Thursday, June 28, 2007

Just another example of Cheney's evils

Dick Cheney, who recently stated that the Office of the Vice President isn't part of the Executive branch of the U.S. government, looks for complete lack of accountability for a reason...because they want to do whatever they choose. Here is just one of many examples:

Leaving No Tracks
(Jo Becker and Barton Gellman, Washington Post, June 27, 2007)

In Oregon, a battleground state that the Bush-Cheney ticket had lost by less than half of 1 percent, drought-stricken farmers and ranchers were about to be cut off from the irrigation water that kept their cropland and pastures green. Federal biologists said the Endangered Species Act left the government no choice: The survival of two imperiled species of fish was at stake.

Law and science seemed to be on the side of the fish. Then the vice president stepped in.

First Cheney looked for a way around the law, aides said. Next he set in motion a process to challenge the science protecting the fish, according to a former Oregon congressman who lobbied for the farmers.

Because of Cheney's intervention, the government reversed itself and let the water flow in time to save the 2002 growing season, declaring that there was no threat to the fish. What followed was the largest fish kill the West had ever seen, with tens of thousands of salmon rotting on the banks of the Klamath River.

Characteristically, Cheney left no tracks.

The Klamath case is one of many in which the vice president took on a decisive role to undercut long-standing environmental regulations for the benefit of business.


I realize that there are real people who depend on income from those farms, but I don't think that it is then responsible to not only bust a whole fishing industry and all the people who depend on that to live, but also create an unsustainable environmental policy for not only the fish, the people who want to enjoy the outdoors, all the animals that depend on the river, the fishing industry, but ultimately...also those very farmers that are being 'helped' in the short term. Everything in that situation will be hurt by Cheney's actions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

iPhone Reviewed

The Apple iPhone is due to go on sale this Friday, and it is great to hear someone review it from the standpoint of actually having used it. It is pricey, but it solves a lot of poor design issues that exist on pretty much all 'Smartphones'.



I'm a Sprint user, so no iPhone for me, but my hope is that as people adopt iPhone...the price will come down, the shortcoming will be quickly solved, and availability will hit other carriers....the availability on other carriers issue being the one that will change the slowest, if at all. Perhaps AT&T's cellular network will get better than it currently is.

Walter Mossberg, who carried the phone and tested it for two weeks, said that it was "certainly the most beautiful and the most radical 'smartphone', or handheld computer, that [he has] ever tested." His biggest problem with the phone is that AT&T is the only carrier.

Testing Out the iPhone
(Walter S. Mossberg and Katherine Boehret, The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2007)

Why a 'Windows machine' is obsolete

Microsoft's latest OS has made it very clear how they feel about the user experience: lets release a high-priced, begrudgingly slow, and insanely large version of the same thing that has already been on Windows for years....except now lets put tons of lipstick and rouge on it (i.e. copying MacOS X and KDE like crazy, but Tammy Fae make-up job the whole thing), and then force all people to get it with a new computer purchase. So, essentially you bought your new Intel Core 2 Duo system with 3D graphics and 2 GB of RAM running Vista, but it runs slower than your Pentium M with 1/2 the hardware running Windows XP.

Many people are asking the question if they really want to deal with a Windows OS as a whole, or if they really are looking for just a few applications that only run on Windows? Along come technologies like Parallels Coherence on the Mac that don't require you to deal much with Windows if you don't prefer to:



Microsoft's anti-virtualization stance: forget DRM, think Apple
(Ken Fisher, ars technica, June 24, 2007)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Science and the Nature of Reality

A couple weeks ago Slashdot and others had a bunch of postings on the Creation Museum, and the general opinion of the readers there was that creationist arguments (of which there are many, btw) are just one argument advocating magic, which ends up degrading not only into that strawman argument, but usually a bunch of ad-hominems about Christians being stupid and crazy...hence why they make up and believe this stuff.

Most people into scientism (the belief that science explains all details of reality) accept a great deal on their own faith too, and feel fine believing that giant-squids are prehistoric, extinct creatures (despite reports of dead ones being netted, etc)...until of course the Japanese shot film of live ones in 2005. So this, in and of itself, should be the lightest example of belief that reality in scientism may be different from the way reality actually is. But I digress.

Here is a good excerpt from a blog posting from Greg Boyd, writing from a conference about science and faith:

In today's session we had a fine discussion with another leader in the field of the dialogue between science and theology, Dr. Howard Van Til. For years he taught Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College, but then got into a good bit of trouble for teaching naturalistic evolution and he ended up retiring early in 1997 (I believe). He was a delightful, humble, very honest, and extremely irenic person. We discussed a wide range of issues, only one of which I can mention right now.

As we did the previous day, we discussed a great deal about whether science must be committed to naturalistic explanations and, if so, what implications this has for our understanding of the relationship between science and theology. I (and several others) argued that the issue really isn't whether science should or should not be committed to naturalistic explanations. I think it obviously should be. The issue is whether science needs to regard its naturalistic explanations as COMPREHENSIVE OF ALL REALITY.

If a miracle occurs, or seems to have occurred, I argued, I have no problem with scientists looking for a natural explanation. This is simply what they're paid to do. In fact, I have no problem with the scientist sometimes FINDING a natural explanation for an alleged mircle. I'm sure many times people claim to have experienced a "miracle" when in fact they've only experienced something a-typical, and there's a perfectly good natural explanation for why this a-typical event occurred.

What I have problems with is when some scientists claim that the whole enterprise of science hangs on the belief that all occurences MUST have a natural explanation -- that is, that nothing supernatural ever happens or ever can happen. In other words, they think naturalistic explanations are comprehensive of all reality. If someone thinks THIS belief lies at the core of the scientific enterprise, then, so far as I can see, there's no possible way Christian theology can be integrated with [their version of] the scientific enterprise.

But there's absolutely no reason for scientists to claim this. And there's absolutely no warrant for scientists to claim this. And many respected scientists don't in fact claim this. Yet, like Philp Clayton before him, this seems to be what Howard Van Til was (humbly and tentatively) claiming.

Look, the belief in God as a transcendent personal being IS a belief in the SUPERnatural. To try to integrate this belief into a framework where the supernatural is carte blanch dismissed is simply to try to integrate a belief in God with atheism. It's a contradiction. It doesn't work. End of story.

Fortunately, the scientific community as a whole is (so far as I can see) moving toward a more humble position. The more we learn about the world, the more we discover mystery. And this, I'm happy to say, leaves plenty of room for theology and science to talk to each other and learn from each other.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Office of the Vice President Denies that it is part of the Executive branch

It is simply amazing that so many people in the Bush Administration can be convicted of crimes, and the Office of the Vice President STILL pull stunts like the one that gets this response from the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

The National Archives has informed the Committee that your office intervened to block the inspection. According to a letter that the National Archives sent to your staff in June 2006, you asserted that the Office of the Vice President is not an "entity within the executive branch" and hence is not subject to presidential executive orders

Or this:

In January 2007, the Information Security Oversight Office took the appropriate step under the executive order and asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resolve whether the President's order applies to your office. According to the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office, you responded to this request by recommending that the executive order be amended to abolish the Information Security Oversight Office.


Or even this:

Mr. Leonard [(Director, Information Security Oversight Office)] also said that your office proposed a more drastic change after the National Archives continued to press the matter by seeking an opinion from the Attorney General. According to Mr. Leonard, your office urged the inter-agency committee considering revisions to the executive order to abolish the Information Security Oversight Office which he heads. Mr. Leonard said that your office also proposed a change to the definitions in the executive order that would exempt the Office of the Vice President from oversight.


Or these questions:

What is the basis for your view that the Office of the Vice President is not bound by Executive Order 12958?

Is it the official position of the Office of the Vice President that your office exists in neither the executive nor legislative branch of govemment?
a. If so, when and why did you adopt this view?
b. Has your office asserted in any other contexts that its nonexistence in the executive branch justifies avoiding oversight or accountability?


What happens to a government by the people, of the people, and for the people, when parts of it remove themselves from even the private and confidential oversight of the very same government of the people? Nothing good.

Here is the letter to the Office of the Vice President (PDF) detailing the whole issue.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wow, was I wrong.

Recently I've had a number of conversations go sour on me...people taking friendships for granted, people taking the 'friendship-of-convenience' route (i.e...since I don't live in Rochester now...the friendship isn't important to them), and some discussions that have become unreasonable even in the face of evidence (generally people making science their religion, even when their position has been proven incorrect in science).

That all wore me out emotionally, in all honesty...and took a lot of joy out of my relationships, discussions, and study.

How dare real life get in the way of my agendas? How dare a messed up world act messed up? How dare a people in sin behave badly?

What an idiot I have been for expecting things in the world to go my way or even a sensible way. The sermon at church this morning reminded me about the nature of things. Wisdom leads to suffering, as does leadership. This is something apparently that I've forgotten when I decided that I wanted things to go my way and be non-stressful.

I apologize to the true friends who stick by me.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

SiCKO

Documentary on health care in the United States:



Yes, it is Michael Moore. But would you watch it first and be judgmental later?

Other clips:



Tuesday, June 05, 2007

AT&T...a monopoly again...at last

I'm not sure what this has to do with anything I've been posting. My friend just showed me this Colbert Report clip concerning AT&T. It is funny how anti-trust laws have come full circle in just about 20 years from one monopoly into the next. Mmm...yummy Republican politics in action (we'll save the term 'conservative' for people who deserve it).

Monday, June 04, 2007

Crazy Springfield Drivers

I've driven a number of places in my life, and a few of them in much bigger places than here in the Springfield, MO area...such as San Diego CA, Minneapolis MN during rush hours and traffic jams, San Jose CA, Chicago IL, Kansas City MO in rush hour, etc. But I have to say that for insane and completely awful drivers and driving...Springfield, MO takes the prize.

I am amazed at the number of near accidents I witness and/or am almost part of. Literally I am witness to accidents and near accidents every single day here. I've nearly been part of more accidents in the past 5 months here as in the entire 9.5 YEARS I lived in Rochester, MN. The congestion of traffic is pretty annoying, and people for whatever reason drive the worst ways they can for fuel economy, safety, and traffic congestion.

For example, I can see that we are a mere 200 meters from the next stoplight...which has been green for some time. I know it will turn yellow long before I could get there...even if I raced to the stoplight. But for whatever reason...everyone around me still races to get to that light...even as it turns yellow or is red already. They are still racing to that light. What is the point of that?

Also, the lights are there to space traffic out at the appropriate speed listed as the speed-limits. But the distance between lights is often long enough that if you drive 15-20 miles over the limit...you can catch the group of vehicles from the previous light. Well, this is exactly what many drivers try to do...which often makes it even more congested than normal. Again, what is the point of that?

People take a lot of back streets because the main roads really aren't able to take the number of vehicles that are on them. But instead of adhering to the 30-40 MPH limits, people try to drive 50-60 MPH. Now a lot of these are inlets to neighborhoods...or actually are neighborhoods! What is the point of endangering people walking or kids who might venture into the streets because you want to drive highway speeds in neighborhoods?

So...every morning I exercise patience and drive the speed limit and obey all that traffic laws to the best of my ability. And every morning driving turns into this game like the opening sequence of the movie Office Space with Peter dealing with traffic...for the OTHER drivers. People are racing around me like bats out of hell, but I get to the same stoplight as they do. Rinse and repeat. All they are doing is driving unsafe and consuming way more fuel than I am.

Springfield drivers need to listen up...obey the traffic laws and speed limits. Drive conservatively and safely. Need to get to work on time? Take off 5 minutes earlier. Sick of fuel costs? Drive more conservatively and save fuel (or get a smaller vehicle).