Sunday, January 20, 2008

Something They Didn't Predict...

"We regret to announce that due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, the publication of The Astrological Magazine will cease with the December 2007 issue."

Hat Tip: The Volokh Conspiracy

Saturday, January 12, 2008

How It Might Have Been for Harold, Iain and Jo.

For fans of alternative histories:

From La Libre Belgique, Friday 23rd October 1964:

Du chaos en Outre-Manche

The attempts by M. Wilson to form a new and stable government in Britain were given fresh impetus by the demands of his new coalition partner, the Liberal leader M. Grimond.

M. Grimond has called for Parliament to vote next Tuesday on Proportional Representation, his condition for remaining in the new government. He has also told M. Wilson that he expects the new Prime Minister to force a three-line whip upon Labour MPs, of whom a sizeable grouping seem extremely opposed.

Tomorrow, M. Wilson was due to oversee the independence ceremony of the colony of Northern Rhodesia. However, it appears that a Lord will be sent in his absence as he attempts to bring some stability to his own country.

Follow the unfolding story here at the Alternate History Discussion Board.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Truth Shall See Ye Fret

Pratchett not included in "Liberal Voice of the Year" poll.

My First Post on the 2012 American Presidential Election

It might be carried out on a more even basis:

"A Stanford University computer scientist named John Koza has formulated a compelling and pragmatic alternative to the Electoral College. It’s called National Popular Vote (NPV), and has been hailed as “ingenious” by two New York Times editorials. In April, Maryland became the first state to pass it into law. And several other states, including Illinois and New Jersey, are likely to follow suit.

How NPV works is this: Instead of a state awarding its electors to the top vote-getter in that state’s winner-take-all presidential election, the state would give its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. This would be perfectly legal because the U.S. Constitution grants states the right to determine how to cast their electoral votes, so no congressional or federal approval would be required. NPV could go into effect nationwide as soon as enough states pass it (enough states to tally 270 electoral votes—the magic number needed to elect a president). In 2008, NPV bills are expected to be introduced in all 50 states.

“We’ll have it by 2012,” says Robert Richie, executive director of the reform group Fair Vote.....

....Illinois is the quintessential example of the flaws in the current system. As a safe state for Democrats, both major party candidates ignore it. There is little motivation to campaign there since the winner in Illinois gets only 21 electoral votes and the loser gets nothing. As a result, Illinois voters play virtually no role in shaping the issues of the election".

Hat-tip: Echidne of the Snakes

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Finding Common Ground Between Christians And Atheists

I've found a semi-serious list of 10 things that Christians and atheists can agree on. For example, no 3:

3. In Everyday Life, You're Not That Different

You Christians, if the transmission in your Camaro explodes, are you going to use prayer to reconstruct it? No, you'll call a mechanic. When your tooth hurts, you don't assume it's possessed by demons. You look for a cavity. Basic, everyday troubleshooting.

Well, at the very worst, the atheists are just applying the same common sense, real-world troubleshooting to the God question. At the creation of the universe and in the heart of mankind, they expect to find the same physical, tangible answers they'd find inside a burnt transmission. If they're wrong about God, they're only wrong in that they've taken the tried-and-true troubleshooting we all practice one step too far.

On the other hand...

Atheists, even if you reject the idea of God completely and claim to live according only to the cold logic of the physical sciences, you all still live as if the absolute morality of some magical lawgiver were true.

No, wait. Don't go away.

When some guy hustles you out of eighty bucks in an ebay scam, you don't nod and say, "Interesting! This fellow lacks the genetic predisposition toward equitable dealing that generations of sexual selection in favor of social behavior has instilled in the rest of us! A fascinating difference!"

No, you think what that guy did was wrong. You want justice. You think he should have acted differently.

Even though there's no "wrong" molecule floating in the air and there's no "justice" element on the Periodic Table. You don't think of the swindler as just a fellow animal who happens to behave differently than you. You think he should have acted some other way, according to an invisible ideal that everybody is aware of and knows they should obey.

When that "boob at the Super Bowl" incident happened a while back, I constantly heard atheists making fun of Christians and their puritan silliness over sex. "Come on! It's just meat! We're all just mammals! Sex is natural! What are you afraid of?!?!?"

Yet, the moment you find out that while you were on vacation, your girl got drunk and slept with the entire Chicago Bears...

I've also found, on the smae website , a very funny list of the 9 most badass verses of the Bible. Not for biblical literalists.

Is It Time To Commission An Opinion Poll On Faith Schools?

There have been some very interesting discussions on Lib Dem Voice about how our party should interact with religious organisations and what we think about faith schools in particular.

I noticed one comment there (no 53) that official party policy is against faith schools - which is something that isn't often mentioned.

This issue isn't going to go away, especially if there is a likelihood of more faith schools being established. If more Islamic schools are going to be established, are they going to be based on priciples like this of the International Board of Research and Resources - "a brainchild of a group of Muslims stimulated into action by Brother Yusuf Islam.":
The primary sources of Islamic Education are universally recognised as follows:
1. The Qur’an
2. The Sunnah / Hadeeth
The secondary source of Islamic Education includes Ijtihad which is the interpretation and analytical deduction of scholars based on the primary sources of Knowledge, the Qur’an and Sunnah. This category of knowledge incorporates Ijma’ (consensus of the scholars); Qiyas (analogy); Istihsan (juristic preference); Istihslah (public interest); ‘Urf (common customs); the sayings of the Sahaaba and History.

I wouldn't like to see this as the basis for a British child's public education in maths, english, geography history, science etc. Neither do I want to see American-style battles over the teaching of evolution or even skirmishes with advocates of 'creationist physics'

Should we move out of the 'comfort zone' on this? Should it be in our manifesto for the next election to bring an end to faith schools? Or to put a freeze on the creation of new ones? I don't know. But I would really like to see the party commission a pollster to ask the public a question like this:

What policy would you like to see the government take on state-funded state schools?

1) Create ,if requested, more new state-funded 'faith' schools for the children of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh parents;
2)keep the existing ones open but not open any new ones except in exceptional circumstances;
3)turn all the existing faith schools into 'normal' state schools?

with the follow-up question:

If the Liberal Democrats adopted the policy you prefer, would you be more likely to vote for them?


"Uncertainty is the word I would use to describe the mood around Kenya this morning in contrast to fear and anger last night."

If you want to read some Kenyan blogs, Global Voices Online is a good place to start.

Bowling For Soup At My Age

Is it inevitable that my favourite music is still mostly from the 70s and 80s ?

I joined Facebook last week and when doing the music quiz on ilike I had to listen to a lot of bands I'd barely heard of before.

My favourite is definitely Bowling For Soup. Their '1985' is ironically enough, about someone whose musical tastes, and indeed entire dreams, are still trapped in the 1980s (devotees of Robert Palmer will enjoy the parody here):

And "High School Never Ends" is a wry reflection that adult life isn't much different to school '

Then when you graduate
You take a look around and you say HEY WAIT
This is the same as where I just came from
I thought it was over
That’s just great
The whole damn world is just as obsessed
With who‘s the best dressed and who‘s having sex,
Who‘s got the money, who gets the honeys,
Who‘s kinda cute and who‘s just a mess'

This is a very witty video, but those of a sensitive disposition, (especially after last night) may not want to see the simulated vomiting scene near the end:

Maybe Facebook is going to keep me young....
Chris expresses his own views on this weblog.

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