Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Joke

A tourist in Vienna, passing Vienna's Zentralfriedhof graveyard at night on October 31st, heard strange music softly playing.  Looking around, he saw nobody. Listening carefully, he discovered the sound coming from a grave with a headstone that reads: Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827. Then he realized that the music is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and it is being played backward!

Puzzled, he left the graveyard and looked for a police officer. After spending some time convincing the office that he is not crazy, the two return to the graveyard.

By that time the music has changed. Now it is the Seventh Symphony, played backward. Curious, the two men decide to find the caretaker of the cemetery and ask what's going on. The caretaker is quickly called and the problem explained to him.

"Oh, that's normal" says the caretaker. "He's just decomposing!"

As if that wasn't scary enough, I leave you with this:

Q: Why don't Jehovah's Witnesses celebrate Halloween?

A: They don't like strangers knocking on their door.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bedding Big Business

Since we're dealing with hypothetical situations, I have another one (with apologies to Exxon). Let's say that a particular state was given a federal grant to provide relief on energy costs, and that money went to Exxon every year. One year, the state discovered Exxon wasn't really doing anything for the money, and decided to give the money to promote alternative energies (solar, co-gen, whatever) that would be of more benefit to the people of that state.

Now let's say the President of the United States personally says that the money must go to Exxon, and if it doesn't his administration will sue. Furthermore, he cuts off the grant money completely, leaving the state without energy aid, until and unless the money goes to the Exxon, the company the president likes.

Let's say that president campaign specifically mentions Exxon as being vital to the nation, and his budget doubles the amount of money Exxon will get. Exxon forms a sister company, Exxon Action, specifically to support the president, and the president of Exxon takes a sabbatical to campaign full time for the president.

Do you think:

A) That's right. The president should support big business, and the most profitable companies in various industries should be best pals with him.

B) No conclusion can be drawn - it's all coincidence.

C) The president is in bed with the company. It is unethical, and should be stopped. Better yet, it's an election year, throw the bum out!

Well, change Exxon to Planned Parenthood. The president has supported Planned Parenthood, which is the largest and most profitable abortion provider in the US. He has lied knowingly to get them funding. When Texas decided to take their federal money and give it to providers who actually performed mammograms (Planned Parenthood does not perform mammograms, and never has), the president cut off all federal funding for all women's health programs in Texas. The lawsuits to force Texas to give money to Planned Parenthood are continuing to this day. In other words, Planned Parenthood the company, is more important than women's health.

The Obama administration is also suing Arizona to fund Planned Parenthood, and overrode the state of New Hampshire to force taxpayers there to fund Planned Parenthood. In fact, he literally threatened to shut down the entire United States if Planned Parenthood did not receive the funding he wanted. In other words, Planned Parenthood, the company, is more important than the United States.

And Now, Cecile RIchards, president of Planned Parenthood has announced she will campaign full time for President Obama. Why is it that the media isn't raking him over the coals for this blatant unethical ties to a single company?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Joke

A man is stranded in the remote countryside when his car breaks down. After discovering his cell phone doesn't work, the man begins walking down the road.

After several hours' walk the man sees a monastery, and rings the bell. A monk comes out and invites the man inside use the phone. It turns out it will take hours for a tow truck to come, and so the monk invites the man to dinner. He gladly accepts the monk's offer.

Since it is Friday the dinner is meatless, and the man is served the most delicious fish and chips he's ever had. He decides to compliment the chef.

Entering the kitchen, the man asks the cook, "Are you the fish friar?"

"No," the chef replies, "I'm the chip monk."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Reducing Theft

Let's say we look at employee theft in department stores. Now, every department store will have some degree of employee theft, but all stores would like to minimize it. It hurts the bottom line, and makes people want to shop elsewhere.

Let's say there is one department store in particular, that institutes strict policies to discourage employee theft. Employees are not allowed to work without at least one other person watching them. Stores are watched closely and inventory is kept where it is under constant surveillance. There are strong protections for "whistle blowers".

Every employee has a background check for criminal records, and has to read and sign off on the policies against stealing.  Every employee also has to spend time at least once a year in a course outlining the policies of the store, the procedures to prevent employee theft, and encouraging them to report and handle it if it does occur. Entire departments in the organization are devoted to ensuring that the policies are adhered to, that the store works with authorities if theft occurs, and to create an environment where anyone can safely and anonymously report suspicious activities. Even the front page of the store's web site has links to report employee theft anonymously, and links to the store policies and procedures.

These procedures were designed by another company that specializes in detecting and reducing theft. They are expensive, and are the best of any store in its class. Over the next few years the number of employee thefts reported is a fraction of the number of thefts reported by stores of similar size which do not have such programs in place.

What can we conclude from this?

A) The store is serious about reducing theft and its procedures have been effective. Other stores should look into doing the same.

B) No conclusion can be drawn. They just got lucky.

C) The store actually has a secret policy that encourages theft. Theft is actually rampant within the company, much higher than in other companies, but they cover it up by punishing whistle blowers. Everyone who knows about this is on the take.

Got your conclusion? I'm going to bet it is "A", or if you are a severe pessimist, "B". But "A" is the more reasonable choice. In any situation when you change a parameter and the result changes, it is reasonable to conclude that there is a relationship between the two. That conclusion becomes even more reasonable if there is a distinct mode of causality.

For instance, if you see that buildings made of nonflammable building material have fewer fires than those made with flammable materials, you can infer that the choice of building material contributed to the difference, not just because the two are correlated, but because we can see a direct causal relationship. Likewise for the employee theft example. The store's policies were known to reduce theft, and so it is likely that it was a contributing factor.

Now replace "department store" with "Catholic Church" and replace "theft" with "sex abuse". Does your conclusion change? Why? Is your conclusion reasonable?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Scott Adams makes sense

If you're a geek like me you enjoy reading Scott Adams' popular Dilbert cartoon. And if you've been following the news you've probably read about what Scott Adams said about the upcoming election. Here's a piece of it (actually most of it - I wanted to give enough context to make my point - I encourage you to read the whole thing).
Let's say a CEO does a great job for stockholders; he increases profits five-fold, treats the employees well, and causes the stock price to skyrocket. He's a superstar. One day the public learns that the CEO killed a guy to get ahead in his career, but the CEO doesn't get convicted because his clever attorney gets him off on a technicality. Assume in this hypothetical situation that the public correctly believes the CEO killed a guy to advance his career. Should the board of directors allow the superstar CEO to keep his job? Or is killing a guy to advance your career always a firing offense?

Okay, keep your answer in mind.

The next question is for supporters of President Obama. Let's say your political views map closely to the President's positions. He's your guy. But suppose you found out he once killed an American citizen in the United States to help his reelection. And assume, as with the CEO example, that the facts of the killing are undisputed and the President found a legal means to avoid prosecution. In that hypothetical case, would you still vote for President Obama? Or would you say it is a firing offense for a President to kill a citizen to advance his career?

I predict that every one of you favored firing the hypothetical CEO for killing a guy to get ahead. My second prediction is that every Republican reader of this blog favored firing President Obama in the hypothetical and imaginary case of him murdering a citizen to get elected. My third prediction is that supporters of President Obama will quibble with the hypothetical example, or my comparison to the CEO, or say President Obama is still a better option than Romney. In other words, for most supporters of President Obama, I don't think there is such a thing as a "firing offense."

For the record, President Obama did not technically kill anyone to get elected. That was just a hypothetical example. But he is putting an American citizen in jail for 10 years to life for operating medical marijuana dispensaries in California where it is legal under state law. And I assume the President - who has a well-documented history of extensive marijuana use in his youth - is clamping down on California dispensaries for political reasons, i.e. to get reelected. What other reason could there be?
Mr. Adams is speaking about unjustly trumping state law and trampling the rights of American citizens rather than killing someone. And as he points out later in the post, while there is no guarantee Romney won't do the same, but he does claim to support about states' rights and it is likely that he will have a different policy in this area.

Now, I disagree with the state of California's legalization of marijuana, but I see parallels with the way federal law is trampling states' rights in the case of drugs, and the way federal law is trampling states' rights in the case of abortion.

But that isn't my purpose for this post. Mr. Adams points out something that Catholics and pro-lifers have been pointing out for a long time. There is such thing as a "firing offense." From a pro-life perspective, while President Obama hasn't killed with his own two hands and innocent human being, he has aggressively pursued policies and laws to increase the number of abortions in the US, and made abortin the most important point of his presidency. And so a pro-life analogy might be (with apologies to Mr. Adams for paraphrasing his point):

Let's say a CEO does a great job for stockholders; he increases profits five-fold, treats the employees well, and causes the stock price to skyrocket. He's a superstar. One day the public learns that the CEO supports KKK lynchings to get ahead in his career, but the CEO is a clever attorney who says clever sound bites like "that's above my pay grade" when asked if it's OK to kill black human beings. Assume in this hypothetical situation that the public correctly believes the CEO supports lynchings to advance his career. Should the board of directors allow the superstar CEO to keep his job? Or is promoting lynching to advance your career always a firing offense?

As some pro-lifers point out (as an excuse for support President Obama), Governor Romney doesn't have a coherent pro-life strategy, and undermines his platform by the exceptions he keeps talking about, but it is that he will at least not pursue the aggressive funding of Planned Parenthood (under the lie that it provides mammograms)? It is also likely that he will remove the laws supporting the HHS mandate that makes abortifacients free. He has pledged to reinstate the Mexico City policy.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's that simple

Found this short 16 second video on the HHS mandate.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Recording the end of an era

A friend showed me this cool time lapse video of the space shuttle moving across LA. The only thing that would have been cooler is if it included the trip across the country as well.

The moment is bittersweet, however, as it reminds me of how far we have fallen in our nation's goals. When I was a lad, the space age had begun and we were a nation eager to do more.

Things like rechargeable battery technology, hybrid cars, velcro, LEDs, artificial limbs, scratch-proof glasses, freeze dried foods, firefighting gear, water purification, solar panels, and literally hundreds of other inventions all came from the exploration of space. It is estimated that every $1 spent on space exploration resulted in $7 entering the economy through new jobs and new technologies.

Today, as a nation we have completely lost our manned space program. We have to rely on other countries to do it for us. The technologies developed have changed very little in 50 years, and again other countries have surpassed us in many of those areas. We have become a nation of followers instead of leaders. Instead of our national focus being on education and peaceful exploration, it is on free birth control and the erosion of our liberties.

If I keep talking I'll wind up crying. Why don't I just show the video already?

Watching it reminds me of an event that took place over 50 years ago, described in the book The Perfect Machine, when the 200" pyrex mirror for the Hale telescope was moved across country from the Corning glass works in NY to Pasadena, CA, and later to the Mt. Paloma observatory.

According to the Mt. Palomar web site, in 1936
The mirror blank, with only a rough flat front surface, is shipped across the country on a special train from New York to Pasadena, always traveling slower than 25 miles per hour.
The telescope project has captured the public imagination, and thousands of people line the train tracks to watch this special cargo. Guards are posted around the mirror during overnight stops to prevent any damage to the disk. The trip takes sixteen days.

The mirror was ground and polished over the next 11 years, removing about 5 tons of glass to perfect it's shape. In 1947
The 200-inch mirror is transported from Pasadena to Palomar on November 18-19, 1947. The 40 ton cargo requires three diesel tractors to push it up the mountain. Despite a storm, which nearly aborts the transport, the 125 mile trip is completed in 32 hours.
After removing the concrete disk (now located outside the dome) that was used to test the support structure, engineers install the mirror. Initial imaging results are promising but not ideal. It takes two years to finish polishing, aligning, and adjusting the mirror. 
I wish I had been there to see that move!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Joke

This one's courtesy Melanie on Plurk. Thank you. And hey, readers. If either of you knows any good ones please drop me a line. Without further ado...

An old, blind cowboy wanders into an all-girl biker bar by mistake. He finds his way to a bar stool and orders a shot of Jack Daniels.

After sitting there for a while, he yells to the bartender, "Hey, you wanna hear a blonde joke?"

The bar immediately falls absolutely silent. In a very deep, husky voice, the woman next to him says, "Before you tell that joke, Cowboy, I think it is only fair, Given that you are blind, you should know 5 things:

    1. The bartender is a blonde girl with a baseball bat.
    2. The bouncer is a blonde girl with a Billy-Club.
    3. I'm a 6-foot tall, 175-pound blonde woman with a black belt in karate.
    4. The woman sitting next to me is blonde and a professional weight lifter.
    5. The lady to your right is blonde and a professional wrestler.

Now, think about it seriously, Cowboy... Do you still want to tell that Blonde joke?"

The blind cowboy thinks for a second, shakes his head and mutters, "No...not if I'm gonna have to explain it five times..."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Voting and sin Part 3

This is part 3, of my series on voting and sin. In part 1 I spoke about whether it is a sin to vote for Governor Romney (as some Obama supporters have told me). In part 2 I covered whether voting third party is a sin, as many many people on both sides have told me. In this part I wanted to cover whether voting for President Obama is a sin. I've been putting off writing this, because I don't want what I'm writing to be true. However, I can't change facts, so here goes. But first, a disclaimer.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Are the unborn human?

Jimmy Akin, in his usual cogent and accessible style, addresses the issue at the core of the pro-life movement, whether unborn human beings are human beings.

If you read this blog, or know me in real life, you know this is a biggie for me. Too often in politics and in casual conversation people make the unsubstantiated claim that abortion is a "personal decision" or a "religious issue." It is neither.

Even our president said "that's above my pay grade." It is not, especially if you want to claim you are a constitutional lawyer and a "man of science."

Looked at objectively, scientifically, abortion is the killing of an innocent human being, in violation of our Constitution and the principles of civil society. But Jimmy is a far better speaker (and writer) than I.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Joke

Two friends, Joe and Mike, go on a hunting trip. They start walking from their car into the woods. After about an hour of walking, they sit down and take a rest.  Joe says "I'm not feeling so good".

Mike suggests they walk back to the truck.  So they start walking. About 15 minutes into the trip, Joe gasps, clutches his chest, and falls over. Mike immediately calls 911.

The operator answers "9-1-1, what's your emergency?"

Mike says "My friend collapsed with a heart attack, I think he's dead, what do I do"?

Operator says, "Well first make sure he's dead".

Mike says, "OK" and puts the phone down.

After a few seconds, the operator hears BANG!!!

Mike gets back on the phone and says, "OK, He's dead. Now what?"

Friday, October 5, 2012

Raise your hand...

...if you are as angry as I am. This came to my attention in an email form the Cardinal Newman Society. Apparently, a Missouri federal court dismissed in its entirety a suit against the HHS mandate brought by a Catholic businessman. Here is the reasoning, directly from the court order (emphasis mine).
Plaintiffs allege that the preventive services coverage regulations impose a similar ultimatum, and therefore substantially burden their free exercise of religion “by coercing Plaintiffs to choose between conducting their business in accordance with their religious beliefs or paying substantial penalties to the government.” Am. Compl. ¶ 40 [Doc. #19]. However, the challenged regulations do not demand that plaintiffs alter their behavior in a manner that will directly and inevitably prevent plaintiffs from acting in accordance with their religious beliefs. Frank O’Brien is not prevented from keeping the Sabbath, from providing a religious upbringing for his children, or from participating in a religious ritual such as communion.
So the First Amendment has been reduced from freedom of religion to, literally, freedom of worship. Hey, we'll still let you go to Church, so stop whining.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Joke

Thanks to Joni on Plurk for sending me this joke.

The local news station was interviewing an 80-year-old lady because she had just gotten married for the fourth time. The interviewer asked her questions about her life, about what it felt like to be marrying again at 80, and then about her new husband's occupation. "He's a funeral director," she answered. "Interesting," the newsman thought.

He then asked her if she wouldn't mind telling him a little about her first three husbands and what they did for a living. She paused for a few moments, needing time to reflect on all those years. after a short time, a smile came to her face and she answered proudly, explaining that she had first married a banker when she was in her 20's, then a circus ringmaster when in her 40's, and a preacher when in her 60's, and now - in her 80's - a funeral director. The interviewer looked at her, quite astonished, and asked why she had married four men with such diverse careers.

She smiled and explained, "I married one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go."