31 August 2008

Some confidence in Obama restored

The debate never happened, but Barrack Obama has answered fourteen questions posed to him by the same people. It is an inspiring and reassuring read.

A major highlight for me:
I believe that the restrictions that President Bush has placed on funding of human embryonic stem cell research have handcuffed our scientists and hindered our ability to compete with other nations. As president, I will lift the current administration’s ban on federal funding of research on embryonic stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001 through executive order, and I will ensure that all research on stem cells is conducted ethically and with rigorous oversight.
He goes on to add:
I am also aware that there have been suggestions that human stem cells of various types, derived from sources other than embryos, make the use of embryonic stem cells unnecessary. I don’t agree. While adult stem cells, such as those harvested from blood or bone marrow, are already used for treatment of some diseases, they do not have the versatility of embryonic stem cells and cannot replace them. Recent discoveries indicate that adult skin cells can be reprogrammed to behave like stem cells; these are exciting findings that might in the future lead to an alternate source of highly versatile stem cells. However, embryonic stem cells remain the “gold standard,” and studies of all types of stem cells should continue in parallel for the foreseeable future.

27 August 2008

An Ultimatum For Myself

Some of you out there know the tangled history that is my writing career. I started in July 2001. By Spring 2004, I had completed my first novel, Legacies. It was 142,000 words long and it was a steaming pile of shit. In the years since, I have worked and reworked Legacies. I wrote Legacies Draft Two, completing two of the five intended books. Then I scrapped that project, started Draft Three, which was again restarted and renamed We The Dreamers. (Trust me, that's the brief explanation.)

Anywho, the drastic changes I've made have been for the best. Still, I've always felt bad about what happened to Legacies Draft Two. In particular, I remember my friend Jeff and how much he enjoyed the reading the whole thing during our calculus class. Though the writing of that book is pretty terrible, the story itself is a solid adventure/Bildungsroman.

So, I have decided to resurrect Legacies. The finished product will be a five book fantasy-adventure series, centered around the protagonist Alexander A'Zura.

Here's the ultimatum part: I want to finish book one of Legacies by September 15. By 1:30 PM to be exact. At that date and time I have the first meeting with my adviser for my independent study. If I have the first draft of the book completed, we can then spend the semester working through it.

This feat should not be as difficult as it might sound. The major work--creating the story--is already done for me. I've already re-read Legacies draft two and taken out all the key elements. So long as my determination does not falter, I can do this.

Of course, I must also create the perfect writing playlist. I'm thinking an eclectic mix. Tiesto and Underworld, Jimmy Eat World and Disturbed, some Dragonforce alongside some happy hardcore. I'll throw some eurobeat in there for fun.

18 days. Ready. Go.

25 August 2008

The Importance of Savages

In his Leviathan (Full Text), Thomas Hobbes laid out a pragmatic argument for the necessity of government. Left to their own devices, devoid of societal framework, of structure, human beings are beasts. We savagely attack our neighbors, sometimes for no other reason but then to hit them before they hit us. Baruch de Spinoza expanded upon this idea. Those who are rational can lead a moral life. The irrational majority of humanity needs the helpful restrictions of government and society to help them along.

To a point, I think these two men--and the long list of others who've submitted similar ideas--have got quite a lot right. We H. sapiens have never really gotten completely away from the days when our only king was natural selection. The greatest triumph of our species has been to grow beyond that simple and cruel selection. And civilization is the greatest safeguard we have to keep us from backsliding away from our relatively-newfound compassion.

That being said, compare the societal vision of Hobbes and Spinoza to that of Karl Marx. Hobbes and Spinoza have society in place to control, as it were, the irrational. It is safe to infer from this that they do not hold out much hope for the betterment of these poor irrational savages. To Marx, however, the best hope for total-society reorganization, for movement beyond class-struggle to a newer, better world, is not the intellectual elite. He looks to the poor, the weak--the very slobs Hobbes and Spinoza would have society control.

To my accounting of the progression of philosophical thought, this turn is a major step in the right direction. Breaking free of the constraints of natural selection, thinking beyond the number of grandchildren we will have, embracing the idea of non-zero-sum, putting in place the safeguards to further this growth--this is the triumph of our species. But if this advancement, this civilizing, is reserved for the privileged alone, if only the rich or the smart or the strong can benefit from this humanity--how small does the gain become when we take the mean growth of the species?

We are only ever as strong--as civilized--as the weakest among us. The chief goal of any society should not be the advancement of its upper echelons. Rather, the society that seeks to truly bolster itself, to raise up bastions against the savagery and bestiality that will forever lurk in our hearts, must begin from the ground and work its way up. Any notion of trickle-down is a happy delusion. Something to quiet the consciences of the fortuned. Something to placate everyone else.

Sadly, in this nation, we are presently too hopeless caught up in the American Lie Dream, too enamored of the idiotic notion that we all can be Donald Trumps and Bill Gates. And when a politician dares to say that our country has never and will never live up to the promises of its founding principles so long as one person remains in poverty, we listen. At least, until someone starts talking about gay marriage. Then we all promptly snatch up our signs and get to the important business of shouting.

And the nation continues to crumble from the inside out. From the bottom up.

22 August 2008

Supposed descendants of Knights Templar seek reperations

A group claiming descent from the Knights Templar, is suing the Catholic church for $150-billion for harm done to their ancestors when the Templars were forcefully disbanded by Pope Clement V on charges of heresy, devil worship, and sodomy. Another article on the same subject.

Democrats Sell Out

The Democratic party is trying to widen their appeal. To this end, they're holding a series of inter-faith events at the Convention in Denver. Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists will all participate. Secularists, however, are being ignored.

We're a larger minority than Hispanics or Jews, around 15% of the electorate. And neither party seems to give a damn.

21 August 2008

The following lulz are brought to you by catholic morons

A Catholic response to a preview for Bill Maher's forthcoming documentary, Religilous.

The comments are absolutely hilarious. I particularly enjoy the accusation that Maher is a Mason, and that Karl Marx was a Satanist. Because, you know, people can't just be atheists. They can't just look at a religion and say "there's no evidence for this." No, only by the power of SATAN can anyone say "there is no God."


20 August 2008

Why The Fourth Ammendment Matters

The Eternal Value of Privacy


Why I have lost faith in Barrack Obama

This article says it well.
With less than a week to go until the Democrats officially nominate Obama at their convention in Denver, and with barely two-and-a-half months until the election, the candidate’s speech underscores a stark political reality confronting the American people. Once again this November, the two-party system will offer no means of expressing the massive popular opposition to war, but rather an empty choice between two big business candidates who are committed to the expanded use of militarism in pursuit of US corporate and financial interests.
On issues after issue, from Iraq to the economy, Obama has become a party parrot. Obama and McCain are no longer candidates, no longer men with opinions and beliefs. They are bags of meat, stuffed with the same old bullshit we've seen before. We do not have a choice in this election. We do not have a voice. We have only a familiar illusion--The Power Of The People--to comfort us from the harsh truth. Populism is dead. The voice of the majority means nothing without the cash to back it up. And with John McCain and Barrack Obama taking money from the same people, the next four years in this country will look the same no matter who wins. The fallout from eight years of mismanagement, reckless spending, and a foreign policy reminiscient of a five year-old in a sandbox will hit the country hard. And it won't be the CEOs on Wall Street or the Beuracrats in Washington who pay for it. The burdens of eight years of failure will fall squarely on us, the common people.

Obama promises Change We Can Believe In. But until he delivers change we can see and feel and touch, actual change, he isn't worth shit. The only thing about Barrack Obama that is any different from any other would-be President is the color of his skin. And although his candidacy is an important step forward for this country--as was Hillary Clinton's--it won't put food on anyone's table.

I'll still vote for Obama in November. Because when it comes time to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice, he is likely to nominate someone who won't try to overturn Roe V. Wade or undermine the Establishment Clause, the kind of people Bush put on the bench, and the sort John McCain is also likely to pick.

19 August 2008

Wisdom from the Purpose Driven Life Guy

Rick Warren plays an old fallacy: false equation. He tries to turn "atheism" into an arrogance that says "I can lead a country all by myself." Edit: he says he could never vote for someone who "didn't believe in an authority greater than himself." But atheism simply means you don't believe in one possible authority greater than yourself, namely God. But an atheist seeking the presidency could still believe in plenty of authority above him/herself. The Constitution, for example. As is typical of guys like him, Warren can't see beyond his own blinders.

And here's Bill Maher responding to the issue of Candidates' faith with something refreshing. Rationality.

The Argument from Poor Design

Unitelligent Design.

A piece written in response to Louisiana now permitting the teaching of intelligent design. I'm not sure how the state legislature and the governer think they can get away with this. A Federal Judge ruled the teaching of ID a violation of church and state separation in 2005.

Is McCain another George W. Bush?


The end is particulary adept. Frames the current shitstorm surrounding our country---Bush's legacy to the Union.

18 August 2008

Aghanistan--a model of progress

According an article in the Independent, not only can Afghan women be jailed for having "illegal sexual relations" (for up to 20 years), but the law makes no distinction between voluntary and involuntary relations. In other words, women are in Afghan prisons because they were raped.

The justification? Islamic law.

17 August 2008


On Saturday, McCain and Obama met at Saddleback Church in the OC to answer Pastor Rick Warren's questions in a Civil Forum. It was an interesting exchange (you can see video of it here). Warren talked about worldview a lot. And those of you who know me can imagine how much I enjoyed that discussion.

The real gem for me had to be when McCain was speaking about marriage and said he was a federalist, he believes state's should decide issues like marriage, but that if his home state of Arizona decided to permit gay marriage (by the rights he just said they should have), he would then support a marriage amendment. In other words, "I'll leave people alone--until they do what I don't want them to do." The illusion of freedom strikes again. His comment "I don't believe in class-warfare" is perfect evidence of why I won't vote for him (even though, for the record, Obama doesn't thrill me). McCain, true to his party, refuses to acknowledge the realities of this country. Rather than admit the fact that every other industrial nation in the world has instituted universal healthcare and it has worked, he totes out the party line: "The government shouldn't take over healthcare", falsely equating universal healthcare to some sort of Stalinism

This whole exchange can't help but make me think of the debate that didn't happen. A debate that could not be more important to the present and future of this nation.

The only scientific issues discussed at Saddleback:
--stem cell research
--John McCain citing $3-million spent to study the DNA of bears in Montana as a misuse of taxpayer money. Of course, he never talked about what that research was doing. He simply dismissed it, affording no thought to the science at work, and took advantage of a cheap laugh line about bear paternity tests.