The Echo Chamber
Friday, January 16, 2004
  1:00 PM

[Stephen Gordon]

Wretchard over at the Belmont Club writes that the key to winning the war on terror is to hit pressure points. Simply put, WWII was won by halting commerce (specifically by keeping the Japanese from getting fuel to Japan and by hitting German oil refineries).

Similarly, he advises, the War on Terror will be stopped by hitting "the madrassas, the Saudi funding, the jihadi websites."

Of these three targets, the soft underbelly of terror is the funding. If every third rich Saudi that writes a check to terror got disappeared, then the funding would dry up and the war would be wind down. 

Thursday, January 15, 2004
  8:45 PM

[Stephen Gordon]

CBS has decided not to air MoveOn's anti-Bush ad (link to the ads) during the Superbowl or at any other time. This is unfortunate. America should see just how foul the loony left has become. What better way for this to be accomplished but at the expense of George Soros?

Why is CBS not running the ad?

A CBS spokesman said... the network has had a long-term policy not to air issue ads anywhere on the network.

No issue ads anywhere or anytime on CBS? I can understand not wanting to harsh the mellow of Superbowl viewers expecting Bud Bowl 14, but why not accept issue ads for airing during news broadcasts or during "A Very Special Episode of The Simple Life?"

The major networks are still the biggest media out there. The fact that they have sanitized themselves from the issues of the day means that fewer members of the public are thinking about these issues. Thank goodness that talk radio, cable television, and the Internet have diluted the power of these milk-toasts.

  11:16 AM

Big Fish Should be Thrown Back

[Stephen Gordon]

I'm a moderate Tim Burton fan. This means I enjoyed Edward Scissorhands and the first Batman but fail to see the genius of Batman Returns or The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I had hope for Big Fish. It looked like Burton was aiming his weirdness at a larger audience – a surreal Forrest Gump maybe. Instead we are given the story of a self-centered dreamer who, in spite of imagining himself as a big fish, was a rather ordinary guy.

The source of conflict in the story is between the Walter Middy-like father Edward and his grounded son Will. Burton does his best to make Will out to be a kill-joy by deigning to live in the real world, but I'd have to say that of the two, I prefer Will.

Not that I don't enjoy a tall-tale, but by constantly making himself the hero of a fantastical life, everyone around Edward is reduced to bit players. If charm is the ability to make others feel better about themselves for having been around you, then Edward is an anti-charmer. By seeking to elevate himself over others, he is diminished.

Had the movie explored this theme it could have been an interesting character study. But Edward is clearly meant to be our hero (and not even a particularly flawed hero). Maybe Burton loves the Edward character because Edward's imagination provides the opportunity to create outlandish visuals.

But it might be that Burton thinks perception really is more important than reality. That's a dangerous road to go down

Wednesday, January 14, 2004
  2:01 PM

[Stephen Gordon]

Over the last nine months or so I've been working out a couple of times a week on an elliptical trainer. For the uninitiated, this is a cardio machine that simulates running. Since the machine moves in an elliptical pattern with your legs, you can avoid pounding on your joints and shin splints brought on by running. This is the machine that President Bush turned to last year after suffering a injury from running.

The first time I tried the machine I found it difficult to stay on the trainer for 20 minutes. Still, in that 20 minutes I burned more than 300 calories. This impressed me because when I used the recumbent bike I would burn about 200 calories in 20 minutes. Half again as much good done (because you have to support your weight) with no additional time spent – I was hooked.

Each time I got on the elliptical I would experiment with the level of difficulty or the length of time – each workout trying to beat my own performance from before. By the first of this year I could burn 1000 calories in about 55 minutes. And this was done with zero impact on the joints or skeletal structure (whether zero impact is good or bad is another matter).

I've got a buddy Mitch that runs 4 or 5 miles three times a week. The elliptical trainer I'm using tells me at the end of 55 minutes that I had "traveled" 4.5 miles or so. I was curious as to how my 4.5 miles (whatever that means – has anyone ever made an elliptical machine that actually moves?) compared with Mitch's 4.5 miles on a treadmill.

There's not much of a comparison. I started up the treadmill at 6.8 mph - the pace to make 2 miles in 18 minutes. My reason: running 2 miles in 18 minutes was a requirement for PT back in high school ROTC. I wasn't able to maintain that pace the entire 18 minutes. My 2 miles clocked in at about 18 minutes 20 seconds. I didn't run any further. Four miles on the treadmill will have to wait for another day.

This is not bad for a guy that doesn't run much and weighs 200 pounds. When I was running this distance 18 years ago in high school I weighed 50 pounds less and still barely made it in 18 minutes. There is no possibility that I could have run as well without the elliptical training. But 4.5 elliptical "miles" does not translate to a similar distance on the treadmill for me.

Anyway, it looks like I should throw the treadmill into my cardio mix. Next goal: To run 5K (3.1 miles) in 30 minutes.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
  11:30 AM

[Joseph Horan]

Andrew Sullivan has an interesting post on the "gay marriage" issue. The article comes from the Lexington Herald-Leader and can be read here. Here's perhaps the greatest money quote of the entire piece:
For those who believe gay marriage is morally wrong for Biblical or other religious reasons, this decision changes nothing. Churches can still speak out against sexual immorality and can still choose not to perform gay weddings. The gay couple down the street in no way makes our own straight marriage more difficult or challenging, nor can any decision of any court of law change the definition of marriage in the eyes of God.

This I believe is the key that many conservative Christians have lost sight of. Do I believe that gay marriage is morally okay? NO! Do I believe that homosexuality is morally okay? NO! Do I want to amend the Constitution to make sure that homosexuals can't get married or have legal rights? NO! This is not an issue worthy of Constitutional fixing. It is a progressive culture issue. If we try to legislate morality when the culture as a whole is throwing off any semblance of it institutionally then we are crossing the line from being evangelical to becoming tyrannical. It does not especially please me to hear a gay couple call themselves "married" in the same sense of the word that my fiance and I will this next year, but in the end my marriage is something different because of where I place God in it not what the government classifies it as. That fact of life ought to apply to homosexuals to. They are people who we are called to love and witness to. The Church needs to understand that before its too late and we are spiritually called to account for our ostracization of an entire group.

This brings up another point that I want to go into in depth at a later time. We as Christians and as the Church must never stop decrying sin for what it is. We cannot arbitrarily decide which Scriptures are truly and divinely authoritative. If we do that then we can no longer claim any basis for our own faith. In a later post this week I will explore the Scriptural truth regarding homosexuality and also discuss the concept of Scripture's authority at length.

  9:17 AM

[Joseph Horan]

This NYT article on Wallace Shawn, the star of "My Dinner With Andre", is a compelling read! Why? Becuase it reveals a good deal about the mindset of the Hollywood-Leftist elite. There really does exist a HUGE disconnect between this small minority and the rest of us as demonstrated below:

Question: "So you take some pride in American culture?"
To be honest, I see myself as a citizen of the planet. Even as a child, I always found it mindless to root for your own team. I was puzzled by the fact that people said their own team was better than other teams simply because it was theirs.

Question: "It sounds like you were a teenage aesthete."
In an ideal world, people would be preoccupied with reading and writing poetry and having love affairs, as people were in the Japanese court in the 11th century, as described in ''The Tale of Genji.'' If people were involved in that type of life, maybe there would be no war.


Question: "Have you ever desired the comforts of marriage?"
I would say it is hard enough to make a plan for how you are going to spend an evening with somebody else. So to make a plan for how you are going to behave in 25 years seems based on a view of life that is incomprehensible to me.

I do not mean to pick on a single man who is an accomplished artist, but I do want to point out a fundamental difference in life opinions and world views that this group carries. This same view is held by Howard Dean and the ilk that support him. They are still my fellow Americans no matter what they may think, but I NEVER want them in charge of America!


  8:57 AM

[Joseph Horan]

Okay Paul Krugman is showing Paul O'Neil some real love. But some perspective is definitely needed and we have it courtesy of Robert Musil. It's a must read. 

Monday, January 12, 2004
  3:23 PM

Give to Dr. Watson what is Dr. Watson's, but...

[Stephen Gordon]

I'm in the middle of reading Dr. James Watson's, DNA : The Secret of Life

I've been fascinated with the subject of DNA and genetics for many years. I had a wonderful 8th grade science teacher who covered a remarkable amount of ground for a general science class. Her enthusiasm for the subject of DNA was contagious. Afterward I took every biology class offered in high school and college. And I considered the field of medicine before turning to a career in law.

In addition to my fascination with DNA itself, I was also drawn to the book by my disappointment with Watson and Crick's attack on religion last year during the jubilee celebrations of their discovery.

These guys spread their criticism on pretty thick:
"Archbishop Ussher claimed the world was created in 4004BC. Now we know it is 4.5billion years old. It's astonishing to me that people continue to accept religious claims," Dr Crick said.

Religion has come along way since Ussher. Thankfully, so has science. I believe in progressive revelation in both fields, so I don't really see this as an effective criticism. Ussher, without benefit of all we've learned since, extrapolated a date based on generations listed in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is primarily a religious document. Science and history were secondary concerns for the authors. Even so, the Bible has proven to be an important source for historians.

In his book Watson declares that the discovery of the structure of DNA was a death blow to "vitalism." defines vitalism as follows:
The theory or doctrine that life processes arise from or contain a nonmaterial vital principle and cannot be explained entirely as physical and chemical phenomena.

Watson and Crick's discovery was not the end of vitalism at all. That which is vital (and is not physical or chemical) may no longer be unknowable magic, but the miracle of information encoded in an elegant molecule remains.

Stephen Hawking began A Brief History Of Time with this anecdote:
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the centre of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy.

At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise."

The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?"

"You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down."

There is no doubt that ideas about the physical world held by all people (religious and otherwise) have changed over the years. To the extent that those old ideas were part of religious doctrine, then religion has been in retreat from the onslaught of science since the Enlightenment.

The Earth is not the center of the cosmos nor is it young. Species are not fixed, indeed all life (on this planet) appears to be related. Ultimately, however, there is a limit to how far God can be pushed back with science. The biggest questions are outside the realm of science. Questions like "Is death the end?" "Does life have meaning?" "Why should anything exist at all?"

As for existence it's "turtles all the way down" or its God. The "Big Bang" doesn't answer the big question, it only adds another turtle. These men (as admirable as they are) would use science to cast doubt on faith as it attempts to answer questions beyond science. It just doesn't work.

Dr. Crick said that "People like myself get along perfectly well with no religious views."

And many people have lived long full lives knowing little of science. I feel no compulsion to choose between the two. 

Two neocons solving the world's problems

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