Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Limbo" is Officially Gone

Pope Benedict has done away with "limbo". No, it's not the dance under the pole. For you non-catholics, Limbo is the place that babies go to if they die before being baptized (instead of hell). Afterall, the innocent babies were not so innocent...they were born with "original sin".
"The conclusion of this study is that there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in revelation," it said.

"There are reasons to hope that God will save these infants precisely because it was not possible (to baptize them)."
But the church cautions that this does not mean that the concept of "original sin" should be questioned or that it's ok to delay baptism of babies.

Ratzinger never really cared for "limbo" because it was "only a theological hypothesis" and "never a defined truth of faith." So he has done away with it. Now maybe he can get on with the job of allowing women to be priests and male priests to marry and have families.

Stay the Course with Bush and Cheney?

No says Lee Iacocca in "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?":
Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!
He goes on to say:
You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.
He wants to know why young people aren't more outraged about this administration.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Why Do Nothing About Guns?

In his opinion piece in the Washington Post today, E. J. Dionne Jr. makes a very good point.
In other spheres, we act reasonably when faced with new problems. When Richard Reid showed that nasty things could be done with shoes on airplanes, airport security started examining shoes. When liquids were seen as a potential danger, we regulated the quantity of liquids we could take on flights. We barred people from carrying weapons onto airliners long ago.

If we can act pragmatically in the skies, why can't we be equally practical here on the ground?
You almost cannot get on an airplane today without first removing your shoes because some idiot was wearing a shoe bomb. I haven't flown since the liquid checks were put into play but there is another example of going to exteme lengths to protect a flight. Why are we so reticent about doing something about handguns?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What do you do?

What if VP Dick Cheney was going to be the commencement speaker at your college graduation? What if you didn't think Cheney was the right person for that moment? What would you do?

Gun Violence in USA

This is one of those topics that should be avoided along with religion and politics. But I don't see how avoiding the topic really solves anything.

It's estimated that there are 200 million guns in the USA and 30,000 gun-related deaths every year (about 10,000 of those are homicides). Guns are really well made so those 200 million guns are going to be around for a long, long time. So I don't see how gun control is going solve much. It's too late for that. I'm in favor of gun control, especially for handguns and automatic weapons. But I think the gun violence issue in the USA is beyond being solvable by gun control, even though the number of guns in the USA seems to be part of the problem (see guns and homicides in Canada vs USA and here). Those 200 million guns in the USA are not going away in any case.

President Bush said:
"If you use a gun illegally, you will do hard time,” the president said. “This nation must enforce the gun laws which exist on the books
“We’re going to reduce gun violence in America. And those who commit crimes with guns will find a determined adversary in my administration,” he said to an audience of approximately 75 police officers..
Yet states without the death penalty have lower homicide rates (here).

There are those that think more guns are the answer. If everyone were armed they could protect themselves. Personally I don't see where an armed belligerent drunk in a bar room or an irate domestic partner is in the best interest of anyone.

Michelle Malkin agrees tht more guns are needed and writes:
What if just one student in one of those classrooms had been in lawful possession of a concealed weapon for the purpose of self-defense?
Then you have your manly men like John Derbyshire wondering why the students didn't rush the gunman. Afterall, one of his guns was an inaccurate 22. What an idiot!

Others think it is an immigrant problem. I don't know how much evidence there is for this claim but I'm guessing there is more than just a bit of racism or bigotry involved in this claim.

Rush Limbaugh knows that the basis of gun violence is secularism:
Maybe there needs to be more religion and prayer at our universities, folks. Maybe there needs to be a sense on college campuses that there's something bigger than the individual. Maybe there's something larger than the professor. Maybe they're not too young to learn that there are many things in life larger than self, and maybe being able to take comfort in a relationship with that which is larger than self ( i.e., God) would have a calming effect on some of these people who go absolutely nuts and lose their sanity.(from here)
Do you wonder which state in the USA has the least restrictive gun laws? Alabama, Mississippi, Florida? No, as far as I can tell it's Vermont. No license, permit, or registration is needed to purchase or carry a handgun (here). Yet Vermont has one of the lowest homicide rates in the nation.

The important question is why is there so much gun violence in the USA? And, what can we do about it? It is claimed there is evidence that violent video games are part of the gun violence problem in the USA. But if this is the case, how come the differences in handgun violence in the years before computers (let's say 1976-1980) isn't much different from that seen in the last five years.

I wish I had some answers...I don't. I found the NEA Health Information Network had some useful information...if it is true. For instance:
Studies show that 1 percent of gun stores sell the weapons traced to 57 percent of gun crimes.
If that is true, it seems that something should be done about it.

But still, there seems to be something wrong with our culture in the USA that leads us to violence. Is it racism? Too many one parent families? Poverty or too many mentally ill walking the streets? Ultimately there seems to be a difference between the USA and other developed countries when it comes to violence....especially gun violence.

My Day Yesterday

Spent most of the day reviewing tumors of the skin and writing lecture notes on diseases of the muscles. Also, spent some time reviewing the anatomy and physiology of the motor unit of the neuromuscular system (How muscles work) (and here).

But the more enjoyable part of my day was going to the St. Lawrence University where I attended my daughters poster presentation at the Festival of Science. Her poster was titled "Social Support in Mixed- and Single-Gender Sports". I was really impressed with the whole FOS affair. It was professionally done as any science conference or meeting I have ever attended. And, it had the added benefit of excellent free food.

But I wasn't going to head home without first having a "Samuel Partridge" burger at Eben's Hearth in Potsdam.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Five Questions For Alberto Gonzales

Damn, I'd hate to be questioned by this guy!

Is the Force Really With You? Kiai, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch Anyone?

I got this from Pharyngula but I want to put my own spin on it. [Same video here from a different angle]

Here is a guy that must actually believe that he can defeat opponents using his "Chi" energy. He proves that he can beat numerous opponents without even touching them. His opponents are either under the influence of mass hypnosis or they work for the Kiai Master (Kiai - relates to the manifestation, emission or projection of ones own energy). He believes in his powers so much that he is willing to offer $5,000 to any challenger that can defeat him.

See what happens when an opponent accepts his challenge. The guy looks honestly surprised when he is first hit!

This is kind of like the power Reiki or Therapeutic touch practioners have...or think they have. Unfortunately, it seems that in most cases of "energy medicine"...reality never rears its ugly head.


No War on Terror

The government of Great Britain has decided to no longer use the phrase "War on Terror".
"In the U.K., we do not use the phrase 'War on Terror' because we can't win by military means alone, and because this isn't us against one organized enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives," he said.
VP Dick Cheney isn't going to like that at all. He has already criticized Rep. Ike Skelton for also finding the phrase not useful. The reason I haven't cared for the phrase is that it implies there is someone specifically you defeat to win the so-called war. Even Don Rumsfield felt that the use of the phrase was wrong.

Cochrane Reviews

Why has it taken me so long to learn of the existence of Cochrane Reviews? I wish I could afford a subscription, but even the free content is very useful.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Making Fun of Mean Jean is Fun

Hopefully, Dr. Victoria Wulsin will run against mean jean again.

Student Deaths at Virginia Tech is a Tragedy

Be prepared for divisive debate on gun control vs freedom to bear arms. Michelle Malkin is already blamming the University for the deaths because of a campus imposed ban on "self defense".

Bush Hysterics: They're gonna git ya

Our President gave a speech about the Iraq War this morning. He pointed out several things that Americans need to know:

the enemies who attacked us on September the 11th, 2001 want to bring further destruction to our country

to fight the extremists and radicals where they live, so we don’t have to face them where we live

they won’t leave us alone — they will follow us to the United States of America

We’ll continue to do the hard work necessary to help change the conditions that caused 19 young men to get on airplanes to come and kill thousands of our citizens on September the 11t

Enemies that could just as easily come here to kill us
Those mean old terrorists have our President shaking in his boots. He want the rest of us to be as frightened as he is.

Oh the Humanity

There was a truck accident in Budapest, Hungary today involving 5000 bunny rabbits. 500 rabbits killed, 4400 recaptured.

A Good Take on Imus and Other Non-Racist Racists

Go and read a great post at "The Phil Nugent Experience" Yeah, it's about Don Imus, sort of, but much more than that. A really good read.

West Papua Con't.

More about above picture here.

I've reposted a comment from yesterday's post on West Papua.

The causes of genocide in West Papua are complex but are not so different to the genocide of Indigenous people in Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the US. Fundamentally the cause is that West Papua is home to an Indigenous culture that is 50,000 years old while the land is very resource rich. International Companies (mainly from the US, UK, Australia and Japan) support an Indonesian military fiefdom in Papua that due to weak governance in Jakarta is able to continue to implement Suharto era policies. Western Governments (especially Holland, Australia and the US) have a long history of ignoring the human rights of the Papuans to appease Indonesian regimes and support multinational extraction of Papuan resources while the Indigenous Papuans live in abject poverty on a par with the worst economies in Africa. Conservatively 100,000 Papuans have been murdered by the Indonesian security forces since 1963, but the figure is most likely much higher (the approx current pop of Indigenous Papuans is about 900,000).
Many Indonesians get angry with Westerners who speak out about human rights in Papua and point to the treatment of Indigenous people in our own countries. While this has some rhetorical value it becomes fairly empty when the high incidences of killings, arbitary detentions and suppression of Separatist activists.
Indonesia itself is suffering from weak institutions and is considered the 5th most corrupt country in the World which has led to Corruption, Collusion and Nepotism at all levels of government leading to extreme maldevelopment in Papua. In the post-Suharto period reformasi was the catch-cry and the Papuans also benefitted from this political change. However since the Bush Administration's push for the 'War on Terror' the rather fragile democracy in Indonesia has been strangled by Western support and funding of the Indonesian security forces (TNI) having disasterous consequences for the Papuans and civil society in Indonesia.
The Indonesian security forces often falsely claim the Australia is really behind the unrest in Papua and wish to steal Papua from Indonesia to garner support from the Indonesian population to continue their repressive policies in the province which enables them to increase their profits in the region - the Indonesian security forces receive 70% of their annual budget from outside of government coffers- usually from security forces businesses, both legal and illegal.
Americans can support Papua by supporting strong opponents of TNI oppression in Papua like Congressman Eni Faleomaveaga, who is currently Chair-person of the Congressional Foreign Affairs sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific and encourage him to continue his work in revealing the genocide in Papua. Also by encouraging the Congress to questiuon the current administrations strong support and funding of the TNI.
Thirdly, Americans can question the legitimacy of the Indonesian ban on International journalist and Human Rights NGOs from entering Papua.
It's good to learn more about human rights in West Papua. I spent some time yesterday learning more about it. 100,000 (some estimate 200,000) aboriginal people have been killed in West Papua over the last 40 years. How could this happen without us knowing about it? Maybe because that's "only" about 2500 people a year? Not enough to hit the radar of the mainstream media. Maybe because they are "undeveloped stone age" people" (although I'd think that would catch the attention of a journalist). It's likely no one in the USA has ever heard of Congressman Eni Faleomavaega. He is the congressional delegate from American Samoa, one of the many American territories. While Rep. Faleomavaega can cast a vote on committees, he cannot vote on bills in congress (thus he probably has little support from a powerful lobby).

Rep. Faleomavaega does have the support of the Congressional Black Caucus as indicated by this press release in 2005. I wonder how much support Rep. Faleomavaega has from Pres. Bush? And yes, Pres. Bush is aware of the situation in West Papua (and here). I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Pres. Bush to speak out against human rights violations by Indonesia in West Papua. He can't. He doesn't have the moral capital.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

West Papua and Genocide

In my short post about genocide below, Andrew comments that things aren't going really well in West Papua either. It's nice to have that pointed out because the media certainly isn't commenting much on West Papua. A quick google search of "West Papua" brings up any number of websites that indicate that West Papuans are fighting for human rights.

I know very little about Papua/New Guinea. But I actually was offered a research position in New Guinea 15 yrs. ago. It's certainly not surprising that the aboriginal people in West Papua are not being treated well. What country on earth has treated aboriginal groups well? We in the USA certainly do not hold any moral high ground there. I am certain that concerns about the way aboriginal people of West Papua are being treated by Indonesia is also way down on the list in the US Congress.

But at least I am now aware of the situation and now you are too. One power of the internet.