Friday, September 29, 2006

George Carlin on Religion

You just don't see much of George Carlin these days. I don't, anyway. The false-god theocracy (one-nation undergod) of the United States could benefit from more exposure to this great American atheist (but not in Jersey Girl). Let's remember our (60s hippie) culture, and where we came from. Carlinization of the culture has been partially successful in the taboo words department, but not in replacing religion with sun-worship. This was one of the great Carlin comedic/political/philosophical rants of the late 20th century.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wake up and smell the sulfur

PRI had an interview with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, done by Tavis Smiley. (It's Windows Media.)

Take it easy, it's only a coup.

I was a little surprised at first when I read that Thai coup leader General Sondhi was a Muslim, but it just goes to show how laid back the Thais are toward the Muslim and Chinese minorities, as well as everything else. A coup is just another thing to joke about, and a reason to take a short holiday. Happy Ramadan!
As Thaksin has crippled the independence of the media in recent years, blogs are probably the best way to get news of the coup. I visited a few earlier and can't find them again, but news can be found at Bangkok Pundit, MetBlogs, Global Voices, 2Bangkok, Thai Photoblogs, Austen Arensberg, and by just searching fLIckr.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Puffy Planet

Hat-P-1, discovered by a team led by Gaspar Bakos of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), is way too big for its mass. Finding extrasolar planets that do not match known physics or planetary formation theories might cause speculation about engineered worlds. Being located that close to the star might seem unwise, but, on the bright side, locating close to the local natural nuclear fusion reactor would solve your energy problems. Astronomers will probably eventually find a source of energy that is enlarging it. If not tidal forces, then some other source that hasn't been considered, such as the magnetic field of the star, high-energy particles in the solar wind, or even sound waves causing some kind of standing resonant waveform could be the explanation.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The rise of Eris (in the fifth house)

2003 UB313 has been renamed Eris, the Greek Goddess of Chaos and Confusion. Eris is larger than Pluto, and would be the tenth planet if things had been decided a little differently. This gives a strong Discordian flavor to the dwarf planets. Eris is now recognized as the 17th largest object in the solar system, just ahead of Pluto, and just behind numbers 10 through 16, Ganymede, Titan, Callisto, Io, Luna, Europa, and Triton.
Discordian Links:
Principia Discordia in the JFK Collection! (ironic, considering Kerry Thornley's connection to Oswald)
Reported by the BBC:
Reported at MSNBC:

Coup in Thailand

Thailand has had a new coup de etat! That reminds me that I was in Hat Yai during the last coup, February 23, 1991, when Chatichai Choonhavan, Mr "No Problem!" was overthrown by a military group that called itself the National PeaceKeeping Council, for the time before they started shooting student protesters. Has it really been 15 years already?

At the time, I didn't think it odd that every TV in the city was tuned to a general giving a speech, interview, or press conference of some sort. Later I was told that there had been a coup, and that "Thailand is like Iraq now!" The sight of a general in uniform explaining himself was similar to the daily appearances of Saddam Hussein, after he had invaded Kuwait and before it was recaptured.

By the way, Saddam was a popular t-shirt hero across the border in Malaysia at that time. In those days, Malaysia welcomed visitors with huge posters of a hangman's noose over the point of entry and a message that death was the penalty for drug possession, rather than the feel-good TV spots of sun and surf that have run 12 times an hour on CNN for the last 7 years.

Anyway, then as now, the coup procedure is to neutralize the PM, put some tanks out on the street, and most importantly, seize the organs of state power: the TV stations. As elsewhere, once you are on TV claiming to be the government, undisputed, then you are the government. There is still the matter of groveling and crawling up to the king, to try to get a pass from him. But this is mostly a formality. He'll let you off with a warning.

It's funny that Thaksin was in New York at the time, preparing to speak to the United Nations as a powerful regional leader. How embarrassing. If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere. He should have resigned when he resigned. Maybe the imaginary plots to kill him were real after all.

Thaksin (toxin) reminds me of other billionaire CEO Presidents, Berlusconi, and Bush. They share that smell of pop-fascism, money, corruption, spoiled rich boy arrogance, and decay. Good riddance! There are worse things than the extraconstitutionality of a military government. The most effective dictator is an elected dictator. If the military runs an honest election, less corrupt and quicker than Thaksin was doing, to resolve the political uncertainty, then the proof will be in the tapioca.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Mark of the W

Tony Blair made a non-statement about his non-resignation today in front of TV cameras in the bright sunlight. The natural illumination and added contrast provided by video allowed me to see for the first time the huge W on his forehead which, I suppose, was carved there by the monkey boy king when he took possession of Blair's soul during one of their special-relationship occult seance get-togethers. This has allowed him to use Blair's special powers which the Chimperor does not possess: the articulate use of the English language. Since the demon which possesses Blair's body was unable to begin to step aside, this suggests that the cabal has additional tasks for Tony, probably involving convincing a coalition of the willies to do to Iran what they have done to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Earthquake Weather

We had an earthquake here a few minutes ago. Apparently I slept through a 4.9 M at 3 a.m. too. This was a 4.4. That's pretty minor, but it was close, so we had the fine up and down shaking of the p-wave, very crisp and sharply defined, followed closely by the s-wave with its more funky low-key dance vibe. NHK tv reported it as centered in Kanagawa before deciding a few minutes later that it was centered in Chiba. Somehow Kanagawa and Ibaraki shook as much or more than the epicenter. The Meteorological Agency seemed to have the fastest reports, so check there or NHK for best results. You may wonder why tectonic movements are part of the weather service, but there actually is some relationship, such as quakes occuring during winter high pressure, and the phenomenon of earthquake clouds. I checked the USGS for weather reports but there seems to be a clearer division of labor in the US; the USGS is not allowed to forecast or report the weather.

Party of God more competent than G.O.P? (Crazy, but they get the job done.)

Ted Rall pointed out some time ago that compared side-by-side, Hezbollah is doing a much better job of rebuilding south Lebanon than the Bush misadministration is doing rebuilding New Orleans. If only the US had leaders as competent as their competitors.

Which of these two looks like the better master strategist to you?
Which player would you bet on winning the chess match?
Who would you prefer to see as your surgeon as the anesthesia takes hold?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sea of Troubles

I have been seeing a lot of news about the oceans in the news. This article mentions marine organisms cropping up in strange places, and this one suggests that military sonar might be to blame. I think the problem is much bigger than sonar experiments gone bad. To me, it seems that some arctic animals may be looking for their habitat. "Hey, this isn't right. I can't be in the arctic." Then they go looking for where the arctic may have gone, and end up in mid-latitude waters. Who moved my cheese? Likewise with the tropical organisms, who may also find something wrong with their waters and go looking for their missing habitat.

The Los Angeles Times had a five-part series on the oceans called "Altered Oceans". Part 5 was about the increasing acidification of the oceans as the take up CO2 from the atmosphere. Part 4 was about the growing amounts of plastic found in the oceans. The Great Garbage Patch, formerly known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, is a mass of floating plastic objects accumulated since WWII. According to a story in the Seattle Times,

In August 1998, Moore and his crew extensively sampled the surface waters of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre with a fine-mesh net resembling a manta ray. "What we saw amazed us," Moore said in an analysis for the 2001 Marine Pollution Bulletin. "We were looking at a rich broth of minute sea creatures mixed with hundreds of colored plastic fragments — a plastic-plankton soup." The team collected six times more plastic particles (by weight) than zooplankton.
That is worrying. It would seem that the slow decomposition of plastics would increase the CO2 in the water or in the atmosphere, too. Does the increasing acidification of the oceans help dissolve the plastics? Will any animals or plants evolve a way to use the plastic? Is it really impossible to "clean" the oceans? At a certain concentration, might it not be cost-effective, at some future time, to develop a process to filter out the plastic particles and use them for something else? Certainly, if some beaches are themselves now composed of plastic sand, it could almost be scooped up and used again to create windmills or something, or could just be burned as fuel. Could floating colonies of sea-gypsies live on the Great Garbage Patch, creating floating islands of polystyrene and the like, lashed together with old fishing nets and barnacle-derived glues, powered by wind, waves, and solar? Their nets gather tiny plastic particles, their giant parabolic mirrors distill water and melt down the plastic mash to produce nets of plastic baubles to extend the growing island.

Dis-saving the next generation of future revolutionaries?

This article documents a 4% drop in entry-level pay from 2001 to 2005 in the US. Going into debt in the new economy makes it feel better, but what is the future for these people? Either they will need to get more wabi or start a revolt or they will be locked into debt-slavery.

In a steep drop over a short time, 64 percent of college graduates received health coverage in entry-level jobs in 2005, down from 71 percent five years earlier. As employers grapple with fast-rising health costs, many companies have reduced health coverage, with those cutbacks sharpest among young workers.

Partly because of the decline in manufacturing jobs that were a ticket to middle-class life, just one-third of workers with high school diplomas receive health coverage in entry-level jobs, down from two-thirds in 1979.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's, said it was surprising how deeply young workers were going into debt to maintain the living standards they want.

The nation's personal savings sank below zero last year for the first time since the Depression, meaning Americans spent more than they earned. But for households under 35, the saving rate has plunged to minus 16 percent, which means they are spending 16 percent more than they are earning.

"The post-boomer generation feels very cavalier about saving," Mr. Zandi said. "They've been very aggressively dis-saving and have borrowed significantly."
Originally from the NYT:

If I understand that correctly, young Americans are "dis-saving" a negative 16% of their income. I don't doubt that I haven't misunderstood that. Even going into debt with no health care, they are still living at or near poverty level. If not actually poor, they feel poor and inadequate, because the machine has become better at manufacturing false needs and desires to enslave them.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Thor bless the atheists.

An interview with atheist Sam Harris points out that all religion is sanctified intolerance.

What do you mean when you say that intolerance is intrinsic to every creed? And what are the implications of that?

The core claim of every creed is that it, alone, is true. The truth is, if you’re a Christian, Jesus really was the son of God, and was really resurrected, and he’s really coming back to judge the living and the dead. This is a fact. It is metaphysically true, it is physically true, it is historically true; if you’re standing on the right spot at the right time, you’re going to see Jesus come back with a host of angels.

This description of the world is either right or wrong. If it’s right, only the Christians are right, and only the Christians are going to heaven. So this doctrine, by definition, excludes the truth-claims of every other religion . Muslims claim that Jesus, while he was a prophet, was not divine, and that anyone who thinks he is divine is going to go to hell. This is explicitly spelled out in the Koran. These are mutually incompatible claims about the way the world works. They’re worse than that. They’re incompatible claims that are extremely motivating, because their adherents think that the difference between believing the right thing and the wrong thing is the difference between spending eternity in hell, or eternity in paradise. And that’s a very big difference.
This bit was good, too:
How do you define the differences between an atheist and an agnostic?

“Agnosticism” is a word that was brought into use by T.H. Huxley. I don’t think it’s a particularly useful word. It tends to be defined as the belief that one know whether or not there is a god. An agnostic is someone who thinks we don’t know and can’t know the truth of a position. So it’s a non-committal attitude.

But it’s not an intellectually honest position, because everyone is walking around presuming to know that there isn’t a Zeus, there isn’t a Poseidon, and there isn’t a Thor. Can you prove that Thor with his hammer isn’t sending down lightning bolts? No, you can’t prove it. But that’s not the right question. The right question is, “Is there any reason whatsoever to think there’s a god named Thor?” And of course there isn’t. There are many good reasons to think that he was a fictional character. The Batman of Scandinavia.

The problem for religious people is that the god of the Bible is on no firmer footing, epistemologically, than these dead gods. Which is to say that nobody ever discovered that Thor doesn’t exist, but that the biblical god really does. So we have learned to talk and use the word ‘god’ in a way so as not to notice that we’re using a very strange word and evoking a very vacuous concept, like the concept of Thor.
(Thanks, Erik!)

Fortunately, I live in a place where 90% of the people do not believe in "God", having a long Buddhist tradition, and Buddhism being unconcerned with ideas of gods. Shinto sometimes recognizes gods, but these are really more like spirits, and may be in a stone, a waterfall, a deceased great person, and so on.

Religion is like a spiritual pollution we inherited from our ancestors. It must have been very useful at one time, but they didn't consider what would happen in the future, when these aggressive universal religions collided. It's a lot like plastic or nuclear power in the 20th century. They seemed miraculous and wonderful for solving problems but people didn't consider what effect they would have on people a thousand years down the road.

Monday, September 04, 2006

India Blog Blackout Update

It seems that things may be back to normal in India, but the blog blackout by the Electronic Media Monitoring Committee could be a model used in the US or other countries in the future.

The clamp down on blogging following 7/11 blasts has now been revoked, not because the blogging community had expressed unhappiness, but intelligence agencies pointed out that the ban is limiting their scope of investigations into the serial blasts.

The restrictions on blogging were imposed immediately after the blasts and lifted about 10 days back. With the ban revoked, investigating agencies have started keeping a tab on online chat rooms and blogs for any "circumstantial evidence" linked to the serial blasts.
In the meantime, I guess they will just keep mining the data.

Pluto, Lord of the Dwarf Underworld

More and more anthropomorphizing of Pluto. How sad she must feel that the stargazer fire-monkeys of Terra have created a class of objects which excludes her! Does Pluto really read our papers?

After Pluto lost its planetary status, I felt a sense of pity akin to watching the prodigal son of a wealthy merchant being disowned by his father at a family meeting attended by his brothers and grandfather.
I guess we all sorta felt that way. And why were the brothers and grandfather there, but no uncles or female relatives? How sad that the prodigal son was disowned during the obon season, too.

This guy, Michael Heaton, seems to feel that Pluto is more like Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson.

Somebody needs to make a collection of these Pluto-nic Anthropomorphisms.

By the way, I hope all this talk about what a "planet" is will help the Japanese to stop referring to the Earth as a "star".