Saturday, October 27, 2007

I Got Yer Freedom of Religion Right Here!

I have cousins in Austria, whom I might blog about in a future post. Thus, I was saddened to learn that one of Austria's provinices is governed by a far-right party that wants to ban the construction of mosques:
The provincial parliament in the southern Austrian province Carinthia called on its provincial government to prepare legislation banning the construction of mosques or minarets. The province's governor, the populist former leader of the rightist Freedom Party, Joerg Haider, had repeatedly called for anti- Muslim measures along those lines.

The proposal was adopted with the votes of the conservative People's Party, Freedom Party, and the support of the Alliance for Austria's Future, an equally rightist breakaway party from the Freedom Party, founded by Haider.

Alliance floor leader Kurt Scheuch said his party wanted to prevent the creeping Islamization by radical forces.

"We prefer churchbells to the muezzin's chants," he said.
So much for secularism. The government of Austria displays a clear and unabashed religious preference, and wants to use state power to enforce that preference. And as for that line about "prevent(ing) the creeping Islamization by radical forces," well, I'd like to prevent abortion doctors for being murdered by terrorists and gays from being hunted down and beaten to a fine paste by rednecks, but I'd be an idiot if I thought preventing the construction of churches was the answer to that.

The article, in clear contradiction of Scheuch's quote, goes on to say:
While the conservatives stressed that it was not their intention to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion, they argued that a mosque could not be compared with a Christian church, but was rather an "institution of a cultural community."
I see, so a mosque is an "institution of a cultural community," which distinguishes it from a church. . . how? Oh, that's right: the Church is the institution of the dominant culture-- or at least, what the dominant culture used to be in Europe, before the Europeans began avoiding chruches in droves.
Carinthia's Social Democrats and Greens, who had voted against the measure, slammed the proposal as a move to "prevent integration (and) hinder religious freedom" and called it an "open attack on democracy and the rule of law."

The Social Democrats pointed out that currently there were no plans for for building mosques in the province, unmasking the proposal as an attempt to "attract the right-wing vote," Social Democrat floor leader Peter Kaiser said.
Yup, pretty much sums it up. At least Haider isn't ruling all of Austria anymore.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A New Record!

Kyle Took a Bullet for Me has broken it's monthly blog post record, with a current 12 entries for October, surpassing the earlier record of 11 entries back in March.

Of course, to break that record, I had to post a blog celebrating the fact that the record has been broken. Does that count? Does it matter?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

To Quote Tess . . .


UPDATE: And let's all wish a very happy birthday to Miyuu Sawai. That is all.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rick Steves: Cooler Than I Thought

Does anyone else besides me know who Rick Steves is?

For the uninitiated, Rick Steves is a travel writer and host of the PBS series Rick Steves' Europe, which I used to watch semi-religiously back when I was learning German and so wanted to visit the Fatherland.

Until quite recently, my assessment of his cool was pretty well summed up by the picture above. No tool by any means, but not someone you'd especially want to talk to at a party (though admittedly, I have only been to three parties in my life, two of them before the age of ten. . .). Well, appearances can be deceiving. Seems that spending a third of his adult life in Europe has turned Mr. Steves into a marijuana advocate. Below I've posted a video of his recent appearance at a Seattle pro-pot festival. A warning: It's long, roughly nine minutes.

UPDATE: A thought just occurred to me. . . maybe the guy who posts Japanese toy commercials on his blog should not try to judge how cool people are.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Right-Wing Facebook

Social networking for Republican Dummiez!

Click Here!

My personal favourite. . . Rudy Giuliani's Profile:

Networks: GOP Presidential Primary
Sex: Republican Pro-Choice Male (Rare Species)
Relationship Status: Married³
Interested In: 9/11
Birthday: 57 B.N. (Before 9/11)
Hometown: New York City
Political Views: 9/11

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

My God, It Actually Happened. . .

Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Gore, who will share the $1.4 Million prize with the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was awarded for his "efforts to build up disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

The prize puts Gore in the company of fellow peace prize winners/American Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter, as well as scientist-turned-activists Linus Pauling and Andrei Sakharov. Unfortunately, it also puts him in the same group as Henry Kissinger and Yasser Arafat.

I can't wait to see how loony American conservatives react to this. They'll likely try to spin this as an example of the Nobel committee's evil left-wing bias, forgetting that right-wing heroes Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek have also won prizes (albeit for economics), and that anti-communist dissenters, like Sakharov, also won the peace prize.

UPDATE: Yup, It Happened.

UPDATE #2: Ha ha ha ha ha.

UPDATE #3: Ha ha ha ha ha, again.

UPDATE #4: Some have complained that that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to an environmental activist is stretching the definition of "peace." Personally, I think this criticism is idiotic-- climate change will, and has, affected politics and economics, including war and peace. But on the other hand, for a long time I've thought that the Nobels should give a separate environmental award. Then again, I've always though they should give a prize for mathematics as well. . .

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Miyuu is an Angel in Disguise. . . LOOK INTO MY EYES!

Much as I love Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, I can still be honest about it. Like all children's shows, it is designed to sell toys. Most kids, at some level, understand that. However, for the slower, denser bunch, further measures may be neccessary. Thus, I present to you, courtesy of the Toei corporation, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon toy commericials, starring the unreasonably lovely Miyuu Sawai:

Sailor Moon Heart Moon Brooch and Moonlight Stick

Sailor Moon Makeup/Jewelery Set

Sailor Moon Henshin Phone

Sailor Moon Stationary Set

Sailor Moon Princess Harp

Sailor Moon Colouring Desk

Sailor Moon Henshin Dress-up

PLUS, act now and get these two pre-Sailor Moon Miyuu Sawai commercials absolutely free!

Still Not Enough Dubya?

Here are some of Presidents Bush's quotes on religion. You can find a more comprehansive list at The Times. I've picked out the real gems for you.

1. I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did. Sharm el-Sheikh August 2003

2. I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job.
Statement made during campaign visit to Amish community, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Jul. 9, 2004

3. I'm also mindful that man should never try to put words in God's mouth. I mean, we should never ascribe natural disasters or anything else to God. We are in no way, shape, or form should a human being, play God. Washington, D.C., Jan. 14, 2005

8. I don't think you order suiciders to kill innocent men, women, and children if you're a religious person. Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, Jul. 14, 2004

9. And there's nothing more powerful in helping change the country than the faith -- faith in Dios.
National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, Washington, D.C., May 16, 2002

10. We believe in an Almighty, we believe in the freedom for people to worship that Almighty. They don't. Martinsburg, West Virginia, Jul. 4, 2007

11. The spirit of our people is the source of America's strength. And we go forward with trust in that spirit, confidence in our purpose, and faith in a loving God who made us to be free.
5th anniversary of the Sep. 11 attacks, White House, Sep. 11, 2006

13.We can never replace lives, and we can't heal hearts, except through prayer.
Enterprise, Alabama, Mar. 3, 2007

14. God bless the people of this part of the world. Minneapolis, Minnesota, Aug. 4, 2007

16. I couldn't imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah
White House, Dec. 10, 200117.

17. I see an opportunity at home when I hear the stories of Christian and Jewish women alike, helping women of cover, Arab American women go shop because they're afraid to leave their home.
Washington, D.C., Oct. 4, 2001

18. It's a sign from above. Comment made when television light caught fire above crowd, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Mar. 9, 2001

19. I did denounce it. I de- I denounced it. I denounced interracial dating. I denounced anti-Catholic bigacy... bigotry. Responding to attacks on his visit to ultra-conservative Bob Jones University, Greenville, South Carolina, Feb. 25, 2000

23. And I just -- I cannot speak strongly enough about how we must collectively get after those who kill in the name of -- in the name of some kind of false religion.
Press appearance with King Abdullah of Jordan, Aug. 1, 2002

25. By being active citizens in your church or your synagogue, or for those Muslims, in your mosque, and adhering to the admission to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself, that's how we can stand up.
Remarks to the cattle industry annual convention and trade show, Denver, Colorado, Feb. 8, 2002

32. By the way, to whom much has been given, much is owed. Not only are we leading the world in terms of encouraging freedom and peace, we're feeding the hungry. We're taking care of, as best as we possibly can, the victims of HIV/AIDS. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Jul. 20, 2004

37. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research. ...Human life is a gift from our Creator -- and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale. 2006 State of the Union Address, Jan. 31, 2006

39. Every new citizen of the United States has an obligation to learn our customs and values, including liberty and civic responsibility, equality under God and tolerance for others, and the English language. Tucson, Arizona, Nov. 28, 2005

41.Secondly, it's really important, Pete, that people not think government is a loving entity. Government is law and justice. Love comes from the hearts of people that are able to impart love. And therefore, what Craig is doing is -- he doesn't realize it -- he's a social entrepreneur. He is inspiring others to continue to reach out to say to somebody who is lonely, I love you. And I'm afraid this requires a higher power than the federal government to cause somebody to love somebody.

44. All of you -- all in this generation of our military -- have taken up the highest calling of history. You're defending your country, and protecting the innocent from harm. And wherever you go, you carry a message of hope -- a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "To the captives, 'come out,' -- and to those in darkness, 'be free.' Aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, a couple of miles away from San Diego May 1, 2003

47. It's also important for people to know we never seek to impose our culture or our form of government. We just want to live under those universal values, God-given values. Washington, D.C., Oct. 11, 2002

By Popular Demand. . .

Ladies and gentlemen, the American President:

Courtesy of Ed Brayton.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Who Makes the Rockin' World Go 'Round?

Brain May, a once promising young scientist, has just completed his PhD studies in astrophysics following an extended break performing in some band named Queen:

May's the one on the left, looking just plain awkward next to the pure distilled cool that is Freddie Mercury.

But seriously, May's return to academia was announced back in August on the blog Adventures in Ethics and Science (Yes, I know, it's another ScienceBlogger but, hell, they're good!). Commenter MartinC left the following money quote:

Mr May, the standard model posits that the Earth's spin is derived from a combination of its angular momentum and its distance from the Sun. You, on the other hand, state that its caused by 'Fat Bottomed Girls'. How do you explain this theoretical discrepancy?

For all the true Queen completists, here's a link to a paper co-authored by May and published in 1973.

As if Toxic Meteor Rocks Weren't Enough...

. . . here are two more examples of B-movie monsters come to life thanks to The Power Of Science™:

(1) Brain Eating Amoebae

I shit you not. Thanks to global warming, a heat loving species of amoeba is now able to survive in shallow, human infested waters. This does not bode well for said humans, since this particularly nasty amoeba likes to attach itself to the inside of the nose and burrow itself into the brain, with fatal results: Six young men from Arizona, Texas, and Florida have already died. Since it looks like the oceans, like the rest of the world, are going to keep warming up with time, it's certain that more cases will spring up over an incresingly wide area.

This link will take you to a webpage describing this and other dangerous species thriving as a result of global warming.

(2) Gamma-Ray-Eating Fungus

Maybe this is the reason Mario grows when he eats mushrooms. . .

Researchers in Chernobyl have discovered a species of fungus that uses the protein melanin to convert ionizing radiation-- the dangerous, DNA-breaking, cancer-inducing kind of radiation-- into bioenergy via a process analogous to photosynthesis. Apparently, the fungus was first discovered lining the walls of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor.

Research also seems to indicate that this ability is not the result of a mutation, nor is it unique to this particular species. In fact, it appears that any fungus containing melanin(whose function in fungi until now was a mystery) can undergo a similar "radiosyntheis" process.

Here's a similar story focusing on underground fungi that feed on uranium ore emissions.
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