Amsterdam.
This past week has seen two important victories for liberty in America. Yet somehow, the news accounts are all over the place. If you look at a Red station/website/paper (e.g., anything owned by Rupert Murdoch), the sky is falling. If you’re on Twitter or Tumblr, you’d think everyone had decided to sing Kumbaya and that all the world’s ills are over. Obviously, the reality is somewhere in between. And, at least in my eyes, these victories for liberty were but speed bumps that have not halted a harsh and brutal wave of oppression that ironically brandishes the name of freedom.
The victories of which I speak were both very important. The first came on Tuesday when the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously against a measure to grant landmark status to the building that once housed The Burlington Coat Factory and now is planned to be torn down and replaced with a 13-story community center called the Cordoba House. The second was Wednesday, when a California jurist enjoined enforcement of a ballot initiative that effectively banned same-sex marriage in the state. While these two levees pushed back the waters of hatred and bigotry (of late, quite commonly in the name of fundamentalist Christianity), this country is leaking like a sieve elsewhere and that the victories were necessary at all is reflective thereof.
A new feature I’m going to hopefully get going on the site is linking a couple of lectures from TED that I find worthwhile watching. First up is going to be a few pieces on Science, Free-thinking and Religion.
The subject was sparked for me by tuning in to a TED talk by Sam Harris two weeks ago on morality and religion, or rather taking morality from our understanding of science, instead of religion. Filmed at TED2010 in February 2010, Long Beach, CA.
I will admit that I’m not 100 percent on board with Harris’s talk. I think that the idea of scientific forces driving moral behavior has some validity, but it’s far from a universal truth. On the converse side, one can also equally argue that religion has been at the forefront of both acts of kindness and true villainy. Where Harris does hit home, however, is in the idea that science can guide what is good — or rather the affirmative answer to the question posed by Harris: can a fact about how reality is provide an idea of how something should be. Harris will lose some fans in that he is elitist and somewhat dismissive of the more religious of the red states.
In any respect, Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer and Julia Sweeney, after the jump. Read more…
As reported across the Blogosphere this morning and in a few papers (like the Washington Post), the White House could be threatening the President’s support with a key demographic: people who care more about LOST than Healthcare Reform. Count me among them. The Healthcare Reform packages are an absolute joke with more pork and less true direction in them than one could have imagined. Yes, if Obama had followed through on his promises on Healthcare Reform, I’d be jazzed about it (and hearing him talk about other reform plans).
A good solution could be simply superimposing the SOTU address over the LOST premiere.
Instead, the White House is pushing it’s SOTU address from January 26th to February 2nd solely because they think they can get a half-assed reform bill signed by then and therefore have some “substance” to go along with the pomp and circumstance of the joint session. But the bill sucks. It sucks on a Paolo and Nicki level.
This would not be the first time the President has ruffled the feathers of network heads. Back in March, he capped a string of primetime addresses by pre-empting American Idol. Eventually Fox had enough and they ditched his next address. This time it’s ABC who will feel the big sting with a major hit to their expected viewership.
Maybe if we were talking about reform that didn’t require handing out the Treasury to holdout Senators (this blog pretty well sums up the last second deals), I could get excited about the bill… or at least I might if the bill accomplished what the President set out to do. Maybe if he followed through on some of his other promises I could get excited about the speech in general, even absent good health care reform.
So if the President moves forward and pushes LOST back another week, my only hope is that Rep. Joe Wilson (or some person of any party persuasion) interrupts him by screaming out a reminder that “Ben Lies!”
Santa's red nose says he may have been drinking with Ted Kennedy.
We sure are fortunate to have brave elected leaders who are focused on the important things in life. The below attached legislation was introduced to Congress this week by Rep. Henry Brown of South Cackalacky and co-sponsored by several other Republicans. It essentially says that our pansy liberal country has been misappropriating Christmas and preventing people who observe Christmas from celebrating its true meaning.
Of course, Christmas, like Chanukah, is an observance of convenience and commercialism, and not really one of religion. If it were of the Christian religion, it would not be celebrated as a continuation of harvest and pagan festivals that preceded Christianity and surrounded the Winter Solstice.
CLICK THROUGH TO KEEP ON LETTING ME RANT Read more…
The AV Club recently ran out their best of the decade articles for the uh-ohs decade. I thought I’d throw some of my thoughts in there on the fly. I’m sure I’ll forget several episodes, shows, character and TV events which merit a mention, but I’ll do my best.
I was shocked by how many of these best TV episodes of the decade that I hadn’t seen and hadn’t thought to see. But there are definitely some that reminded me that there’s a bunch of good DVDs I can still rent to watch while working out (e.g., The Corner, Brotherhoodand Sons of Anarchy.
Jack Bauer returns to 24 in January, with Season 8 set in New York City. Season 7 was in Washington, while all prior seasons had focused on Los Angeles.
The AV Club’s list only included the best episodes from shows that weren’t considered “premier” shows. Some notable inclusions on the list included:
In particular, I was pleased to see “Epitaph One” on there. I just finished watching the first season of Dollhouse (I should have a review up at some point). Most striking on my completion of the DVDs is how much better Epitaph One was than anything else in the first season and it really was the type of TV pilot that gets people going. I imagine that Dollhouse probably was a borderline pickup for a second season and shooting Epitaph One was probably a pilot for a second season, in many regards.
Sure enough, in her picture book entitled Going Rouge (oh, wait, that said Rogue?), the biggest blow to American political legitimacy since Monica was on her knees admitted that she doesn’t believe in evolution.
Elsewhere in this volume she talks about creationism, saying she “didn’t believe in the theory that human beings — thinking, loving beings — originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea” or from “monkeys who eventually swung down from the trees.” In everything that happens to her, from meeting Todd to her selection by Mr. McCain for the Republican ticket, she sees the hand of God: “My life is in His hands. I encourage readers to do what I did many years ago, invite Him in to take over.”
Sometimes I really doubt this country and am incredulous that so many of our citizens (and, sadly, many of our leaders) cannot reconcile science with faith. It’s not complicated, it’s just accepting that religious texts are written by men and framed by their understanding of how things operate. Whether a God inspired them is not vitiated by accepting that the Bible is not the actual, specific words used by God.
Heck, if you’re reading the Bible in English you’re reading a translation which, in and of itself, means necessarily that there is a human influence beyond the initial text. That is incontrovertible.