Saturday, December 03, 2005

Christmas 'War' Theme con't

This sort of sums up the meaning of Christmas in modern day America. This was said by the leading general of the anti-secular forces in this country.

Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born. Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable. More than enough reason for business to be screaming 'Merry Christmas'.
Bill O'Reilly

If there really is a 'war' on Christmas I don't think 'Falafel O'Reilly 'is the best person to defend against it. I truly dislike hypocrites.

Friday, December 02, 2005

War on Christmas?


Not according to a Fox News Poll. 48% say no war on Christmas vs. 42% say there is a war on Christmas. I wonder how many casualties this war has caused? Ummm, physical casualties that is.

Christmas and Christianity

How did December 25th become associated with Christianity? The actual birth date of Jesus is not known. Best guess by some is in the Fall of the 4th century BC. In early Christian times it was celebrated on Jan 6, Apr 21 and May 1. It wasn’t until the 4th century AD that the church decided that Jesus’ birth should be celebrated around the winter solstice which occurs on Dec 21. Seems like a good choice because this is the longest night of the year. Each succeeding day becomes longer providing more light and warmth. There is no evidence, biblical or historical, that Jesus' birthday was celebrated at all before the 4th century AD.

Many other pre-Christian pagan religions honored the birth of their god around that time of year.

In Rome Attis was born in 200 BC, the son of the virgin Nana. He died when crucified on a tree and returned 3 days later. His followers symbolically ate his body in the form of bread.

In Greece Dionysus’ birth was also celebrated on Dec 25th. There was a center of worship for Dionysus in Jerusalem in the 1st century. His body was also symbolically eaten in the form of bread and wine.

In Egypt Osiris was a savior-god who had been worshipped in pre-history. Three wise men announced his birth. Many sayings by Osiris were taken over into the bible. His birthday was celebrated on Dec 25th.

In Persia Mithra was worshipped as a savior, especially among Roman civil servants and soldiers. Mithrism was a direct competitor to Christianity in the 4th century. He was believed to have been born on Dec 25th. It was believed that he was born of virgin, performed miracles, and cast out devils. He celebrated a last supper, had 12 disciples and ascended into heaven around Mar 21st.

Saturnalia was celebrated from Dec 17 to 23rd in the Roman Empire. The early Christian church chose Dec 25th as the birth date of Jesus to coincide with worship of this pagan god.

The Roman Emperor Constantine was largely responsible for the popularity of Christianity. In fact, he decreed that worship for Christianity switch from the seventh day Sabbath (Saturday) to the first day of the week – Sun-day – the day the pagans worshiped the sun.

Christmas as it is celebrated today is more about retail merchandising than the birth of a savior.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

World AIDS Day - Today

Acquired immune deficiency disease (AIDS) is the result of infection with the human immunodeficiency virus. This is a terrible disease, it basically destroys your immune system. Forty million people are infected with HIV worldwide. Last year 3 million new cases appeared. 8000 people die as a result of AIDS every day. There are only 4 ways you can become infected with HIV: (1)unprotected sex with an infected partner, (2) sharing HIV-contaminated needles, (3)transfusion with infected blood or blood products or transplanted infected tissue or organs, (4) from infected mother to child, in the womb or by breastfeeding. All of these means of infection can be prevented. A huge amount of money is spent on research, drugs, and medical treatment, 19.7 billion dollars in the USA last year.

Tuberculosis is caused by infection with the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. 2 billion people are infected worldwide. Every year 3 million people die from tuberculosis, 1 million die needlessly because they were also infected with AIDS. Although TB can be treated with drugs, preventing TB is very difficult. The NIH spends about $40 million dollars on TB research.

Malaria is caused by infection with the protozoan parasite Plasmodium falciparum and 3 other strains of lesser importance. 300-500 million people are infected with malaria with 1-2 million dying every year. Most of these being very young children. Malaria can be treated with drugs but it can also be prevented by getting rid of the mosquito vector that transmitts the disease. The NIH probably spends about as much on malaria as it does on TB, maybe less.

Why does the USA spend so much money on AIDS and not so much on TB and Malaria. Simple, very few people in the USA become infected with TB or Malaria.

Find out more about these diseases at this website.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bush, Stem Cells and Jobs

Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins are a husband-wife research team. They are famous for developing methods that identify cancer-causing genes, work completed during their three decades at the National Cancer Institute at NIH. They are leaving because of restrictions, by the Bush administration, on use of stem cells. They hoped to go to Stanford and use state funds for stem cell research, but lawsuits by anti-abortion groups have held up use of that money. So where will they go? The Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore. Now we are exporting medical research jobs.

National Strategy for Victory

I read the document and still do not understand what the strategy is, however the strategy is working.

Economic front: "Our restore, reform, build, strategy is achieving results."

Political front: "Our Isolate, Engage, and Build strategy is working."

Security front: "Our clear, hold, and build strategy is working."

In other words: STAY THE COURSE! DON'T CUT AND RUN! (I love to say cut and run).

It only took Bush 30 seconds into the speech to refer to 9/11.

Wal-Mart Wages

Wal-Mart pays wages about 16% below those paid by other large retailers. If Wal-Mart were to pay wages comparable to other large retailers it would cost them ~2% of sales. So an item priced $1 would cost $1.02 instead. If they did this, their employees would make a living wage and Wal-Mart would still out-compete all other retailers. So why doesn't Wal-Mart do this? I guess because they want to make 11 billion a year in profits instead of 10.78 billion dollars. Where are their values?

Doonesbury, Bush and Torture

I've read 'Doonesbury' almost since it first started being published in newspapers. Since the cartoon strip's author Gary Trudeau is from Saranac Lake, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise probably ran the cartoon from the beginning. More to the point, Gary Trudeau was a student at Yale University at the same time as upperclassman G. W. Bush. Although Trudeau probably got accepted due to his smarts and not his dad.

Last Sunday, there was a really funny Doonesbury cartoon connecting 'W's frat boy days with current attitudes on torture. I didn't realize the cartoon was fact based. Evidently DKE, Bush's frat, was branding frat members with a red hot coat hanger. Gary Trudeau broke the story in the Yale student newspaper. Bush made the following statement to the newspaper "Insignificant! There's no scarring mark physically or mentally!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Saranac Lake Big Box Store Building Site


This is the 10 acre sand pit owned by Saranac Lake. It is on Rt. 86 behind McDonalds and the car dealership. It is currently zoned residential but the village board wants to rezone it as commercial. Just to the right, going up the road, is the Will Rogers Retirement Village.


Here is another view of the site. It's taken from the railroad tracks (Adirondack Scenic Railroad).


See? What is on the other side of the tracks?


Pretty nice, even with the capped landfill in the upper left corner. Can you say wetland?


The wetlands are actually quite extensive. Actually I don't really use an environmental argument against a Wal-Mart in SL. Although after seeing the potential building site, I could change my mind. Wal-Mart could change my mind if they would only treat their employees better. There is no doubt they can afford it.

Victory Strategy for Iraq

Tomorrow our president is going to speak at the US Naval Academy. There he will outline his 'victory strategy for Iraq'. Is this something he's been keeping a secret and is only now going to tell us about? Or is it something new? If it's a new plan, isn't it a couple of years too late?

Conspiracy Nut

Ok, maybe I've gone to far over to the other side and I've become a conspiracy theorist. But don't forget that Mel Gibson movie 'Conspiracy Theory'. For reasons I will not go into I was reading about fascism last night. Fascism basically says that the government is everything and the individual is nothing. The word Fascism is derived from the latin 'fasces'. This was a bundle of sticks bound by a red ribbon. The bundle represented the state and the individual sticks represented the citizens. The message was that the bundle was important and not the individual sticks. Sure sounds un-American to me. Surely this symbol would never be used in the government of the United States of America.

Behind the Speakers podium in the House of Representatives

lincoln fasces
Et tu Abraham? Look at the arms of his chair.

The reverse of the dime. Notice the axe, that is often part of the symbol as well.

National Guard Symbol

Geez, now I've really got to look into those barcodes on the back of road signs!

New Links Added

I added two new links. One to the UK Guardian because if you want to know what's really going on in the world, especially concerning the USA, it's a must read. The second is to Russia's 'Pravda' because it's fun to read. I can't figure out how to get my links etc back up to the top of the page without screwing up the html.

Finally - NYT Editorial on Use of White Phosphorus

"White phosphorus, which dates to World War II, should have been banned generations ago. Packed into an artillery shell, it explodes over a battlefield in a white glare that can illuminate an enemy's positions. It also rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off. They can burn for hours inside a human body". NYT

The battle to remove Saddam worked quite well. But what has gone right militarily since then? I can't believe Sec. Rumsfield hasn't resigned in shame. We may or may not be safer with Saddam gone, but at what cost?

Monday, November 28, 2005

RFID Good or Evil?

Passive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). What to hell is this? Well it's simply a high tech means of storing and remotely retrieving information. They are small wireless devices that emit unique id numbers when interrogated by RFID readers or sensors. I use one of these devices several times a day to get into work and into various facilities at work. Somewhere, a computer records who, when and where every time the device is used. Great for security!

These devices can be very small (.4mm x .4mm). They can also be as thin as a piece of paper. This is great for the manufacturing, transportation and retail industries. Millions of items can be tracked from manufacturing to store shelves (and to your home or anywhere else).

RFID will be a life saving technology in hospitals and medicine. It would be awesome to require some devices to be labeled with them (handguns? ammunition? explosives?). But what about drivers licenses, passports, SS cards etc? Do you use EazyPass? RFID is used there.

I'm certainly not a Libertarian or a conspiracy nut. But these devices are becoming cheaper and are being used more and more. There is a very high potential for these devices to be misused. Without good security RFID tags create 'privacy pollution' by potentially exposing personal information to snoops.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has comments on this techology

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Science and Religion

The United States of America without a doubt dominates the world of science, especially the life sciences. How is it then that over 60% of Americans do not understand evolution? Evolution does not address how life began. I think this is the main misunderstanding. Evolution is simply changes in gene frequency in a population from one generation to the next. The central idea of biological evolution is that all life on Earth shares a common ancestor, just as you and your cousins share a common grandmother. Humans did not evolve from chimpanzees. We are cousins that evolved from a common ancester. But that is not the main concern here. The question is why do so many Americans believe the earth was created in 7 days, is 4000 years old, and everything present today was present 4000 years ago.

These same individuals likely believe that the USA is a special place, a christian place with a special divine purpose. So we are back to fighting Darwin. More monkey trials, more foolish school boards, more stupid things being said to save political careers. All this in a liberal western country that has trouble understanding the Islamic fundamentalist mind. Well maybe we should start trying to understand the fundamentalist christian mind as well.

We are going to war to make countries accept democracy and reject theocratic rule. At the same time, our own country is becoming more and more religious. So much so that after hundreds of years, science is once more being stepped on by theocrats.

Maybe we do need to teach religion in our schools. Let's require a course in comparative religion, but let's also require a science course that insures that the average student understand what science is and is not.

Go here for everything you want to know about evolution in an easily understood format.

NOTE: I hope I don't get in trouble. It seems the operators of the evolution website above are being sued. "In the lawsuit filed last month, the Caldwells contend the site is an effort "to modify the beliefs of public school science students so they will be more willing to accept evolutionary theory as true." The site is run by UC Berkeley's Museum of Paleontology and paid in part by a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Two university scientists and a foundation official were named as defendants. [Info from Yahoo News]