Monday, January 29, 2007


Age of Grand Canyon Settled on High

If you count your begats you will see that the earth is only 6,000 years old. Ken Ham is creating a Creation Museum as a way to reach people who do not use computers, and thus have no access to the Answers in Genesis web site or his radio show. “People will get saved here”, says Ham. Rev. Jerry Falwell says that when the museum is finished “it’s going to be Cincinnati’s No. 1 tourist attraction. It’s going to be a mini-Disney World”.

Ham points out that the Grand Canyon was created in a matter of days (presumably 40 days and 40 nights) by the floodwaters of Noah’s ark fame, and that the creatures on the ark included the dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus Rex. He says that Noah was a real man, and with Rex on board, who can doubt him?

There is some controversy. Tom Vail’s book about the Grand Canyon, on sale at the National Park Service book store at the canyon, says the canyon is only 4,500 years old, although it agrees that it was formed by Noah’s flood. The book was approved by the Bush administration for sale at the park in 2003. After it got a bad review by a geology professor, the head of the Geologic Resources Division of the Park Service asked headquarters to remove the book, saying it is a religious doctrine, not science. But when the park superintendent attempted to remove it, he was overruled by NPS headquarters, which announced that it would do a “high level policy review” and reach a decision by February 2004. To date, while there is no record of any such review, the Bush administration is sticking with the initial approval. The NPS no longer offers any official estimate for the age of the canyon, but it has blocked publication of park ranger guidance which denied any scientific basis for creationism, and approved the posting of plaques bearing Psalm verses at the overlooks.

So how long ago did God create the canyon, anyway? We are going with the 4,500 years rather than the 6,000 years. The NPS is clearly more official than the Creation Museum, and anyway, you can look it up, right there at the canyon.



Hillary has explained her vote to authorize the war: “I would never have expected any president, if we knew then what we know now, to come to ask for a vote. There would not have been a vote, and I certainly would not have voted for it.” But does President Bush know now what we know now? Or if he knew then only what he knows now, would he have met Hillary’s expectation?

Clearly the president is not coming to ask for a vote on the additional troops for Iraq, but if there is a vote, you would never have expected it. As Rummy so aptly put it, some things are just unknowable: "I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started.”

Friday, January 26, 2007


You From Detroit?

The struggle to maintain campus diversity, i.e. an adequate percentage of minority students, is getting tougher. When the California voters adopted Proposition 209, banning racial preferences for non-whites, the public universities quickly sank into inadequate diversity. Michigan voters have now ignored the California disaster and passed Proposition 2, banning race and gender preferences in public education. Amazingly, the measure passed, 58% to 42%, despite opposition from government, business, labor, education and religious leaders. Go figure.

In 2003 the Supreme Court said it was all right to consider race, if it was just one among many factors, and if you didn’t give points for it (white rules, under which white basketball players get extra points for a basket, are presumably illegal under this ruling). After that colleges adopted “holistic” review, accepting minorities which failed to meet the standards applied to whites, but being careful not to assign extra points. That no longer works in Michigan. “We know from colleagues in Texas and California that if we can’t take race into account, we’re at a competitive disadvantage,” said Julie Peterson, a spokeswoman for the University of Michigan.” Editor's note: the "competition" is not, of course, for below standard students per se, but for "diversity", a crucial academic goal, for which you may need below standard students to reach.

Wayne State University has adopted a new admissions policy which will look to “a set of broader diversity concerns that go to socioeconomic status.” The new factors omit any mention of race, and instead include having overcome substantial obstacles, such as prejudice and discrimination; being multilingual; and residence in Detroit or on an Indian reservation. However, the law school dean, Frank Wu, is concerned that their good faith efforts to comply with Proposition 2 may face a legal challenge: “There’s a new fight building,” Mr. Wu said, “and that’s going to be whether the mere fact that you’re striving for diversity means you’re somehow trying to get around the ban and find proxies, or pretexts, for race, and that that’s impermissible. It’s ironic, but in some quarters our effort to adopt a new policy to comply with Prop 2 has been interpreted as an effort to circumvent it.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Mesopotamia Surge Redux

Contrary to popular belief, there is strong evidence that the surge has been highly effective thoughout the history of Mesopotamia (maiden name of Iraq). When the Arabs first invaded in 638 they came with enough troups, and most of the population converted forthwith to Islam. A surge was required to take care of the few unconverted, including the Zoroastrian priests, who lost their lives and property. The Muslims had not yet solidified into opposing sects, and the major theological question was whether, if you died from a cause other than battle, you still got the virgins. Due to the ambiguity of the virgin situation, you didn't want to die over the issue, so peace prevailed.
But then schisms developed, the major one being between the Shiits and the Sunnis. They don’t agree which of them is the proper successor to Muhammad (d.632), followers of His father-in-law Abu or followers of His son-in-law Ali. You see, the Prophet favored a process for choosing a successor, and He also favored an individual to be the successor, but they didn't match up. The process was selection by concensus. Abu was selected successor caliph by community leaders, even though it was known that Ali would have been selected by the Prophet, had he still been around. It goes to show what can happen if you don't have a will. Ali didn’t become caliph until the murder of the third caliph convinced the head guys to throw in the towel. The Sunnis follow Abu while the Shiites follow Ali.
Further, the Shiits require that the their leader be a direct descendent of Ali. In other words, the Shiite position is inherited rather than elected, as the Sunnis would have it. This is a familiar problem, as we see in European history. The direct descendents of Ali were the Imans, the 12th of which went into hiding in 940. He will not re-emerge to rule as the Mahdi until the end of time, so in the interval the Ayatollahs are considered the joint caretakers of the Iman office.

The Sunnis and the Shiites don’t consider each other to be true Muslims, and thus, if not technically infidels, are close enough for government work. Now the traditional way of dealing with infidels is of course to kill them. This has in fact worked pretty well for the other religions throughout history, even though it is not generally considered P.C. currently (with the possible exceptions of Ireland and the Levant). Even for those exceptions it could be argued that outside interference has prevented the inhabitants from working things out in the traditional manner.

Indeed, outside influence has been a problem for Mesopotamia all along. In the 14th century the Black Sheep Turkmen took control, but later lost it to a surge by the White Sheep Turkmen. The Black Sheep have had a bad reputation ever since. In the 16th century the Ottoman Empire took over. The Turks, regardless of sheep preference, generally followed the practice of keeping the Abu and Ali followers from resolving the Muhammad descent question by carefully arranging massacres and hangings. The British continued the practice when they took over after the Great War, imposing a monarchy and drawing the maps without reference to the religious preferences. Unrest and killings dragged along for several years until the big British surge (massacre) in 1920 brought relative peace. Then, as now, there were critics. T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) wrote in the London Times August 22, 1920:

The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. . . Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster.

Our government is worse than the old Turkish system. They kept fourteen thousand local conscripts embodied, and killed a yearly average of two hundred Arabs in maintaining peace. We keep ninety thousand men, with aeroplanes, armoured cars, gunboats, and armoured trains. We have killed about ten thousand Arabs in this rising this summer. . . . A Minister in the House of Lords said that we must have so many troops because the local people will not enlist. . . We have not reached the limit of our military commitments. Four weeks ago the staff in Mesopotamia drew up a memorandum asking for four more divisions. . . . If the North-West Frontier cannot be further denuded, where is the balance to come from? Meanwhile, our unfortunate troops, Indian and British, under hard conditions of climate and supply, are policing an immense area, paying dearly every day in lives for the wilfully wrong policy. . . .

Iraqi army officers took over in 1958, executing the royal family in the palace gardens, ending the monarchy installed by the British. Things went back and forth, with the Kurds continuing to make trouble until 1970, when Saddam Hussein, secretary general of the Ba’th party, engineered a political settlement with the Kurds. Over the next decade Saddam became the de facto ruler, formalizing that in 1979. He was Sunni, and continued the proven practices of the Turks and the British to maintain peace, temporarily ending the need for outside influence. Later a surge would become necessary.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Snow Globe Enigma

Quick! How many ounces in a snow globe? You know, those little glass things with Santa or a manger scene, that you shake to get the snow swirling around? Hard to tell, right? Well, Homeland Security is on top of it. Here is the rule:

Snow globes, regardless of size and amount of liquid inside, even with documentation, are prohibited in your carry-on.”

You see, not only can’t the screener tell if you are trying to sneak on more than 3 ounces, it is almost impossible to zip up a one quart plastic bag with the globe in it. This also avoids the problem of the globes with manger scenes, with no plastic reindeer or menorah, which clearly wouldn’t be kosher.

While we are on the subject of carry-on rules, it would be good to update the post of May 16 on carry on service animals: “Fear of Flying? Take Your Duck”, specifically the monkey rules, which are, of course, designed to prevent a terrorist from attempting to board with a monkey carrying prohibited items. Here is that rule:

“When the handler and the monkey go through the W.T.M.D. and the W.T.M.D. alarms, both the handler and the monkey must undergo additional screening…. [Security officers] have been trained not to touch the monkey during the screening process.… [T]he inspection process may require that the handler take off the monkey’s diaper as part of the visual inspection.”

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?