30 August 2008

Why I am an Infidel

I realize Bertrand Russell wrote one of these a few decades ago, but this is basically my own story.

At some point I had logically concluded that there was not any basis for belief. There was no evidence. There was no reason in it. This wasn't something I needed to put a ton of thought into. Those who have somehow read my lengthy treatise on moral reasoning will probably recognize the difference between me thinking a lot on a subject and me concluding from limited consideration of facts. The actual final decision was probably reached around 8 or 9, though obviously there's some scholarship since. There are perhaps those who would argue there is reason in faith (I will address this point some other time), but this does depend on critical personal factors. Personally I found no reason in it. The simple explanation I had available to answer people who asked (and there were some throughout my lower education), was that there was no evidence. That this was in fact a sufficient explanation does not seem to occur to others, but in most cases this was politely accepted.
There were however significant exceptions. The first was a discussion in which a friend (who shall remain unnamed) made the claim that my belief was ridiculous because 95% of people believe in some sort of god (it might have been 99%, it was outrageously high either way). His conclusion was that if I held my opinions, it must mean everyone else is wrong which was a horribly arrogant opinion to make. Now, considering my general persona is disdain for automatic conformity, this wasn't a terribly useful argument. But it did spur some research into the topic. The first and most obvious conclusion was the percentage of 'unbelievers' is considerably higher than 5% of the world. It's much higher than that even in America. The percentage is somewhere between 15% and 25% (and roughly the same in America itself), depending on how one accounts for religious persecution in places like China or the Middle East. Using a distorted figure to make secular findings seem obscure or against impossible odds is intellectually dishonest. And of course, breeds exactly the type of automatic conformity that I'm not a big fan of. I was not pleased to discover this, but I do not feel that the deception was intentional on the part of my friend (rather whoever fed him the line, whatever pastor/minister he had). I don't hold it against him, but we have had less and less contact from the migration of time and life anyway. On occasion this is unfortunate.

Christianity makes up the lion's share of religions with over 2 billion served. Many Christians will be both surprised and reassured to know this based on previous conversations often expecting, of all things, Hindus to outnumber them. Agnostics/atheists/secularists are difficult to define but basically share one major attribute: they don't believe in any God with any degree of certainty. This was around 1.5 billion people globally. Islam was next (1.1B). The other religions are generally not actively engaged in proselytizing others and none exceeded the half billion point (yes, even those dreaded Vishnu worshipers). Buddhists, Hindus and Jews for example generally accept new members, but don't bother recruiting new ones in the same way as Muslims or Christians do. Further historical research discovered that the principle reasons behind this were political. Testifying to one's faith or not in some way disregarding it at moments of truth is considered important in most religions. Attempting to sway others into your church is however a completely political means of attaining power (and is not consistent with either Islam or Christianity anyway). Both major religions attest to the importance of free will in the decision to turn toward (or away from) God, and not the means of coercion or force to compel this end. Both have subsequently openly and theologically violated this precondition at various points in their history. The relative importance of this finding was pounded home by an argument with another friend (also unnamed and not on here) in which he claimed that Buddhists do not go to heaven because they do not believe in Jesus. While there are several theological mandates in old testament tradition that hold up God as a jealous being incapable of accepting others, I'm not sure that this is a mainstream Christian mandate (I'm pretty sure Catholics don't hold this for example). I'm quite certain it's not an Islamic mandate (excepting that Muslims who convert out of Islam are punishable..fear isn't exactly interesting means of holding my beliefs either). Besides, it seems awfully arrogant to presume to know what God does or how people are to be judged anyway. Given the precondition that it is arrogant to assume one is right and everyone else is wrong, there are an awful lot of people who are wrong. Basically everyone who believes in heaven and hell is condemned by some other faith and those people who don't are likewise condemned by people who have such beliefs.

I felt it was important next to understand how religions began to take hold of societies as opposed to various individual codes or mystical investigations into the uncontrollable events of the ancient world (such as weather or cataclysm). Historical research into theological practices became the next subject of importance as this line of thinking directly relates to the historical evolution of religions and the political institutions they spawned. Ancient (pagan) priesthoods were essentially models of authority, using the figure of god to speak with great authority on matters like property or women (usually considered property). The means of religion was often held to establish the divinity of leadership and create unquestionable support for the often severe social stratification that emerged as those leaders took more and more to honor themselves off the labors of their subjects. This process continued even as leaders established more secular origins or instead called upon some divine process to establish the rights of dynastic kingdoms. Politics and religion have always made bedfellows. The innovation of separation was a Western instituted idea (starting with philosophers like Socrates or Aristotle) and actually managed to become a seedling in religious doctrine in Christianity. At least while it was a dominated practice persecuted by the Romans. The very fact that the Christian church eventually became settled in the ancient imperial city of Rome, rather than a more locally important holy city like Jerusalem, indicates the political nature of the movement by its leaders.

I suspect most people of faith are disturbed at seeing religious politics in general, preferring instead their own private ministrations. This is laudable. My readings of most theological scholars is that this is precisely the individual purpose of religion: to learn how to orient one's self toward others and toward ourselves (and of course, in the process toward God). The reason none of the major current religions espouse importance on priesthoods or even the necessity of such is that they are, in fact, counter-revolutions to pre-dominating authorities (such as the pantheon of Roman or Greek civilizations). It would make no sense to seek authority from such people on a new divine process. That they have created institutions is largely from political interventionism. It is true that these can be founded upon, and generally do, conducting works of public good and decency to demonstrate the charity and goodwill engendered by people of that shared faith. I'd prefer that this is the usual use of religious associations and have usually found it to be the case personally (certainly from people I am associated freely with who are strongly religious). But that's not how such institutions came about in the first place, it's merely a convenient and useful byproduct of the existence of such institutions.

The most damning effect of religious institutions (and perhaps the reason I was turned off at a young age to them) is the means of mobilizing faithful political support for various means of controlling people outside the congregation itself. This is probably the most significant reason I am Libertarian and not at all interested in Republicanism for its strong ties to faith-based initiatives. I don't see how this is a justifiable use of religion, to impose order and morality upon other people who do not hold the same views. It is acceptable practice to argue, and to demonstrate your own views, but there is no inherent righteousness in declaring others to be sinful, immoral or wrong, to judge the behavior of others yourself and to then declare their actions illegal through the political process. There are innumerable commands or parables in the bible itself, for example, which declare this to be a sin in and of itself.

Unfortunately there are numerous edicts which violate this principle on several issues: the Drug War, Prohibition, abortion, homosexuality, birth control, pre-marital sexual relations (age restrictions on sexual behaviors), prohibitions of specific sex acts (between consenting adults), not to mention the battle over evolutionary theory in science classes, the prevention of sex education in favor of abstinence-only, etc. I have vigorously opposed such initiatives and I freely support religious peoples (and others) demonstrating a need for such things, but only where they can demonstrate an actual legal need for such things as it would necessarily improve societal conditions (and not where it would in someway satisfy their own sense of moral decency). I see no necessary condition between imposing our private sensibilities onto the private domain of other people, so long as it remains the private domain or to engage in legal acts which restrict the ability of people to practice such private acts (usually a common behavior in anti-homosexual laws for example by banning gay unions/marriages or restricting the rights of said unions). All of this is in spite of the fact that I myself am engaged in few, if any, of these supposed moral injustices. I do not use drugs, I do not drink, I wouldn't be in favor of abortions personally (though probably I'd accept someone who had one on my behalf, should that cause arise), I am not homosexual, etc. The people who partake of these activities are not my concern unless they make it my concern by acting in a harmful way; such as by endangering my life by driving while intoxicated..or on their cell phone. I feel that's an important distinction. Others may disagree, but I challenge them to demonstrate that legal restrictions on such activities actually dissuade social harms from occurring and do not in point of fact precipitate other social harms from occurring. The drug war is my most popular example herein, but I could very easily sum up a series of problems posed by restricting homosexuals from certain rights.

There are legal and moral grounds for a number of moral principles that are commonly found in religious doctrines (such as don't murder, rape or steal). None of these however require that people hold religious backgrounds to arrive at the inescapable conclusion that these are generally immoral and should not be done, despite whatever claims of origin they have from religious scholars. It simply makes more sense to organize a diverse and large society in that way. Put another way, why would people want to live in a society where they could be murdered randomly by another person without some just cause (such if as they attacked the other person or their kin physically). Or why would people wish to live in a society where anyone could sexually engage us at anytime, regardless of wish to do so..or why would we wish to live in a society where our possessions could be taken without merit or warning while we work to raise our families (historically our crops, everybody farmed). We would instead live in solitude or in much smaller communities around people who we would trust not to partake of these and to help defend us against those who would (barbarians historically). In other words, one doesn't have to be religious to arrive at many moral conclusions and to live accordingly. The fact that we use secular laws to attempt enforce these conclusions only makes it easier. The fact that religious peoples would use secular laws to enforce their own unique conclusions however is appalling to me and a principle reason why I hold no interest in personal faith because of this potential for manipulation of opinions, and the use of coercive force to impose them on others.

None of these investigations really led me to discern however the purpose of faith itself for other people. So I started reading the actual texts (or rather translations of them, I don't read in Aramaic, Hindi, Arab-Aramaic or ancient Hebrew). I found there a mass of stories. Personally I found little difference between the premises of ancient mythology (usually the polytheistic religions of Greece, Norse, Egypt, etc) and the mythological tales of Christianity, Hindus or Islam. All of them root in metaphysical wonder for many objects within the story. The endowment of supernatural powers is usually a critical feature for having something to worship in the first place for example (and it is curious that Islam generally lacks 'miracles' in this respect). Within each faith's principle texts I found a number of powerful inconsistencies between the words of their prophets and the behavior of the people who supposedly follow them. Gandhi has a quotation where he declares "I like your Christ, your Christians are so unlike your Christ". This seems to be a good summation of my interpretations of religion and religious peoples. I rather liked the stories about Jesus or Mohammad (some more than others). There was much to be admired or learned in them. The trouble seems to be that few people understood what they were trying to say, often taking specific instances out of context or not understanding that a generalization of behavior is rather difficult to achieve. There's a reason that analogy and parable are so common in philosophy and theological text: people have to relate to the content before they're able to practice it at all. This is an important lesson: CONTEXT. The Bible or the Qu'ran were written in specific contexts. There are ways to interpret those contexts into the modern world and there are ways to take it literally and presume that things held as true then are still true now. In fact, a good number of inquisitive peoples have shown a number of religious dogmas to be based on the hokey superstitions of the people who founded the religion (or the people around the person who did the prophesying) or subsequent adaptations as the religions sought to convert new peoples. For example, there is no mention in the Bible of when Jesus was actually born (the specific date). By tradition we celebrate this on Christmas (December 25th) and there is some scholastic support to show this is at least seasonably accurate. But the presence of several pagan rituals on or about the same time frame indicates that the official date was probably an evolution of conversion politics in particular the Roman worship of Sol Invictus and the association of festivals in late December to honor him. It's far easier to convert people when there is a similarity of customs (even if it becomes an exchange of customs). Does that make celebration of Jesus irrelevant, no. In fact I find Christmas to be a worthwhile holiday for people to celebrate, regardless of why because of the natural utility of practicing charity and selfless behaviors. But it does demonstrate that not everything that comes out of a religious dogma or doctrine is based on factual data. It can often be a matter of convenience or the presence of superstitious traditions overriding the general utility of the message.

Islam suffers from similar issues as it adopts the traditional lifestyle of the Bedouin nomads and merchants of the Arabian peninsula and attempts to proclaim this a superior or godly manner of living. The fact that many particulars of Islam (such as the style of women's dress) are ignored in say, Indonesia or America, by modern Muslims may be offensive to some, but it is a perfectly legitimate way of interpreting one's faith. In fact, there's some scholarship on Islam which demonstrates that some of the more rigorous codes (particularly regarding martyrdom and women) arise from translation issues from Arab-Aramaic to medieval Arabic. Words which would be more liberally translated are used in a specific manner most comfortable to the people of the time. For example, the idea of women covering their faces and bodies could be just an edict that they should be chaste with the image of a belt fastened about the waist (not the harsh chastity belt, a simple belt suffices). The strict and harsh interpretation leads to a good deal of feminist aggression toward Islamic countries, but I doubt there are many feminists who would argue that women/humans SHOULD be overtly sexual or that there is no sensible reason to protect against undesirable sexual attention (desired sexual attention is a different story). Simple use of linguistic changes or language abuses in translation could very easily pose similar problems as the Bible or other canonical texts have been passed down over the centuries. And in most cases, the text was received from decades of oral tradition, further amplifying the problem of interpretive scholarship as information passes much less precisely without written records through the varieties of individual inflection upon the original story. I often wondered how Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 would deal with that problem even with individuals memorizing segments of banned books.

After some exposure to the Bible, the Qu'ran, Vedas and others, I came to a few conclusions about religion in general. One: religion is evolved from a political institution. The 10 Commandments for example are largely related to the issue of private property laws at the time, at least if people read the originals and not the paraphrased (political) modern versions. Adultery for example had to do with the value of virgin women as property when married off, not the (useful) fidelity of monogamous human beings. Maybe the modern version is more useful and respectful to women, but it still doesn't really manage to imply a moral code that makes sense. In fact it's often used to imply that sexual relations of any kind are a dirty act, and how people are somehow able to rationalize that they are okay once we have rings on our fingers after years of being told otherwise is a difficult leap. Two: religion typically uses metaphysical and untestable (supernatural) explanations for the unexplained events of the times in which the religion was founded and grew into. Superstition is not my speed and without empirical rational data. I saw no need to accept as unquestioned fact the stories of unwitnessed events (or even witnessed miracles, certainly the explanation of such). When there is a large amount of empirical observation and scientific tests into what were previously mystical events, even documented biblical disasters, I question the need to accept without reservation superstitious explanations for such things. Three: Religion's main purpose and only viable use is on the personal (micro) level. The ability of religious people to organize for good should not be discounted, but the propensity of religious authorities to abuse such organization for nefarious aims seems to historically exceed this behavior. It is reasonable for theological study to occur, and for people who wish to gather to demonstrate or reaffirm their faith to use organized religion as a basis for this behavior. It is not reasonable to extend the belief that this faith is the only sensible way to live or to impose it forcibly upon the will of others. Therefore, organized macro uses of religion are fewer and should engender, even from those within the faith itself, the question of external motivations when they occur. Four: It isn't necessary for secularists or atheists to attempt to remove from public discourse or public arenas all religious directives or appearances, but rather only those which violate fundamental human rights to free associations and freedom of worship (or the absence of such). That's a war we (secularists) do have hopeless odds on, at least in my lifetime, if we want to remove from public life all traces of religion. It doesn't really seem necessary anyway, much as I railed against the forced removal of second-hand smoke from Ohio's bars and businesses despite finding it more annoying than religions.

This does however include removing from scientific inquiry the necessity of studying God, who as a supernatural or metaphysical construct, is not within the bounds of scientific study anyway. Where there remain questions regarding the interpretation of events or the implausible explanations of supernatural causes, more study and more observation is required to elicit answers (not the lazy or overly simplified answer that we can't know or God did it). Most secularists are more concerned with real (physical) questions that have answers, such as how people should relate to one another. There's a Confucian story where he was asked by one of his students "How should I please God?". Confucius replied "There are many matters here concerning man that we should not bother with pleasing God". In further explanation: there's so much out there and so much we as individuals must do to accord ourselves with others, that there's no reason to even worry about what God wants from us. Much less try to ascertain what that might be, and certainly not to proclaim that we know for certain what that is and to direct others as to what we "know" about the uncertain nature of God. People who live in certainty of this may indeed be happier than people who doubt (or don't care), but I question their ability to live in accordance with those beliefs every time one attempts to impose them on someone else.

29 August 2008



I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be Romney, Huckabee, or Pawlenty (the three most talked about choices). I had a feeling it would probably be Palin, but I wasn't sure enough to blog on it when I got home yesterday. I would have probably made some kudos on the prognostication effort. It was really the only choice on the board for McCain that I'd heard at least. He could have gone completely off the map. Romney was precisely the old style GOP that McCain tends to oppose. Huckabee is the second most divisive candidate (other than Hillary), and Pawlenty would just need a Democrat backer willing to run a video clip of a well-known bridge collapse to demonstrate a point (he was from Minnesota for those that don't know who the hell this is). I suppose he could have picked Rice, but it doesn't seem like she's that interested and it wouldn't have created some feeling of separation between Bush-McCain.

As with Biden for Obama, this really doesn't do anything. Obama could have just picked Biden as his Sec State to shore up his perceived foreign policy weakness. Outside of that, Biden isn't really known for anything in the Senate in the general public. I was more amused at the fact that Obama's text message announcement about his unexciting choice of VP went out at 3am in some cases and hence probably pissed off hundreds of thousands of young people. This was similar to the Clinton ad with the phone ringing at 3am...and ringing and ringing.. I'm not sure that the idea that NO ONE answers the phone after 6 or 7 rings, even at 3am, is something you want to subliminally plant in your audience. Democrats seem to have trouble with those wee hours of the morning.

Concurrently, I'm not sure that running a woman VP candidate out there was as important as tossing out the idea of experience as a point of contention in the election for McCain. The demographic of women most likely to vote Republican were probably going to do so without a female VP. I'm not sure that the moderate/independent vote is swayed by cheap political movements, which this was in essence a dig at Obama for not picking Hillary Clinton. It will take something like educated sounding responses to policy issues (including foreign policy, something McCain is less versed in than he claims and for which Palin has zero credibility) for Palin to make anything like inroads for moderate voters in the election for McCain's candidacy. And all while trying to shore up McCains' base. In fact, it's sounding more and more like many moderates (and some extremists) may start looking for third parties as Obama's campaign starts to resemble a normal one and McCain's continues to distance itself from moderate/maverick positions in order to score political points. Barr has been nationally polling over 5% in some polls for example. If this is the case, I think it would shake up Washington much more than either candidate claims they will (as they always do make such claims). The idea that we have this easily stratified society into red and blue would be nice to crash down with some other color on the map once in a while.

27 August 2008

response to corporate lobbying confusion

"...saying that a lot of government regulation is actually cozy to corporations and is suppressive of new and innovative businesses"

Most of it is. A considerable amount of legislation is written by the lobbying groups. Basic opposition to de-regulation often comes from large corporations who have significant competitive advantages (relative to other companies/small business start-ups). These relative advantages are valued to the cost of consumers and market competition (and possibly to the cost of the corporations themselves at times). The basic idea that regulation is intended to punish corporations is horribly flawed. It can in the short term or will be used to punish specific corporate entities (usually at the behest of a competitor). Think of it this way, a vast percentage of funding of political campaigns comes from lobbyists. A large percentage of lobbying funding comes from corporations seeking to protect large market shares or extract additional markets. Why exactly would politicians seeking re-election endanger their campaign funding to impose punitive regulations. Instead they adopt regulations with marginal or temporary punishments to appease voters while usually exacting some marginal advantage for their specific campaign donors. As examples: Sugar is priced here at three times the world market value because American taxpayers subsidize the purchase of sugar by American producers (and have a tariff on imported sugar). Toyota is specifically written out of the hybrid purchase tax rebate. GM and Ford wanted it that way (because they aren't as competitive with fuel efficient cars). The new regulations on fuel economy supposedly mandate US auto fleet economies by some future date. The regulations are not mandated to increase over time as we approach that date and can even be extended further out into the future at the request of the major auto makers, which they quite obviously will if there's no timetable to incentivize their efforts (reading the fine print on laws rather than listening to the talking heads/politicians helps here). I'm not sure what punitive measures were suggested if they somehow fail to request that additional time that they don't really need, but the point is that our government is often complicit in the failure of a market economy and hasn't been able to make corrective actions to its policies in recent times. In some cases we'd be better off if it got out of the way. In others, we'd benefit from some injections of infrastructural/research funding to boost some obviously useful industries..and then getting out of the way once the barriers are reduced by government.

response to innovation's roots

...Innovation just occurs from exposure to other ideas. The reason it doesn't always become marketable varies by the receptability of the market to it, the skill of marketing the new idea, and the obvious utility of the idea. The reason ideas like electric cars, or initially TV for example often have trouble is that they're either not marketed well or opposed by powerful groups who are well-entrenched in the social infrastructure. There are however plenty of American people who will consume new ideas if someone is willing to bring them to an open market. The reason these ideas "failed" is that we don't have an open market with low barriers to entry in some key sectors of our economy (such as transportation or infrastructure for fuel distribution). Not because having a capitalist society is a bad idea in and of itself. In fact some of those barriers are imposed by government regulation, or by regulation sponsored by non-innovative (ie non-enlightened) corporations. In other words, that wasn't capitalism that you're complaining about.

26 August 2008

ID debate final remarks

Why is it that any argument over ID inevitably turns into an argument over the credibility of sources and not at all a discussion of the particular issues being raised by those sources. (there's a lot of name dropping and not much scientific mumbo-jumbo).

I suppose the entire discussion would end much, much sooner if those issues were debated by scientific means with empirical proofs and testable data supports and hence it would be rather boring and one-sided. I haven't seen an issue raised by ID supporters that actually disproves evolutionary theory or any functional mechanism described by it. It's certainly a diverting metaphysical discussion for people who wish to ascertain the nature of the universe without the benefit of factual resources (which is useful if one is in the habit of doing thought experiments). But that's about the extent of its utility as an academic discussion.

response to taxation Q

Ideally that is the point of a tax break on higher incomes; to create injections of business expansion or investment (so the government doesn't have to). The question has been whether or not it has with the current Bush tax cuts (both sets of them, one was marginally useful, the other not so much). A more ideal status would be to tax only profit of a business enterprise (and not inputs like capital expansion). In which case, if the taxes are "raised", you'd not have to pay them (as much) by doing what you'd do anyway: try to grow your business. The larger number of employees or consumers would then pay the tax for you.

Or you could do what large corporations with government monopolies did for decades and waste money by buying golf courses, not using efficiency wages/employee incentives, etc and likewise escape paying taxes.

In any case, if you're running a business for long term growth, it doesn't really matter what the tax rates are now (because they'll probably change several times), it matters what your rate of costs are. I'd be more worried about inflation (depending on what sort of business you run) than taxes. You can always just find a better accountant or buy a politician through a lobbyist group to get around the taxes.

23 August 2008

midnight basketball


We probably taught a few super criminals to function without sleep by airing the basketball gold medal game at 2:30am, but it was definitely worth staying up for. Nobody played defense consistently making for a nice high scoring romp. Spain finally figured out they needed to zone in the second half but really only got a couple of decent runs together. Good game however.

In other Olympic events, I was impressed more by Bolt more than Phelps. I think that's probably because I was expecting Phelps to win, and generally to dominate. He obviously tired somewhat as the Games went on but there really wasn't ever any doubt (except maybe in the 100m that he barely won). Bolt was insane. I've never seen anyone dominate sprints so completely (at least since Johnson ran the 200m). There wasn't even anyone in the picture in a race where everyone finishes within a few seconds of each other. That's scary fast.

I am reminded of the Seinfeld routine on silver medal winners. (that picture where the guy is leaning in and cheering, I'm that other guy...)

22 August 2008

cfc and coal environmentalism

"coal are you kidding, how many more holes do you want in the ozone layer come on we have so many other technologies that we can employ that don't require us to destroy the earth. It should be clear to all by now that fossil fuels are an archaic means of providing energy...lets unstick ourselves from the past and move forward for a change."

I'm pretty sure that it was CFCs and not coal that create problems for ozone and were subsequently banned or at least restricted.

Coal does other things instead.
1) Generates electricity/power inefficiently by burning it.
2) Which then creates air particulates which should either be collected/recycled or else expelled to create pollution (as in the pretty pictures from Beijing or London mid 19th century).
3) That pollution and air quality has several effects which may or may not be playing off one another. For example, the dark particle matter could be refracting solar energy by creating water vapor (cloud cover) as in the case of a volcanic eruption, but not on anything like the same scale. Or the carbon emissions could be trapping solar energy. Neither is a potentially wise course.

If coal can be replaced we could be doing so. The stumbling block as I see it has been getting the infrastructure in place to do it and resolving some issues with energy transfer or storage (such as by creating hydrogen). If it can be cleaned up in the meantime, we should do that as well.

response to obama's keynesianism

There is some level of crowding to factor in there, but in general so long as the projects are public works (which wouldn't be built by private enterprise) this is a fine premise. Public basics like infrastructure or basic scientific research tend to have extensive positive benefits which pay out over time well. That isn't generally what government has been spending money on or at least, it isn't the portion of spending which is aggravating. Plus to me it isn't enough to simply spend money on say education. As a sports analogy, throwing money around will only get you a lot of overpaid athletes and not necessarily the best team.

The critical issue, the bone I pick with this principle of Keynesian economics is that there are few politicians willing to reign in spending during boom economies and haul in surpluses for when we might need government injections. The money continues to be spent. The alternative is to play havoc with the tax code every few years as the economy cycles. Clinton/Gingrich budgeting was a hopeful sign, but not one which seems to have resonated with anyone now in power. Anyone can say they want to pay down their debts, it is rather like the first step in addiction treatment. I'd like to see them doing something to stop the problem as well.

The usual argument that the general public could spend the money better or more efficiently than the government isn't panning out anymore (much to my chagrin). Neither spends money all that well in the present system. The fact that government officials often "waste" tax monies shouldn't surprise us.

21 August 2008

age matters?

I'm not sure what the fuss has been on the Chinese gymnasts ages. I'm aware of a rule on age. I hadn't considered that being more flexible from being younger is an advantage. But given that someone with an extra year of practice, strength, experience, etc should probably overcome that disadvantage in most cases. It doesn't make much sense to be this concerned about it (at least as concerned as NBC commentators have been). In most other sports, youth isn't generally any advantage at all (rookies usually take a year or more to adjust to the skill level and physically). I would suppose here it can be..but it still doesn't seem like it should be nearly so important as it is made out to be.

On the other hand, it doesn't make much sense to be going to Orwellian lengths to cover it up either by removing old news stories on the specific gymnasts as the Chinese have done.

Still though, the best part of the whole story was the recall of a North Korean who was listed as 15 for 3 years in a row back in the early 90s. You'd think someone would have noticed by the second year. That sort of rule evasion is so blatantly obvious as to be amusing. This sort looks to me like either sour losers (America ended up with a good number of silvers herein), or a problem with the rule itself. If we had more government complicity here the NBA or NFL's age restrictions would probably come up just as controversial.

paid not to play


I wasn't particularly surprised by this type of news. After all, with all the home schooled or abstinence schooled kids out there, most of them don't have a clue how to prevent pregnancy during their inevitable experiments with sex. Some of them probably don't even want to, as indicated.

What piqued my interest though was this one:
"....said we'll pay any woman between the ages of 13 and 18 who lives in some defined state, county or region $50 each month they can demonstrate that: (1) they are in school; (2) they meet income eligibility for school lunch programs, and (3) are not pregnant...." - This is perhaps the opposite effect of any attempts to punish teenage, or other "unfulfilling" single pregnancies. I've seen companies and their health insurance policies paying bounties for things like quitting smoking or going on a diet, joining a gym, etc. These have been surprisingly effective, even with minimal bounties (well below $50) for people of working age who earn real incomes (for whom an extra $10 or less shouldn't matter). This would be a similar scenario, a bounty not to get pregnant. Where people are poor enough, it's probable that $50 would go a long way as a consistent income stream. If nothing else it could go toward the cost of preventive pregnancy.

What troubles me is that it might take a government entity to enact it, but it's also probable that this would reap a number of positive externalities: lower crime rates from lower birth rates, more teens able to pursue college (not that this is necessarily a functional plan), possibly more of those potential teenage mothers finding fathers who are willing/able to be supportive. If that's so, it's something like an investment to lower the costs of crime prevention or scholarship funding in 15-20 years. Which makes it doubtful ever to happen.

20 August 2008

quit whining


Oh by the way...gas (and energy in general) isn't that expensive in America. . yet. And since it's been going down anyway...it's not going to be a major issue...yet.

This is probably the most realistic economic way to look at it, not via the silly signs with the 9/10 cents per gallon charges. It should be looked at per budget/per wallet. That article in general does not continue the parallel to the world, especially the rest of the developed world, where energy costs are considerably higher still and hence resource use is much more efficient. Probably because that's not supposed to be mentioned either.

Much as few politicians are willing to say "quit bitching" to the American public when it isn't ridiculously expensive, just way more expensive than it was recently. I'd doubt further that people would extend the topic to decide whether having higher energy costs is actually a boon for economic growth, via the necessity of energy efficient methods and high tech operations to take advantage of them, research them, etc. Naturally it puts a bit of a crimp on things while the price of energy rises. But in truth, with a global market, there have been companies moving in this direction for decades. Most of them just don't have American names and/or products that say "Made in America" on them. Since GM & co more or less missed the bus and gasoline was recently dirt cheap, we as a society have foolishly squandered the opportunity to create most of the jobs in those new sectors. This however isn't quite the same as investing in the market, where missing the bus means you lose. It just means we're not very good at playing the market anymore (because our companies/unions have gotten too used to rigging it so they can "win"). For all the harping different parties do on the markets in this country, they don't seem to understand the damage they cause to it by allowing corporations to play games with how the markets work. Things which line one's pockets, or alternatively, line the pockets of major contributors (and influential constituents) are much more important now days.

This in effect is one of the two major outcomes of a social democracy with a capitalist economy. Either the social factors win and usurp power over industry or the industry usurps power over the government (and by extension, the people). It would seem to me that somewhere along the line, the people forgot how to fight back. Much of the democratic republic here in America is based on the continuous battle between those who don't trust the people (such as industrial giants or other aristocratic forms), and those who don't trust the powerful (usually the peons who work for them). It's possible, and generally preferred, when there is a sort of benevolent truce between the two sides and they can work toward some common goals, rather than waging an undeclared war by reversing more active policies constantly and confusing everyone in the game. For example, businesses who take care of their workers first will tend to profit more over time as the workforce they employ will generally take better care of that businesses' consumers. We used to have something like this with organized labor, but that has long since become yet another stultifying force, fixed on issues which no longer matter or which are no longer afforded by the best interests of either worker bee and corporate titan. When the powerful need take no notice, and the powerless are content to bitch about the meaningless, we are left with something that doesn't at all resemble democracy or capitalism. It doesn't at all sound like my kind of town, but at least I could say it's been a long time coming (or at least Russell could say that).

19 August 2008

drink up again


Duh. We'd actually be best off if there was no 'drinking' age, but rather just the age restriction on purchases (@18). Calling it a legal drinking age implies certain things that aren't really true to begin with and restricts behavior which if properly moderated and monitored by some responsible entity is just fine for most people to partake in (except maybe people with addictive genetics). The net result of the 21 age is a large college population which is unmonitored and unmoderated and consequently drinks to excess (to the detriment of studying and health of course).

Americans are such idiots as a country when it comes to making these protective laws for children. They don't protect anything.

15 August 2008

Georgia on my mind

I'm not sure what the buzz relating Georgian-Russian border disputes to American policies is about. Both directions too seem more than willing to do this. The old Cold Warrior nostalgia wants to have Russia back in the game as the bad guy we all love to hate. That force is painting this as a warning against Poland, Ukraine and other former Soviet bloc states which have aligned themselves with Western nations (in particular, the US). The Ukraine was however basically the only state to out and out call Russia on its behavior over the past week...which means either Western countries are still too terrified (or too busy) to deal with Russia or Russia is quite a bit weaker than we think (because the Ukraine is willing to pick on them?).
Conversely, we're being told that Russia went in because we essentially encouraged Georgia by training or arming their military. This makes less sense. Yes they have a better trained (than usual), better organized force of a couple divisions worth of troops. Russia can spare a few divisions to play war games with that. Why bother attacking a nation with 10 times the military force to bring to bear which isn't technologically lacking and certainly hasn't ever shown any qualms about bombing helpless civilians in order to 'get the job done'. What sort of encouragement were we giving here? Yes please go kill yourselves.

It sounds to me more like we said, well you're going to go kill yourselves anyway, let's give you some guns to make it more interesting, then sold those guns mostly through Israel so they get some money and we keep our hands cleaner, hoping nobody notices all the Western military gear laying around with USA stickers on it, and now that went poorly we get to look like the good guy by trying to bully Russia to back down a bit on its military operations and incursions against a weaker former satellite with some (weak) ties to Western Europe (I note with amusement the playing up of religious historical ties to Christianity by Georgian officials..despite the fact that Europe isn't exactly religious..hmm..wonder who they're talking about). Way to go us. That doesn't exactly sound like a strategic plan. It sounds more like a business model.

I suppose more likely this was a combination of the endless cycle of ethnic-nationalism conflicts which seem to plague mountainous regions (like the Balkans or Kashmir) which inevitably boil over without some autonomous concessions of government by the neighbouring ethnic groups (who usually have a few hundred years of vicious killings to prevent such concessions). Russia capitalized on this because it usually does historically rather well by playing between the divisions of ethnicity of what appear to be relatively similar groups of people (particularly by the lands they inhabit). I'd say Afghanistan was the last time they botched this. We used to be rather good at it too but we seem to have acquired this misguided perception that other people must be reasonably good at getting along living next to their sworn enemies because Americans come from all over the place (including the wealthy or educated fleeing such war torn regions). America hasn't always lived in harmony either, but we have an illusion of it at least available to us through the existence of a reasonable stable government with which to resolve our disputes more equitably. Georgia has a very poor track record here. Same with the Balkan states prior to the breakup of Yugoslavia, Pakistan isn't all that accommodating, etc.

So Russia stepped into a conflict that was basically the inevitable outpouring of some trivial ethnic dispute over some territory which is basically already ethnically divided into two states and capitalized. I don't see how this means they're about to crash the Iron Curtain back down over Eastern Europe when I haven't heard of separatist leaders all throughout Soviet bloc spin-offs for Russians to align themselves with and press advantage with.

Olympic cut sports

Just as a counter-point to the unceremonious dumping of softball (baseball being dropped is pretty obviously a good idea). It was decided on an ESPN radio show to list off other Olympic sports to cut. So here's my list:

1) Trampoline. Wow. This is an Olympic sport? We used to goof off in the backyard, had I known I could become a famous "athlete" this easily...
2) Rhythmic gymnastics. Gymnastics in its normal sense is fine, it's athletic competition which has complicated rules that no one understands (perfect for Olympic events). This is dancing with medals and ribbons. I've heard it favorably compared to having attention starved young women dance here instead of on a pole. That also doesn't seem like a good idea for an Olympic medal.
3) Sailing. There are already yachting races for more prestige and money..and there are plenty of snotty rich white person events already (horses, fencing, gymnastics, rowing, ice skating, etc). More interesting use of that money might be something like jet skis used X-games style to do tricks and place humans in mortal peril. But that's just my opinion.

People emailing in were complaining about synchronized swimming/diving..which is a bit strange, but at least its a team sort of event which is difficult and requires several skills of athletic ability and coordination. I'm not sure it belongs either. But simply because we get our butts kicked in diving and non competitive swimming events doesn't make it a non-sport.. so I'm not sure how to rule on those two.

Similarly people were complaining about shooting events (and confused as to how Americans weren't winning them..probably because the targets weren't people shaped and moving). On that at least, I can see merit to having an individual/team medals. It's just not that compelling to watch people shoot at targets, but at least it's worth rewarding skill in. Rather than having such people to practice with real human targets.

This is just silly


Wasn't this already done with a Simpsons' episode (the one with the mall that buries an angel as a publicity stunt?). Basically people of religious faith will see a movie like this and come away over-joyed. The rest of us will wonder what the hell it was about.

Religion and its film history isn't exactly blessed with substantially rewarding films that other people get. There are good films with religion in them (like the Baptism scene in the Godfather or the overtones of Gnosticism in the Matrix). But it's usually because the religious spectacle involved is a metaphor for some other battle within the human 'soul', a good and evil paradox which interests ethical people everywhere (including those who are absent in faith). The actual demonstration of what is supposed to represent faith usually comes off as lunacy to others. The interesting dynamics in the areas religion is intended to help provide for human beings (relative balance/harmony/justice, etc) are good fodder for discussion and movie plots..but we don't need religion to discuss them or find them necessary. So I'd have to wonder why religious people persist in publicly appearing as incapable of reason in order to appeal to reasonable minds. It seems pretty silly.

I'd have to wonder why a Simpsons' episode seems the best at bridging this gap in a reasonable way (while still being somewhat amusing). I guess maybe Life of Brian could be included there as well. Comedy is probably the one area of life which mixes reason and lunacy. That's my explanation.

Olympic first reactions

A couple things occurred to me during these early festivities.

First, who cares how old the Chinese gymnasts are. If they won, they won. It seems like a petty anti-Asian women age thing, where they always look too young for their age (commented on at stuffwhitepeoplelike). I realize there are rules. But sort of like pro baseball players from Puerto Rico or the Dominican, it's pretty much impossible to prove someone is one age if they want to demonstrate (and insist) they're not. If someone's from here, there are usually ways now to acquire the accurate information. I would expect the Chinese to be able to alter such information pretty easily. From the sound of it, they've already been engaging in revisionist history on previous stories on their gymnasts. Doublespeak is funny.

Second, the US basketball team looked pretty effective (apart from shooting 3s). It has been studied statistically to compare to the elite first two "Dream Teams" and found to be fairly close to the second ('96) as far as elitism. So the results thus far aren't surprising. What is amusing is people trying to make it out like this is a better team than that first one ('92). That team was truly loaded, even with Bird and Magic on the way out career wise. Laettner was the only weak link (and pretty much didn't play anyway). When your team plays other teams that want your autographs, it isn't a good sign that the game will be close. What this demonstrates is the consistent tendency to think the latest thing is the greatest thing. Progress isn't always a function of linear time. Novelty is different than greatness, but for many people it's hard to tell the difference. The same failing is occurring with Phelps v Spitz in swimming. My opinion. I don't care which is greater nor do I need someone telling me which is which. It's still impressive to see someone so dominate their competition once in a while.

14 August 2008

moderation of global environmentalism

Since this is fast becoming another 'religious' topic where no reasonable people can debate, I will now relate my moderating positions.

1) Global warming includes both man and natural factors to some degree. CO2 itself, as but one factor, is both created by natural and man-made factors. The correlation involved is not causation, in fact there is research which describes that the opposite may be true (that temperature increases increase CO2/carbon). Most of this suggests that the precise causes are muddled between natural variations and man made ones (ie, man is not the sole cause, nor is he innocent).

2) Most of the publicly consumed scenarios (such as just about anything put forth by Gore) are not universally accepted by scientific communities as they are quite dire. Computer modeling of environmental change is still quite uncertain because of the massive number of variable influences. Some things will come to pass regardless of human behavior (even behavior to moderate/eliminate pollutants) and some will only come to pass because of it. We aren't well versed enough to tell the difference or to know what precise effects we will have.

3) This does not mean that human behaviors can not or should not be moderated in conservation methods or through less environmental impacting methods of production. Quite the opposite it suggests we should be engaged in doing what we can to control our impact (especially where we understand what it is) on both ourselves and the global/local environments. This to me is a separate issue of importance relating to property rights rather than some method of saving the planet. If people feel it's a more important cause, go ahead and believe what you will. But don't tell me this is a selfless cause to save cute fuzzy creatures and green park lands because it isn't nor is saying so likely to induce productive and practicable measures to resolve the problem.

4) This also means that most of the money involved should be placed in adaptive methods of climate change. Natural variation will occur. Local climate changes occur from year to year anyway, as anyone in the central US or California could attest. Human beings have been involved in climate adaptation for thousands of years (usually by migrating). We have 'stopped' because of our modern urban technology dependencies and stubborn settlement of a particular place rather than particular climate conditions (for instance New Orleans or San Francisco probably aren't well situated because of natural events).

5) Most of the public figures involved in promoting global warming as a social cause are involved frequently in 'do as I say, not as I do' means of self-promotion. This indicates (to me) that they are attempting to capitalize on a fear-based event, rather than put forth solutions to avert it. It is more likely because of the enormous cost (to the expense of very certain and direct issues such as abject poverty or the scourge of malaria or AIDS) and enormous uncertainty involved that they do not have solutions (or at least they don't have solutions we can all "profit" from). We should be skeptical of these proposals, as we would be with any major leader who will directly profit from our exertions (religious, political, business) unless we ourselves share in the fruits of our labors.

6) Solutions must include any means of production or energy/resource efficiency that are available. Carbon credits haven't as I see them promoted American resource efficiency, instead what has done so is significantly raising gasoline/energy prices. Recapture devices are unlikely in the near term, but they are indeed worth implementing if the environmental externalities of production are directly imposed upon the industries involved in producing them through other costs. Energy costs which involve pollution should be conceived of as higher than those which have less or none because of their externalities. The cost of coal for example is rendered in the cost of respiratory disease for humans and in the cost of negative local climate changes in the quality of air and water..measured against the cost of not producing valuable energy for a given population.

11 August 2008

Tech trek


It's funny how Star Trek/Wars have inspired some technological developments. If they work.

After a Georgian offensive

I find it interesting that now that Georgia started something and couldn't handle the result they're screaming for international condemnation of Russia. There are several possibilities which don't bode well for Georgia.

1) Russia orchestrated a 'demonstration' of Georgian aggression to justify further action. This would be hard to pull off with international media. Georgia more or less admitted to invading Ossetia anyway. The end game is Russian autonomy over Georgia (rather than it being more or less a US satellite as it is now).

2) Russia orchestrated Ossetian separatists into provoking a war of aggression by Georgia which they could respond to (and further cement the ties between Ossetia and Russia). This is similar to what Bismarck did with France in order to unite the remaining Germanic principalities into Prussian Germany..then proceeded to crush the French army in a few weeks. I use this sort of trick in CIV all the time..get someone to declare war on me and then unleash hell. They look like the international bad guy while you take over their territory (which it sounds like Russia is sort of doing).

In any case, it is sort of fun to have a geo-political war to comment on (other than Iraq)..except for the fact that there is a war.

10 August 2008

Alliterating the obvious

In conversation today it occurred to me that a school is no place for an intellectual in this country. An intellectual without compatriots, people for communication and commiseration of ideas (and selves), is alone in a crowded room. That person is either beaten down by conformity or themselves beaten by the weighty measures they carry on about. There is no room for triumph where there is no distinction between the wheat and the chaff.

A familiar face in the familiar places


It's good to be reminded that Russia was once the demon country everyone else in the Northern Hemisphere was scared of. I'm just not sure the media knows how to cover them any other way.

09 August 2008

subsidize the bad


This comparison is amusing. Of all the remarks however the most basic is the last paragraph. If we want less of something, "punish" it through taxes or fees, don't subsidize it by paying extra for something of little value. We've done the same thing with food prices (sugar at 3x market price, yes please). What a strange country.

04 August 2008

educational reform plan

I suppose the argument on education works best like this: people should choose where their tax dollars for education go and thus where their children go. We can do this in part for college education where in-state tuition for public universities are subsidized by state residents. Why the tax pool for lower education cannot be similarly utilized in the same competitive manner is positively strange.

It does make some sense that the amount of federal involvement has been extreme. Possibly because of teacher's unions, but also as a temporary positive consequence of civil rights movements which flamed out once the bigots figured out they could privatize their schools in order to keep out everyone else.

With a globalizing and specializing economy, it makes some sense to have some basic overriding guidance on primary school curriculum in terms of what basic exposures to knowledge and practice skills are imparted. I would argue strongly that several skills, such as critical thinking, basic finance, and basic ability for self-directed learning are in considerable demand. None of these are currently encouraged or "required". In this current environment, any work done by the individual is the about only thing I would construe as contributing to their education. That's a problem which constitutes a net drain (not to mention being exceeding tiresome in explaining basic financial concepts to supposedly educated people like doctors or engineers)

summary of religion vs atheism battles

I'm fairly sure different forms of Eastern mediatation have less to do with "talking to god" and more to do with focusing on relaxation, problem resolution, etc. "Western" prayer could be comparable in its effects (I wouldn't know personally).

It would appear from this (thread) that the primary focus of attacks on religion are of two prongs: 1) the abuse of religious (or pseudo religious) authority for more nefarious political goals (either directly or indirectly). In the view of history, this has by far been one of religion's principle contributions to world events and it is undoubtedly a nasty side effect worth understanding and being on guard for (even in a more secularized world). Religious people should be able to acknowledge this as a problem without having to point out the obvious benefits that religious motivated individuals or movements have created in contrast (such as abolitionism...although slavery was itself defended by religious context).

2) the denigration of individual religious practices by people who don't need or practice them personally (myself included). This is misinterpreted by those religious believers on here to state that we are in some way finding their own personal beliefs misguided or even horrific. I don't personally care what individual people believe and, within reasonable limits, practice as a result of those beliefs. I think what is being said is that these practices and beliefs are largely unnecessary and often incomplete applications of religion as opposed to individual self-worth/reliance. I see it as a inhibitor to personal development. It is possible that others see religious ritual or worship as a necessary balancing factor, either because their individual faculty for reason is incomplete or because they find purpose and safety in attributing larger uncontrollable issues to some controlled and recognizable entity (or some other reason that remains beyond my ability to interpret and describe).

In no case should religion/religious faith be seen as a moral authority or as establishing a position of moral supremacy; that agent is still only worth blaming on mankind (not god). Even where a religion claims the word of god, it is still the dominion of mankind to interpret and enforce these words. So far removed from their inception, some of these interpretations become more and more mystical, less and less useful or convertible to the existence of modern humans. Or worse, have in many cases completely lost their original premises and been contorted into some misguided attempts to control the behavior of others (such as school prayer, FCC regulations on 'swearing', or political marriage laws with certain religious restrictions)

The issue, as I see it, is still limited to the amount of public influence that those beliefs have or (more importantly) the amount of influence available to public figures to manipulate people who function on belief rather than reason. There are a number of modern secular (or pseudo-secular) political movements which can be likewise attributed to the same type of behavior through the manipulation of the public by media, government, marketing, incomplete scientific findings, etc. The simplest to define of these are things like nationalism or previous versions of racial theory. These in some respects could be seen as a new form of religion worth finding skeptical flaws within just as theological study by an atheist does and as potentially harmful as the Crusades, the Inquisition or any other side quest of religious intolerance and indifference.

In other words, I am concluding that religion is not necessarily the problem. It is usually either the people in charge of it or the people following it with total blindness that are (as would be the case with any other authority). The vast majority of its practices or followers are more or less unaccompanied by some sort of stigma of religious inflicted pain on the rest of the world. They are unfortunately less prevalent in effect upon history and world events as their more vigorous fundamentalist brethren.

playing cards

Daily Show did a nice segment of the media referring to a series of political cards: the race card, the Europe card, etc. It sounds like an even more annoying game of Magic the gathering personally.

02 August 2008

various issues.

Since I've been distracted by a small online political community I figured I'd briefly elaborate my political views on a variety of so-called hot-button issues. The Drug War has been covered at length already (I think it is pointless, at least the way we're going about it).

Taxes I am indifferent to, but government size and spending I am not. If the second is reduced, the first can be likewise. I don't think it is the government or the President's responsibility to control the economy or prevent recessions (which actually are healthy from time to time to shake things up). Nor do I assign the blame or credit for the economy to the government and its agents unless there is a specific policy which relates deliberate effects (such as many regulatory processes favoring big businesses over small). The various unintended consequences I also don't blame unless it was pretty obvious that this would have been a consequence. These are frequently involved in government policy. Well-intended policies are not the same as functional policies that produce those well-intended results.

Abortion I am indifferent to personally. Aside from religious scruples, I can find no justification that this is in fact a murder. There are a variety of natural causes that could occur to prevent a live birth during a pregnancy. I don't see a difference if people wish to exercise their choice and plans in the matter. However, I can see that this is a failsafe choice that is best left in the deck, so to speak. The current opposition to abortion is based more around either the 'murder' or our puritanical sexuality viewpoints. For the second it is completely insane to use government policies to attempt to control the sex lives of other people. For the first, it would seem that there needs to be a successful inclusion of 'other options' rather than a full ban. It is more intelligible to understand abortion as the tail end of a series of individual choices which probably were not wise. If we provide both the understanding and information to try to make those preceding options with more wisdom, then I suspect the appeal and necessity of abortions would drop considerably.

The coverage of this campaign has been pretty boring (hence the lack of commentary). There's virtually nothing on the minor candidates and their issues. And there's really not much on the major candidates issues either. I plan to throw my vote away (for Prez) and fully expect as of now Obama to win.

Education needs to be completely rebuilt. It hasn't usually come up because as usual, wars or money precede the decisive element in creating both: eager young minds. NCLB is idiotic. And our education system in general needs to be much more flexible to account for the various ways people learn and the various subjects in which their minds invest themselves.

The War: I'm not a fan. I haven't quite elaborated on my original oppositions, but these were mostly limited to the lack of accountable planning involved in the post-invasion portion of the show. They totally botched that element and in capitulating a government and leaving no administrative functional force (other than military force), it was totally unsurprising what happened next. Duh. If we can't use military forces that can create a functional strategic plan for suppressing the will of people to resist or rise up against our occupation, what's the point of having an occupation?

From the perspective of "preemptive aggression", I'm also not a big fan. It can be useful, from time to time to shake up people's perspectives and bolster diplomatic approaches. I'm not convinced that Iraq was a situation that justified it. Maybe Afghanistan. But even here, it would have been better had we done anything 20 years ago after helping kick out the Russians.

01 August 2008

weird or normal


Don't see stuff like this very often. I recall being in high school when some crazy Australian mate took his machete and assault rifle to the mall and started swinging away. That's about the last one I remember.

Aside from the trying to decapitate people, it sounds pretty much like bus travel in some parts of America. I'm not quite sure what he had to do that for. The random assault on a stranger, sure okay fine he's testing himself to see if he can knife people at random whilst they sleep...but what's with the head? It's not like he was going anywhere.

These are the sorts of acts that occur, everyone should be horrified for about a week...and I wonder why. Because it really is pretty much unrelated to the way the rest of us live, almost like a random coincidence of insanity and purposelessness created an incident involving another human being's death. The school shootings we get in America every couple years are a different matter..there's purpose involved along with the insanity. I don't get these bits of attacks at all.