Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Daytime TV Bad for Your Brain?

Well, duh. But now there may be scientific evidence:

Could Oprah and General Hospital be bad for your brain?

New research suggests that elderly women who watch daytime soap operas and talk shows are more likely to suffer from cognitive impairment than women who abstain from such fare.
I love the next line:
Researchers stress that it's not clear if watching these TV shows leads to weaker brainpower, or vice-versa. And they say it's possible that another explanation might be at work.
So, we don't really know if watching TV makes you stupid, or being stupid makes you watch TV. Heh.

I'm still waiting for the study on prime time programming and network news.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bloggers Invited to Translate Saddam Documents

Roger L Simon has the story:

Back in mid-February Pajamas Media went to Washington to cover the Intelligence Summit and did video interviews with Congressman Hoekstra (chair of the House Intell Committee), former DCI Woolsey and Richard Perle, among others. In all those interviews we discussed our idea - new to all of them - that the myriad untranslated Saddam tapes and documents be released to the blogosphere for translation. The three men all, to one degree or another, liked the idea, although they were surprised by it. Today, it was announced that at the instigation of Hoekstra these documents have been released by the Pentagon for ... and this is how it was worded on the Brit Hume Show on Fox News ... for translation by the blogosphere.
Whoa! This may well be the biggest story of the year.

Simon is collecting translations here: iraq dash-sign translations at-sign pajamas media dot-character com

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Coming Collapse of China

Front Page interviews Gordon Chang author of The Coming Collapse of China:

As China gets more prosperous, it is becoming less stable. Senior Beijing officials now face the dilemma of all reforming authoritarians: economic success endangers their continued control. As Harvard's Samuel Huntington has noted, sustained modernization is the enemy of one-party systems. Revolutions occur under many conditions, but especially when political institutions do not keep up with the social forces unleashed by economic change. And as history shows us, nothing irritates a rising social class like inflexible political institutions. The most interesting trend about protests in recent years is not that they are becoming more frequent, getting much larger, or growing more violent. The most interesting trend is that we are now seeing middle-class Chinese, the beneficiaries of the last quarter century of progress, taking to the streets.


Unfortunately, positive change will not come as fast as it should, in part because we have created a set of perverse incentives. The Chinese engage in bad behavior. We reward them. So they continue their irresponsible conduct. We reward them still more. In these circumstances, why would they ever change?

So is our policy toward China succeeding? Not yet. Will it succeed? Yes, in the long term. But there may be no long term.
Lots more at the link. I think Chang may be a bit optimistic in predicting the collapse of Chinese Communism by the end of the decade, but his analysis seems fairly level-headed.

Defining Persecution

I received the following email from Vision America:

In less than 3 weeks (on March 27-28) Vision America's The War On Christians Conference will convene at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C.


Let me tell you about just one of our panels - Christian Persecution: Reports From The Front Lines.
This is a topic that is usually near to my heart, but continuing on, I found what they were really talking about:
The panelists all have experienced anti-Christian discrimination firsthand. They are:

Lloyd Marcus, an African-American artist, who initially had his paintings censored from a public showing for Black History Month, because they contained church scenes.

Pastor Tom Crouse, from Massachusetts, who was charged over $6,200 for police protection for a public meeting on coming out of the homosexual lifestyle, in an attempt to stifle his First Amendment rights.

Michael Marcavage was one of the Philadelphia Four - Christian activists who were arrested and prosecuted for quietly witnessing at a gay festival. If convicted, each could have been sentenced to up to 47 years in prison.

Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt is a Navy Chaplain who was almost discharged from the service for publicly praying in Jesus name.
OK, I don't deny that these are important issues, and the folks involved are right to make the issue public. But is this persecution? Compare these problems with the sort of thing going on in other parts of the world.

After preaching God’s Word at a New Years service at Beradakia Church in his native town of Baliguda, Kandhamala district in India, 35-year-old Pastor Jimendra Nayak (Mantu) never made it home to the village of Barakhema. At 8:00 p.m. on January 1, 2006, Nayak took an auto rickshaw after service to return to his home in Puri district, where he has lived for two years and served as pastor of Indian Church Assembly. He didn’t leave the vehicle alive.


It is reported that when Nayak’s widow, Sashrekh Pradhan, and relatives initially attempted to file a complaint looking into the suspected murder, but the police officer to which it was submitted rejected it. The person assisting the widow as she prepared a petition for an investigation into the death of her husband was harshly rebuked by the presiding officer. No inquiry about the cause of Nayak’s death was made before the complaint, and no action was taken once it was filed. For six weeks following the pastor’s death, relatives have unsuccessfully tried numerous times to attain a postmortem report.


Furthermore, Pastor Nayak’s widow and relatives divulged that radical Hindus targeted him for some time, approaching him on numerous occasions because of his witness to Hindus. He was threatened and restrained from carrying out his missionary work in the community.

North Korea:
It is believed that tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps where they face cruel abuses, according to the 2006 World Watch List report. Some think the hermit regime has detained more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world. On occasion, North Koreans become Christians after crossing the border with China and entering into contact with local Christians. But many are exposed as believers when they return to North Korea and are targeted to be caught. Many face torture and death. Though no exact figures can be given, Open Doors’ staff estimates that hundreds of Christians were killed by the regime in 2005.

This is not to mention Saudi Arabia (number 2 on the above mentioned World Watch List), Yemen, Indonesia, Burma and many other countries where there are actual death penalties for converting to Christianity.

Dubai to Divest?

Rossputin notes:

CNBC is reporting that Dubai Ports World will transfer the ports that they would have run as part of their takeover of P&O to a US Entity.

Senator John Warner was on the floor of the Senate announcing the transfer of the US ports to a US investor. I think they gave him the news because he has been one of the few voices of reason in the Senate on the issue.
There is no link in the above blog, but here is the story from the Washington Post:
The United Arab Emirates company that was attempting to take over management operations at six U.S. ports announced today that it will divest itself of all American interests.

The announcement appears to head off a major confrontation that was brewing between Congress and the Bush administration over the controversial deal.


It was not immediately clear how the divesture would be handled or what U.S. company would take over the operation.

Warner's announcement came just hours after Republican leaders from the House and Senate met with President Bush to tell him Congress appeared ready to block the deal.
This has always struck me as a tempest in a teapot, but it illustrates how difficult this administration seems to find comminicating its ideas. I suspect that Bush, who ran as a "compassionate conservative" in 2000, has never really understood the philosophical underpinings of conservatism. This was abundantly clear as he fumbled with the definition of "judicial activism" in his explanation of the Harriet Miers nomination, and his earlier inability to persuasively argue his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment. (Hint: They were both bad ideas to start with.)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

SD Governor Signs Abortion Ban

Governor Rounds has signed the bill:

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds signed a bill Monday that bans nearly all abortions in the state, legislation in direct conflict with the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973.


"The reversal of a Supreme Court opinion is possible," Rounds said, pointing to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that reversed the 1896 ruling that states could segregate public facilities by race if equal facilities were offered.

The bill "will give the United States Supreme Court a similar opportunity to reconsider an earlier opinion."
It is tactically smart to associate the Roe v Wade case in the public mind with that other egregious example of bad jursiprudence Plessy v Ferguson although I think it would have been better to mention it by name rather than the cryptic "1896 ruling". (Perhaps that was the work of the editor at CNN?)

Nevertheless, I have to stand by my previous prediction that this gambit will fail at the Supreme Court level. We can only count on at most 4 votes (Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito) and the latter two have not yet established that they are as sympathetic to pro-live arguments as many are assuming. If people are counting on Kennedy to go with the as-yet-not-proven pro-life faction they are forgetting his history.
As lawyers and court watchers have long suspected, the Supreme Court was ready to effectively overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion in 1992, but Justice Anthony M. Kennedy got cold feet, and the vote went the other way.
If they are banking on the "strong possibility" of Justice Stevens retiring (as this NYT piece obliquely suggests) I think they are living in a dream world. But even if that should come to pass, as I mentioned previously, passing this law would make it much less likely that a pro-life justice will survive the confirmation hearings. Even the National Right to Life Committee seems to think this is a bad idea:
Cristina Minniti, a spokeswoman for the National Right to Life Committee, said no one from her organization was available to be interviewed on the South Dakota law. Instead, she issued a one paragraph statement which stated, in part: "Currently there are at least five votes, a majority, on the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade."
The NRLC website does not even mention this as of 8:30 PST.

(New York Times link via Althouse)

UPDATE: Here is the text of the law.

Friday, March 03, 2006

St. Paris?

I don't really care who wins the Oscars tonight and I certainly don't have any predictions. But this story caught my attention:

Paris Hilton is thrilled to be playing Mother Teresa in an upcoming biopic.


"The preliminary script has been readied. And the proceeds of the film would go to the Missionaries of Charity. By June this year, the groundwork for the film would be complete and I propose to begin shooting in West Bengal and several foreign countries in early 2007."

Hilton explained, "It's such an honour. I'm so excited. I really want to learn more about this amazing woman, so that's what I'm doing in a few months."

In preparation for the role, Paris is apparently joining the Order of Mother Teresa missionaries, and will travel around Bangalore and Calcutta to care for the sick.
No doubt there is some attempt at shock value going on here, but I think it may be worthy of respect. If people are drawn to a film about Mother Theresa for the mere spectacle of seeing how her polar opposite handles the role, they will still be watching a film about Mother Theresa. And playing the role of a saint (or even a candidate for beatification) may well have a salutary effect on Ms. Hilton's character. It could hardly do much harm, could it?

Of course, all of this assumes that the film will be well-written and respectful and that Paris Hilton can actually act. I have no idea whether any of these things will turn out to be true. But to those of my faith who are already getting set to be outraged, consider: if sluts such as you and I can act the role of the Bride of Christ, why should Ms. Hilton not be given a shot at an admittedly lesser role?