Archive for November, 2008

Here’s an interesting (and dumb) claim – made by a Russian Political Science professor:

Russian Analyst Predicts Decline and Breakup of USA

A leading Russian political analyst [Igor Panarin] has said the economic turmoil in the United States has confirmed his long-held view that the country is heading for collapse, and will divide into separate parts.

He predicted that the U.S. will break up into six parts – the Pacific coast, with its growing Chinese population; the South, with its Hispanics; Texas, where independence movements are on the rise; the Atlantic coast, with its distinct and separate mentality; five of the poorer central states with their large Native American populations; and the northern states, where the influence from Canada is strong.

He even suggested that “we could claim Alaska – it was only granted on lease, after all.” Panarin, 60, is a professor at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has authored several books on information warfare.

Drudge Report
Huffington Post

I think maybe seeing the collapse and breakup of the USSR has influenced his ideas a bit too much. I wonder: does he even know how large the Chinese population is in the Pacific West? (California is only 12% Asian – and only a fraction of that is Chinese.) What states have “large Native American populations”? He thinks the South has a large Hispanic population? Did he mean the Southwest? And why would he think Texas would break away separately from states that have a large Hispanic population? The whole thing just seems silly. I have to admit, though, that I’m kind of fascinated by the way hope and fear influences our predictions about the future – and overrule more accurate, rational predictions. I’m also amazed at the number of clueless “experts” in the world.

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[Via Bad Astronomy] Phil Plait put up a post this morning linking to the Telegraph’s “History’s greatest conspiracy theories“. An interesting list, and I hadn’t heard of all of them. I did notice one that wasn’t on the list: the conspiracy that the polio vaccine given in Africa was spiked by the United States to sterilize Muslims:

The vaccine boycott – led last year by Islamic hard-liners who believed the vaccination campaign was a plot to sterilize or kill Muslims – is blamed for spreading the crippling disease back into more than a dozen African countries where it had previously been eradicated.

Ah well, I guess they can’t add all the world’s conspiracies.

One of the conspiracies that caught my eye:

25. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami – A popular theory in the Muslim world is that the tsunami could have been caused by an Indian nuclear experiment in which Israeli and American nuclear experts participated. Several newspapers in Egypt and the Middle East alleged that India, in its heated nuclear race with Pakistan, has acquired sophisticated nuclear technology from the US and Israel, both of which “showed readiness to co-operate with India in experiments to exterminate humankind,” beginning with the heavily populated Muslim regions of southeast Asia, where the bulk of casualties took place.

Funny how Israel and the United States figure into all of their conspiracy theories. It’s not enough that Israel and the US are “the enemy”, oh no. We *far* more evil than that. We are in a conspiracy to exterminate humankind (but only after we eat babies and kick all the puppies in the world).

This image from the 7/7 London bombings caught my eye. Apparently, some people interpret this image as showing that one of the bombers was actually photoshopped into the image. Note that his arm is behind the railing (how odd), and the railing goes into his face (I think that’s just a chance alignment). Even I had to do a double-take on the image.
Looking closely, I don’t think there’s much mystery, though. The dark area which appears to be behind the railing isn’t his arm. It’s a reflection of the dark building behind him, like the other reflections in the same image (in green). A series of pictures from the same security camera could reveal more about it.

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Chi Master?

I remember seeing this video over 10 years ago. I was already leaning towards a completely naturalistic worldview, and I remember being taken aback by it. How did he do that? Is this proof of something more than the material world? Well, since then, I’ve discovered that it’s quite common to use electricity with acupuncture. If he had some sort of hidden electrical device, it would explain most of this video. He could also justify his deception by convincing himself that he’s helping people to believe, and it’s probably good for his “medical” practice. Needless to say, I’m not that impressed with the guy’s “powers” anymore – but he does have enough showmanship to convince a few skeptics. What do you think? Any other theories on how he’s doing this?

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Rut-Row. I’ve been tagged by the Darwin Report. The rules?

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Six random things about myself (random, as determined by 1d100?):

1. I studied computer science and pre-med in college. I intended on entering an MD/PhD program in neuroscience.
2. I started my own software company a few years ago.
3. I haven’t had a television in my residence since 2001.
4. Both my parents are retired teachers, and my mother once had a Christian radio program. (Okay, it’s not about me, exactly, but it’s about my background.)
5. Three out of four of my grandparents lived past 90 years old.
6. I have a difficult time reading fiction – it just doesn’t hold my attention because I know it’s only fiction.

I’d tag six other people, but I have an allergic reaction to chain letters (especially of the email variety)*. This isn’t exactly the same thing, but I’d better play it safe.

* Whoops. That’s a seventh random fact about myself, isn’t it?

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Ah, I’ve been buried lately with work deadlines, and they’re still a few months away. I feel like a negligent blogger. But, here’s some stuff to check out:

Take a guess: From The Onion or CNN?
Gov. Sarah Palin said Wednesday that she would be honored to help President-elect Barack Obama in his new administration, even if he did hang around with an “unrepentant domestic terrorist.”
Via: The Intersection (Answer here)

Also from Sarah Palin:

“You know, I have — faith is a very big part of my life. And putting my life in my creator’s hands — this is what I always do. I’m like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is. Even if it’s cracked up a little bit, maybe I’ll plow right on through that and maybe prematurely plow through it, but don’t let me miss an open door. And if there is an open door in ‘12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.” (Source)

And, I’m sure you’ve already heard about the latest display of ignorance: she didn’t know the three countries involved in NAFTA, and didn’t know that Africa was a continent, and still hasn’t figured out what the Vice-President’s job was.

Sorry, I should probably just stop talking about Sarah Palin now that the election is over. I just can’t stand her. Sarah Palin : Political Power as Golem : “My Precious”. She doesn’t care what she has to do, she just wants and needs to be president – i.e. the most powerful person on earth (isn’t that a terrifying thought). It would be easy to ignore her except that so many Republicans (e.g. Bill O’Reilly) still are going out of their way to build up her image. They apparently love this sad excuse for a politician. Unbelievable. I have to agree with this guy, when he says that Republicans are the party of ignorance – abstinence-only education, anti-global warming, smoking isn’t necessarily addictive (Bob Dole, 1996), evolution is a lie, and are less likely to even have a passport (i.e. see the world outside our glorious Jesusland), etc. Palin has established herself as more ignorant than anyone else – and that makes her a Republican celebrity.

(Admittedly, I’m an economic moderate, so I don’t have big problems with fiscal conservative Republicans – just social conservatives and the attempts to twist/ignore reality. And I don’t see the Republican party letting go of the ignorant wing of their party.)

On the positive side, at least we know the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012 – which will still be inside Obama’s first term. 🙂

One thing I’ve been thinking about lately, though, is how these Evangelical Christian Conservatives (which is, by the way, the version of Christianity I was raised in) are like little busy-bodies. They believe God will “make a way”, so they can’t even evaluate the situation or their likelihood of success. In some situations, that can be devastating if failure has terrible consequences – e.g. the Children’s Crusade, or wars in general. (It also reminds me of a lot of Muslim militants – who believe Allah will ‘make a way’ – but in reality, they’re just stirring up trouble and starting a fight they can’t win. For example: Taliban abandon surrender plan after ‘prophetic dream’. It’s magical thinking in both cases.) It also means that being qualified for their job as president isn’t a big priority. (Just pray, and God will lead you!) On the other hand, the fact that they are disconnected from reality makes them little busy-bodies constantly trying to interject themselves. Here in Colorado, a 21-year old Christian busy-body got a proposed Amendment onto the ballot to define a personhood as beginning at conception. It got completely shot down (nearly 75% of voters said “no” to the proposed Amendment) – showing just how out-of-touch she was, and how she never considered her objective chances of success. But every once in a while, they get lucky with their pot-shots. Even worse, they’re gaining experience and we’ll have to shoot them down again in the future.

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Here’s an interesting story from This American Life. It’s a ghost story from 1921. In the story, a family moves into a new home, and they begin to experience some strange things: sounds of footsteps, knocking on the walls, a feeling of dread, the plants died, and then ghostly figures appeared. The audio is about six minutes long (right at the beginning of the podcast), and you can listen to it here, or read the longer version here.

I had no idea about that explanation. Apparently, it’s not the only case like it. More information here and here.

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