Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Divine Irony

I think there's a profound irony that the first atheistic state (Albania) gave birth to an icon of Christianity: Mother Teresa.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Bureaucracy is the New Shrine

Bureaucracy is the new shrine.  If we like something, we'll devote an agency to it.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Chancellor Robert A. Easter <chancellor@illinois.edu>
Date: Thu, Sep 9, 2010 at 1:33 AM
Subject: MASSMAIL - Reaffirmation of Equal Employment Opportunity
To: All Faculty & All Academic Professionals & All Civil Service Staff & All Undergrad Students & All Grad Students <everybody@illinois.edu>



Date:   September 9, 2010

To:     Members of the Campus Community

From:   Robert A. Easter
       Chancellor and Provost (Interim)

Re:     Reaffirmation of Equal Employment Opportunity

At the start of each academic year, I have the privilege of reaffirming
the University of Illinois' commitment to equal opportunity, consistent
with University policy and federal and state regulations.

The University, as reflected by Inclusive Illinois, is committed to
creating and maintaining a community that recognizes and values the
inherent worth and dignity of every person, while fostering an environment
of mutual respect among its members.  The University takes seriously our
responsibility to provide leadership in ensuring that equal employment
opportunity is our standard practice rather than an aspiration.  As such,
University policy prohibits discrimination or harassment of any member of
the campus community in any employment practice, including recruitment,
selection, promotion, transfer, merit increases, salary, training and
development, demotion, and separation on the basis of race, color,
religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, order of protection status,
genetic information, marital status, disability, sexual orientation
including gender identity, unfavorable discharge from the military or
status as a protected veteran.  The policy is available online at
http://oeoa.illinois.edu/campusconduct.html.

Additionally, the University remains committed to the principles of
affirmative action and equal access for women, minorities, persons with
disabilities, and protected veterans.  The Campus Affirmative Action Plan
describes the policies and procedures that must be followed in furtherance
of these principles.  All employees are responsible for promoting equal
employment opportunity and for making good faith efforts to achieve the
university's affirmative action goals.

The Office of Equal Opportunity and Access is a resource for the campus in
matters of equal opportunity, affirmative action, and nondiscrimination in
employment.  OEOA is available to address any campus concerns involving
these matters. As always, your commitment to a respectful living,
learning, and working community at Illinois is acknowledged and
appreciated.



This mailing approved by:
The Office of the Chancellor

--
This Message sent via MASSMAIL.  < http://www.cites.illinois.edu/services/massmail/ >



--
Hannah Ihms
Graduate Student, Chemistry
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
hihms2@illinois.edu
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hard Evidence that Transformers Exist

It's true!  Transformers are real!!! 
(No word on which Decepticons were involved).

On Tue, Aug 10, 2010 at 8:24 PM, Derek Fultz <dfultz@uiuc.edu> wrote:
Dear ______:

Roger Adams Laboratory South has been given the "All Clear" following a transformer fire in the penthouse as of 8:00 pm.

The damaged transformer has been isolated, and all power has been restored through a secondary transformer.

Laboratory occupants can reenter the building and resume activities as normal.  Please be advised that a minor residual odor of the fire remains in the building.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Saturday, August 07, 2010

WOW!!!

WOWWWW!!!!!!

This is Isaac Hayes, who, in his first-ever run for office, is taking on Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jr. in Illinois' 2nd district:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVvzw_ZvwGo&feature=player_embedded#!

Does that take guts, or what???  He says that we need more "citizen legislators."  You can check out his website at http://www.isaac4honesty.com/index.asp

--
Hannah Ihms
Graduate Student, Chemistry
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
hihms2@illinois.edu
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

When Truth is Stranger than Fiction

Catch 22: "Catch-22 states that agents enforcing Catch-22 need not prove that Catch-22 actually contains whatever provision the accused violator is accused of violating."  This is the one fictitious provision I'm including here.  But it shows the heart of all of the laws or guidelines that follow: rex lex, instead of lex rex.

Article 58: "A counter-revolutionary action is any action aimed at overthrowing, undermining or weakening of the power of workers' and peasants' Soviets... and governments of the USSR and Soviet and autonomous republics, or at the undermining or weakening of the external security of the USSR and main economical, political and national achievements of the proletarial revolution."  (Note: this article came to mean everything and nothing.  Under it, children were imprisoned for picking up wheat falling onto a road from a leaking government vehicle and Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned for writing about Stalin as, among other things, the "one with mustachios."  No one ever accused of violating this article was ever cleared of the charge, and many received 10 or even 25 years in the Gulag when they were found guilty.

Inclusivity: "In addition, to enhance the working, living, and learning environment for faculty, staff, and students, the University will encourage a standard of conduct and behavior that is consistent with the values of inclusivity. In an environment of inclusivity, there is no place for acts of hatred, intolerance, insensitivity, bigotry, threats of violence, harassment or discrimination."  The local newspaper reported the following: "Ann Mester, associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, wrote that she believes 'the e-mails sent by Dr. Howell violate university standards of inclusivity, which would then entitle us to have him discontinue his teaching arrangement with us.'"  Sounds similar to the "hate" speech violations Mark Steyn was called up on in 2008.  By the way, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunals who handled his case have a 100% conviction rate.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Avatar Tanks

No spectacle, however breathtaking, can make up for bad writing.  If you strip away all the visual trappings, Avatar is, at best, a B movie.  And that's being generous.  It proves, nonetheless, that the matriarchal-led-noble-savage-village-adopts-and-converts-wayfaring-stranger-who-brings-tragedy-but-is-oh-so-cute-and-steals-heart-of-conveniently-influential-female spans not only from Japanese culture (Nathan Algren/Brad Pitt in The Last Samurai) to the local Indian tribe (John Smith in Pocahontas) to outer space (Jake Sully/Sam Worthington in Avatar).  The planet Pandora, to be exact.  It's there that "our hero" gets into action as a paraplegic Marine witnessing the clash between a native (Na'vi) culture and a domineering alien (American Marine) culture. 

Ostensibly, it's all about unobtanium -- a mineral that could revitalize Earth by replacing its flailing energy stores.  The Na'vi have it, and the Marines don't.  It was when the name of the element was muttered that I thought for the first (but not last) time that it would have been nice if the screenwriter and producer had decided at some point in the project (preferably the beginning) whether this was supposed to be an epic or a 2D piece.  I mean, the villains were all 2D: the corporal, when not pumping iron, is showing off his battle scars and looking to satiate his blood lust.  And the weanie company functionary has something that resembles a conscience, but he's often more interested in his golf than in balanced, humanitarian strategy.  And "unobtanium"?  Really now.

The Marines are portrayed -- Jake and one renegade Tomb-Raider-like pilot excepting -- as ripped idiots who only know how to carry big guns and shoot them.  The Na'vi, on the other hand, have everything figured out.  Not only do they live in a land where everything looks like one big Lite Brite scene, they've got stable families and their warriors call the animals they kill "brother" before stabbing them in the heart.  (No, I didn't make that up!)  They live in a happy commune up in a tree and have a weirdo mix of el naturale with electronic overtones.  Yeah, you heard that right.  I mean, in the olden days, when you wanted to ride a horse, you just walked up to the palfrey and hopped on.  In Na'viland, you have to plug the fiber optic cables conveniently running through your long, braided queue into the fiber optics sprouting from your beast-of-burden's antennae.  Yeah, I told you it was weird.  For a movie that's supposed to be in touch with the spiritual side of things, there sure were a lot of gimmicky physical things -- the hair-to-antenna connection looked a whole lot like a misplaced umbilical cord, and never ceased to remind me of the clip the "safety conscious" try to make you wear when you run on a tread machine.  And if the pink-fiber-optic-tree-god was so great, why does cutting down a few trees do her in?  Really, now.  Anyway, at one point, head scientist Grace Augustine (who's trying so hard to be a big, bad leading woman that she even unconvincingly strikes up a smoke several times!) tries to translate her findings into lingo her technologically-savvy but heartless Marine listeners might understand.  She tells them the Na'vi can "upload and download things -- like their ancestors' memories."

That comes in handy for Jake once Grace kicks the bucket (in her last words she smiles as she realizes she is god).  (Yeah, it's another one of those movies where they think it'll up the drama factor if they start killing off as many peripheral characters as possible.  Life expectancy of peripherals is low, way low.)  Fortunately, the tree god's fiber optics and compatible with his.  He has what's supposed to be an emotional moment as he stands beneath the pink fiber optic tree, lets his queue's optics intertwine with the tree's and stars whispering psychobabble, "I come from a place where there's nothing green... We've killed our mother... and now we want to kill you..."  He asks the fiber optic god to download Grace's memories.  Hope their operating systems are compatible.

His Na'vi wife Neytiri hears his "prayer," but sorrowfully tells him Ma Earth might not intervene during their desparate time: she only keeps the balance of life.  Yeah -- sounds like the kind of mom I'd want!

The "super serious" scenes made me laugh, and the scenes where I was supposed to be cheering disgusted me. 

On the light side, I think the group phosphorescent sessions when they try to transfer a spirit from one body to another could be put to good use in teaching about cult tactics, and/or group think.  There were also some not-so-well-thought-out scenes.  The Na'vi are considerably larger than humans: probably twice their height and with arms proportionally longer.  At one point, Neytiri cradles Jake (still in human form) as he approaches death.  It was supposed to be tender, but somehow the juxtaposition of a huge blue thing hugging a human guy looked kind of like we were at Disney Land and somebody in a Na'vi suit was working the crowd.  Speaking of Neytiri, the noises they had her make at points of emotional distress certainly weren't the most flattering.  When her poor Pop buys the farm (another peripheral character who bites the dust), she makes a noise that sounded so much like laughing that one of the guys watching the movie actually did start laughing.  Oops.  Ruined that scene.  (Oh well -- the dad was an expendable character; it's the mom who's a shaman of the tribe).
My favorite miscalculation beside the natural electronic fascination was a rather embarrassing side effect of having an Avatar: the inconvenient narcolepsy.  I mean, narcolepsy is always inconvenient, but in this movie it was profoundly so.  At one point Jake's gearing up for a bone-raising speech when -- whoops -- there he goes!  He's over!  He's down!  He's snoring like there's no tomorrow!  So his speech gets chilled and the tree comes tumbling down.  At another point, Sigourney/Grace konks over, and the next time we see her she's being drug in a makeshift litter behind a 6-footed horse.  I don't know why, but that also cracked me up.  I think the movie, kind of like the new Star Wars movies, just took itself way too seriously.  Take a hint from Shakespeare: no matter how serious the contents are supposed to be, you've got to have some comic relief.  None of the characters were supposed to be funny!  There's no "funny guy," not even a cute little animal who befriends Jake and tracks along beside him.

On to the most disturbing part of the film.  It's clear from the opening, who we're supposed to root for.  Not the American Marines (yep, you heard that right: there's not even a pretense that these forces are international, collectively trying to save their dying planet.  Americans are the problem), oh no.  The Na'vi.  I guess the screenwriter thought we might be too dense to self-identify with the bad guys unless they used live action, American-sounding, Marine-looking guys and gals.  Yep, we're the bad guys.  And who are the good guys?  The Na'vi.  Their feathers and body paint are most reminiscent of American Indians, but I suppose they could stand for any victim of American imperialism anywhere.  What's wrong with this picture?  Plenty.  First off, it's a false dichotomy: you're with us our you're agin' us.  Actually, why do I have to choose either side?  If you look at how the deck has been stacked in this film, with only negative stereotypes of Marines shown, and every good aspect of the Na'vi played up, I think you'll ask yourself that question.  Don't get sucked into thinking you have to choose a side for this one.

If the moviemakers' point was supposed to be that Marines are heartless bloodletters, they're absolutely wrong.  I am disgusted that any moviemaker at any time would show their brutal beliefs about the military, portraying our military in such a way with not even a fig leaf to disguise who they were character assassinating.  But it's even worse when it's done during a time of war.  Anyone who actually thinks of our Armed Forces in this way should get to know a soldier and see their theories wither.  I hope that no one in the military thinks that this way of presenting the military is what average men and women in this country believe.  This film is reprehensibly irresponsible in its portrayal of the brave men and women who are currently serving in the military and risking their lives so we can live.

Do you know how messed up it is to see animated-like characters murdering American Marines with the music swelling, telling us we're supposed to like this part?  Jake has qualms about murdering fellow Marines.  They don't even throw in a questioning scene where he has to wrestle with his conscience.  Killing a Na'vi is unpardonable, but killing a Marine is something to celebrate.  What happened to respecting all life?

Incidentally, since this film is in some ways supposed to make us think about our conquest of Indian tribes, let me say this: history didn't have to turn out the way it did.  Some European settlers and some Indian tribes were able to coexist in peace.  It is possible!!!  And it's historical revisionism if we lay all the blame for what happened on one side or the other.  Yes, there was unjustifiable treatment of Indians by Europeans.  There was also unjustifiable treatment of Europeans by Indians.  I'll also mention that the "noble savage" idea presented in this film cannot be applied to the majority of the Indian tribes who lived in the U.S. when the Europeans began settling.  For one thing, moral decadence was rampant in many tribes.  So yes, European diseases definitely weaked some Indian tribes' ability to fight Europeans as they settled, but it definitely was not the only factor.  Another thing to consider was that many Indians did not unite to fight the settlers because many settlers formed alliances with them.  Also, there were not broad alliances between various tribes, as is shown in this film.  I am in nowise trying to justify what happened in the past: I am disgusted by slaughtering people who lived trustfully near you, regardless of the skin color of the perpetrator or victim.  I just think that before we take this film's advice and go on a white guilt spree, we ought to consider our actual history.

Really, this film could have had a much more positive message than "Pick a side, and pay blind loyalty to it no matter what."  It could have been a vehicle to show reconciliation between very different nations.  Since this is my blog, I'll have my way and present my version of what Avatar could have been:

Jake finds an untenable situtation mounting between the blue guys and the Marines.  He gets to know the blue guys (and that particularly nice blue girl) and realizes what a pot of gold they're sitting on.  So, he has a one-on-one with the golf-maniacal corporate guy.  If he doesn't listen, he takes his message to the common man.  He convinces them it's not unobtanium they need, it's tourism.  They get Colonel "I AM TRANSFORMER" transferred to do boot camp in the States, and work out a system where people back on Earth take virtual tourism treks via screens the Na'vi carry with them as they do their aerial gymnastics.  They start plans to launch into the calendar photo business, and start an entreprenurial society among the Na'vi youngfolk.  On the side, the Na'vi start financing a "Drill, Baby, Drill" PR campaign back on earth, and fiber optic pink trees really start to catch on in gift shops all over Earth. Sigourney's given an ashtray, and they all live happily ever after.


A Tale of Two Professors

OK -- this is just bizarre.
It's the story of two professors in Israel.  The first guy taught at Ben Gurion University, and expressed non-PC ideas about homosexuality (like UIUC's Dr. Howell did).  The second taught at Hebrew University, sexually exploited many of his female grad students, and disseminated crackpot ideas about Israeli soldiers' morality.  Guess which one got fired, and which one got backed up their administration...

http://frontpagemag.com/2010/07/19/a-tale-of-two-professors/

Monday, July 19, 2010

Please demonstrate inclusivity by reinstating Dr. Ken Howell

Dr. Hogan:

As the president of a prestigious public institution, many people on and off campus see you as a figurehead of this university.  Also, anyone who has any knowledge of the University of Illinois knows that we emphasize the term "inclusivity."  As the embodiment of our university, please demonstrate our school's commitment to inclusivity by reinstating Dr. Ken Howell. 

To be inclusive is to see value in others' beliefs -- even the ones we disagree with.  I am not Catholic, and I do not agree with all that would be taught in a course in Catholicism.  But I still see value in giving professors the freedom to accurately describe a system of thought, and in giving students the freedom to learn about that system of thought from someone who knows it intimately.  Dr. Howell gave students that chance in his classes, and during his time here his teaching very highly rated.

Please reinstate him, and demonstrate inclusivity to us students by example.

Sincerely,
__________

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Intellectualizing Drug Use

I recently came across an article where a former researcher described how his attitude toward controlled substances had changed:

http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/303/19/1894?ijkey=kO1MRoQiLez4M&keytype=ref&siteid=amajnls

What do you think?

(Originally written 5/24/10)

Outstanding

Sometimes things are left outstanding because they're anything but outstanding. 

(Originally written 3/8/10)

A follower

I once heard a speaker say, "If you think you have the gift of leadership, look behind you.  If nobody's following, you're not a leader."  Well, nobody's following, so I'm sure not a leader!  The only thing I know is that "I have decided to follow Jesus."  (And "though none go with me, I still will follow...")

(Originally written 2/18/10)

It's All Inside

I think it's downright hilarious.  I'm supposed to see a woman as a role model more rapidly than a man -- just because it's a woman instead of a man.  *Chortle.*  If that's not sexist, honey, (oh sorry), I don't know what is.  If this side-splitting theory was correct, then I'd be more likely to relate to the Sonia Sotomayor (the self-described "wise Latina" sitting on the Supreme Court) than John Roberts, chief justice.  I'd be more likely to identify with Hillary than Thomas Sowell.  I'd feel a closer kinship with Paris Hilton than Charlton Heston.  Not on your life, sister! 
     Have we gotten so wrapped up in our consumer culture that we can't see past the packaging?  When I'm looking for a hero, the trappings can be an added bonus, but they're never at the crux of my decision.  It's the ideas inside that I'm looking at.  Sure, Katie Couric's hair may be a bit better styled than Buckley's often was.  But when I say that Buckley's my hero and Katie ain't, well, it's all about worldview.
     It's segregation all over again, the assumption that only those look like one another can get along with another.
     In case you're wondering what I think about diversity, let me just say that the kind of diversity my current university trumpets is skin-deep at best.  Is there a good assortment of skin colors in the admissions picture?  Okay, good.  We're diverse.  But what about worldview diversity?  The room goes silent.  I've just uttered the deplorable word.
    
(Originally written 1/12/10)

Somewhere between 2 and 20

Isn't "No" one of the first words a child learns to say?  How is it then, that somewhere between 2 and 20 I've forgotten How to say no?  I want my yesses and my noes to be firm and decisive, but often they all noodle around in the grey zone of maybe.  Uggh!  Help!  The article I link to above has some really neat strategies.  For one, if you know you can't make it to a party, say so as soon as you get the invitation.  Also, if someone asks for your help and you decide to help, but have limited time, state exactly how much time you have to devote to their project.  I think that's a fine idea.  Now to try it...!
   One of my biggest issues is the guilt attached to saying "No."  It makes me think of the servant who was forgiven a gazillion dollars of debt, but then turns around and starts strangling an under-servant because of a quarter.  I don't want to be that servant. 
   I want to be a kind, thoughtful person.  But I've found that this involves a certain level of sanity.  If I'm not sane, believe you me, you won't want my help.  I've started seeing distinct differences in how people ask for help: some are about making the best use of my time, and some are about making the best use of their time.  So person-needing-help-with-grad-school-applications-who-likes-to-give-me-your-issues, it's your application process.  I am willing to give you some pointers, but it's your baby.  Whew!!!  I feel better already!

(Originally written 1/7/10)

Money, Money, Money

When I'm not thinking about activity assays, I'm thinking about ways to make money.  Once I leave grad school, of course.  We're not allowed to moonlight another job while we're here.  Here's two ideas:

CiteDing -- Want real-time feedback on your scientific prowess without worrying about SciFinder logouts?  CiteDing is for you.  For a low monthly fee of $39.95, we'll alert you every time someone cites your work.  There's never been an easier way to pad your ego!

GasMan -- Concrete goose dresses, enter the 21st century.  Does your lab have a rusty, dark brown gas tank you'd like to hide?  Try our GasMan exclusive 30-day-trial!  Inspired by man-sized pottery at a functional art show, our decorations will enhace your lab experience and increase networking opportunities as word spreads and people file in to see what all the buzz is about!  Try our "EinsteinMan," "Mr. Clean Man," or send us a picture of your PI and we'll design a custom version!

(Originally written 12/22/09)

Speech Codes

I just saw an article about Defying the Constitution: The Rise, Persistence, and Prevlance of Campus Speech Codes

The Office of the Dean of Students claims that "[B]ecause of increased diversity, hate crimes and bias-motivated activity are occurring with greater frequency on college campuses."  They give an example of situations between students of different backgrounds where conflict could arise.  Here's some of what I find interesting: 1) The word "white" is capitalized.  What's that all about?  1) Christianity, the major religion in this country, is not even listed.  2) Students are classed not by worldview, but by nation of origin, "race" (what is that, anyway?), or sexual orientation.  The assumption is that members of certain classes think and behave the same, that their class identity trumps their individual identity.  Is this classism, or is this classism? 4) Students' worldviews are completely ignored.  They are classed only by externals.

I see two other fallacies in the short amount of information provdied here:
1) that diversity has only just started on universities, and
2) that diversity itself is the cause of unrest.

On point 1, I know this is false because my parents attended school with folks from many different backgrounds when they were in grad school. 
On point 2, let me point you to Orchard Downs, where an incredibly diverse group of people live together in harmony.  It's not diversity of culture that's to blame.

What's lacking in the mumbo jumbo of this university's ethics program is the answer to the question "Why."

How is a "hate crime" currently defined?

(Originally written 11/23/09)

Saturday Night. Do You Know Where Your Senator Is?

(I was going to send this to 100,000 of my closest friends -- OK, more like 18 -- but in the end, I refrained).

Wikipedia has this to say about the U.S. Senate: "
The Senate is a more deliberative body than the House of Representatives because the Senate is smaller and its members serve longer terms, allowing for a more collegial and less partisan atmosphere that is somewhat more insulated from public opinion than the House."

If only, if only.  The reality is that with the healthcare bill, the Senate is following the same destructive path that the House did a few short weeks ago.

You and I may be thinking of Thanksgiving, but on this Saturday, our friends in the Senate are getting ready to vote on a closure measure that would strangle any meaningful debate on the ObamaCare legislation.  A vote for closure would not only severely limit debate, it would also prevent a pro-life amendment from being advanced, since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's 2,074-page draft guarantees federal funding of abortion.

Here's the latest from National Review:
"The debate on Reid's bill is set to begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, with the cloture vote to come around 8 p.m. If it passes, then the Senate will likely take a week off for Thanksgiving and come back to begin the floor debate on Monday, November 30..."

...
Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.): "Saturday's vote is an abortion vote," he says. "We often use arcane procedures in the Senate that just lose people. Things can get complicated on the process side here, so let me be clear: This cloture vote is a make-or-break vote on the pro-life issue. Reid's bill has language that includes a mechanism for public funding and a significant extension of abortion coverage. If this bill moves to the floor with 60 votes this weekend, the only way to change it is to get 60 votes again. That will be very tough to achieve once the bill goes to the floor. A vote to proceed is thus a vote for extending abortion coverage."

If you'd like to contact your U.S. Senator, take a look at this website.

God be with you,
________

P.S.
I had never heard of closure, so here's some details from wikipedia:

After cloture has been invoked, the following restrictions apply:
  • No more than thirty hours of debate may occur.[8]
  • No Senator may speak for more than one hour.
  • No amendments may be moved unless they were filed on the day in between the presentation of the petition and the actual cloture vote.
  • All amendments must be relevant to the debate.
  • Certain procedural motions are not permissible.
  • The presiding officer gains additional power in controlling debate.
  • No other matters may be considered until the question upon which cloture was invoked is disposed of.
(Originally written 11/21/09)

"See James"

A dictionary that refers to Scripture?  Unheard of, absurd!
And yet, Webster's did!

(Originally written 11/21/09)

Yet Another Honor Murder

Noor Almaleki is dead.  Her father Faleh ran her down in his car as an "honor murder" because she was becoming too Westernized, and rejecting his Muslim "values."

I firmly believe that instead of referring to such acts as "honor killings," we should refer to them as "honor murders."  The contradiction in terms is much more apparent, and the cruelty of the act is much more emphasized.  This is not an isolated event, folks!  As Mark Steyn points out, we in the West have not begun to understand the worldview guiding people like Faleh.  We throw out terms like "radical Muslim" or "radical extremist."  We try to convince ourselves that only a certain subpopulation of Muslims would actually engage in, or condone acts of brutality.  But such smokescreens can't protect us from reality.  At its heart, Islam is not about love.  It's about submission.  Those who cross Allah must pay the penalty.

Where's the emphasis on free will?

Sorry -- you're looking in the wrong religion for that.

What's curious to me is that while Islam has existed for millenia, those of us in the West are just becoming acquainted with its predictable-but-no-less terrifying atrocities. 

Looking through Western literature, there are many glimpses of Muslim violence.  Take, for instance, the Song of Roland.  Or even Mark Twain's story of a group of tourists attacked by Muslims and violently told to convert to Islam.  Or take this poem by Victor Hugo:

The Fallen Veil

THE SISTER

What has happened, my brothers? Your spirit to-day
    Some secret sorrow damps:
There's a cloud on your brow.  What has happened?  Oh, say,
For your eyeballs glare out with a sinister ray
    Like the light of funeral lamps.
And the blades of your poinards are half unsheathed
    In your belt -- and ye frown on me!
There's a woe untold, there's a pang unbreathed
    In your bosom, my brothers three!

ELDEST BROTHER

Gulnara, make answer!  Hast thou, since the dawn,
To the eye of a stranger thy veil withdrawn?

THE SISTER

As I came, oh, my brother! at noon--from the bath--
    As I came--it was noon, my lords--
    And your sister had then, as she constantly hath,
Drawn her veil close around her, aware that the path
    Is beset by these foreign hordes.
But the weight of the noonday's sultry hour
    Near the mosque was so oppressive
That--forgetting a moment the eye of the Giaour--
    I yielded to th' heat excessive.

SECOND BROTHER

Gulnara, make answer!  Whom, then, hath thou seen,
In a turban of white and a caftan of green?

THE SISTER

Nay, he might have been there; but I muffled me so,
    He could scarcely have seen my figure.--
But why to your sister thus dark do you grow?
What words to yourselves do you mutter thus low,
    Of "blood" and "an intriguer"?
Oh! ye cannot of murder bring down the red guilt
    On your souls, my brothers, surely!
Though I fear--from the hands that are chafing the hilt,
    And the hints you give obscurely.

THIRD BROTHER

Gulnara, this evening when sank the red sun,
Didst thou mark how like blood in descending it shone?

THE SISTER

Mercy! Allah! have pity! oh, spare!
    See! I cling to your knees repenting!
Kind brothers, forgive me! for mercy, forbear!
Be appeased at the cry of a sister's despair,
    For our mother's sake relenting.
O God! must I die?  They are deaf to my cries!
    Their sister's life-blood shedding;
They have stabbed me each one--I faint--o'er my eyes
A veil of Death is spreading!

THE BROTHERS

Gulnara farewell! take that veil; 'tis the gift
Of thy brothers--a veil thou wilt never lift!

This is very first piece in the 1928 collection of "The Works of Victor Hugo."  The publishers, Blacks Readers Services Company, must not have anticipated the political correctness that would be so in vogue seventy-one years later.  I wonder how many collections of Hugo's work include this piece today?

In Noor's case, her father, not her brother, was her murderer.  What does her brother Peter-Ali have to say about her death?  "Different cultures, different values.  One thing to one culture does not make sense to another culture."  That's relativism for you.  No condemnation of his father's actions.  He is understandably upset about his sister's injuries, but he still tries to cover for his dad!  He reports that his sister was increasingly disrespectful to their father, and this is the ultimate insult that can be paid to a traditional Muslim man.  Further, it's the people his sister was living with that triggered his father's anger.  Evidently the real victim, in Peter-Ali's estimation, wasn't Noor, but Faleh -- the father.

A religion that requires "moderate" brothers and fathers to murder their sisters and daughters is a religion I want nothing to do with.  This is not an isolated event, folks!  The one glimmer of hope I saw in this story was that the mother was not complicit with the father, as sometimes Muslim mothers are.  We're not told the mother's name, but when Faleh called her while he was on the run, she yelled at him and hung up.  I was so, so glad to know that she did not support her husband in his decision.

What about the Muslim community at large?  Do they condemn Faleh's actions, or are they filled compassion for women like Noor, deciding to change their attitude toward women who distance themselves from Islam?  I searched the CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations -- anyone wonder why American and Islamic must be hyphenated?  Is this a tacit admission that the two are mutually exclusive?) website for any mention about Noor's story.  Incidentally, just below the search box is the phrase "In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful."  Evidently Allah's compassion and mercy is only abundant to certain people in the world.  The search function seemed to be disabled, but I could readily see that the CAIR home page and press release page carried no mention of Noor or her family.  No, the mission of CAIR seems to be to protect Muslims from outsiders (dare I say "infidels"?), not to protect Muslims from other Muslims.

There's been numerous discussions about CAIR's silence.  One apologist on the Talk Islam site said, "[T]he business about Muslim organizations having to sprint to the microphone to get at the head of the line for denunciations of honor killings is bosh, a bit piece of what is becoming a modern-day blood libel against Muslims about 'honor killings.' The targeting of CAIR – as opposed to any other American Muslim organization that hasn't yet denounced or commented on the Noor Almaleki case, is arbitrary and selective."  "What's more, if one Muslim organization does denounce, then the Islamophobes go around to all the other orgs to bully them with it and hype the negativity."  Evidently, the truth is far too uncomplimentary, so it should be buried as soon as possible.  We don't want the facts to cloud the narrative.

Below this discussion was an ad for "The Muslim Matrimonials Site" -- Muslima.com.  The ad was complete with a picture of a stylish, smiling Muslim woman, and a button for "Browse photos now!"  Anybody else creeped out?

(Originally written 11/7/09)

Making Sense Might Be the Point

CMDA devotionals are typically a highlight for me.  But this one missed the mark!

I think it's a pretty bad sign when one has to resort to Jesus Christ Superstar for theology.  Jesus never said anything like "You're awfully good at what and where but not so good at why" on the way to the cross.

The "why" of Jesus' sacrifice is explained repeatedly in the Scriptures, from the OT ("But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed."  -- Isaiah 53:5.  See also Isaiah 61.) to the NT ("He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him." -- Thessalonians 5:10).

In the case of suffering, Hebrews 11 and Job give us incredible accounts of Christians who endured suffering.  I put a bit more stock in their description than what any uninspired man writes.

This week I saw a sign that said "God is movement, not explanation."  -- Elie Wiesel.  I don't believe this.

(Originally written 10/27/09)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: CMDA <communications@cmda.org>
Date: Tue, Oct 27, 2009 at 7:30 AM
Subject: CMDA Weekly Devotion - Making Sense Is Not the Point

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. Job 42:5-6

This week one of my friends called to tell me that the child of one of my Christian colleagues committed suicide.

About every other year I receive news that one of my colleagues across the country has lost a child they love to suicide. More often than that, I hear of Christian doctors who lose their children or see their children broken by tragic accidents, or drugs, or disease, or alcohol or war. These are Christian doctors who raise their children the best they can during busy lives of service; and one day, they turn around -- and their dear child, for whom they would have given their lives, for whom they had dreamed a future, around whom they had wrapped a chief purpose of their lives--the child they loved is shattered or gone, and all those dreams and all that purpose is gone as well.

This doesn't make sense; not with a God who loves us and Whom we love, not with the effort that many of these parents have put forth in our lives to serve Him. Certainly, great students of the Bible can develop rational thought processes around our unworthiness and God's purpose and free will that provide logic within Christian theology for such losses; but, when it is our child who is broken or gone, it just doesn't make sense. Our brains may check the theologic-logic off as sound but our hearts remain crushed and ignorant. So, what do we do with such unsensical and unbearable tragedy?

Perhaps making sense is not the point. In the rock musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, the character of Jesus is headed for a nonsensical cross and cries out to God, "You're awfully good at what and where but not so good at why." Just so, I suspect that God doesn't want us to dwell very long on the "why?"s linked to suffering in this life, except for those that move us toward corrective action. There are just some things in life that we will never be able to wrap our limited minds around.

The more I learn of God and His work with us, the more I am drawn away from logic into relationship. There is little logic that matters in the chronic suffering of a child or the loss of a child in a world where God loves us and we, as followers of Christ, as servant doctors, do our best for Him. Within the immensity of such loss, the most important path to wholeness and healing leads not toward reason, but into the arms of the God we do not understand. And though we may resist those arms within our pain, until we feel them hold us close we cannot be made whole again. Making sense is a shallow and superficial satisfaction, and far less true to life than the pressure of those loving arms.

Someday, it will all make sense. Some day, we will have all the grand data and see clearly how the many colored pieces of life fit together. Someday, we will see that even our greatest tragedies have been redeemed and that all of our nonsensical pain has turned into joy for us and those we love. But, till that day comes, making sense is not the point.

Dear Father,
Let me ask "why?" briefly, in case You need to correct my steps. But then let me put the question down and run into Your arms. Amen.

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--
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Deliver us!

Okay, I'll make this short and sweet.  Well, no guarantees on sweet.

I have a problem with a university that ups its parking tickets by $5 if you don't pay within 72 hrs., but does not even send an explanation when I don't get paid for two months plus a week.

I also have a problem with a university that charges me a late fee on a bill I don't owe, but says nothing about paying me interest on late wages.

Okay, that felt better.  Kinda.

Hats off to a conscientious gal in the chemistry office who sleuthed her way through the bureaucracy.  She is a shining light in a gloomy, benighted system.

I got paid half the amount I should be paid today.  But when I called accounting to ask them to remove a late payment fee on my account, she told me shortly that she could only do that once I'd paid my bills.  I chuckled and told her I'd be more than happy to pay the university once the university pays me.  A notice at the beginning of the month told me they're about to hand my case over to a collection agency. 

It's not that I'm unwilling to pay.  It's just that I can't pay you until you pay me.

The steps to stability:
1) Pray -- hard.
2) Laugh -- hard.
3) Find a lesson -- hard.

Here's the lesson I'm drawing from this.
Keep power structures/pay structures as personal as possible.  If you're not going to pay someone, you should have to tell them in person and see what their face looks like.
A cell can only grow so big before needing to divide.  The same is true of a business or government.
For anyone in a love affair with big government, I hope this serves as a warning.  Minimize the probability of committing sin.

"Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns.  Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin."  (Deuteronomy 24:14-15).

(Originally written 10/23/09 at 2:52PM)

Free Market Cure

(In answer to a columnist writing about the free market cure for healthcare).

I couldn't agree more. 

With the healthcare debate, I've seen that there's a difference between recognizing symptoms and offering the correct diagnosis.

Could our healthcare system use some help?  You betcha.  ERs are often misused by bored people insulated from copays; abortion is a degrading, preying, and lucrative industry within the system; frivolous litigation drives up physician's medical insurance, and private insurance plans can be atrociously expensive as a result.  But if I ever needed surgery while I was in Canada, as they put me on the wait list, I'd click my heels together and holler "There's No Place Like Home!" 

Flaws are necessary, but not sufficient, for a crisis.  Is our healthcare system on the brink of collapse?  No.  Then why are we being told that it is?  As M. Stanton Evans points out in Clear and Present Dangers, social engineers love crises.  After all, if we become convinced our case is terminal, won't we be more willing to accept an experimental treatment?

But if we don't have the proper diagnosis for what ails us, then we can spend a fortune and only end up in counseling for a government-dependency.  (Or should I say "On a wait list.")

I firmly believe that the crisis in our healthcare system today is excess government regulation.  In short, our main problem is too much government -- not too little!  If our federal government misdiagnoses our primary condition, they will prescribe exactly what was poisoning us in the first place.

As you point out, the free market is a great antidote.

(Originally written 9/18/09)

Mad Model

Whenever I think about medicine run on the Government Post Office model, I shudder.  It's the whole idea of "I've seen what you do, and I don't want to see any more."

(And now, from the makers of "Going Postal," "Mediscare," and "Teddycation," it's "Obummer Care"!)

I think the reason why we put up with the Post Office is because we have so many other routes of communication, it's okay if that one's subpar.

But what if the Post Office was a monopoly?  What if it was against the law for any other company to send a first-class letter?

I mean, if the federal government legitimately knew something about competition and cost-cutting, why haven't they been applying their wisdom to the programs they already operate?

Oh, sorry about that.  I keep lapsing into rationality.  Gotta work on that.

(Originally written 9/18/09)

Double Standard

What happens when the Daily Illini publishes...

...a stereotypical cartoon about Muslims that is drawn by a Danish cartoonist: the Opinions editor and Editor-in-Chief are suspended.  The Opinions editor is invited back, but declines, while the Editor-in-Chief is fired.

...a stereotypical cartoon about Jews that is drawn by a Daily Illini regular:

...a stereotypical description of Christians that is written by a Daily Illini regular: nothing.

So, class, you can see the abiding lesson for today.  Only antagonize those who will not fight back.

(Originally written 8/25/09)

ibarf

Oh no.  Oh noooooooo.
My worst nightmare has been realized.
The med school has bought into the latest teaching scam: clickers whose response factor into your grade.

http://www.med.illinois.edu/students/m1/iclicker/

Yeah.  I'm excited.

(Originally written 8/20/09)

An Incomplete Pearl Is a Saliva-Coated Piece of Junk

So here's some of my incomplete pearls, some rocks that haven't bounced around in the rock box long enough, some suckers that still have the Tootsie roll buried way down deep inside.  Basically, they're just some thoughts that have been flatfooting around my head for a while.

On the importance of shoes
Shoes matter.  In flights of fancy I sometimes think about going barefoot, getting back to nature.  Yeah.  Then I see the signs posted about lab safety. 
About a month ago I decided it was time to get a new pair of shoes.  I got a comfortable but thin pair of shoes that were sleek, tan, and lightweight.  The only problem was, with no support, I was soon finding every excuse I could to grab the one stool in lab to sit on.  (Or, even worse, just sitting at my desk all the time!).  I now realize why supportive shoes were invented!  When I went back to the store and shelled out the cash for the standard tennis shoes, my feet rose up and called me blessed.  Well, almost.

Diagnosis
When something's going wrong, find out what's making it go wrong.  Without this crucial step, all the heeing and hawing in the world will do no good.  Case in point: our printer is a little weird.  About one month into working with the little guy, I just decided he was eccentric and stopped listening to his error messages.  I mean, when eight of nine times he tells you his drum's bad when he's really got a paper jam, you start patting him on the tray and rolling your eyes a little.  At least I do.  Anyway.  When he started telling me -- in his wheezy little way -- that his toner was low, I figured it was just another delusion.  For the two weeks (time periods may be exaggerated due to sporadic recordkeeping) leading up to his new self- diagnosis, he refused to print anything unless I pressed the "Go" button for each page.  I joked that he felt attention-deprived.  When the toner light came on, I figured it was more of the same eccentric behavior.  Until he collasped in a spasm.  So a guy in lab figured out what was wrong.  It was the toner.  What I've learned from this is 1) you've got to know what the proper diagnosis is so you can take the proper action, 2) even when a patient sometimes mis-self-diagnoses, it's doesn't mean he'll always mis-self-diagnose, and 3) the guys in my lab are better at printer troubleshooting than the girls are.

On dating
It's kind of curious.  I always saw it as a positive thing if somebody didn't date much before they got married.  It's been kind of a shock to find out that's not how a lot of people see it.  If you haven't dated much (or at all!), it's almost as if questions like "what's wrong" or "are you lezzie" seem justified.

When guys are better than girls
That last point is so amusing, and so neglected in today's society that I'm going to take it up as its own section.  Did you know that, on average, guys are better at some things than girls are?  Shocking, I know, but true.  If I was studying this phenomenon scientifically, I'd have several groups of volunteers -- say, three guys in one group, and three girls in another group -- enclosed in a room with a slightly outdated computer, a stack of slightly rumpled paper, a busted but fixable printer, and a deadline of fifteen minutes to print a 10-page document of my choice.  And I'd see what they'd do.  If my experience with the printer in my lab, the two guys and two girls I worked with, and my own bent are any indication, the guys would approach the problem much more confidently than the girls.  The girls would probably check the printer timidly, more with a "well, I sure hope something I do will help this printer," while the guys' actions would probably speak more of "Hey!  Awesome -- watch me fix this!"  I'm not saying that the average guy will always know more about fixing a printer than a girl will.  I'm just saying that I think a guy often approaches a problem with a Bob-the-Builder mentality.  And that's cool.

While we're on the topic of confidence, I've got to say that many guys are just more naturally gifted in this area than girls.  So girls, learn from the guys.  At a recent Bible study, we were asked to share our spiritual gifts.  There was some silence, but then the two guys present shared what their gifts were.  Several minutes later, the girls were still gulping and trying to disappear by a mere act of the will.  I was one of those girls, but looking back at it I'm ashamed of how I wasted time.  It really isn't any more spiritual to delay like that.  In the future, I want to be more like those guys were.  As one of them pointed out, they're spiritual gifts aren't about them anyway.  They're about God.

One of my favorite stories about CAP (Civil Air Patrol) is one my brother told me.  They were drilling when their officer (I don't really know if that's the correct terminology!) shouted out "Who's the best?"  Most of the cadets (I'm really making up names now!) trumpeted back "I am!"  The rest of the cadets looked bewildered.  The ones who were convinced they were the best got to rest, but those who weren't yet convinced were told to continue.  And it "just so happened" that all the guys yelled "I am" while all the girls stood by bewildered.  I love that story.  I think it shows a lot about how girls and guys think differently, and I can totally picture myself turning sheepish when "Who's the best?" came ringing out.  I'd probably start thinking about whose name would be most unobstrusive to yell.  Right about then I'd heard the guys yelling "I am," and then get even more sheepish because I'd recognize that as the right answer.  As much as I like this story, I've found that I have to be very careful who I share it with.  Back in undergrad a friend of a friend mentioned she'd been in CAP.  I related the story, thinking she'd laugh like I did when I heard it.  But no.  She got visibly angry and demanded to know the names of the people involved.  I fortunately had no idea, and wouldn't have told her if I had known people's names!  I decided then and there that this person and I understood things very differently, and I'd have to watch my cards very carefully around her.

Not that I ever saw her again, anyway!  It just gets me when people think it's something heinous to point out the differences in how girls and guys think.  As if you needed another example, I'll belabor the point with another -- in my opinion -- funny story.  I was helping pass out food, and I was stationed next to two brothers.  The older brother was 11, and the younger brother was 8.  The 11-year-old's job was to put a shrink-wrapped package with three green peppers and an onion into each person's basket.  The 8-year-old was originally given the foolproof job of putting a bag of tortillas into each person's basket.  He soon tired of that, however, and edged himself into my post: the quart of milk and dozen eggs section.  I didn't mind.  The older lady at the next station scowled, though.  Boy, she looked mad!  So anyway, we had about 1.5 hours to work.  I didn't have a chance to get bored, because the brothers sang me a song the older one had written about a fish named Bob.  This fish had a ballcap on his head, not a beard but a 'stache, a mole on his cheek, a cat named Sue, and enough other distinguishing characteristics that if you ever fished him out of the Nile, you'd know who you had.  During this time the 11-year-old also declared himself "The Pepper Man," and signified his status by placing a shrink-wrapped package of peppers on his hat.  I might have worried about them falling off and getting bruised if he hadn't kept them balanced for the duration.  Then, suddenly inspired, he started relating the way in which every vegetable in the sun could be morphed into a lethal weapon.  It was high entertainment, and only a boy could of thought of it.  By the time the 1.5 hours was done, he'd hatched ideas of mashed-potato quicksand, launching tomatoes, and a spiky booby-trap made out of sharpened carrots (okay, so I might have helped with that one a little bit).  It all started when
And at the end of it, the older lady who'd stood by getting a heart palpitation every time the 8-year-old put the eggs or milk into someone's case, jetted

Potential titles of future, thought-provoking articles
Colonialism, Imperialism, and the Enduring Popularity of the British Accent
Inertia and the Research Schedule (Or "She Who is Efficient Will Become More Efficient, While She Who is Not Efficient Will Become Less Efficient")

(Originally written 8/14/09)

Demilitarization Starts Abroad

We spend too much on the military, yada yada yada.  We Americans are aggressors, and our overt attempts at world domination excuse other countries' retaliation, yada yada yada.  If we had less of a military presence, we could use the money spent on defense on more important programs like education, social security, and healthcare, yada yada yada. 

Okay, whatever.  Let's look at some numbers.  Which country would you say had the most troops?  That's right, Vietnam (at 9.564 million).  Who comes in second?  Yeah, China (at 7.024 million).  Who comes in third?  Yep, us (at 3.3854 million).

Just thought a little perspective might be in order.  Who's outraged by the stockpiling of troops from these countries, or their inactivity in the "War on Terror."  Hmm... why do these countries need a military, incidentally?  What wars are they fighting?  Hmmmm...

(And as a side note, it might be worthwhile to rank countries in order of troops per 1,000 people.  Some smaller countries make military funding a priority, and we wouldn't want to forget them!)

(As a side note, want to know what the percentage of Mulsims in the U.S. is?  0.8%.  Wow, what a Muslim country!  Take a look at that link to see the ranking in other countries, however.  And consider the impact of this tiny population (2.7-3.3%) in the UK).

(Originally written 8/5/09)

Manchurian Candidate...

...showing in the White House, January 2008-January 2012.

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=79411


(Originally written 7/29/09)

Hellish

Hell will be the first place that some will get their deepest wish met.  It'll be the first time they'll be able to completely flee from the one they've been running from their whole lives: God. 

Tonight at Bible study we were talking about the verse where Jesus says "apart from me, you can do nothing."  What does this mean?  Someone asked.  One person mentioned that a lot of people in the world do amazing things, but if they never choose to do anything for Christ, what is all the rest of the stuff worth?  Another person explained that everything good on earth comes from God, so whatever good thing the Christian or non-Christian enjoys here, they're able to enjoy because of Christ.  And this is true whether or not they give Him credit, for "the earth is the Lord's, and all that's in it"!

On earth, I've tried fleeing from God.  This running from Him can happen in a lot of ways.  Sometimes it's when I overindulge on some pleasure (like eating cashews), and try to shut everything else out, even thankfulness to God.  Sometimes it's when I've selfishly wanted something, and even when praying, told God I wanted it (Mr. Price to win the gubanatorial race) even if it wasn't in His will.  Other times it's avoiding even looking at my Bible.  I know that I should read it, but I try, try, try to forget it!  Or there's the times when I know disctinctly that I should be giving someone a hug, or starting a conversation, or sending an email.  And I intentionally do not.

In those moments, I think that I'm savoring the stuff of life: tasty food, victory, personal time, and person space.  But in reality, I inevitably come to realize that I'm blocking out what God wanted me to live: food within limits, trusting Him, living with His sense of time, and surrendering everything to Him.

I'm person who sometimes thinks that premarital sex with worldly ideas is freeing, when in God's truth, it's marriage to Him that's freeing!

Thank you for Your Hope, Jesus!!!!

(Originally written 7/13/09)

Pork Rind Healthy

If they can make pork rinds sound healthy, they can make James Carville sound innocuous.  "Political icon"?  My foot!

http://www.washingtonspeakers.com/speakers/speaker.cfm?SpeakerId=912

(Originally written 5/19/09)

Big Brother













WND Exclusive
LIFE WITH BIG BROTHER
'Electronic Police State' report cites U.S.
Ultimate Big Brother 'basics are in place'

Posted: May 10, 2009
9:05 pm Eastern

By Bob Unruh
© 2009 WorldNetDaily

In what may be the first assessment of its kind, a private company that offers a range of privacy products for computers and other technology is ranking the United States No. 6 in the world for having the most aggressive procedures for monitoring residents electronically.

The report, called The Electronic Police State, assesses the status of governmental surveillance in 52 nations around the globe for 2008.

The document was released Cryptohippie, Inc., which was set up in 2007 through the acquisition of several little-known but highly regarded providers of privacy technologies.

Not surprisingly, China and North Korea ranked No. 1 and No. 2, with Belarus and Russia following up. But the United Kingdom ranked fifth followed by the United States.

(Story continues below)

68695253
 

 

"Most of us are aware that our governments monitor nearly every form of electronic communication. We are also aware of private companies doing the same. This strikes most of us as slightly troubling, but very few of us say or do much about it. There are two primary reasons for this," the report said.

"We really don't see how it is going to hurt us. Mass surveillance is certainly a new, odd, and perhaps an ominous thing, but we just don't see a complete picture or a smoking gun," the report continued. Also, "We are constantly surrounded with messages that say, 'Only crazy people complain about the government.'"

The report mapped the world, showing the most advanced electronic police states in red, orange reflecting strongly developing electronic police states and yellow showing nations that are developing, but lagging:


Red nations have the most advanced electronic police state capabilites

Company spokesman Paul Rosenberg told WND the biggest obstacle, however, is that the image of a "police state" dredges up visions of Nazi Germany's thugs breaking down doors in the middle of the night and hauling people off to blacked-out trains or Stalin's USSR rounding up "offenders" for imprisonment.

"That's how things worked during your grandfather's war – that is not how things work now," the report said. "An electronic police state is quiet, even unseen. All of its legal actions are supported by abundant evidence. It looks pristine," the report said.

To create the rankings, which also included Singapore, Israel, France and Germany in the top 10, his organization searched its worldwide sources for information, checked against a number of other published reports, and assigned a value of 1 to 5 to 17 different factors:

  1. Daily documents: How much is required day-to-day for residents to present state-issued identity documents or registration.

  2. Border issues: What is demanded for a border entry.

  3. Financial tracking: The state's ability to search and record financial transactions.

  4. Gag orders: The penalties for revealing to someone else the state is searching their records.

  5. Anti-crypto laws: Bans on cryptography.

  6. Constitutional protections: Either a lack of protections or someone overriding them.

  7. Data storage: The state's ability to record and keep what it uncovers.

  8. Data search: The processes to search through data.

  9. ISP data retention: The demand for ISPs to save customers' records.

  10. Telephone data retention: States' requirements for communications companies to record and save records.

  11. Cell phone records: The saving and using of cell phone users' records.

  12. Medical records: Demands from states that medical records retain information.

  13. Enforcement: The state's ability to use force (SWAT teams) to seize someone.

  14. Habeus corpus: Either an absence of such rights or someone overriding them.

  15. Police-Intel barrier: the absence of a barrier between police and intelligence organizations.

  16. Covert hacking: State operatives meddling in data on private computers covertly.

  17. Loose warrants: Warrants that are being issued without careful review of police claims by a truly independent judge.

The listings of China, North Korea, Belarus and Russia, all known for their repression of freedom, weren't surprising. Nor was the listing of the United Kingdom with its recent programs to copy and store virtually every telephone call, e-mail and text message within its borders.

But Rosenberg said there's more going on in the United States than many believe want to believe.

The nation's "basic system of gathering evidence and sorting it later is really dangerous," he said. "It's permanent. It's not going to go away."

It goes so far that a person's alcohol consumption actually could be tracked by government agents, if they chose, through credit card documentation, he told WND.

"In an Electronic Police State, every surveillance camera recording, every e-mail you send, every Internet site you surf, every post you make, every check you write, every credit card swipe, every cell phone ping… are all criminal evidence, and they are held in searchable databases, for a long, long time," the report said.

"Whoever holds this evidence can make you look very, very bad whenever they care enough to do so. You can be prosecuted whenever they feel like it – the evidence is already in their database," the report continued. "Perhaps you trust that your ruler will only use his evidence archives to hurt bad people. Will you also trust his successor? Do you also trust all of his subordinates, every government worker and every policeman?

"If some leader behaves badly, will you really stand up to oppose him or her? Would you still do it if he had all the e-mails you sent when you were depressed? Or if she has records of every porn site you've ever surfed? Or if he knows every phone call you've ever made? Or if she knows everyone you've ever sent money to?" the report asks.

"This system hasn't yet reached its full shape, but all of the basics are in place and it is not far from complete in some places," the report said.

Rosenberg told WND the organization also sought input on the status of electronic surveillance around the world from organizations including the the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House, the Ludwig von Mises Institute and The Heritage Foundation.

Following the top 10 were: 11. Malaysia, 12. Ireland, 13. United Kingdom, Scotland, 14. Netherlands, 15. South Korea, 16. Ukraine, 17. Belgium, 18. Australia, 19. Japan, 20. New Zealand, 21. Austria, 22. Norway, 23. India, 24. Italy, 25. Taiwan, 26. Denmark, 27. Hungary, 28. Greece, 29. Canada, 30. Switzerland, 31. Slovenia, 32. Poland, 33. Finland, 34. Sweden, 35. Latvia, 36. Lithuania, 37. Cyprus, 38. Malta, 39. Estonia, 40. Czech Republic, 41. Iceland, 42. South Africa, 43. Spain, 44. Portugal, 45. Luxembourg, 46. Argentina, 47. Romania, 48. Thailand, 49. Bulgaria, 50. Brazil, 51. Mexico, 52. Philippines.


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"The Patriot's Handbook: A Citizenship Primer for a New Generation of Americans"

 


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Lawmakers in 20 states move to reclaim sovereignty

Legislators tell feds to back off

Hail King Obama: President for life

Hillary to head State: Is it constitutional?

Oklahoma to feds: Don't tread on me

Constitution Party candidate says U.S. sovereignty at risk





Bob Unruh is a news editor for WorldNetDaily.com.






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Today's WND
News Highlights
 
What do 'American Idol' finalists have in common?
Rush mum on call for his death
Tea party 'extremists' rock and reload July 4
War ignited on homosexual 'bonanza'
Gun protections on agenda in Utah
 


Today's WND
Commentary Highlights
 
Long live Rush – and free speech
- By Joseph Farah
Lukewarm leaders
- By Mychal Massie
The left's twisted 'moral equivalence'
- By Thomas Sowell
Obama's Gibbs revokes Hispanic reporter's press pass
- By Les Kinsolving
Fearing our government
- By David Limbaugh
Turn on the light, get out the salt
- By Dave Welch

Colon Cleanse




(Originally found 5/12/09)

Runes

Whaddya know.  The individual runes have meanings...

(Originally written 5/11/09)

Misinformed Consent

Before any major medical procedure, a physician is required to to explain the risks/benefits of the surgery s/he is recommending, and possible alternatives to the procedure.  In this way, the patient learns the anticipated outcome of the procedure, and can weigh this against the severity of their symptoms and the potential side effects of the treatment.  Only when the patient understands these things can s/he make an informed choice.

The irony is that a woman may be more informed about a proposed gall bladder surgery than about the removal of her child from her womb.  While gall bladders are presumably called gall bladders even when being discussed in a medical setting, the object being removed from a pregnant woman is intentionally obscured.  As the local Women's Health Practice website demonstrates, the terms "child" or "baby" are often deliberately avoided in favor of the neutral terms "tissue" and "pregnancy."  Since an abortion clinic counselor has a vested interested in persuading a patient to abort, will they provide information about alternative to abortion?  The Women's Health Practice website includes no such information.

(Originally written 4/30/09)

The Maestro

     (I'm sitting on an enormous stage filled with performers.  I'm surrounded by beautiful music.  From what I can see, the musicians are all in a state of intense anticipation.  When they're not playing, they're all looking in the same direction: toward the conductor.  I can't quite make His face out, but He seems to really be getting into it.  I've never seen anyone stroke the beats quite so energetically!  There's so much to take in.  When I look back at the performers, I'm shocked to see what they're wearing.  Some of the men and women are dressed formally, as I would expect from the ornate hall that we're sitting in.  But the vast majority of people are wearing regular street clothes.  There's little kids in shorts, moms with babies strapped to their backs

God orchestrates.  You might not always be able to see Him in coattails, white buttoned gloves, and a stovepipe hat, but He's still orchestrating.  He wrote the symphony, but the symphony is alive.  We're all sitting in our chairs looking at our notes, but the notes are written on electronic paper that changes as God improvises.  He can dynamically modulate the melody so that throughout time the motif of His church is always being played.  It's theme and variations, but more complex than anything Beethoven dreamed of. 
     So what part do we play?  Well, you might be three thousand, two hundred and forty second violin.  I might be nine hundred sixty five million, eight hundred and eleven thousand, seven hundred and fifty third clarinet.  But we've all got a part to play.
     Given the Maestro's experience -- the continuous music He's been directing for over 6,000 years now, His seamless introduction of new members in the middle of a movement, and His flawless understanding of music theory and performance -- it'd be easy to think that we could just sit back and relax.  But we've got to have our instrument in tune and be poised at attention: you never know when He's going to cue you and you're going to get your three notes in! 
      Are all of us soloists?  Oh no: though there have been some amazing soloists.  You see that man out there in the audience -- left side, portly, eyes closed, tears streaming?  That's Herr Martin: you should have heard him play!  And see that woman over there with her arms stretching up and her face just gleaming?  That's Corrie, another incredible soloist.  We've had some pretty incredible trios over the years, too.  See those three guys in the balcony on the right?  Yeah -- they had a pretty incredible act.  Names are Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  They could play even when their lives depended on it.
     Anyway, I think what I'm driving at is that God wants us to be part of His symphony.  He knows the parts you like to play, and He sometimes indulges your fancy for Celtic dance music, or bluegrass.  But other times, you've got to play intricate arpeggios on the spur of a moment.  Just watch your notes and be prepared.  There's practice rooms in the back, so make sure you keep your fingers limber.  And don't be surprised if you mostly play harmony: there's no shame in that.  This isn't about advancing yourself, y'know.  It's all about God.  I mean, look at Him get into this music! 

"Well, isn't God in control?"
"Sure He is!  But don't use that as an excuse!  You're here to play a part, so be ready to play it!"

"But if I miss a cue or rebel?

"Can't He just take my music 'just as I am' and make it into something better?

"Doesn't He play every instrument here?
"Sure does.  But He wants you to pick one up and play it for Him.  He could be a one-man band if He wanted to.  I'm sure He could even breathe into each instrument, gush wind over each stringed instrument, and play this symphony by himself.  But He doesn't want to!  He gets a kick out of doing it with us."

 (Originally written 4/29/09)

Tax Hikes and Suspenders

A gal I know posted this as their gchat status: "Really?  A 3% tax hike, and Obama gets put on the same plane as Hitler?  Really?!"  It all goes back to tax hikes and suspenders.  At some point Uncle Sam needs to stop buying bigger clothes and start losing weight.  Increases in consumption are only going to make the problem worse.

(Originally written 4/17/09)


Alive!

Bone-stirring man,
bring life to me.
Open my tomb;
set my soul free.

(Originally written 4/11/09.  I have no idea if I wrote it, or if it's a quote from someone else!)

Message in a bottle

Hey --
you know how it is, writing a message in a bottle.  You pour your deepest thoughts into it, you put it in something you think might carry it to someone, but you never know whether anyone will read it or care.  Yeah, that's pretty much what this is.

I really miss you, Eli.  I feel like you and I have been disconnected for years.  I don't know if you care about that, but I really do.  Growing up, we had a lot of fun together.  Why does that have to stop just because we're older now? 

Let me know if there's anything I can help with.
Hannah

(I originally wrote this on 3/30/09.  I'm so glad I didn't send it!  It sounds like a letter a pathetic heroine would send!)

Not all will agree...

Ha!  Not everyone agrees with my assessment:

"In a questionable casting move, James Caviezel stars as Six, while the more appropriate Sir Ian McKellen plays the nefarious role of Two."
(From The New York Observer, January 7, 2009).

What's also funny-sad is the general misunderstanding of the original series. For example:
"The original series, co-created by Patrick McGoohan, was influenced by Cold War politics. The new version, produced by Trevor Hopkins ('Dracula'), reflects 21st Century issues, such as liberty, security and surveillance, while keeping the original's paranoid, tense tone."
(From the Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2009).
(To say that the original series "was influenced by Cold War politics" and leave it at that sounds like a write-off.  You need to explain what that means. And hold it: you don't think the original series touched on liberty, security, or surveillance?  Did you even watch the original series?

(Originally written 3/29/09)

Quotes on Narcissim

Sam Vatkin's book has some food for thought:

"Narcissism (n. sing.)
A pattern of traits and behaviours which signify infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one's gratification, dominance and ambition." (p. 12)

"The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has been recognised as a separate mental health disorder in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM) in 1980. Its diagnostic criteria and their interpretation have undergone a major revision in the DSM-III-R [1987] and were substantially revamped in the DSM-IV-TR in 2000. The European ICD-10 basically contains identical language.

An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts. Five (or more) of the following criteria must be met:
_ Feels grandiose and self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements);
_ Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion;
_ Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions);
_ Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation - or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (Narcissistic Supply);
_ Feels entitled. Expects unreasonable or special and favourable priority treatment. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her expectations;
_ Is "interpersonally exploitative", i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends;
_ Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of others;
_ Constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about him or her;
_ Arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted.Chapter VI 13." (pp. 12-13)

"The narcissist is forced to use other people in order to feel that he exists. It is trough [sic] their eyes and through their behaviour that he obtains proof of his uniqueness and grandeur. He is a habitual "people-junkie". With time, he comes to regard those around him as mere instruments for his satisfaction, as two-dimensional cartoon figures with negligible lines in the script of his magnificent life. He becomes unscrupulous and suppresses all the discomfort that he might have felt in the past concerning his conduct. He seems never to be bothered by the constant use he makes of his milieu. He seems not to mind the consequences of his acts: the damage and the pain that he inflicts on others and even the social condemnation and sanctions that he often has to endure." (p. 18)

"A personality whose very existence is a derivative of its reflection in other people's minds - is perilously dependent on these people's perceptions." (p. 18)

"The narcissist lives in a world of all or nothing, of a constant "to be or not be". Every discussion that he holds, every glance of every passer-by reaffirms his existence or casts doubt upon it. This is why the reactions of the narcissist seem so disproportionate: he reacts to what he perceives to be threats to the very cohesion of his self." (p. 18)

"First I build you up because that's what you need. Your skies are blue. Then, out of the blue, I start tearing you down. You let me do it because that's what you are used to and you are dumfounded. I was wrong to take pity on you. You really are incompetent, disrespectful, untrustworthy, immoral, ignorant, inept, egotistical, constrained, disgusting. You are a social embarrassment, an unappreciative partner, an inadequate parent, a disappointment, a sexual flop, a financial liability. I tell you this to your face. I must. It is my right, because it is. I behave, at home and away, any way I want to, with total disregard for conventions, mores, or the feelings of others. It is my right, because it is. I lie to your face, without a twitch or a twitter, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. In fact, my lies are not lies at all. They are the truth, my truth. And you believe them, because you do, because they do not sound or feel like lies, because to do otherwise would make you question your own sanity, which you have a tendency to do anyway, because from the very beginning of our relationship you placed your trust and hopes in me, derived your energy from me, gave me power over you. Run to our friends. Go. See what that will get you. Ridicule. I am to them what I originally was to you. They believe what they see and that's what they see, and they also see the very mixed up person that you obviously have become." (p. 8)

"The more outrageous your account of what happened, the more convinced they will be that the crazy one is you." (p. 8)

"I use people who are dependent on me to keep my illusions alive. In actuality it is I who am dependent on them. Even the rage, that orgasmic release of pain and anger, doesn't work without an audience." (p. 9)

"How many others like me are there? More than you might think, and our numbers are increasing." (p. 9)

"It is simply not possible for so much visible positive to contain so much concealed negative. It is simply not possible." (p. 9)

"He feeds off other people, who hurl back at him an image that he projects to them. This is their sole function in his world: to reflect, to admire, to applaud, to detest - in a word, to assure him that he exists.  Otherwise, they have no right to tax his time, energy, or emotions - so he feels." (p. 11)

""Malignant Self-Love - Narcissism Revisited" was written under extreme conditions of duress. It was composed in jail as I was trying to understand what had hit me. My nine years old marriage dissolved, my finances were in a shocking condition, my family estranged, my reputation ruined, my personal freedom severely curtailed. Slowly, the realisation that it was all my fault, that I was sick and needed help penetrated the decades old defences that I erected around me. This book is the documentation of a road of self-discovery. It was a painful process, which led to nowhere. I am no different - and no healthier - today than I was when I wrote this book. My disorder is here to stay, the prognosis is poor and alarming." (p. 11)

"This book is heavy reading. It is not intended to please or to entertain. NPD is a pernicious, vile and tortuous disease, which affects not only the narcissist. It infects and forever changes people who are in daily contact with the narcissist. In other words: it is contagious. It is my contention that narcissism is the mental epidemic of the twentieth century, a plague to be fought by all means." (p. 12)

"Most narcissists (75%) are men." (p. 13)
"NPD is new [1980] mental health category in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM)." (p. 13)
"It is estimated that 0.7-1% of the general population suffer from NPD." (p. 13)
"Pathological narcissism was first described in detail by Freud. Other major contributors are: Klein, Horney, Kohut, Kernberg, Millon, Roningstam, Gunderson, Hare." (p. 14)

"Narcissists are punished by echoes and reflections of their problematic personalities
up to this very day." (p. 16)

"They are said to be in love with themselves. But this is a fallacy. Narcissus is not in love with HIMSELF. He is in love with his REFLECTION. There is a major difference between True Self and reflected-self. Loving your True Self is a healthy, adaptive and functional quality.
Loving a reflection has two major drawbacks. One is the dependence on the very existence and availability of a reflection to produce the emotion of self-love. The other is the absence of a "compass", an "objective and realistic yardstick", by which to judge the authenticity of the reflection and to measure its isomorphic attributes. In other words, it is impossible to tell whether the reflection is true to reality - and, if so, to what extent." (p. 16)

" If he cannot love himself - he has to love his reflection. But to love his reflection - it must be loveable. Thus, driven by the insatiable urge to love (which we all possess), the narcissist is grossly preoccupied with projecting a loveable image of himself unto others." (p. 17)

"The narcissist has to condition his human environment to refrain from expressing criticism and disapproval of him or of his actions and decisions. He has to teach people around him that these will provoke him into frightful fits of temper and rage attacks and turn him into a constantly cantankerous and irascible person. The disproportion of his reactions constitutes a punishment for their lack of consideration and their ignorance of his true psychological state. In a curious reversal of roles - the narcissist blames others for his behaviour, accuses them of provoking him and believes firmly that "they" should be penalised accordingly. There is no way to dissuade the narcissist once he has embarked on one of his temper tantrums. Apologies - unless accompanied by verbal or other humiliation - are not enough. The fuel of his rage is spent mainly on vitriolic verbal send-offs directed at the (often imaginary) perpetrator of the (oft imaginary) offence." (p. 18-19)

"These rapid alterations between absolute overvaluation to complete devaluation of others make the maintenance of long-term interpersonal relationships all but impossible." (p. 19)

"Displays supercilious imperturbability (except when the narcissistic confidence is shaken), nonchalant, unimpressed and cold-blooded;" (p. 19)

"This choice - to concentrate on the self - is the result of an unconscious decision to give up an unrewarding effort to love others and to trust them.  The child learns that the only one he can trust to always and reliably be available - is he. Therefore, the only one he can love without being abandoned or hurt - is again he. Meaningful others were inconsistent in their acceptance of the child and the only times they paid attention to him were when they wished to satisfy their
needs. They tended to ignore him when these needs were no longer pressing or existent. So, the child learned to side-step deeper relationships in order to avoid this approach-avoidance pendulum. Protecting himself from hurt and from abandonment, he would rather not have anything to do with people around him. He digs in - rather than spring out." (p. 20)

"The family is the mainspring of support of every kind. It mobilises psychological resources and alleviates emotional burdens. It allows for the sharing of tasks, provides material supplies coupled with cognitive training. It is the prime socialisation agent and encourages the absorption of information, most of it useful and adaptive." (p. 21)

"The role of the mother (the Primary Object) has been often discussed and dissected. The father's part is mostly neglected, even in professional literature. However, recent research demonstrates his importance to the orderly and healthy development of the child." (p. 21)

"It is commonly agreed that a loss (real or perceived) at a critical junction in the psychological development of the child - forces him to refer to himself for nurturing and for gratification. The child ceases to trust others and his ability to develop object love or to idealise is hampered. He is constantly shadowed by the feeling that only he can satisfy his emotional needs." (p. 23)

"The narcissist is aloof and distanced, demonstrates his superiority in a myriad of ways, resents what he perceives to be an intrusion on his innermost sanctum. He is offended by any hint regarding defects or dysfunctions in his personality or in his behaviour. A narcissist is a narcissist is a narcissist - even when he asks for help with his world and worldview shattered." (pp. 23-24)

"Pathological narcissism involves an impaired, dysfunctional, immature (True) Self coupled with a compensatory fiction (the False Self). The sick narcissist's sense of self-worth and self-esteem derive entirely from audience feedback. The narcissist has no self-esteem or self-worth of his own (no such Ego functions). In the absence of observers, the narcissist shrivels to non-existence and feels dead. Hence the narcissist's preying habits in his constant pursuit of Narcissistic Supply. Pathological narcissism is an addictive behaviour." (p. 24)

"In time, the narcissist learns how to leverage his pathology, how to use it to his advantage, how to deploy it in order to maximize benefits and utilities - in other words, how to transform his curse into a blessing. Narcissists are obsessed by delusions of fantastic grandeur and superiority. As a result they are very competitive. They are strongly compelled - where others are merely motivated. They are driven, relentless, tireless, and ruthless. They often make it to the top. But even when they do not - they strive and fight and learn and climb and create and think and devise and design and conspire. Faced with a challenge - they are likely to do better than non-narcissists. Yet, we often find that narcissists abandon their efforts in mid-stream, give up, vanish, lose interest, devalue former pursuits, or slump. Why is that? A challenge, or even a guaranteed eventual triumph - are meaningless in the absence of onlookers. The narcissist needs an audience to applaud, affirm, recoil, approve, admire, adore, fear, or even detest him. He craves the attention and depends on the Narcissistic Supply only others can provide. The narcissist derives sustenance only from the outside - his emotional innards are hollow and moribund." (pp. 24-25)

"These psychotic episodes may be closely allied to another feature of narcissism: magical thinking. Narcissists are like children in this sense. Many, for instance, fully believe in two things: that whatever happens - they will prevail and that good things will always happen to them. It is more than a belief, really. Narcissists just KNOW it, the same way one knows gravity - directly, immediately and surely. The narcissist believes that, no matter what he does, he will always be forgiven, always prevail and triumph, always come on top. The narcissist is, therefore, fearless in a manner perceived by others to be both admirable and insane. He attributes to himself divine and cosmic immunity - he cloaks myself in it, it renders him invisible to his enemies and to the powers of "evil". It is a childish phantasmagoria - but to the narcissist it is very real." (p. 26)

"instability is so ubiquitous, so all-pervasive, and so prevalent and dominant - that it might well be described as the ONLY stable feature of the narcissist's personality." (p. 30)

(Originally written February 28, 2009)



--
Hannah Ihms
Graduate Student, Chemistry
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
hihms2@illinois.edu
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.