Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004
From the New York Times
December 28, 2004
President calls for $100 million in tsunami relief; indicates more money may follow.

WASHINGTON--In an unprecedented address to the nation televised on Monday, President Gore called on Congress to immediately earmark one hundred million dollars for relief efforts in south and southeast Asia following Sunday's earthquake and tsunami.

"My fellow Americans--in the past few years, our nation has received more benefits from the Earth than it has for at least a century. By harvesting energy from the Sun and from the atom, we have created 100,000 new jobs and now produce 80% of the energy we consume. Nature has been good to us.

However, Nature has its dark side--we have seen devestation in Florida this past year, and now we see an even greater tragedy in Asia. Tens of thousands are dead; hundreds of thousands are now homeless.

Through our ingenuity and resources, we were able to rebuild most of the affected areas in Florida within a month. I believe we have an obligation to lend a hand to our fellow citizens of Earth in their rebuilding efforts. Therefore, I call upon Congress to pledge one hundred million dollars over the next three years to relief efforts in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, and other affected countries."

Support is high among the American people for this grant; in a Roper poll, 65% of those surveyed indicated support for the President's proposal, with only 31% indicating disapproval. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have expressed approval for aid, although some feel that the President is perhaps being "unrealistic" in the amount of aid.

Should the aid be granted, it will be (adjusting for inflation) the largest American foreign aid grant since the Marshall Plan.

(Inspired by SKBubba's "Year in Review")

Monday, December 20, 2004
That would be the second option
True Chicagoan
You are a true Chicagoan! You've probably lived
here for a long time, or are thoroughly
obsessed with the city and its history.
Congratulations! Maybe you should run for

Are You a True Chicagoan?
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(Via Gapers' Block)

Thursday, December 09, 2004
Philip Pullman sells his soul to the Demiurge
I think everyone remotely connected to the geek subculture has heard about the "Han Shot First!" Star Wars controversy, which raises the question of how much control an author has over the content of his/her previously published text. Now comes Exhibit B: Philip Pullman's willingness to write God out of the screenplay for the movie adaptation of His Dark Materials (see Baude, Farrell, Taylor for more complaints)

This isn't just about who shot first in a bar; this is about the heart and soul of a novel. His Dark Materials is based upon the idea of rebellion against the ultimate authority--a God reminsent of the Gnostic idea of the Demiurge*. It's a fun thought exercise in "If God turns out to be the major asshole that fundamentalists portray Him as, what would you do about it?". The fact that God is a petty tyrant in Pullman's multiverse says nothing about the nature of God in our multiverse--it only reveals what we, deep in our hearts, feel God should be*.

I've gotten off topic. But the fact is that my faith in God wasn't challenged much by Pullman--I was disturbed, sure, by the anti-theistic tone, but considering the character of God in the book, I'd say it was justified. However, my vision of God doesn't look anything like Pullman's character--although I'd admit that there are some Americans whose vision of God are more reminiscent of the Demiurge. Maybe it's time that those Americans face up to that.

And I suppose that if Pullman is worried about funding, Michael Moore could probably pitch in.

*A "Roman Calvinist" demiurge rather than a Jewish demiurge.

**There are some who contend that Pullman is working in an anti-C.S. Lewis vein; however, I think that there's a similar strand in their theology: When a character in The Silver Chair is told that his God, the lion Aslan, doesn't exist, he admits that maybe he doesn't, but he'll still keep believing in his benevolent God. Pullman's characters resist God only when it turns out he's malevolent. There's a sense in both books of morality existing outside of God; that rather than God dictating the rules of morality, the rules of morality dictate who should be God. And if the entity at the job isn't adhering to these rules, you have a right not to serve that entity.

Monday, December 06, 2004
Semantics and Gay Marriage
I've observed that there are a fair number of people who are comfortable with the substance of same-sex marriage, but not the name; hence the politician who supports civil unions but not same-sex marriage. On the other hand, "civil union" is a sterile term without history or warmth, while "marriage" implies the building of kinship.

From Respectful of Otters I found a link to a gay-based ministry in Britain that was once an ex-gay ministry, but later realized that God didn't want people to change their sexuality in order to know Him [sic]. Anyways, when speaking of gay relationships, they used the word "covenant", citing the relationships between Ruth and Naomi, Jonathan and David.

Hmm. Maybe there is a third way. And a bonus--we get to steal a word from the conservatives!

Sunday, December 05, 2004
Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated
Don't worry, new posts will be up soon.