Archive

Archive for February, 2007

Global warming at MSU

February 28, 2007 2 comments

Looks like Tim Flannery, author of The Weather Makers will be giving a lecture at MSU on Monday night.

Should be pretty interesting. I wonder how many anti-global warming crackpots denialist crackpots the lecture will attract?

Categories: Montana, Science

Jesus' Tomb?

February 27, 2007 1 comment

Perhaps I’m just ignorant on the subject, but when did James Cameron become a documentary filmmaker? Shouldn’t he be making interminable crap that for unexplainable reasons becomes ridiculously popular?

Then again, maybe this The Jesus Family Tomb documentary will fit the bill.

Time runs down the claims and the reasons for skepticism. I must say, it seems like a massive leap to say this is the tomb of the Biblical Jesus. An inscription with a few very common names is not good evidence.

It is kind of fun to see places like One News Now in a tizzy over the documentary, though.

Categories: Religion

Fun with extremists

February 26, 2007 Leave a comment

5

Them: Adventures with Extremists

by Jon Ronson

This is another book about the weird people in our world, written before The Men Who Stare at Goats. Ronson chronicles his travels with extremists of various stripes: Islamic fundamentalists, David Icke, Alex Jones, the KKK, the Weavers, etc. A main theme throughout the book is Ronson’s search for the infamous Bilderberg group, who allegedly control the world from a small room.

The book is quite funny, considering the topics Ronson explores. Omar Bakri, the British Islamic fundamentalist Ronson followed for over a year, comes off as jovial clown. At times it seems like an act, but he nonetheless appears quite clueless. Others in the book come off sympathetically, like the Weavers. They certainly had (Randy seems to have become less extreme since Ruby Ridge) some insane ideas about the world, but Ruby Ridge was undoubtedly a tragedy and an overreach on the part of our government. On the more amusing side of things, David Icke is profiled and the question of whether the lizards who he believes control the world are actually Jews is raised. I have to say that I think Icke actually means 12-foot shape-shifting lizards from another dimension, as he insists. I realize code words are part and parcel of the conspiracy world, but that one really seems like a stretch. Most amusing is probably Alex Jones, the talk show host from Texas, whom I’ve mentioned before. His passionate and animated paranoia makes for entertaining reading. Jones’s and Ronson’s differing interpretations of the Bohemian Grove ceremony they both witnessed really illuminates how the extremists’ views of the world differ from more mainstream views. Ronson takes the “Cremation of Care” ceremony as a rather adolescent ritual symbolizing the discarding of worldly cares during a weekend retreat. Jones sees it as a satanic ritual centered around mock child sacrifice. One can certainly see where Jones’s view comes from, but it takes a lot of paranoia to come up with it.

As with the last book of Ronson’s I read, this one is well written and fun to read. Ronson does an admirable job not only chronicling the bizarre beliefs and antics of the people he profiles, but also humanizing them. Their beliefs do not deserve our sympathy, but it’s worthwhile to remember that they’re really not much different from the rest of us. They may have crazy ideas about the world, but we shouldn’t overestimate how dangerous they are.

Categories: 26 in 52

Eureka!

February 22, 2007 Leave a comment

You know, this may actually be what PETA wants:

I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand PETA, they use guilt far too often for my liking. Yeah – I know that my chicken came from a factory farm. That’s really tough shit because a) its already dead and b) it’s an animal. What would PETA like us to do? Set up a nice big chicken society, build schools for the chickens… so that they can go and use their incredibly developed brains to their full potentials?

You never know.

Categories: Silliness

Jebus, I hope my heart doesn't go out

February 22, 2007 Leave a comment

Apparently, non-believers are 3 times more likely to die during open heart surgeries than believers. I’m sure the supporting evidence for that little factoid has been published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal. Right?

Right?

It seems strange that that claim is in the first paragraph of the story, but it’s mentioned nowhere else. It’s a pretty big claim, don’t you think?

Categories: Religion, Science

John Murtha: just like the guy who shot Kennedy

February 21, 2007 1 comment
Categories: Congress, Iraq, Silliness

Motivations and speculations

February 21, 2007 4 comments

This post of Mark’s got me thinking. I’m not trying to pick on him specifically, however.

During the run up to the Iraq war I was definitely in the far-left opposition camp. I can’t say I ever believed Iraq had WMDs. I turned out to be right, but I held the position with much more certainty than was warranted. I didn’t buy the other two arguments (links to al Qaeda and democracy) either. Of course, now that you’ve dismissed the main arguments a sort of logic compels you to come up with alternate explanations. Such explanations seemed to have little actual grounding. There’s the common oil argument, the Euro-Dollar currency conflict theory, containment of Russia, containment of China, and on and on. What such theories have in common is a complete lack of evidence. Does the Bush administration have connections to the oil industry? Absolutely. What does that prove? Very little, really. It gives you a place to start, but it isn’t evidence. Neither is CeCe’s post that Mark linked, for example; our government is perfectly capable of pushing for such agreements after invading Iraq for any reason.

The inner workings of our government are secret for decades, if not longer. We don’t have much to go on regarding contemporary issues. We have the work of enterprising journalists and not much else. If you read someone like Seymour Hersh, it very much appears that there weren’t really any sort of hidden sinister motivations behind the war. The neoconservatives in the administration have wanted Saddam gone for years, as part of a sort of “America as international messiah” ideology. That happens to be what they claim to believe, too (well, obviously they don’t put it like that).

That’s an explanation that does a pretty good job explaining the war and relies on little in the way of speculation. It’s based on the ideology held by influential people in the administration and people like Hersh have come to that conclusion through their investigative work. So I continue to be perplexed that people still insist on other motives. Let’s see the evidence.

Categories: Bush, Iraq

Temptation

February 20, 2007 3 comments

I’m trying not to listen to the two leaked Porcupine Tree songs on my hard drive. It’s working so far.

Obviously, I’m not holding out once the whole thing leaks.

If you think this is strange, check out PT’s lead on my top artists list and go listen to them here.

Categories: Music

What?

February 19, 2007 Leave a comment

4

The Men who Stare at Goats

by Jon Ronson

This is a bizarre book. Well, maybe the book isn’t so bizarre, but the subject matter certainly is. Ronson chronicles his search for those who can, allegedly, kill goats just by staring at them. In the military. Seriously. The goat story always lingers, but his search takes him into somewhat darker territory as he probes the stranger side of our military.

The story goes that after Vietnam, a few military types are so traumatized that they decide to find a new way of dealing with conflict in the world. They find that new way in the burgeoning New Age movement. You get the strange combination of the military and spiritualist ideas like remote viewing and you end up with a psychic spies unit, which was unmasked in the mid-90s. It’s weirder than that, however, as there are also stories that some people are able to kill animals with only their minds. Ultimately, Ronson fails to find much in the way of evidence for such events; a couple people know of it and believe it and he meets a man who claims to have done it himself, but there appear to be no eyewitnesses nor any sort of evidence. A curious moment has Ronson watching a videotape made by the man reputed to accomplished the feat attempting to influence a hamster by staring at it. It doesn’t die, but it acts “strange” at one point, during a two-day staring marathon. The same guy also has a picture of a goat being attacked by some random military guy, if you didn’t think the hamster thing was weird enough. Ronson goes from there into less paranormal military tactics: blasting Barney and Metallica at prisoners in Iraq, MK-ULTRA, subliminal messages, etc. Much of this appears to be only vaguely connected to the New Age origins of the psychic spy unit, though Ronson and his interviewees seem to believe in a stronger link.

Ronson makes the story both entertaining and frightening. I was slack-jawed through nearly the first half of the book, until Ronson delved into saner, but darker, aspects of his search. It’s hard to know what to think about it all. Ronson doesn’t really attempt to verify if some of the weirder claims are true, which would probably have made for a less interesting book. You’re left looking at the claims of some of his subjects warily, but at the very least there are lot of people in (or formerly in) important positions who believe some really weird shit. That’s perhaps more frightening than the possibility that we can “influence livestock from afar.”

Categories: 26 in 52

What the hell?

February 18, 2007 3 comments

Almost everything in my Actions submenu in Konqueror has disappeared. They’re still in the servicemenus folder, but now only two show up, for no apparent reason.

UPDATE: Nevermind. That was happening because I was inadvertently starting Konqueror with the wrong profile.

Categories: Tech
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