Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Adios, Saddam Hussein

In general, I don't like the death penalty, but I'm not gonna weep bitter tears over this one.

'Twouldn't bother me much, either, if the same fate befell war criminals Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blood Diamonds

I've never been one to wear jewelry in the 1st place, but any thot I ever had of maybe acquiring some as a gift or an investment went right out the window after seeing the movie "Blood Diamond". What an appalling indictment of the whole squalid, mindless, inhuman, hypercapitalistic mess.

See a Movie

I've just about completed my annual holiday movie blitz, in which I try to see every movie playing in the local theaters.

And, based on what I've seen, I have a piece of advice for everyone:


There's a bumper crop of top-quality films in the theaters, at least 1 for almost every taste. If you aren't sure what your tastes are, just pick a film at random. You can hardly go wrong.

If you can't face the temperatures outside (you wuss), my pick for the top film of 2006, United 93, is available on DVD.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

12/7 — The Original 9/11

12/7 — The Original 9/11

65 years ago today, 1941 December 7, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Wikipedia describes in capsule form what ensued:

“Of 8 American battleships in the harbor, the attack resulted in 1 destroyed, 2 sunk at their moorings, 1 capsized, 1 beached and 3 damaged but afloat. With the exception of the Arizona (destroyed), all the others were refloated or righted and 6 (Nevada, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, California and Pennsylvania) were repaired and returned to service. While the Oklahoma, which had capsized, was righted, she was never repaired. Additionally, the attack severely damaged 9 other warships, destroyed 188 aircraft, and killed 2,403 Americans: 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians. However, the Pacific Fleet's three aircraft carriers were not in port and were left undamaged, as were the base's vital oil tank farms, Navy Yard and machine shops, submarine base, and power station, as well as the Headquarters Building (home to the intelligence unit HYPO). These provided the basis for the Pacific Fleet's campaign during the rest of the war.” [1]

The following day, a somber President Franklin D. Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and announced:

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

“The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

“It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace. …

“Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. …

“I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire."

Congress quickly agreed and did what the Constitution requires of them and them alone: passed a declaration of war. The vote was unanimous in the Senate, and there was only 1 dissenting vote in the House of Representatives. [2]

Mere days later, Japan’s Axis partners, Germany and Italy, declared war on the US, and America reciprocated. Our involvement in World War 2 had begun. [3]

By the time it was over, America would have recorded 1,079,162 official military casualties, including 407,316 deaths. This pales in comparison to the other participants in the conflict. The Soviet Union alone lost over 20,000,000 citizens. (The exact number will never be known because in many cases entire communities were wiped out, along with all their records.)

And, in fulfillment of the prophecy that bread cast upon the waters will be returned a thousandfold, on 1945 August 6 and 9, Japan got its bombs back from the US. 140,000 residents of Hiroshima and 74,000 in Nagasaki — almost all of them civilians — died in the awful carnage, either immediately or from the aftereffects.

That sufficed. The official Instrument of Surrender was signed in Tokyo Harbor aboard the USS Missouri on 1945 September 2. The most beautiful words in the history of humanity were finally valid: “Le guerre est finie.” The total length of US involvement in WW2 was 1,334 days.

The entire world was shocked and horrified by the war itself, the terrible price it exacted on all involved, and the sickening stories of the Nazi death camps and the Japanese POW camps that emerged following their liberation. [4]

After the war, the US took the lead in establishing the United Nations, dedicated to world peace and solving regional conflicts before they escalated to the point of violence. The preamble to the UN charter reads:

“WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
 • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
 • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
 • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

 • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
 • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
 • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
 • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,


“Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.”

And so it came to pass, that, under the benign leadership of the United States, no nation ever again, while continually professing a desire for peace, launched an unprovoked invasion of a smaller, weaker, defenseless, peaceful nation — because it was clear from everything we’d learned that, as Jeannette Rankin had said, “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.” [5]

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Historical footnotes:

[1] The only US battleship still under official commission is the USS Arizona, permanently stationed in Oahu, still staffed by the crew that was aboard on 1941 December 7.

[2] The lone opponent was Jeannette Rankin, Republican of Montana. She said ”As a woman, I can't go to war and I refuse to send anyone else. I vote 'NO'.". It is a historical curiosity that she was then in the 2nd of her only 2 terms in Congress. Her 1st term began in 1917, when she was the 1st woman elected to Congress (3 years before the 19th Amendment was ratified) and where she was 1 of 49 representatives to vote against US entry into World War 1.

[3] Yes, we learn so slowly that we have to number them.

[4] Nor were the Axis powers alone in having camps. The US rounded up all its West Coast Japanese Americans and shipped them off to internment camps for the duration. At the same time, many Japanese American young men were here in Wisconsin, at Camp McCoy, training for combat duty in Europe as part of the 442nd Infantry Regiment — the Nisei Brigade — which became the most decorated unit in American military history, including 21 Medals of Honor. It ended the war with a casualty rate of 314% of its official strength.

[5] “Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana, American historian

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fishy Evolution

Fishy Evolution

Found this on the web:

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Watching My Country Become a Christian Theocracy

While traveling recently in my home "Red State" of Virginia, I was confronted by yet another sign of rising religious extremism in America. It was the "Jesus Fish", those stick-on symbols of sectarianism signifying ardent devotion to Christianity. It struck me that they are reproducing at an alarming rate.

My traveling realization was triggered by a group manifestation swimming on the rear end of a particularly vulgar Cadillac SUV. It was a literal school of them, five in all, a veritable nuclear unit; a father, mother, and three babies, neatly schooled and swimming in triumphant religiosity.

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Richard comments:

It started with the ultrasimple notional fish -- 2 intersecting arcs, nothing more -- that early Xians used as a secret symbol to indicate their meeting places. And it served the same purpose on the back of modern automobiles: a quiet sign, decipherable by others of like mind (just as "One Day at a Time" or "I'm a Friend of Bill" is to alcoholics) but not likely to draw undue attention from those not in the know.

Then some clever person decided to put a couple of little feet on it to symbolize a fish walking out onto dry land, a significant milestone during the long history of evolution.

The Xians saw this, realized that (a) their cover was blown and (b) the "other side" was using its bumpers as a PR tool to reach out to the undecided. They struck back by putting the word "Jesus" inside their own fish symbols.

"Good idea", thot the heretics, and put the word "Darwin" inside theirs.

Outraged that a mere mortal like Charles Darwin had been thus placed on a co-equal plane with their beloved Son of God, the Xians started a parallel stream of fish using the word "Truth" instead of "Jesus".

"Oooh," said the evolutionists, "variation within a species. Neat!" and came up with a footed fish holding a wrench, symbolizing tool use.

Even more outraged at the pro-science crowd taking credit for human progress (however justified it might have been), the Xians yust went nuts and trotted out their big guns: mindless violence and mindless reproduction. The latest piscatory additions to their genus include a big, shark-like "Truth" fish devouring a smaller "Darwin" fish, plus the "school o'fish" family, proudly illustrating their breeding prowess.

The evolutionists have yet to respond, but I'm sure something is in the works.

The irony of this situation is that it perfectly illustrates Darwinism: variation within a species, competition between species, gradual change over time, adaptation to a changing environment, survival of the fittest, natural selection of the most effective specimens, and the value of outbreeding the competition.

D'ya think the fundies would be proud to know what a good example they're setting? Nah, let's not spoil the fun by telling them.

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Fundamentalists feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms but have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.