Monday, April 30, 2007

The Fallacy (?) of "Personally Opposed, But..."

The Fallacy of "Personally Opposed, But..." - The American Spectator

Daniel Allott thinks the "Personally opposed, but..." stance is fallacious. He is wrong about that.

He starts out with a quote.
"I'm in the same position now that I was 12 years ago, when I ran for mayor, or as mayor, which is personally opposed to abortion, don't like it, hate it, would advise that woman have an adoption, rather than an abortion. And I will help you find the money for it. ...But it's your choice. It's an individual right. You get to make that choice."
-- Rudy Giuliani, CNN interview, April 5, 2007
Sounds reasonable to me. Sounds respectful of other people's views.

Back in 2004, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry insisted he was "personally opposed" to abortion; Hillary Clinton has called it "a sad, tragic choice"; and Barack Obama has described it as a "personal tragedy."
So what? Though I'm not personally opposed to abortion, even I would just as soon it didn't happen. I'd much prefer that people took care to avoid a generally avoidable medical procedure. Even I don't think abortion is a good means of birth control.

If he didn't consider the unborn child a human being and/or didn't think that abortion hurt women, there would be little reason for him to oppose it, especially with words like "wrong," "hate" and "tragedy."

In other words, if the child in utero were merely a "cluster of cells" and if the effects of abortion on women were "mainly positive," as Planned Parenthood insists, why would anyone oppose it on a personal, or any, level?

No one would, of course, which is what makes the "personally opposed, but..." position so dishonest (and why it is in a very real sense a more deplorable position than that of the abortion advocate who fails to recognize the essence of abortion).
What?? That no one would oppose abortion if pro-choice views were correct makes the "personally opposed, but..." stance dishonest? Come on, that doesn't follow. Coming from someone claiming to point out a fallacy it borders on being dishonest itself.

To acknowledge the grave injustice of abortion yet still promote its perpetuation is like saying: "I'm opposed to slavery but...
No, it is not. Slavery involves the criminal denial of another autonomous person's human rights.

But, Mr. Allott is likely to protest, the "cluster of cells" IS a person.

No, it is not. It might become a person, but it is not a person. A person is not defined by the DNA in his cells, nor by the stage of development of cells containing DNA. The "cluster of cells" is no more a person than it is a chimp or a tumor. Or a slave.

In the end, the "personally opposed, but..." position on abortion cloaks itself in reason and compassion; but, it is merely a rhetorical device that shields the politician who refuses to follow through on in public what he purports to believe in private.
In some cases, "personally opposed, but..." is simply pragmatic, something it is necessary to do, rather like going to church in this country. I'm sure that there are good and honest people of faith involved in politics. There are also good and honest people of NO faith involved in politics, but to be there they have to indulge Nature's little while lie.

In other cases, "personally opposed, but..." reflects respect for the views of others, and a sense of freedom lacking in those who would impose their implausible beliefs on others.

Different strokes for different folks.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

President Bush Infuriates Me Sometimes

I have no illusions about the informative value of television news, but for some silly reason I still check it out in the evenings, though less and less as time goes by. Cervantes' rant is right on the money.

Last night the tube brought us a rambling discourse from the President about Iraq war funding legislation that he's about to receive, and which he will veto due to inclusion of a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. As he yammered and stammered, Mr. Bush accused the Congress of a sin along the lines of making military decisions for the military.

That was a bit much for me, and I'm not particularly happy about having yelled "ASSHOLE!" at the image on the screen in the presence of my son. If Mr. Bush's administration hadn't been so guilty of precisely that sin, maybe Iraq wouldn't be the hopeless tar pit it is today.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Black Sabbath returns to tour with '80s lineup

Guess where I'm going tonight?

Black Sabbath returns to tour with '80s lineup

Hey, I know of at least a few people in that building that'll be as old or older than yours truly. ;>)

Ozzy is off doing another gig. That's Ronnie James Dio on vocals tonight.

"Heaven and Hell". It should be fun.


Tardy update:

This will be the last show I attend at the Dodge Theater in Phoenix. It's a nice enough venue, but I am completely incompatible with the acoustics there. On top of not caring for the first band, and not being much of a fan of the second, both played so loud that my clothing was fluttering in the sound pressure waves, vocals were unintelligible, and frequencies higher than about 500 Hz all mixed into a deafening hiss. I found myself wishing for a sound level meter to satisfy curiosity, and when I walked out to the entryway to get away from it, it wasn't enough. I had to go outside the building for a while. Crazy. It reminded me of being on the turbine deck, or even the compressor area, of a large power plant (where you'd get in trouble for not having your earplugs in place) without earplugs.

When I came back in during the break before Sabbath and was asked where I'd been, my "It was too goddamn loud!" was met with two or three incredulous "No!"s, and one guy in the row in front of us said, "That's an old guy talking." Well, that's true enough, but I've been to a lot of shows and this was bad.

For some reason Black Sabbath sounded better than the two preceding bands (Machinehead and Megadeth). Sabbath was loud, too, but somehow I was able to make out Dio's lyrics and the higher frequencies weren't as muddled. Maybe they played a bit lower, maybe they played a bit better, maybe they played with better equipment, I don't know.

In any event, no more rock shows at Dodge Theater for me.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"You're going to leave her dead."


Diario La Hora. Deporte.

Somehow, I don't think this ad would cut it in the sports section of, oh, say, the New York Times.

Translated, it reads:

You're going to leave her dead.
Actra-RX - Sexual Power
  • Superior to all the others
  • Free delivery throughout the republic
  • Telephone...


Of course, "dead" is actually a, what, metaphor?, for "absolutely satiated".


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Supernatural Superstition

Al Jazeera English - News:
'We don't want to expose Muslims to supernatural and superstitious beliefs,' the Berita Harian newspaper quoted [Abdul Shukor Husin, National Fatwa Council chair,] as saying.

Oh My ...

Growing In Grace

Well, since I think an omnipotent God is perfectly within His rights and capabilities to be anything to anyone, this guy could actually be for real.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Moustache, La (2005)

Moustache, La (2005)

La Moustache is quite a good movie. Some reviewers seem to have interpreted it differently, but I thought it portrayed a man, from his own perspective, falling into schizophrenia.

I probably just revealed my ignorance of schizophrenia, but there you have it. Good flick. Well acted, well filmed, generally nice characters, good story.

French with English subtitles.

Monday, April 09, 2007

BBC NEWS | Americas | BC cartoonist dies while drawing

BBC NEWS | Americas | BC cartoonist dies while drawing

I like that he died at his storyboard. If you've gotta go, what better way than quickly while doing what you love.

BC and The Wizard of Id are two of my favorite cartoons.

Long live Johnny Hart.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Guatemalan Indian Child by Valerius

I guess it was back in the early 60's that my Mother had a painter friend who went by the name Valerius. He was European, if memory serves, but he wasn't the Belgian Valerius who died in 1946, or the Russian Valerius who was born in 1969.

My wife and I have had this painting since I don't know when. Today I was playing around with a new cellphone that incorporates a camera, and was looking for things to take pictures of, and so here it is.

Actually, no. The one in this post I took with my more suitable Olympus Stylus 300 Digital camera. The cellphone version is here, but it's not a fair comparison. I took the cellphone version while the picture was on the wall in a fairly dark hallway, whereas for the Olympus version, I took the painting outside into full daylight and used the flash (not to mention a few more pixels with greater color depth, and a better lens). Just for grins, I think I'll give the cellphone camera another shot at a fairer comparison.

I've always liked this painting. I think Valerius caught the child's tears just about right. Her hand, nervously at her mouth, adds a little something I don't think I've seen in any other painting.

I remember meeting this Valerius, but I don't remember anything else about him. I think my Mother met him in her capacity as number two in the Guatemalan tourist commission, where she was, naturally enough, heavily involved in promoting tourism to Guatemala (something she loved doing, and carried on by establishing a travel agency with a couple of partners when she left the tourist office).

I'm glad I got that silly cellphone camera. Now I appreciate this painting a little bit more.

Leaving Las Vegas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Leaving Las Vegas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Why did I watch this movie? I saw that it was playing on one of the cable movie channels, and that Elizabeth Shue and Nicholas Cage were in it, and I recognized the title, so I told the DVR to record it without knowing what it was about.

The acting was great, and the story was compelling, but what a bummer of a movie! I don't know whether Cage's acting the drunk was good or not. I've been around drunks before, even been drunk myself, but I've never been around anyone quite that far gone. I've heard of DT's but never seen them. If they are anything like what Cage portrayed, that's some scary shit.

According to the Wikipedia article, the movie got very good reviews. Cage got an Oscar for Best Actor and Shue a nomination for Best Actress. It was very well done, but why did I watch this movie? Why did they make it? Why not make another movie about drawn-out suicide, or even painful death by cancer, say? I'm sure someone in the industry could create an Oscar-worthy film along those lines, but why?

On the other hand, why do Blackhawk Down, Hotel Rwanda or Reservoir Dogs? Straw Dogs? Deliverance?

Never mind.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Common Grace

WARREN: The truth is, religion is mutually exclusive. The person who says, "Oh, I just believe them all," is an idiot because the religions flat-out contradict each other. You cannot believe in reincarnation and heaven at the same time.

Why the hell not? Who is this pastor to question the capabilities of a being he claims is omnipotent? Why is God's mystery stopped by this pastor's church's dogma?

I've never heard a person say anything like, "Oh, I just believe them all." Maybe what's really being said to this pastor is a more polite version of, "I don't care. Just stop preaching at me."

I'm amazed that Harris has the energy to keep plugging away. I wouldn't. More power to Sam Harris.

Vista (and iTunes video playback)

About three weeks ago I bought a Windows laptop computer at Costco (sorry Apple, I would have preferred a Mac but I could not afford the one I'd have been satisfied with). Nowadays these things all come with Windows Vista, which, being new to me, made Costco's generous return policy especially important. The machine I bought is an "HP Pavilion dv6253cl Entertainment Notebook PC".

So far so good. Pretty much. A couple of things have bothered me, though.

I've not been partial to Symantec security products for some time, but that's what's bundled with the machine so I'm using it for now. Along the way, something prompted me to run Microsoft's free online "Windows Live OneCare Safety Scan for Windows Vista" (beta). Son of a gun if it didn't report several instances of something called "Trojan:HTML/Bankfraud.M" buried in some gzip files in my Firefox cache. I don't know why Norton didn't notice these things on the way in, nor am I all that confident it wasn't a false positive by OneCare. What I know is that, for reasons rational or not, I have more confidence in Kaspersky and will buy a second license to put on my laptop.

The other thing that bothered me was the incompatibility with iTunes. I read all I could find about the incompatibility that's widely known and figured it would be no big deal. It hasn't been a big deal and iTunes is working well on my new computer. With one exception, that is: video playback. Watching videos with iTunes on Vista was only possible if a slow slide show would have been acceptable. The video playback remedies on Apple's website had no effect. Scratch videos on iTunes.

Now it turns out there's an issue with iTunes on Vista with SATA hard drives, and that's what's been bothering me all along. A post on the iTunes support forum said the poster had been able to get videos to play properly by copying them to a flash drive to avoid the SATA hard drive. Sure enough, when I tried my thumb drive the video played beautifully.

I suppose Apple or Microsoft will have this problem fixed before too long. When they do, I'll be about as satisfied with this new computer and this new operating system as I expected to be.

As I type I'm reminded that the keyboard seems to be defective, failing to register spacebar strokes rather frequently. Maybe it's just some stickiness that'll clear up with usage. In fact, I think I just cleared it up by forcefully striking the right side of the spacebar a few times. It's OK as I type now.

If I had to do it over again, I would. I think Vista is solid enough, and will get better as issues are discovered and patches issued.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The art of fooling around

BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | The art of fooling around

I was a little young to have noticed the BBC spaghetti hoax, but one of the best April Fool hoaxes I've seen was, if memory serves, an NBC News piece by John Chancelor 30 years or so ago. It was a report on the state of the pickle crop, complete with footage of the pickle orchard, workers and all.

Scientific American has had some memorable April Fool pieces, too. One I remember was about how you could increase the mass of a block of gold by simply cutting it up in a certain way, and then put it back together again in a different form. The article started out by showing how you could increase the area of a piece of paper by cutting it into a certain pattern and then put the pieces back together differently. They then extrapolated to three dimensions to increase the volume of the block of gold.

I'm happy to say I didn't fall for it, but I didn't spot the trick right away, either.

Another Scientific American April Fool piece was about a method for connecting one end of a wire to a stationary base, and the other end to a rotating platform, in such a way that the wire would not be twisted when the rotating platform rotated. The piece was complete with detailed drawings of a lab device with a conduit passing through the axis of the rotating platform with a geared mechanism to change the relationship of the wire conduit to the rotating platform as it rotated. Something like that. This may be my favorite April Fool joke of all time.

April Fool?