I recently finished reading Lawrence Krauss’ A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing while on vacation. A quick and easy read for those with a decent level of scientific literacy, it was graced by an afterward from Richard Dawkins. It’s unfortunate that Christopher Hitchens’ planned forward for the book was derailed by his illness; nevertheless, a book featuring two of the four prominent American scientist-atheists (joining Neil de Grasse Tyson and Dan Denntt) still provided quite a bit of umph to it.
I still intend to get around to doing a review of the book, but in the meantime I thought I would share this outstanding talk between the two authors. It was hosted by the Origins Project headed by Krauss at Arizona State University and featured a fine discussion on science in general, atheism and a bit on American politics.
This is no debate, as these two scientists share a similar world view and the audience also trended toward the science-focused, areligious types. Perhaps as a result, Krauss tends to earn some cheap laughs at the expense of the Republican leadership. That doesn’t prevent the video being well worth the viewing time for an intelligent discussion on abiogenesis, evolution and the exciting quantum physics discussed in “A Universe From Nothing.”
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.
I will note that don’t have an opinion with respect to whether WikiLeaks’ existence is a positive or negative thing and whether the site’s leaks are a net positive or negative for both America’s governmental actions and national security. I’ve not thought enough on the topic to have an informed opinion.
Most certainly, WikiLeaks has been structured in a very conscientious manner, taking great care to cover their sources. And they do take legitimate measures to ensure validity of materials. But should everything be leaked just because it can be — noting, however, that they are quite clear in that they don’t publish everything they get? On that, I’m not certain.
Here is WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange in a conversation discussing the site just earlier this month at TEDGlobal 2010.
I don’t mean to mock. I really don’t. Tea Baggers, as a whole, are no less moronic than the masses of Americans that march for or against something they don’t really understand. The difference is that the Tea Baggers don’t have eloquent leadership or spellcheckers (or anyone with the simple capacity to tell them that they shouldn’t use “tea bagging” as a verb).
Nevertheless, there is something especially amusing about the typos made by the Tea Baggers… it may be because they have such an affinity for signs and such an incapacity to get them right in both concept and execution. Over on Flickr, user Pargon has assembled a great pool of 140 photos (and counting) showing some of the greatest Tea Bagger typos. The slideshow is below. Enjoy (or cry for America).
NPR is reporting on a new Congressional Quarterly study which says that President Obama is the most successful president in the last 50 years, with respect to getting legislative measures through. The study states that the President has succeeded in getting passage of 96.7 percent of all legislation in the House and Senate for which “the president had a clear position.” This means that where the President has publicly urged a vote one way or another on a bill, almost 97% of the time his will was adhered to.
That’s lovely. It’s also a ridiculously incomplete picture of reality. They talk of him having a better record than Lyndon Johnson. Uhh… no. Johnson’s percentage may not have been higher, but he got the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act through (admittedly, on the back of the Kennedy assassination).
Conversely, President Obama has, as the article states, “picked his battles” by cherry picking which legislation to publicly support and push through his Democratically controlled congress. More misleading is the amount of compromise that goes into those legislative measures. For example, the Health Care Reform bill looks nothing like what the President campaigned on and most of the financial stimulus measures were truly corrupted… though necessary. The NPR article does do a pretty good job of pointing out those facts.
Source: Congressional Quarterly and NPR -- Click to see the article.
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!”