how long until the ‘ancient aliens’ folks get a hold of this?

Strange formations in Gobi DesertHow long do you think it will take the Ancient Aliens folks to interpret the recent discovery on Google Earth of formations in the Gobi Desert as the work of aliens on earth?

Obviously, China is up to something, but what is it? Is it a military testing ground? Is it a street map for a major city for use in targeting practice? Is it the latest massive Christo artistic installation? Is it the future of UPC or QR codes?

I don’t know. What we do know is that within a week or so, someone is going to claim that it’s some sort of alien landing strip. Just watch.

(FTR – my guess is a satellite calibration system for part of it, and a explosives testing site for the other. Pure speculation, but with the burnt out vehicles in one of the images, I’m guessing testing site.)

inside a church of christ history class

I marked up a cartoon that has been going around lately. It summarizes what is taught by Church of Christ historians and its theologians. It made me smile.

Restoration Movement History Chart (click to enlarge)

HT: Bibleworks on FB.

happy halloween maclaren!

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dear occupy people, you are now officially off message

The Occupy movement appears to have lost its way.

What began as a protest against Wall Street – the symbol of corporate corruption, greed, irresponsible risk, the exploitation of consumers, and a culture of entitlement resulting in a lack of appreciation for taxpayer-funded bailouts from a government paid for by the very corporations they assist – that protest has turned into a free-for-all.

Even Librarians are angry. That's a bad sign. (Actually, it's a good one.)

Today, rather than sticking to the original core message of rooting out corruption and advocating for corporate (and thereby government) reform, the leaderless OWS movement has devolved into a random mass of hostility and anger. And while hostility and anger are and should be the reaction to the corporate-government two-step of corruption and irresponsibility that has become American capitalism, some OWS protesters, perhaps due to the lack of leadership, a loss of focus, or the simple thrill of being a part of a protest, have quickly crept away from the core message and are now demanding things that make the entire movement look foolish and, well, utterly dismissible.

The Occupy movement has attracted many college students who want to voice their outrage and offer their support to the cause. And while I applaud those with every advantage who stand up for the disadvantaged, it seems that the Occupy movement has unfortunately deteriorated into an inarticulate smörgåsbord of, dare I say, greedy demands from otherwise entitled individuals who want their college tuition paid (without having to serve in the military or Peace Corps in exchange), or see this as an opportunity to demand that their maxed out credit cards be paid off.

Today, many Occupy protesters are arguably spoiled college students with clothes on their backs and bills they don’t want to pay. Somehow they think that by camping out in their own personal Woodstock in between runs to the local indie coffee shop (because Starbucks is corporate), they’re going to accomplish something beyond making themselves look like lazy freeloaders Tweeting in the park while others are out applying for their jobs. And rather than do as many of us have done and go to Junior College, take our pre-reqs, then transfer to a state college, working an entry-level job to make ends meet, they sit and demand free college education at the college of their choosing.

Rather than enlisting in the army and defend this country, or enlisting in the Peace Corps and directly serving an underdeveloped nation where the REAL 99% live, they’d rather demand that someone else do it (as if corporations are ever going to really give a crap about dealing with poverty). Rather than using their hands and feet for physical work and volunteering with worthwhile projects to make the world a better place, many would rather sit on their asses all day and complain about how no one handed them a six-figure salary right out of college. I’d be curious to know how many of those participating in the Occupy protests have ever spent as much time, energy, and Facebook status updates volunteering with a non-profit organization or advocating against something other than a bank to whom they owe money.

Rather than stick to the core message so well articulated in the cartoon to the right, this leaderless revolution has sprawled into lists of ridiculous demands to such an extent that now Stephen Colbert (a supporter of the original movement) is even poking fun at it. The movement seems to be spinning out of control and becoming the second chance for hippie high school seniors and college freshmen like the “elected spokespeople,” Justin Wedes and “Ketchup,” who appear to be bent on making up for the fact they weren’t elected Student Body President. Or to put it as my wife put it, the current wave of OWS protesters:

…are identifying themselves as the “99%”, but are not demanding that the “1%” end world hunger. They are asking for their college tuition to be paid. They are asking for their credit card debt to be forgiven. They are asking for privileges that only the world’s wealthiest 1% enjoy, and they want it for free.

By making demands of “free college education” (elite schools of course, not state schools), “open borders migration (anyone can travel anywhere to work and live),” and “Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all (Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the “Books”),” the OWS movement leaves itself open to ridicule and charges of naïveté, disorganization, idealism lacking practicality, and insensitivity to those who are truly suffering around the world.

The Occupy movement needs a coordinated plan of action and a leader. And before you respond with the typical, “That’s not how this protest works,” let’s take a lesson from the Tea Party. At the other end of the political spectrum, I recall the early, leaderless days of the Tea Party movement. I remember how they held up the example of the starfish – a headless organism that was comprised only of “action arms” – as its model of organizational leadership. I remember NPR’s Steve Inskeep commenting that it was appropriate, as it had neither a brain nor a backbone. Then, I remember the Tea Party getting organized, crafting a message, and ultimately taking the House of Representatives.

Ironically, in spite of its questionable ideology, what the Tea Party wanted most is what the Occupy movement wants most: government-corporate reform. I commented earlier that the first one to see past the oceans of ideological diversity on these polar opposite ends and unify both groups behind the singular message of government/corporate reform wins, and would become the leader of the single greatest revolution in this country since, well, The Revolution.

There should absolutely be reforms. We should let failing businesses fail in a capitalist system; that’s how it works. Banks that took exploitative risks should not (have) be(en) bailed out. And yes, corporations should pay taxes sans loopholes. And no, corporations are not going to do less business if they have to pay more tax. That argument is laughable, albeit threatening. Corporations will expand business and work even harder to make up the difference, because that’s what they do – make money. There should be more corporate responsibility. Corporations that received bailout funds should have imposed upon them salary caps and bonus limits just like in the NFL. And we should demand this and not settle for anything less. Alas, this was the entire point of the initial Occupy Wall Street movement!

But the movement has gotten WAY off message. And now that some of the protests are turning violent, the public is losing its stomach and patience for the cause. And the more ridiculous, off-topic demands that are stacked up and demanded by students who should otherwise be studying for their macroeconomics final, the less the public cares about and supports the cause.

It’s time to get back on message: government and corporate reform. When you have marched as much as Dr. West has marched, and served as much as Mother Theresa has served, and advocated for as many causes as U2 has advocated, then and only then can an upstart movement demand more than one thing at once. Until then, keep it focused and keep it simple.


If you’re looking for activities that are consistent with your core message that will actually get the banks’ attention, try “Bank Transfer Day,” or as I call it, Occupy a Different Bank. I ditched Bank of America three months ago and transferred all accounts (mostly loans) to a local credit union. Pull your money out of their vaults, and you’ll get the reform you’re seeking.

michigan republican anti-bullying law provides exception for religious bullying

An anti-bullying law in the Michigan State Senate, SB 137, ironically also called “Matt’s Safe School Law” after 14-year old Matt Eppling who committed suicide in 2002 after being bullied, was passed on partisan lines by Michigan Republican senators without a single Democratic vote. And while most anti-bullying laws are to be applauded, the Michigan Republicans passed an amended bill, which contained an insert reading:

“This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil and parent or guardian.”

AMAZINGLY, Michigan Republicans excluded anything said from a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” from being considered as bullying. An accused bully who claims that his speech emanated from his or her religious beliefs, is by definition in this law, not a bully. That is to say, this Michigan Republican anti-bullying bill contains language that PROTECTS bullying if it is RELIGIOUS bullying, or speech that is uttered from what the bully claims is a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

As Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) said regarding the final version of the bill, it is a “blueprint for bullying.” And I agree. As long as a bully, be it a student, a parent, a school employee, or a school volunteer says that their bullying of a student was part of their religious beliefs or moral convictions, then it’s not really bullying.

And it’s easy to see where this is headed and why the language was inserted. With the debate over same-sex marriage and the church’s view of homosexuality continuing to escalate, Michigan Republicans want to make sure those religious fundamentalists within their constituency are protected from bullying laws when they and/or their children give some young gay student their best Westboro Baptist impression.

The new Michigan law is an outline for precisely how to bully and get away with it. Just claim your hateful and hurtful speech is part of your religious beliefs, and it’s suddenly OK.

Once again, potential religious oppression is exempted from laws that are designed to protect children. You can’t bully children unless you do it in the name of the Lord!

Absolutely disgusting!

 


More:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/03/gretchen-whitmer-michigan-senator-bullying-bill_n_1073928.html

http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/11/michigan_republicans_give_anti-bullying_bill_a_mor.php

http://michiganmessenger.com/53702/senate-passes-license-to-bully-legislation

cutthroat or genius? google to index facebook comments

Google vs. FacebookWhen I first read that Google now plans to index Facebook comments so that they will now appear in search results, I thought to myself, “Welp, that’s it. I’m done with Facebook.”

Then I realized, that’s EXACTLY what Google wants me to do.

By announcing that they will begin crawling and indexing Facebook comments, Google has taken the shrewd step of deliberately (but legally) exacerbating the one thing about which Facebook users are most wary: privacy concerns. While Google makes clear that they will only crawl comments on public Facebook “pages” and apps, and not on private user pages, I am still left confused as to whether comments on a “user page” that is visible to the public will be indexed.

Of course, the answer doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that with this simple action, Google will introduce enough additional doubt and fear into the minds of Facebook users (who are already suspicious of privacy measures due to “upgrade fatigue” from Facebook’s seemingly monthly changes to its functionality and user interface), that they will leave Facebook for something else.

And, because the recently introduced Google+ is now a viable alternative with a greater ease of use and superior graphics (now that Facebook has become nearly as painful to the eyes as MySpace once was), more and more Facebookers will be flocking to Google+, where I am guessing public and private comments will not be indexed and available for search.

It may be cutthroat, but it’s also genius, and may be just the thing Facebook needs to get it to stop selling out its existing users in the name of expanding its user base.

why learning what the bible actually says is important

Whether you are religious or not, it is important for all educated people to know what the best selling book in the world, not to mention the most influential piece of English literature in history (the KJV), actually says.

Not only does one learn the source of beautiful expressions like, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and “swords into ploughshares,” and “how the mighty have fallen,” and “cast the first stone,” but one who knows the Bible well also tends not to make ignorant mistakes like the one Obama administration Press Secretary, Jay Carney, made yesterday.

Defending President Obama against criticism for divining the will of God during a political budget matter by saying, “God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work,” Carney explained:

“I believe that the phrase from the Bible is ‘the Lord helps those who help themselves.'”

The fact that this particular verse does not appear in the Bible was apparently lost to Mr. Carney.

The concept of God (or the gods) helping those who work to attain their own goals is first found in Classical Greek literature like the proverb, “Along with Athena, move also your hand” (σὺν Ἀθηνᾷ καὶ χεῖρα κίνει). The first English version of the exact saying is attributed to English political theorist Algernon Sidney (1623-1683), and was made popular (perhaps ironically) by famed Deist and American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.

Just remember: the only thing worse than divining “what God wants” during a political budget battle is quoting a nonexistent verse to back it up.

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