You Go To The Census With The Housing That You Have
You'd expect better than this from an ordained minister:
"In the last [Bush] budget, we cut housing again, and that was Jesus' dilemma. In Bethlehem, his family ended up homeless," Jackson told MSNBC's Campbell Brown.
"Rome was a wealthy country that left Jesus and Mary and Joseph, in a sense, homeless," he complained. "He was born an at-risk baby."
Jackson is playing a dishonest game of semantics. He is comparing those who never have a formal residence to those who do but can't find a place to stay when they go on out-of-town trips.
And Bethlehem didn't have a shortage on either housing or inns; the Roman census caused the town's normal influx of travelers to skyrocket to levels that could not have been forecast and would not repeat itself in the foreseeable future. (Fortunately, we don't run censuses like that any more.)
If nobody else was taking up the stable where Mary and Joseph stayed, I'd say that Bethlehem did a pretty decent job of accommodating the overflow with the available resources.
The new leader of the ruling Fatah movement said the Palestinians want to replace Israel with a state of their own.
Fatah chief Farouk Khaddoumi [also spelled "Kaddoumi" - AKH] said the Palestinian strategy toward Israel was two-fold. In the first stage, he said, the Palestinians would accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In the second stage, the Palestinians would seek to eliminate the Jewish state.
In November, Khaddoumi replaced the late Yasser Arafat as leader of Fatah, Middle East Newsline reported.
"At this stage there will be two states," Khaddoumi told Iran's Al Aram television last week. "Many years from now, there will be only one."
Wikipedia has a brief bio on Khaddoumi (aka Abu Lutef) here.
Martuni or Bust!!! "A look at city/village life in Nagorno-Karabagh" - a disputed region controlled by Armenia - see Wikipedia entry here. in That's in Armenia. Bloghost Ara Manoogian reports that the Netherlands officially recognizes the Armenian genocide of 1915, and Turkey doesn't. An article reprinted in this post expresses understandable apprehensions against Armenian involvement in the Iraq War (and an implied overestimation of the strength of the Iraqi rebel forces).
Today a photo of a woman being prepared for execution by stoning in Iran went out to people on the Free Iran! email list. I did a little Googling and found a Farsi-language blog with this (second from top) and several other images of women facing - or having undergone - execution.
Blog name: "The Unity of the Youth."
Post title: "The oppression and genetive cruelty to deprived women in Iran."
Text of post: "The stoning and barbarous mass execution of freedom-fighting women, the sacrifices to poverty and calamity."
Update: Translations provided by Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi via email correspondence.
And one member of the press got it wrong about armor upgrades in Iraq:
The reporter who managed to get a National Guardsman serving in Iraq to question Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about why his unit's vehicles lacked sufficient armor coached the soldier using false information.
In fact, by the time Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts rehearsed Spc. Thomas "Jerry" Wilson on what to say to Rumsfeld, the Pentagon had already up-armored 97 percent of the vehicles in Thomas' 278th Regimental Combat Team, senior members of the Army's combat systems development and acquisition team said Thursday.
Further undermining the premise of Pitts' question, orders to up-armor the last 20 of the 278th's 830 vehicles were already in the pipeline when he engineered the bogus inquiry.
Update: Great minds think alike - check out the words that Cox and Forkum put in Rummy's mouth.
Today an irate teacher berated Sean Hannity for "putting teachers down." That's the impression she got from his attacks on the education system.
Hey sister, I'm gonna be more blunt than Hannity. Your industry sucks. Teacher qualification is not the main issue, although the current system lacks checks and balances to weed out incompetence. (At least the concept of tenure hasn't trickled down to the K-12 level.) The main issue is policy, which is set not by teachers but by politicians and union leaders. Among the top policy issues:
The curricula is becoming increasingly driven by ideology rather than academics.
The flurry of standardized testing dumbs down education. The tests represent basic knowledge. To prepare students for the tests, teachers are forced to keep their students at the basic level of knowledge and have little room to encourage them to go beyond that.
School curricula are not diverse enough to meet the demands of the market. Education transmits both knowledge and culture. We are not culturally monolithic, and (beyond the basic level) we do not have the same informational needs.
The root of all these problems is the very existence of public education. The jobs of its policy makers are not dependent on their ability to please parents. They are structurally immune to the pressures of marketplace demand - because there's no marketplace to begin with. As I wrote in Part III of my "School and State" series:
The free market is not an impersonal force; it is simply the sum total of all the choices to buy and sell made by a society's individuals. It defines the individual's means to determine how he or she will and will not interact with other individuals - economically, culturally, and otherwise. The free market is the cornerstone of harmonious coexistence between diverse individuals and diverse groups; people are content when they are not forced from engaging in peaceable interactions they desire and forced into dealings they find objectionable. Public education empowers government to arbitrate the trade of information and culture within the schools; it is the enemy of individual liberty and social harmony.
Underscoring Isaac Asimov's series of novels and short stories about robots is a attempt at risk management known as the Three Laws of Robotics:
A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Asimov later developed a Zeroth Law, taking precedence over the original three:
A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
Artificial intelligence conquering humanity is a time-honored plot device in novel and especially film. Often In some cases the machines are guided by something alien to the Three Laws. The Cylons of Battlestar Galactica misinterpreted the original intent of a command to eliminate imperfection and waged a war of annihilation against sentient biological life. (The robot Nomad makes a similar error in judgment in the Star Trek TOS episode The Changeleing). Skynet, the master intelligence in the Terminator series, reverses the order of the Three Laws and seeks to destroy humanity in self-defense when the pesky humans try to shut it off.
On other occasions, the robots/computers attempt to conquer humanity in order to protect it. In both the 1970 film The Forbin Project and this year's I, Robot (based very loosely on Asimov's short stories - see also this Wikipedia entry), a central computer (or two, in the former) figures out the Zeroth Law on its own and attempts to implement it through global conquest. For our own good.
Question: what is missing from the Laws and Robotics? Some may suggest that the crucial fault lies in the limits of artificial intelligence, the inability of even the most sentient-like computer to comprehend all situations fully. This will be a problem with artificial intelligence when and if it becomes that sophisticated. But the root problem lies much deeper: its checks and balances are completely internalized; it has full power to interpret conflicts between the Laws on its own accord without consulting human authority. A system of checks and balances is among the needs of humanity and the individual per Laws 0 and 1, and must not be ignored.
This lesson applies to government. Like Asimov's robots, it is a servant that must bow to a) humanity's well-being and the individual's b) well-being and c) desires - in order of precedence - ahead of d) itself. In keeping with Laws 0 and 1, its agencies must be answerable to each other and to the citizen; what is done "for our own good" must not violate this principle.
Y'all may be aware of the furor over National Geographic's map of the Middle East:
In its latest world atlas, National Geographic added "Arabian Gulf" in parentheses beneath "Persian Gulf" to label the body of water that cuts along the coasts of Iran and its Arab neighbors.
What motivated this decision? Naturally, some people are blaming the Zionist-Saudi conspiracy:
"Under the influence of the U.S. Zionist lobby and the oil dollars of certain Arab governments, the society has distorted an undeniable historical reality," wrote Hassan Hanizadeh in Tehran Times, a leading daily newspaper...From the left to the right to the disaffected, Iranians rallied against the offending American magazine. They blamed the "Zionists," accused the Arabs and lambasted the Americans.
Here's one site that explores the Saudi connection (link received via Free Iran! email).
Update: If the idea of a Zionist-Saudi conspiracy seems unlikely, consider a Tehran Timesarticle that claims that al-Jazeera is controlled by the Jews (link via Right Thinking from the Left Coast). I report, you decide.
Dugulescu was also a figure in the Timisoara protests in 1989 that played a role in igniting the 1989 revolution in Romania. The protests were sparked by the government's crackdown on Laszlo Tokes, pastor of the Hungarian Reformed Church in that town. That history can be found in Charles Colson's book The Body, Bob Bultman's Revolution By Candlelight, and an online report by Samford University professor Dr. Mark Elliott. Quoting Elliot, Tokes had run afoul of the authorities by standing up against "Romanian discrimination against ethnic Hungarians, government manipulation of his church’s leadership, and state plans to destroy culturally priceless historic urban districts and thousands of peasant villages." On this day in 1989, Tokes was notified that he and his family would be evicted from his residence on December 15. Elliott describes the events:
The fearless stand of Rev. Tökés and his church came to a climax the weekend of December 15-17, and to the amazement of all concerned triggered massive sympathy demonstrations first in Timisoara, then in Bucharest, toppling the Ceausescu regime in a matter of days. It all started on Friday, December 15, with a moving truck pulling up in front of the parsonage of the Reformed Church of Timisoara. In the words of Peter Dugulescu, pastor of the Timisoara First Baptist Church, "First the believers from his (Reformed) churches and then, believers from other denominations and many other people . . . came out to support him. The truck remained unloaded . . . Tökés addressed the people from a window, asking them to trust God, to be peaceful. . . . The mayor of the town also addressed the people that had gathered (Reformed, Baptist, Catholic, and Orthodox; Hungarian and Romanian) . . . asking them to disperse, but the crowd would not."
On Saturday evening, December 16, Rev. Dugulescu drove by the Reformed church meeting Daniel Gavra, a twenty-four-year-old railway worker from his church who told his pastor that he and other young people were there to defend Tökés. He showed me that he brought with him (hidden under his coat) a bundle of candles, and he told me that after it got dark, he was going to distribute them to the young people, to keep them burning in front of Pastor Tökés’ house." Badly wounded in subsequent fighting Gavra had to have a leg, amputated. His words to his pastor from his hospital bed were that he had lost a leg but he had lit the first candle.
On Saturday evening, December 16, the crowds surrounding the Reformed church came under attack by the police and were sprayed with foam and water from first engines. "People were running, others were forced into buses and later that evening many were arrested." Tökés himself was arrested on Sunday, December 17, while about 5:00 p.m. that evening, Dugulescu reports, "the first shootings were heard in the city. . . . In the square between the opera house and the cathedral, people stayed the whole night . . . among them there was a girl from our church near the opera house, and she hid and saw how armed terrorists, dressed in army uniforms, fire machine-guns at the crowds of people." Afterwards she counted 382 dead bodies between the opera and the cathedral.
Now that Ken Jennings has ended his Jeopardy run and quit his day job, he needs to plan for his financial future. He's 30 years old, and $2.5 million (minus taxes) won't last forever. What should he do? Here's one idea: he could look into low-budget filmmaking. His first project could be a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much.