Archive for February, 2012

Gun Sanity

February 29, 2012

There has been a terrible tragedy in Ohio. A young man went to Chardin High School and started shooting at the students. Three were killed and another two have been hospitalized.

Naturally, the Left has lost no time in exploiting this crime in order to push gun control, as witness this editorial in the Louisville Courier-Journal. This editorial, which they titled “Gun Insanity” is shameless and more than a little dishonest.I’ll give a few excerpts.

The shootings Monday at a suburban Cleveland high school that have now claimed three students’ lives will evoke widespread grief and horror, as they should. They will produce a search for motives and explanations, and there are already hypotheses regarding the teen-age shooter involving bullying, isolation and undetected personal problems. There will be discussion of the role of parenting and social media in such tragedies.What one can be absolutely certain of in today’s America, however, is that no serious political or public pressure will be brought to bear on the national madness that makes such slaughters not only possible but inevitable: an addiction to guns that is so sweeping that it all but prevents limiting access to firearms even by the millions of disturbed American adults and adolescents.

In a world that often emulates the United States, the American obsession with guns, and its Second Amendment that has been twisted to justify nearly unfettered private ownership of even the most powerful military and police firearms, is rejected by every advanced nation — and with good reason. In the January 2011 edition of the Journal of Trauma, researchers compared gun death rates in 23 advanced nations and found that the American numbers were by far the worst.The report noted: “Among these 23 countries, 80 percent of all firearm deaths occurred in the United States, 86 percent of women killed by firearms were U.S. women, and 87 percent of children [up to the age of] 14 killed by firearms were U.S. children.”

The Second Amendment has been twisted? Here is that amendment in its entirety.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

I don’t see how anyone would get the idea that the Second Amendment allows gun ownership, except that it is stated in plain English. The only people doing the twisting are activist judges who state the amendment means the precise opposite of its actual words.

Now, as to the level of gun deaths in the United States. I agree that too many people are murdered in this country. I wonder though, if the editors of the Courier-Journal have bothered to examine the evidence that the increasing number of states with concealed carry laws have been associated with lower crime rates, and see this chart. They might have noticed that the jurisdictions with the strictest gun control laws have the highest crime rates. They might also have observed that since Britain all but banned private ownership of firearms, the crime rate there has been exploding.

The editorial does end on a high note, at least to me.

No matter. There is no political will even to ban assault rifles and rapid-fire guns. Proposals to register guns, just like cars, don’t even get a hearing. States’ rights advocates perversely insist that local and state gun-control laws be superseded by higher authority.

Thank goodness. This, like so many other issues today, is a freedom issue.

 

 

Leap Day

February 29, 2012

Since today, a leap day, occurs only once every four years, I thought I might like to write a little about why we have leap years and where the idea originated. Our calendar ultimately comes from the calendar used by the Romans. The names of the months and the number of days in each month are basically the same, though the year originally began in March and the Romans did not count the days from the beginning of the month but counted backwards from three fixed days, the kalends, the nones, and the ides.

The Roman calendar was, like many ancient calendars, a lunisolar calendar with a intercalary month added at intervals to keep the dates aligned with the seasons. The responsibility for inserting the intercalary month lay with the Pontifex Maximus, the leader of the order of Priests called the Pontiffs. (One of the titles of the Pope is the Pontiff.) Unfortunately this position was a political one and the Pontiffs got in the habit of inserting the extra month to prolong the terms of their political allies, or not inserting it if their enemies were in office. By the time of Julius Caesar the date was three months behind the seasons.

In 46 BC, Caesar returned to Rome from Egypt. The Egyptians had long used a solar calendar of 365 days. Caesar brought mathematicians and astronomers from  Alexandria with him and he directed them to reform the Roman calendar. The calendar they developed is called the Julian Calender. In this new calendar, they changed the first month to January and gave each month the number of days it now contains. Most importantly, they did away with the intercalary months altogether. The Julian calendar was to be solely a solar calendar and the months would have no relation to the moon. Caesar lengthened the year 46 BC to 445 days to bring the date back in alignment with the seasons. This year was called the year of confusion, but it was the last year of confusion as the Julian calendar was adopted throughout the Roman world and is used with some modifications to this day.

The most important reform the Greek astronomers made was the introduction of the Leap Year. The problem is that the year is not exactly 365 days. Instead, as the astronomers had learned, the year is closed to 365 1/4 days. So, it seemed that an easy way to keep the date aligned was to simply add a day every four years. And so, since Caesar’s reform of the calendar, we have had leap years every four years.

Apologies

February 27, 2012

By now the burning of Korans by US forces in Afghanistan is old news, as is President Obama’s apology, although the rioting and killings continue. As far as I am concerned an apology would certainly have been appropriate if a delegation of Afghans had peacefully approached the commander of the US base and explained to him that this action was not appropriate, etc. But, that is not what happened. Instead, the Afghans began rioting, probably incited by the Taliban. Under such circumstances, no apology from any American is warranted or should have been offered.

I think we need to make it very clear that desecrating a Koran does not justify taking the life of a single human being. In fact, the burning of a whole pile of Korans does not justify the murder of a single human being. To apologize while rioting is going on muddles the issue and tends to lend credence to the idea that the murders are justified. Not to mention making more dangerous for the troops serving there.

I would like to add that if Muslims are outraged by the desecration of the Koran, well, I am outraged by the contents of this “holy” book. I am outraged by the misogyny, the anti-Semitism, the calls for violence against the unbelievers, the description of unbelievers as the worst of people, and many, many other ideas and themes of that book. As far as I am concerned, The Koran belongs on my bookshelf right next to Mein Kampf, although I will say that Mein Kampf was better written.

I can’t tell the difference.

Puss In Boots

February 25, 2012

I’ve just finished watching Puss in Boots with my family. Puss is my favorite character from the Shrek series and this prequel about his earlier adventures is delightful and funny, especially the cat jokes.

Puss in Boots (Shrek)

 

 

 

Here are some trailers.

 

 

 

Giving it Up for Lent

February 25, 2012

I mentioned last Wednesday that it is common for Catholics and others to give up something for Lent. Most people choose to give up some luxury or maybe a favorite snack. Some choose to make real sacrifices, like this woman has by giving up Facebook. This story is from the local Chicago CBS affiliate.

One Chicago woman decided to give up more than the usual when Lent began on Wednesday.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, some people might be inclined to give up sweets, pastries, candy or alcohol during Lent. But Christine Melendes has decided to give up Facebook.

Melendes says she has been used to using Facebook every day for the past five years.

She says she has been very active on the social networking site since 2007, posting status updates and pictures and checking what others have posted.

“I kind of feel like I forget to do something every morning before I go to work, but I’m doing pretty good,” Melendes said. “I haven’t cheated yet.”

Melendes thinks she will learn something about herself by going without Facebook until Easter.

“Probably how much I use it, and how much I use it to stay connected to my friends and my family,” she said.

Melendes is not giving up all social media, however. She says she cannot stop using Twitter along with Facebook.

“That would be impossible,” she said.

What did we do with ourselves before Facebook and Twitter?

 

Liar, Liar

February 23, 2012

Some time ago, I referenced Richard Feynman‘s famous 1974 Caltech commencement address, in which he discussed what he called “cargo cult science“. I think it might be a good idea to remember a small part of that address.

I would like to add something that’s not essential to the science,
but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool
the layman when you’re talking as a scientist. I am not trying to
tell you what to do about cheating on your wife, or fooling your
girlfriend, or something like that, when you’re not trying to be
a scientist, but just trying to be an ordinary human being. We’ll
leave those problems up to you and your rabbi. I’m talking about
a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending
over backwards to show how you are maybe wrong, that you ought to
have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as
scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

Feynman was not engaging in abstract moralizing. Science simply cannot function without that kind of integrity. It is essential to the enterprise of learning about the world we live that those who do the research be as honest as humanly possible about their findings. The credibility of science depends on this honesty.

This brings me to some recent developments in the conflict between the global warmists and the nefarious deniers. It seems that one Peter Gleick, the head of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security acquired  electronic documents from the Heartland Institute under false pretenses. He planned to expose these deniers for the scoundrels they are and disclose the members of the secret cabal that is funding all of the climate change deniers. Perhaps this would have the same sort of impact the “climategate” emails had. The problem was that there wasn’t anything really sinister about the documents. Well, that is not a problem. He simply forged what he needed. Well, he hasn’t admitted to the forgery yet, but he has to be a prime suspect.

After getting caught, Gleick admitted his actions in a statement on Huffington Post. There has been a lot of commentary on this subject all over the place, and I don’t really have much to add. I do want to quote the last two paragraphs to make my point in this.

Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget. I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues. I can explicitly confirm, as can the Heartland Institute, that the documents they emailed to me are identical to the documents that have been made public. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.

I will not comment on the substance or implications of the materials; others have and are doing so. I only note that the scientific understanding of the reality and risks of climate change is strong, compelling, and increasingly disturbing, and a rational public debate is desperately needed. My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved. Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case. I offer my personal apologies to all those affected.

I think that it is interesting that he claims to want a rational debate on the issue of climate change. In fact, the global warmists seem to want nothing like a rational debate on the issue. Instead they engage in name calling (deniers), alarmism, and squelching dissenting views.

But my main point is this. Between the climategate emails with their statements about “hiding the decline”, Michael Mann’s  hockey stick with dubious statistical methodology, and now this, climate science has some serious credibility issues. To put it bluntly, why should anyone believe anything they say? This is precisely the sort of thing Feynman was warning about. Unless a scientist is rigorously honest about his methods and his results, and guards against self deception mot of all, sooner or later there will be a problem with credibility.

What if the the climate change crowd are correct? I do not believe that they are, but I could be wrong. If so, they have badly damaged their case with these sort of antics, not to mention their inability to come up with credible solutions, and put the whole planet in danger.

Update: I think Walter Russel Mead has the best summary of this business I have yet read.

Like Dean Acheson addressing the communist menace, they were “clearer than truth.” They stretched evidence, invented catastrophes—vanishing glaciers, disappearing polar bears, waves of force five hurricanes sweeping up the coast, the end of snow—to sell their unsalable dream. Not all greens were this irresponsible, but many prominent spokespersons and journalists working with the movement were; ultimately the mix of an unworkable policy agenda and a climate of hype and hysteria holed the green ship below the waterline.

Of contemporary mass movements, the green movement has been consistently the most alarmist, the least constructive, the most emotional, the least rational, the most intolerant and the most self righteous.  What makes it all sad rather than funny is that underneath the hype, the misstatements, the vicious character attacks on anyone who dissented from the orthodoxy of the day, and the dumbest policy ideas since the Kellogg-Briand Pact that aimed to outlaw war, there really are some issues here that require thoughtful study and response.

Ash Wedesday

February 22, 2012
English: Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Ch...

Image via Wikipedia

Today is Ash Wednesday, which begins the forty-day period day Lent in the liturgical calender. Ash Wednesday is celebrated by many denominations, including Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, and even some Baptists. Ashes are placed on the foreheads of the celebrants in the shape of a cross, hence the name. The ashes are traditionally from the palms from the previous Palm Sunday after they were burned. As Lent is a period of repentance and fasting, the ashes symbolize sorrow for the sins committed.

As I said, Lent is a period of fasting, though few people actually fast for forty days. Generally Christians who take part in Lent abstain from meat on Fridays and give up some favorite thing, a favorite food or habit.

Ash Wednesday is a movable fast because always occurs forty-six days before Easter which is also movable.The forty days are a reminder of the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before beginning his public ministry. Lent ends on Holy Thursday, the day before Good Friday.

Fools Rush In

February 20, 2012

Where angels fear to tread. C. S. Lewis always acknowledged that his Screwtape Letters presented a lopsided picture of human life that ought to have been balanced by letters from an archangel to a guardian angel. Yet, he felt himself unable to write such a balancing book. As Lewis put it,

 But who could supply the deficiency? Even if a man-and he would have to be a far better man than I- could scale the spiritual heights required, what “answerable style” could he use? For the style would really be part of the content. Mere advice would be no good; every sentence would have to smell of Heaven.

Jim Peschke might perhaps be thought a fool for trying what a master like Lewis feared to attempt. He suffers from at least two disadvantages that should make a book like The Michael Letters a failure. First, Peschke, by his own admission, does not have the satirical wit of Lewis and is only a novice writer. Second, human nature being what it is, is more attracted to the darkness than to the light, and so the diabolical is inherently more interesting than the angelic.  Despite these disadvantages, The Michael Letters succeeds beyond all expectations. The correspondence between the guardian angel and the archangel holds the attention of the reader and the story moves along briskly. If this book does not quite come up to the level of The Screwtape Letters, it more than satisfies.

There are, of course, fundamental differences in the two works. The angels, unlike the demons are genuinely interested in the welfare of the human in their charge. Peschke shows this by giving the human a name and including details of his everyday life. Screwtape and Wormwood did not care about any such details. Their “patient” was simply food to them. The whole flavor of the correspondence is entirely the opposite. Unlike the demons who hate and mistrust each other, the angels willingly help and encourage their fellows. These and other differences make The Michael Letters a fitting counterbalance to The Screwtape Letters.

The Truth Team

February 20, 2012

I am not sure how it happened, but somehow I have managed to sign up for the Truth Team.

David —

Welcome to the Truth Team tipsheet. You signed up to be part of the team that fights back, and there’s no time to waste.

This is the first of regular updates we’ll be sending with actions you can take immediately to help support the President — to debunk false attacks and make sure folks hear about what we’ve accomplished.

Here’s how it works: We’ll round up the best of our posts and turn them into short items, with Facebook and Twitter buttons after each so you can instantly share them with friends and family as you go down the list.

Read through this week’s news, then do something about it:

 

Every day from now until November, there will be misleading news stories, attacks, and flat-out lies about the President’s record. It’s our job set to them straight — and nothing works better than the truth, backed by sound sources.

Fight back by spreading the word today.

Until next time,

Stephanie

I would have thought these people would have learned their lesson with attackwatch. Of course this time they are not asking people to snitch on “attackers”. You are just supposed to repeat the Obama campaign’s talking points to all your friends. I think I can do that.

Zombie at PJ Media has a humorous take on this, The Truth Team Comics. He should be careful though. Jack Chick is not amused by people who use his comics for parodies.

 

 

Letter to the Editor

February 17, 2012

Speaking of the previous subject, I saw a letter in the Louisville Courier-Journal which illustrates the intellectual confusion that many seem to have on this subject. I don’t honestly know if the writer is being deliberately obtuse or if he really doesn’t get it. Here is an excerpt.

As staunch Americans who believe in the fundamental and individual independence of citizens, my wife and I believe that each individual has the God-given right to practice their own religion according to the dictates of their own conscience.

History tells us that the founding of this great country was powerfully based on the freedom of religion. Remember, too, that the freedom of religion doesn’t just mean the freedom to practice your own religion(s). It also means the freedom from the practices of someone else’s religion.

As a married couple, we decided not to have children. This decision will cost us $38,000 (according to the numbers on birth control put forth by the White House recently, and our own calculations of actual birth control costs).

Religiously influenced legislation against free access to birth control currently being introduced into Congress abrogates our rights to practice our religious beliefs according to our own consciences, by enshrining one group’s religious-based arguments into law. Our religious beliefs do not agree with this attack on the health of women everywhere.

The Catholic Church should no more be allowed to dictate the availability of birth control, than imams should be allowed to dictate criminal case law. Rabbis should not be allowed to ban pork and shellfish to all Americans, nor should Methodists be allowed to ban bourbon from the shelves of every store in America.

But the Catholic Church is not dictating the availability of birth control. The Church simply does not wish to be obliged to violate its own doctrine by government fiat. The writer states that he and his wife believe in religious freedom, yet they would deny the Catholic Church the right to practice its beliefs. The more accurate similes would be an imam forbidden to preach Islam, a rabbi forced to provide ham sandwiches to his synagogue, or the Methodists required to support the local taverns.

I think that people on the Left simply have an immature concept of freedom. They seem to believe that they should be free to do whatever they want, and everyone else should be free to provide them what they want. Freedom for me but not for thee.

 


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