Friday, December 30, 2005

Heading into 2006

THE END IS NIGH!! At least the end of 2005 is nigh. It seems like only yesterday that I was trying to explain why the so-called millennium bug wasn’t going to cripple civilization and now we’re heading into 2006.

Rats. The vacation I always take at the end of the year is coming to a close and I’m looking forward to returning to work less than usual, a LOT less than usual. I seriously need to figure out a way to retire.

Oh well enough of that silliness. So what can we look forward to in 2006? Well, January brings us both the NFL playoffs and the confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel Alito.

I’m predicting Indianapolis and Chicago in the Super Bowl.

As for Judge Sammy, it seems like every scrap of paper available with Alito’s name on it is being released to the public by somebody, but to be honest I haven’t seen anything that shed significantly new light on the question. Did anyone really expect a lawyer working for conservative administrations to be taking liberal positions?

I will admit that I'm nervous about rumors surrounding his abortion access position as well as hints relating to his position on the separation of church and state and I really would like to know more about both.

I’m looking forward to the Senate Judiciary committee hearings. They should be interesting. I’m pretty sure Alito will end up being confirmed, then we’ll see how things progress. I still have hopes that he won’t turn out to be another Scalia.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Giants at Redskins

All I can say is RATS! Redskins 35, Giants 20. Good game though. If it wasn't for a highly debatable holding penalty which erased a Giants touchdown with 6:50 to play, it might have gotten interesting late in the game. That call probably cost the NFL half the watching audience.

So we go into the last week with a number of things still up in the air. Although the Giants are assured of a play-off berth with the Minnesota loss, the NFC East title is still up in the air. A Giants loss to Oakland opens the door for the Redskins against the Eagles. Hehe, fat chance. I'm betting the Eagles knock the Redskins out of the play-offs.

As of now things are lining up like this:

AFC: Indianapolis, Cinncinatti, New England, Denver and Jacksonville are in. The last spot will probably be Pittsburgh who hosts Detroit. Kansas City is a long shot. The Steelers would have to lose to the Lions and the Chiefs would have to beat Cinncinatti neither of which is terribly likely.

NFC: Seattle, Chicago and New York are in but the Giants will either be a conference winner or a Wildcard. Either Tampa Bay or Carolina has to win the NFC South. I'm betting on Tampa Bay who is in with a win over New Orleans while Carolina heads to Atlanta.

Predictions, predictions, who makes it to the Super Bowl? I think I like Chicago in the NFC because we're talking about an old fashion bruise'em up Chicago defense. In the AFC I have to stick with Indianapolis. Yes New England is a big danger now that they're healthy, but I'm going to stick with Peyton and company.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Is ID Science?

Incredibly the U.S. District court in the Dover case addressed the question as to whether ID is science. I’m more than a little surprised by this as I was certain that the court would not address this question.

It states that it does so because:

“…after a six week trial that spanned twenty-one days and included countless hours of detailed expert witness presentations, the Court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area.”

And because:

“…in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us.”

While I have to agree that the court is in an excellent position to make the determination, I’m certain, unfortunately, that this isn’t going to prevent the future waste of resources.

The court found that on the question as to whether or not ID is science, ID fails on three separate levels “any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science.”

1. ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation.
2. The argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism (to the extent evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed) that doomed creation science in the 1980's.
3. ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

I agree with the judge's conclusions in #1 and #2 but I'm not so sure about #3. It could just be really, really BAD science and still have all of its attacks upon evolution refuted.

“Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents’, as well as Defendants’ argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum.”

Touche! It just ain’t science and doesn’t belong in a science classroom!

“Moreover, ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard.”

In other words, at best only misleading, and at worse a fabricated lie. Canard is a polite word for bullshit. I’ll have to remember that one.

This decision is an absolute unmitigated disaster for the ID movement and I’m certain that we will be hearing howls of indignation and complaints of persecution and censorship but it just ain’t so.

ID is total nonsense and anyone with better than a 9th grade education and an IQ above 90 should be able to recognize it as total nonsense. Judge John E. Jones has had the courage to call a spade a spade. I’m impressed as well as surprised. I can’t wait to hear the reaction from the Christian Right. They'll probably call for Jones' impeachment.

The Decision in Dover

This is copied from "Knights of Darwin." Now that things have quieted down a little, I think I'll go back to including evolution related stuff here as well.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones absolutely unloaded on the ex-Dover School board in particular and Intelligent Design in general. About the only thing he didn’t do was give the Dover electorate a gold star for voting the school board out of office last November.

A few of the choicer quotes from the decision include:

"Although proponents of the IDM (Intelligent Design Movement) occasionally suggest that the designer could be a space alien or a time-traveling cell biologist, no serious alternative to God as the designer has been proposed by members of the IDM, including Defendants’ expert witnesses."

Yes your honor, but you have to understand that these bozos think we’re all idiots!

"A significant aspect of the IDM is that despite Defendants’ protestations to the contrary, it describes ID as a religious argument. In that vein, the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity."

Again, these guys think we’re all idiots unable to see through the flimsiest camouflage. Actually, I think its more like they hope that Conservative Republican courts will see through the camouflage, but vote in their favor anyway.

"The Wedge Document states in its 'Five Year Strategic Plan Summary' that the IDM’s goal is to replace science as currently practiced with 'theistic and Christian science.'"

Yeah, but nobody paid any attention to “Mein Kampf.” I'm glad to see that people are taking the "Wedge Document" seriously because it calls for nothing less than the demise of science in the United States.

"…the Dover School Board members testimony, which was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath…"

Ouch. Even though this was obvious to even the most casual observer, I never in a million years expected the judge to be this blunt about it.

"…an educator reading the disclaimer is engaged in teaching, even if it is colossally bad teaching."

“Colossally bad teaching” about sums up the best you can say about ID. Well, at least for the moment the angels have won, but this is just the opening skirmish. Kansas is next on the agenda.

Kansas City at Giants

"Tiki Barber, Tiki Barber, Tiki Barber!" I wonder what it's like to have 75,000 people chanting your name in praise! I have never seen ANYBODY do what Barber did on Saturday. It was by far the greatest performance by a running back that I have ever seen from quite possibly the greatest running back in Giant's history. It wasn't only the 220 yards rushing it was the way he got the yardage. Running around, over and through the Chiefs. Final score, Giants 27 and Kansas City 17.

With Dallas losing to Washington, the drama is set for another NFC East showdown next weekend between the Redskins and Giants. Personally I'm not looking forward to taking on the Redskins in Washington. If the boys from the capitol run the table, they can still win the conference title if the Giants fall to Oakland.

Elsewhere, as predicted, San Diego ended the Indianapolis undefeated season. It's a good thing I was right on that prediction because I'm not doing all that well anywhere else. Looks like Denver isn't going to have any problems and Kansas City, with two consecutive loses to Dallas and New York, is looking a bit sickly at the moment.

The big game next week will be what I predict will be the Super Bowl preview between Indianapolis and Seattle. I'm going with the Colts in this game. We'll see about the rematch in the Super Bowl however. I'm not ready to make that call just yet.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Giants at Eagles

To be honest, I thought he missed it. It’s always hard to tell on TV but I thought Jay hooked it to the left. Luckily it managed to squeak through and the Giants had a 26-23 overtime win.

Let’s face it, this is not a really good team. They’re too inconsistent and Manning has a ways to go before he’s a full blown NFL QB. Still, they’ve already exceeded my prediction of 8 wins by winning their 9th. This has been a cardiac season. Saying that there have been lots of really exciting games would be a gross understatement. I can’t handle it, I really can’t.

The Dallas-Kansas City game was another heart stopper with a defensive holding penalty on a 4th and goal with less than a minute to go giving the Cowboys another life plus a 41 yard FG miss by Kansas City that would have tied the game. Washington also won. The Eagles were officially eliminated.

The Cowboys (8-5) pack their bags for Washington (7-6) and the Giants (9-4) have their last home game against Kansas City on Saturday. Washington, with home games against the Cowboys and Giants and then a season closer at Philadelphia is still very much in the hunt. If they run the table they will have the best division record which could turn out to be the tie breaker.

Dallas will be in serious trouble it they lose to Washington regardless of what the Giants do against Kansas City. A loss would give them a 3-3 division record and they would be on the short end of tie-breakers against both Washington and New York. If Washington runs the table, they will control the tie-breaker situation and the Giants would have to beat both Kansas City and Oakland.

A Washington win coupled with a Giants loss would set up a show down between Washington and New York. Given the way the season has gone so far, I can almost guarantee you this is what will happen.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


I went to see the movie Rent last night. I found it very well done, but to be honest, it didn’t quite completely translate from the off Broadway production which I had seen several years before.

Somehow the simplicity of the theater sets and the intimacy of the theater made you feel like you were having a life experience. The movie, which appears to have been filmed on location in the East Village, made you feel like, well, like you were watching a movie. Of cause being in a suburban New Jersey movie theater, complete with spoiled suburban adolescents, rather than in an off Broadway theater complete with peeling wallpaper might have had some effect as well.

A number of the reviews I had read panned some of the staging. I remember in particular one review which found the choreographed sequence in a subway train unrealistic. I’ve seen a lot weirder stuff than that in the NYC subway.

My last trip up from downtown during the summer found me a) sharing an aluminum pole with three gay journalists discussing the status of the next edition of their magazine and b) donating my loose change to a trio of acrobats that had just performed a tumbling routine INSIDE the moving subway train. In the past I’ve been treated to guitar, sax, trumpet and sitar concerts, plus poetry and impromptu Shakespeare readings on the subway. So don’t tell me a bunch of folks singing and spinning around the poles is unrealistic. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see that going on in the NYC subway.

On the way out I noticed something strange. Rent, a movie which contained references to Aids, drugs and homosexuality, was rated PG-13. The latest Harry Potter movie was also rated PG-13. I had to think about the implications of that for a while.

I finally concluded that it was a good sign. The drugs and sexuality which got Rent its PG-13, while critical to the plot, were incidental to the theme. Similarly, the scary images and fantasy violence which got HP its PG-13, were also incidental to the theme. I don’t think it would have been all that long ago that Rent would have earned an R rather than a PG-13 for its incidentals. I look upon that as progress and a sign that maybe, just maybe, some portions of American society are maturing.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

The movie opens tomorrow and I expect it to be very successful. It’s hard to believe that Walden Media and Disney could possibly screw this up. Besides I understand that many church groups are organizing private showings and that pastors around the country are ecstatic about the film WITHOUT EVEN SEEING IT!

That sort of tells me to beware. Personally I’ll wait until it gets to cable before checking it out. Knowing that its theme is a Christian Allegory designed to “prepare” children for accepting the truth of the gospels will probably ruin the movie for me. I suspect I’ll be rooting for the White Witch and having me clapping and cheering at the wrong times in the theater would be a real bummer for the kids.

GO JADIS!!! Errr, I mean, oh never mind.

Walden Media has a free Educator’s Guide to go with the books. I downloaded it for a quick look see. Included are 5 activities supposedly appropriate for grades 3-6 each of which cover two 45 minute sessions. All of them struck me as pretty much useless. I mean, how about we worry about the kids being able to READ before we worry about them doing any Narnia set design as in Activity 5 or creating Narnia costumes as in Activity 4.

Hey wait, here’s a radical thought, how about we teach them some SCIENCE! Bah, at least we have Harry Potter to balance things out.

Allow me announce the formation of the Black Wolves, bodyguard of Jadis the White Witch. Applications are now being accepted. Drop me a line with a short description of your qualifications.

“Faith Healers,” Divine or Deceptive?

No, I’m not asking the question as it’s going to be pretty obvious where I stand on a question like this. This is another treatise from the Topical Index of Baptist Doctrine, but this one has some good stuff in it that anyone, that’s thinking about going to a "Faith Healer" or supporting a "Faith Healer" with a donation, needs to heed.

The good pastor starts by pointing out that many people in history, Christian and non-Christian, have claimed healing powers. He then begins a winnowing process by asking a series of questions.

“Are all who claim to be healers, both so called Christian and non-Christian, of God?”

There’s no need to put on your thinking cap, the questions are purely rhetorical and the good pastor proceeds to immediately answer this one.

“…many people realize, myself included, that heathenish healings are fabricated stories based upon superstition or at best illusions of Satan.”

Note the definitiveness of the answer. Never does it enter into the good pastor’s mind that God might have a reason to instill this gift in a pagan.

The good pastor then continues.

“Are some, instead of all, so called Christian healers and healings of God?”

Note the “No Admittance” sign to the idea that perhaps NONE of the so-called Christian healers and healings are of God. This isn’t a possible response based upon how the question is phrased. One can only answer “some” or “all.”

Again the good pastor provides us with the answer.

“I do not think anyone would be so naive as to imagine that all "Christians" who claim to have the gift of healing really have it.”

I’m certainly with you on this one so let’s not quibble over the question of whether ANY of the “Christians” who claim to have the gift of healing really have it. Besides, now we get to the good part.

“This brings us to the question which this article has been written to answer, Has God given us a pattern in His Word, which will clearly show who does and who does not possess this gift? I believe that He has.”

Badda bing, badda boom! The good pastor, check that, I mean the Good Pastor, has made a study of all of the 42 healings in scripture and come to this remarkable conclusion.

“The Biblical standard for healers is very plain. If a man has this gift of God, he will always meet the following Biblical requirements.

(1) He will meet the Biblical example and heal everyone that comes to him for healing.
(2) He will heal any form of sickness known to man.
(3) He will heal any illness completely.
(4) The total healing will take place instantly without regard for the depth of the afflicted person’s faith.”

I am certainly NOT going to argue with the man. This Good Pastor has taken the time to provide us with EXTREMELY valuable information. If someone, ANYONE, claims the gift of healing, then based upon scripture he needs to be able to meet these four criteria. The Good Pastor then warns against false healers.

“The false healer will immediately reject this standard. He will seek out exceptions to the rule and twist Scripture till he conjures up one. This conduct proves he is a false healer!”

The Good Pastor also adds some special emphesis on the fourth requirement.

“The claim by many modern "faith healers" that the reason they do not heal everyone is because the sick person does not have enough faith is simply a smoke screen to cover the ‘healer’s’ deception. Not one single place in Scripture do we find that someone could not be healed because they lacked faith.”

BINGO! You have it straight from the horse’s mouth. Even I’ll tip my cap to anyone that can meet the Good Pastor’s four requirements.

Every pastor in every congregation should read this treatise at least once a year. Maybe then we can put these charlatans, who pray upon those in the greatest need, permanently out of business.

Who Killed Goliath in Your Bible?

This is the WINNER from the Topical Index of Baptist Doctrine.

This paper, written by someone identified as a pastor, addresses the differences between modern, 20th century, English translations of the bible and the King James Version. Included is the minor problem of who killed Goliath? David right? Probably, but there is at least one place in the Hebrew text that seems to contradict that.

The Hebrew text of 2 Samuel 21:19 says “In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver's rod.”

Hold it, wait a minute. Who’s this Elhanan dude and what about the story of the shepherd boy and the sling and all that good stuff as told in 1 Samuel? Good question, especially considering that 1 Chronicles 20:5 doesn’t contradict 1 Samuel and says “In another battle with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver's rod.”

If one looks carefully at the verses surrounding 2 Samuel 21:19, and compares them with the verses surrounding 1 Chronicles 20:5, it appears that this is simply a scribal boo-boo. 2 Samuel 21 mentions three Philistines. Saph, killed by Sibbecai in 21:18. Goliath, killed by Elhanan in 21:19 and “a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot” killed by Jonathan, son of Shimeah, in 21:20-21.

But in 2 Samuel 21:22 it says “These four were descendants of Rapha in Gath, and they fell at the hands of David and his men.”

Two problems with 2 Samuel 21:22. First there are only THREE Philistines mentioned and none of them are said to have been killed by David. Only David’s men are given credit for kills.

1 Chronicles 20 however DOES mention four. Sippai, killed by Sibbecai in 20:4. Lahmi, the brother of Goliath, killed by Elhanan in 20:5, Goliath, whom we were already told was killed by David himself in 1 Samuel 17, and “a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot” killed by Jonathan, son of Shimea, in 20:6-7.

Therefore based upon the preponderance of the evidence in 1 Samuel 17 and 1 Chronicles 20, it would appear that the omission of “Lahmi, the brother of” in 2 Samuel was the equivalent of a typo at some point in the copying history of the Tanakh.

Now for the fun part. However, the King James Version of 1611 CORRECTS the error in the Hebrew Masoretic Text or is based upon a source that corrected it. In the KJV 2 Samuel 21:19 says “And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver's beam.”

Virtually all of the modern translations stay true to the Hebrew text but add a footnote to the effect that Chronicles indicates that Elhanan slew the brother of Goliath and not Goliath himself.

So what’s the problem? Well, according to this paper “God promised His preserved words are pure” so how could there be such a blatant error? Obviously there can’t be so the KJV tells “the truth about Goliath and Elhanan” and “had this figured out way back in 1611” therefore one has to ask “Why do the modern Bibles lie when they record this well-known Bible fact?”

Although the paper promises to answer this question later on, it never really does. It simply provides additional examples of what it calls “the flagrant changes made to the words of God by modern 'scribes' and 'disputers'" and then quotes scripture about God making foolish the wisdom of this world which is what the inerrant bible tribe always quotes when scholarship comes up with anything that appears to contradict their cherished positions.

I guess this is an example of KJV Onlyism which sort of takes the position that the KJV is the ONLY reliable English translation of scripture. Some people even go further than that, and claim that the KJV is the only accurate bible, even more accurate than any of the ancient Greek manuscripts!

Notice how a simple decision to stay true to the Hebrew texts gets translated into lying. How about it was simply a bad decision? A lie implies that one KNOWS what he is saying is false and is attempting to deceive. Well clearly the modern translators are not attempting to deceive because they openly acknowledge the discrepancy in the footnotes.

As for some of the other “flagrant changes” identified to the New Testament, such as 1 John 5:7-8, the famous Johannine Comma, they are the result of (1) relying more upon the older Alexandrian type face than the Byzantine type face and (2) applying a critical text analysis to derive a common Greek New Testament rather than a simple majority text analysis.

While one can argue about the correctness of such decisions, it’s a little strong to declare that “the modern Bibles stand opposed to the pure words and nature of Almighty God.”

There are more than 5,000 whole and partial Greek manuscripts of the New Testament books and NONE of them match. Some process had to be used in an attempt to reproduce the original autographs as God appears to have NOT taken any effort to preserve them now has he?

The real problem of course is that after declaring the KJV the literal, inerrant Word of God for more than 300 years, it’s a little tough to realize that, while the language is gorgeous, the translation may in fact have a number of errors brought to light through the availability of older Greek manuscripts and modern scholarship.

The Topical Index of Baptist Doctrine

I’ve struck GOLD!! It was a pure fluke that I tripped over this web site. Let me tell you it’s a Gold Mine. There is enough stuff here to keep me busy until Jesus does come back The site is thoughtfully provided by the Baptist Pillar newspaper in Manitoba Canada and all of the treatises appear to be authored by members of the Baptist clergy.

I don’t know what to do? Keep reading or write about the papers I’ve already read! I guess the first thing to do will be to tuck away the web page for future reference.

The Topical Index of Baptist Doctrine

Ok, now that’s done I think I will go back to searching for THE most absurd paper. So far the one that says ALL modern bible translations LIE is in the lead. Uh-oh, I just found out there are about 20 papers in the same vein!! So many absurdities, so little time.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Happy Holidays from Dubyah

The Washington Post reports that the President walked right into the “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas” question by sending out holiday cards that wish his supporters a happy “holiday season.”

I haven’t received mine yet. Do you suppose the Post Office lost it? Could it be that Dubyah doesn’t appreciate me calling him a disgrace to the oval office or is it just that the members of the meandering herd are too far below the radar of important folk like Dubyah?

Predictably a number of demagogues on the Christian Right have gone ballistic over the “happy holidays” sentiment being used in lieu of “Merry Christmas.” If the intent behind including a verse from Psalm 28 on the cards was to prevent an uproar, it didn’t work.

Since I doubt there were too many non-Christians on Dubyah’s list, this strikes me as a pretty dumb move. A spokesperson for the White House justified the neutral greeting, unsurprisingly, by saying that the greetings are sent to people of many faiths but, also unsurprisingly, this didn’t mollify the conservative Christians moaning about attacks on Christmas.

I think the basic problem is that the Christian Right doesn’t recognize the concept of religious equality. They see their brand of Christianity as being inherently superior to all other religions and won’t rest until it’s treated that way. And if you don’t accord it the special recognition that they think it deserves, that’s the same thing as persecution because you’re denying their religion its rights.

What I find really comical is that if you took all the complainers on the Christian Right about the “happy holidays” thing, they would probably not be willing to consider each other’s brand of Christianity as being equal either. I especially laugh at those idiots of the Catholic League that haven’t figured out yet that Conservative Evangelical Protestants on the Christian Right consider Catholicism the religion of the Anti-Christ!

On a side note I’m having some problem figuring out which verse from Psalm 28 would have been even vaguely appropriate. The only one I can imagine would be verse 7, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.”

If they put that on the card they might as well have said “Merry Christmas.”

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Prophesy of St. Malachi

According to Malachi, Benedict the XVI may be the next to the last Pope. Or at least the next to the last Pope that Malachi predicted.

Legend has it that St. Malachi had a vision in the 12th century about the remaining popes, identifying each by a characteristic. Then the prophesy got lost for about 400 years re-emerging around the time of the election of Gregory XVI. A Jesuit scholar in the 17th century declared the prophesy a forgery and a number of critics have pointed out that while the descriptions of the 16th century popes are very accurate, things get much more general after 1590 or so.

However how accurate a three or four word descriptive title may be is more than a little subjective and some folks find the descriptions of the last four popes right on target. In other words the Woo-woo crowd is getting nervous.

John XXIII - Pastor et Nauta (pastor and marine) - prior to his election he was patriarch of Venice, a marine city, home of the gondolas.

Paul VI - Flos florum (flower of flowers) - his arms displayed three lilies.

John Paul I - De medietate Lunae - (of the half of the moon) - Albino Luciani, born in Canale d'Ogardo, diocese of Belluno, (beautiful moon) Elected pope on august 26, his reign lasted about a month, from half a moon to the next half...

John Paul II - De labore Solis - (of the eclipse of the sun, or from the labor of the sun) - Karol Wojtyla was born on May 18, 1920 during a solar eclipse. He also comes from behind the former Iron Curtain. He might also be seen to be the fruit of the intercession of the Woman Clothed with the Sun laboring in Revelation 12 (because of his devotion to the Virgin Mary).

I consider this roughly equivalent to shooting an arrow and then drawing a bull’s eye around where it lands. If you throw out a wide enough net, birthday, birth place, birth family, previous position, you can probably find something to hang these descriptions on so I’m not terribly impressed.

For instance. let me try to apply them to myself.

pastor and marine - my last name is related to fishing, a marine occupation.

flower of flowers - my mother's maiden name was "Flora," flower in Italian and the original family name was "Di Flora," of flowers.

of the half of the moon - I may have been born, got married, been baptised, been confirmed, graduated high school, graduated college, or had some other event in my life occur at the half moon. As a matter of fact I guarantee I could find something or more likely several things.

from the labor of the sun - I come from the east coast where the sun labors to rise.

As for Benedict XVI, the description is Gloria olivae (glory of the olive). How does this relate to Benedict XVI? Well, the Order of Saint Benedict had a branch called The Olivetans.

How would it relate to me? My mother was Italian with olive skin so I could be a "glory of the olive."

Even if you want to believe in the prophesy, a number of people have pointed out that it doesn’t specifically say there are no more popes between Gloria olivae and Peter the Roman, who will lead the Church during the end times and the tribulation, it just may not mention them.

I call that insurance against the next Pope (a) NOT being a man that could be, by any stretch of the imagination, Peter the Roman and (b) there being another pope after that one.

So here’s the deal either (a) it’s really a forgery and we can ignore it, (b) it’s not a forgery but it’s as much nonsense as all other prophesies, (c) it’s true but there are lots of other popes between Gloria olivae and Peter the Roman so there’s no need to panic yet or (d) THERE’S ONLY ONE MORE POPE AFTER BENEDICT, REPENT YE SINNERS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, THE END IS NIGH!!!!

Yeah right, excuse me while I get all scared and everything. I vote for (a) or (b).

Who will meet at Armageddon?

Armageddon, the name rolls off of the tongue so smoothly. Armageddon, where the last battle will take place. Armageddon, gives you shivers doesn’t it?

Armageddon really means the hill at Megiddo and Megiddo is the site of an ancient city in northern Israel in the Jezreel Valley at what was once the intersection of the most important roads in the near east. There is evidence that the city itself may have been destroyed and rebuilt some thirty times. Megiddo was a place of bloodshed, war and death. As recently as 1917 the British and the Turks traded blows at Megiddo.

Now abandoned, the site at Megiddo is fueling disagreements about biblical archeology and whether new discoveries are confirming or contradicting the accounts in the bible. Opinions vary on this question from virtually everything discovered confirms the accuracy of the bible to archeology indicates that the bible is, at best, exaggerations and, at worst, pure mythology.

What I find interesting is that where you appear to be in the spectrum depends upon your degree of faith to begin with. Men of faith interpret everything as confirming the truth of the bible while men of little faith interpret everything as contradicting the bible with a compromiser or two in between. Not terribly surprising when one considers that there has to be a lot of interpretation in archeology.

I’m not going to express an opinion on this controversy other than to say it seems that the majority of scholarship appears to be on the side of the bible may be exaggerating in some cases and on the side of the bible may be surprisingly accurate in others.

A recent article in the Religion & Ethics (how’s THAT for two opposites!) Newsletter highlighted a conversation including one archeologist from each position. I found the quotes from each interesting.

From Dr. Bryant Woods, a man of faith – “Well, I think that scholars are undermining the Bible in trying to show that it is not historical -- that events did not happen.”

“Trying to show?” Is the implication here that the objective is to undermine the bible? Come on Doc, you should know that supposedly one goes where the evidence takes you.

From Dr. Israel Finkelstein, a man of less faith – “That is the bad part of biblical archaeology, you know. Rushing, roaming the field with the Bible in one hand and a spade in the other. And that is passé in a way, and that was wrong. And that led us astray for almost a century, if you are asking me.”

And now here’s Doc Finkelstein accusing the other side of the same thing. I might point out that there is nothing inherently wrong with starting with a hypothesis and then looking for evidence to substantiate it.

The rubber hits the road in how honestly one interprets what one finds relative to that hypothesis. Sounds to me like both archeologists are implying that pure objectivity isn’t always the basis of interpreting the discovered information. This really shouldn’t surprise anyone. We all interpret information in ways that favor our preconceptions.

It only becomes a problem when the interpretation becomes strained or unreasonable or evidence is suppressed in order to protect a cherished point of view.

Dr. Bryant Woods – “I think for the most part a person's faith is based on personal experience more than what some scholar says at some university. But on the other hand, they do influence mainly students, I would imagine. And some professor begins to tell them, ‘You know, the Bible is full of myth and folk stories.’ They might accept that, and that would turn them away.”

If it’s the truth, shouldn’t they be provided the information regardless of the potential consequences? This almost sounds like students shouldn’t be given accurate information if it might cause a reassessment of their faith. Does faith in something that is false have any value? Why must one assume that showing that the bible may not be 100% accurate undercuts other aspects of faith?

Dr. Israel Finkelstein – “I don't want to make anybody nervous; this is not my goal. I mean, I think that there must be a complete distinction between the scientific world and faith.”

There are several implications in this short sentence. First the acknowledgement that undermining someone’s faith is not the agenda. Providing an accurate historical description, regardless of the consequences, is the agenda. Second, there is the old idea that one can compartmentalize science and religion. You can both search for scientific truth and accept religious dogma. Not that long ago I would have agreed with this observation. I no longer agree with it. A man can’t have two masters. Each of us must choose between science and religion and the day is coming, if it’s not already here, when undermining faith WILL be the agenda.

From Dr. Ami Mazar, a compromiser – “It depends on the point of view. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.”

Nice compromise Ami baby. Sometimes this is right and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes one side is just plain wrong and the truth isn’t “somewhere in the middle.”

Dr. Bryant Wood – “The Book of Revelation says there is going to be a great final battle there -- in the end of days.”

Well, interestingly enough, I learned the other day that the bible doesn’t actually say that. It says that the armies of the Beast are gathered at Armageddon. Revelation 16:16 says “And he (the Beast I assume) gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”

As to where the battle actually takes place it’s not all that clear. It may actually be at Jerusalem.

The Moderator – “And the battle will be fought between the believers and the nonbelievers.”

Quite possibly, but if that’s the case, then the battle has already begun.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The 1,000th Execution Update

It wasn’t Virginia but North Carolina that held the 1,000th execution on December 2nd 2005. The governor of Virginia commuted the sentence of Robin Lovitt, who would have been the 1,000th, to life in prison without parole due to concerns that Lovitt could not pursue new DNA testing on crucial evidence that might have proved his innocence.

The 1,001st execution followed on the same day in South Carolina which brought the total so far in 2005 to 57. Four more are scheduled during December in California, Mississippi, Maryland and Pennsylvania. There are already 17 executions, including 10 in Texas, scheduled for the first 6 months of 2006.

Cowboys at Giants

Vengeance is sweet ain’t it? The Red clad Giants topped the Cowboys 17-10 at Giants stadium yesterday as we all waved our free towels from the NYSE. A good game all around with the only sour note being another clutch FG miss by Jay Feely in the 4th quarter that would have made the last couple of minutes less of a heart stopper. I think the kid’s confidence is completely shot now. Let’s see if Coughlin can figure out a cure.

The only problem is that both Philly and Washington are looking for a little revenge of their own in the next couple of weeks. Like I said last week, this thing is far from over.

The offense was good enough and it was the defense, again, that was spectacular holding the Cowboys to 4 net yards passing in the first half. The only TD given up was after a Manning interception which gave the Cowboys a 1st and goal at the 7 yard line.

In the meantime Washington beat St. Louis to stay in the hunt and the Eagles will host Seattle, who has now clinched the NFC West title thanks to the St. Louis loss, tonight. I would say this is a must win for the Eagles, another NFC loss would really cook their goose.

It’s about to get wild in the NFC East as the Giants (8-4) head down the New Jersey Turnpike for Philadelphia (6-6 or 5-7), Washington (6-6) heads for Arizona (4-8) and Dallas (7-5) hosts Kansas City (8-4).

Elsewhere around the league things are looking like this.

NFC North – Chicago (9-3) has a 2 game lead over Minnesota (7-5) and I suspect Chicago will win the title. I don’t expect Minnesota to qualify for the playoffs.

NFC South – Carolina (9-3) has a game lead over Tampa Bay (8-4) and a two game lead over Atlanta (7-5). This is a bit of a surprise. I really thought Atlanta would win this division. I still think things are up in the air. Big game next week as Tampa Bay heads for Carolina.

NFC West – Seattle (9-2) is in as division champion. No one else will make the play-offs.

AFC East – New England (7-5) with a two game lead over Miami (5-7) should win the division. No one else will make the play-offs.

AFC North – Cincinnati (9-3) with a two game lead over Pittsburg (7-5) will win the division. Pittsburg has a Wild Card shot, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

AFC South – Indianapolis (12-0) has clinched a play-off spot and has a three game lead over Jacksonville (9-3). Indianapolis wins the division and Jacksonville gets one of the Wild Card spots.

AFC West – Denver (9-3) has a one game lead over both Kansas City (8-4) and San Diego (8-4). Time to stick my neck out. San Diego wins the division including an upset over Indianapolis in Indianapolis and Kansas City gets the second Wild Card spot as I have a bad feeling about Denver going into the last four games just like I have a bad feeling about the Giants going into the last four games.

So, you heard it here first. It will be New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, San Diego, and Kansas City in the AFC and Seattle, Chicago and four other teams in the NFC. How’s that for a courageous NFC prediction?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

ACLU Newsletter for December

Un-huh, always an interesting read to say the least. Keeping in mind that the ACLU has been known to exaggerate from time to time, we look at the four headliners this month in the newsletter.

ACLU Argues Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood Before the Supreme Court

This is a challenge to a New Hampshire law requiring 48 hours notice to the parents of a child under 18 prior to an abortion. The challenge is not to the 48 hour notification but rather to the lack of a medical emergency exception to the notification requirement. The law was struck down by a lower court because of the lack of the exception.

This should be a slam dunk as Supreme Court precedent clearly requires exceptions to notification requirements when the health of the woman is involved. The fact that it’s not considered to be a slam dunk indicates how serious things are. This will be the first real indication of how Roberts will affect the future of the court.

Patriot Act Update: Don’t Believe the Spin

Dubyah tried to pull a fast one on the Patriot Act reauthorization and, basically, got nailed. Clearly the ACLU is rabidly opposed to the Patriot Act and there appears to be good reason to be suspicious of the current bill. To quote Ben Franklin, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

President Bush is Lying to Public About Torture Practices

Yup, Dubyah got caught in another lie and one almost as bad as the WMD lie. This whole fiasco reminds of a tongue in cheek debate I saw on the Bill Maher show a while back as to whether Dubyah was ignorant but not stupid or stupid but not ignorant.

Same sort of question here. Did Dubyah know and lie or was he too stupid to realize what was going on. Either way, how could anyone in his right mind have voted for this disgrace to the oval office.

Oh yeah, that’s right, Evangelical Christians voted him into office because they admired his position on “moral values.” I refer these people to the 8th commandment (9th if you’re Catholic).

Bush Staffers Silenced Denver Town Hall Participants

This one is fairly pathetic. According to a law suit filed by the ACLU by two people booted out of a Dubyah Town Hall discussion in Colorado, they were removed because of a anti-war bumber sticker on one of their cars.

According to White House event staffers, there is a White House policy prohibiting people from attending Dubyah public events if they hold a viewpoint other than that of the President!

Now the interesting question is why? Is it because Dubyah doesn’t want to hear about conflicting opinions or is the White House staff protecting him from knowing there are conflicting opinions!

Either way, this kind of stifling of public opinion and free speech is a disgrace. Uh-oh, what’s that knock on the door? Nah, I’m sure they’re only concerned when the press is around.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

South Africa OKs Gay Marriage

The Associated Press reports that South Africa's highest court has decreed that it is unconstitutional to ban gay marriage. The Constitutional Court has given the national parliment one year to change the definition of marriage so that it no longer is restricted to one man and one woman.

The South African Constitution, created in 1994 after the end of Apartheid, had banned discrimination based upon sexual orientation but heterosexual couples had a number of rights that weren't shared by gays. The court's decision will end that.

Wonderful. South Africa extends full rights to gays less than a month after Texas voters ok a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage for all time. Wouldn't it be nice to live in a land of freedom for everyone like South Africa?

Too bad I live in this country which, under the influence of your local Christian Church group, is accelerating it's march back into the Middle Ages.

Bailing out of DEFCON

This post is copied from Knights of Darwin. DEFCON stands for Defense of the Constitution and is a group that opposes the Religious or Christian Right. Part of their charter is to "respect" people of faith and their beliefs which I tend to have a hard time with, so...

I got into a bit of a disagreement with these folks. They seem to think I'm too "disrespectful" of people of faith and that I tend to "belittle" and "demean" their beliefs in my posts.

Yeah, that sounds about right. I plead guilty to that one.

DEFCON's strategy is apparently to form a broad coalition to protect against the more extreme elements of the Christian Right and this coalition is to incude "people of faith" so clearly I don't fit in. I'd probably have a hard time accepting some of the folks they would like to have as allies and I don't have anywhere near the diplomatic skills not to make it obvious. Continuing to post there with my "disrespectful," "belittling" and "demeaning" attitude isn't going to help them or me.

Oh well, their success is certainly not going to be affected one iota by what I think. I'm sure no one will miss me posting comments on their blog. While I'm suspicious of their methodology, I sympathize with their objectives and wish them luck.