Saturday, August 26, 2006

You’ve heard that the Bible has been perverted and changed by nefarious and hidden forces.

You’ve heard that aliens built the pyramids and the government is hiding flying saucers in Area 51.

You’ve heard that the moon landing never happened and it was all a giant hoax.

You need stop listening to crap, then. Aren’t you smarter than that?

The Bible has been copied and recopied for thousands of years by thousands of people. Unsurprisingly, the thousands of copies we have from these thousands of years look pretty similar to each other. Some spelling differences, a few changes in word order—think about what happened when you copied your buddy’s paper in school—but overall, there’s too many copies made by too many people in too many scattered places for any nefarious group to have ever hidden or controlled anything.

Think about it: how good are you at getting your children to clean their rooms? Or getting your teenagers to behave? You think anyone could get everyone to obey the hidden nefarious ones that these theories suppose had to have existed? Fiction is fun, but only preschool children think it’s describing real life.

If aliens have landed, then why do you have so much trouble getting your computer to boot up? And why’s NASA spending so much money struggling just to get into orbit if we’ve reverse engineered flying saucers that can move like the Star Ship Enterprise? And if they knew there was life out there, don’t you think NASA would tell everyone? How much easier would it be then for them to get more money out of the federal budget? You know, they get less than one percent of it now. The feds spend more than twice as much just on the food stamp program than they do on getting astronauts into space.

If the moon landing was a hoax, how’d we convince the Russians to go along? Let alone the French? And have you looked at the cheesy special effects they had in the 60’s? Like that would fool anyone!

We all like conspiracies and secrets, but remember, real life isn’t like in the movies. It just doesn’t work that way. No one’s really in control. The good guys don’t always win. Neither do the bad guys. And sometimes things just go wrong, or sometimes things just go right. Napoleon is quoted as saying, after one of his generals was accused of treason for losing a battle: “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”

And humans are pretty smart all by themselves. We don’t need no stinking aliens to build piles of rocks like the pyramids. We can pile up rocks pretty damn well all by ourselves if we have good enough motivation. And really: aliens have nothing better to do with themselves than mutilate cattle and make intricate designs in cornfields? Is that what you’d do as a member of a technologically advanced civilization after traveling a thousand light years? Why? Me, I’d be looking for a good burger.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet."

--From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

As we contemplate the fact that Pluto is now to be classified as a "dwarf planet," becoming one of a class of similar objects beyond Neptune, some people may feel a bit sad. The reality, of course, is that Pluto has not gone anywhere, and nothing has changed in the shape of our solar system. The astronomers are simply changing and clarifying how we classify the objects that make it up. Back in the 1800's Ceres was initially classified as a planet. Eventually, as other objects were discovered between Mars and Jupiter, it was reclassified as one of the asteroids that fill that region of space. Ceres did not suddenly vanish in a puff of pink smoke. Neither has Pluto. But it is a reasonable reclassification which helps us understand the structure of our solar system a bit better.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A depressing article by Richard Cohen. A taste:

This inability of Europe to get its act together is what suggests 1938. Back then, Churchill was hardly the only one who thought Hitler was intent on war. After all, the German leader was an ideological zealot -- and a murderer to boot. Still, England did little. Similarly, you don't have to have Churchillian prescience to see that what happened once in Lebanon can happen again. Hezbollah's avowed aim is to eradicate Israel. Listen to what it says. Pay attention. It will renew its attacks the first chance it gets. This is why it exists.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

As I watch events unfold, I increasingly get a feeling of deja vu, as if the 1930s are happening all over again. I want to hope that there will actually be peace, but frankly, it strikes me as being all too like the sort of peace that a certain British Prime Minster famously brought back from meeting with a certain Jew-hating totalitarian. "Peace in our time" too often becomes simply a pause before far worse trouble comes. Confronting evil now is usually better than confronting it later. False peace is worse than what it seeks to solve; it is like giving morphine to a man with appendicitus. "There, don't you feel better now?" And surely he does, until his appendix bursts.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Michael Medved writes an interesting article on the question of "why anti-Semitism."

An excerpt:

The establishment of the modern Jewish state wasn’t a cause of Jew hatred, but a response to Jew hatred—not only in Europe, but throughout the Islamic world where some 800,000 Middle Eastern and North African Jews were driven from their ancient communities and found new homes in Israel. None of Israel’s eight major wars has been about a Jewish lust for new territory. All of them have been about a beleaguered nation’s ceaseless attempts to make its citizens secure from murderous attack in the distinctly limited area of their ancestral homeland. Every Arab child in Lebanon, in Gaza, and in the West Bank could sleep sweet, undisturbed slumber as soon as tomorrow night if the adults once-and-for-all gave up their long-standing project of driving the Jews out of the Middle East.

Contrary to anti-Semitic presumptions, Israel has never demanded special privileges of any kind, but yearns (and bleeds) only for the same rights other nations enjoy: to live undisturbed beside its neighbors without unceasing attack by terrorists, militias and, occasionally, major armies. Montenegro, the newest member of the family of nations after a referendum this year, won independence and worldwide recognition despite the fact that more than 45% of the electorate opposed bringing the nation into existence, and only a bare majority claims Montenegran (as opposed to Serbian) nationality. More than 80% of the residents of Israel are Jewish, and they have fought tenaciously for their nationhood for nearly sixty years. The desire for peaceful borders and acceptance from fanatical neighbors hardly amounts to an Israeli demand of privileged status, but the refusal to grant that recognition reflects the classical attitude of the anti-Semite: that Jews indeed deserve different treatment from all other nations on earth but in a negative, hostile and, ultimately murderous sense.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I got a nice call from my science fiction editor late this afternoon. He has decided to publish another of my books, entitled Fades the Flower. He's planning on using the same artist that they used to do the cover of Somewhen Obscurely, Steve Chavez.

Additionally, I learned that my publisher will have my books on display and available at the World Science Fiction Convention in Anaheim, August 23-27. This is where and when the Hugo Awards are awarded, too (the science fiction equivalent of Emmys and Oscars). Thousands attend this convention each year, including writers, editors, agents, directors, producers, and the like. This isn't just books, it's also TV and movies. It will have added attraction this year since it's the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Trek.
Michelle Malkin on HotAir in a video presentation of the faked Reuters' photographs.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I have only a very limited amount of experience in the news business: working as a volunteer with media relations during the two X-prize launches of SpaceShipOne, doing press releases for non-profits like the church and the School of Theology, having letters to the editor appear in both small and major newspapers, and doing a weekly column for a small newspaper.

However, from this limited experience, I have found that newspapers will publish your press releases verbatim if you write them in proper style, and then they will appear with some reporter's byline over them; they never call or email questions; they never verify the information. They just print it as is. Half the time, they even leave the typos.

I know that many reporters did not read the press packets we gave them at the X-prize launches, and I wonder if they paid attention to what they were told in the briefings, or if they paid attention to the launches themselves. Why do I say that? It's based on some of the questions they asked, most of which were already answered in the packets.

The reality is, that editors and reporters simply take what you tell them and run with it, unless you say something that is at odds with their perceptions of how things should be. Otherwise, they don't check; they don't question; they simply regurgitate. The only time they begin to do their supposed job is when you state something that is at odds with their world view.

When we look at how Reuters handled photos from those who sent them to them, when we see how they repeat the press releases of Hezbollah, it is obvious that they are not providing any oversight at all and have no clue how to research or to actually question anything. Reuters' behavior is consistent with my limited experience in dealing with news purveyors. Most reporters are simply all too human: rushed, harried, overtired--and living on deadline. They're just ordinary people with a very demanding and tough job that gets beyond them far too often.
This is annoying. CNN reports that Reuters has withdrawn 960 photographs taken by a Lebanese photographer because it's been proven that at least two of the photos were altered by his use of photoshop to make things look worse than they were.

Of course, then there are the captions that they've put on the photos to make things seem worse than they are too, or simply claiming the same person on two different days a week apart is fleeing from the same house that was just destroyed during a night time bombing raid--a photo clearly taken during the daytime. See Michelle Malkin, among others who have talked about this. Or repeating without comment claims by Hezbollah that are later shown to be false, as the report of 40 killed in a "massacre" that later turns out to be but one death. Tragic, but not quite the same as a "massacre." See the Jerusalem Post, among others.

If the news wishes to become the offical progandists for Hezbollah, then it would be nice if they'd admit it rather than continuing to claim that they are "unbiased." It seems obvious after a repeated pattern of "mistakes" and "this is contrary our policy" that all oddly seem to come out to favor the same side, that perhaps they really are rooting for Hezbollah.

I have been skeptical of much reporting lately anyhow, so now it has simply moved up a notch. So is anyone telling the truth? Do news people do any fact checking, do any research at all? I'd rather have biased news that tells me it's biased, rather than arogant reporters claiming objectivity who are just lying to me.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Today around 3:00 PM I finished the first draft of the book I was asked to write for that London publisher. I'm going to let it sit over the weekend before I begin the rewriting process. It's too long at the moment and so I'll have to do some cutting, on top of the other corrections and alterations that will no doubt be necessary.
Interesting interview with Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister of Israel, reported by the London Times. This excerpt is useful, since these are details that often seem to be omitted in a lot of the reporting about the war:

Q: But there is a sense in the world, and you must be aware of it, of lack of "proportionality". Many people question how after two soldiers kidnapped and eight killed by Hezbollah we are now seeing upwards of 400 dead and rising in Lebanon. How can such an initial incident justify such a huge response from Israel?

A: I think that you are missing a major part. The war started not only by killing eight Israeli soldiers and abducting two but by shooting Katyusha and other rockets on the northern cities of Israel on that same morning. Indiscriminately.

Now we know that for years Hezbollah - assisted by Iran - built an infrastructure of a very significant volume in the south part of Lebanon to be used against Israeli people. The most obvious, simple, way to describe it to the average British person is: can you imagine seven million British citizens sitting for 22 days in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham in Newcastle, in Brighton and in other cities? Twenty two days in shelters because a terrorist organisation was shooting rockets and missiles on their heads? What would have been the British reaction to that? Do you know of a country that would have responded to such a brutal attack on its citizens softer than Israel did? Based on my knowledge of history no country in Europe would have responded in such a restrained manner as Israel did.

I don’t want now to draw comparisons [but] one could ask the question what precisely did the European forces [do] in Kosovo 10 years ago. How many innocent civilians were killed in Kosovo 10 years ago? We can draw on and on these comparisons.

What are we talking about? More than a million Israelis are sitting 22 days in shelters because of the fear of terrorists. In every single case...that we kill an uninvolved civilian in Lebanon, we consider it as a failure for Israel. And you know how many Israelis raise their voices as a result of this? And they don’t have to because we feel that we failed when we killed uninvolved people.

The difference between us and Hezbollah is that when we kill innocent people we consider it a failure, when they kill innocent people they consider it a success.

Tell me, who are they aiming at when they shoot already 2800 rockets on Haifa, Hanariya, Akko, Sefat, Afula and the rest of the places, if not to kill innocent people? So I’m sorry for every individual that was killed that was not involved.

And by the way, how do you really know that 400 innocent civilians were killed? How do you know who is innocent and who is not? Why? This is not an army. They don’t wear uniforms that distinguish them from other civilians. We didn’t attack any of the Christian quarters of Beirut. We didn’t attack any of the Christian residential areas in any part of Lebanon. We attacked only those areas where they had the Katyusha launchers, where they had the missile launchers, where they had the command positions of Hezbollah, where they had the storage houses, the logistic centres and so on and so forth.

So the fact that people were killed there who were not dressed in uniforms doesn’t mean that they were innocent civilians. There were Hezbollah people, they are the terrorists. Did you ever see terrorists dressed with military uniforms like we have in our army? No.