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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
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