Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Treason

A story on CNN indicates that, in the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the only two people in America ever to be put to death for the crime of treason, old testimony is now being reexamined. Experts say that Ethel Rosenberg's brother, David Greenglass, may have lied on the stand, accusing his sister of helping to type espionage notes for distribution. Although 46 witnesses gave testimony against the Rosenbergs, Greenglass's was considered the most damning against Ethel. Greenglass himself was working at Los Alamos, and was guilty, too, of providing secrets to the Russians - but, when arrested by the FBI in 1950, he was quick to implicate the Rosenbergs, and thus escaped a similar sentence.
Though the story here is involved and, without doubt, complicated, one thing stands out in my mind. We executed two people for, in essence, not being "patriotic enough." Where is the justice in that?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The religious "right"

Colorado officials have granted ballot status to Amendment 48, a document which, if passed and enacted, would change the legal definition of a "person" to be "any human being from the moment of fertilization."

Does this mean a miscarriage can be prosecuted as involuntary manslaughter?

Dark humor aside, this is a very serious issue. All manner of legal implications are entwined in this one little statement. Abortion, in-vitro fertilization, stem cell research, emergency contraception - even the jurisdiction of soon-to-be parents over their fetus in medical situations - and the rest of the proverbial "gamut" are capable of being involved. We don't even realize the full impact possible.
The timing here seems odd, given that, though Colorado is traditionally a red state (thanks to the relatively rich aerospace industry engineers who prefer to pay low taxes), it does, at the moment, have a liberal majority in the state legislative body. However, there is a growing number of "born again" Christians in the area around Colorado Springs, and this population may be behind the push for the amendment (I encourage readers to check out the movie Jesus Camp). An editorial in the Rocky Mountain News states that "the young woman who is credited with promoting this initiative believes that if a fertilized egg is declared a 'person,' she will be able to stop the use of many contraceptives and all abortions."

This is an utterly frightening concept for me.

I often joke with friends about defecting to Canada, but this just about clinches the deal. The government is formed by me (the people) and on my behalf. It is for my benefit. It's bad enough that I can't bring a bottle of shampoo on a plane; soon, the misplaced vindictiveness of fundamental Christians (don't forget, Jesus taught love and compassion) will prevent me from having any sort of control over my own body.

Never have I desired more strongly to say "my God, I'm pro-choice."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Story

As I drove to work this morning, I listened to the score to the movie The Rock and was reminded, once again, of how great music tells a story. But this trite consideration bade me pause. What does it mean that we appreciate a rollicking story or a narrative piece of music? We, collectively as a race, must be able to tell a good story before we can truly appreciate one, and conversely we must be able to appreciate a good story - if you'll excuse the expression, the Greatest Story Ever Told - before attempting to tell one. We think of such things as literature, art, music - culture - as commonplace, and yet we find it nowhere else in nature. Perhaps those elephants and gorillas which, at zoos, have been given a paintbrush and proclaimed painters, perhaps they are still developing the skill of storytelling so that one day theirs too may be told. But humanity, at the moment, is strikingly different, in that we assemble words and musical notes and brush strokes into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. This collectively innate ability is not accidental. We have developed this ability in order to see our own existence as something which must, as a composite, become greater than the sum of its parts. Here, of course, is where the cynic sees pendantic philanthropy, but here is also where I see God. God bids us become "perfect, like your heavenly Father is perfect," to become one with the Tao, to become connected to the Atman and know "that art thou." God's creativity expresses itself through our own, and just as a talented author's story must lead us down a coherent path to a triumphant conclusion, so too must our story end in the redemption of all humanity to that state which is greater still than each of us can accomplish of our own accord.

Monday, July 7, 2008

IYA 2009



2009, the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first astronomical use of a telescope, has been designated the International Year of Astronomy. A link to the website is here. To quote the organizers, "all humans should realize the impact of astronomy and basic sciences on our daily lives, and understand better how scientific knowledge can contribute to a more equitable and peaceful society." I encourage everyone to get involved.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My hero

I have discovered myself at the intersection of two of my favorite things, xkcd and MacGyver (in "Macgyver Gets Lazy"):











"At the time of this writing, Wikipedia has a wonderful article titled 'List of problems solved by Macgyver'." It's here.

I heard once that Richard Dean Anderson didn't like playing the character of Angus MacGyver, and preferred his role in Stargate-SG1. I desire that would not be true; however, if it is, it is only proof that we are more interested in being commanders than being problem-solvers, financiers rather than physicists. It would appear, then, that my hero is merely a character, fictitious, having no counterpart in the real world. What a sad day that is.