Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I'm preparing for a family vacation next week and working feverishly through major upheavals at work that all seem to have reached crisis points at the same time I'm due to leave. So what's the perfect thing to have happen? A carload of jokers drove down my street last night busting out car windows... lucky me, a new window is only $205 installed.

I never have understood the thrill of destruction... oh, soaping windows or a little catchy restroom graffiti, a little fancy driving, sure... but breaking out car windows? Where's the thrill in that? What's the attraction? I imagine them sitting around some parking lot, each with a can of Bud and hats on backwards saying, "Oh, man, did you tag that van window!". . . No . . . that just doesn't ring true to me.

At my last high school reunion I listened to some stories, like some guys I knew (who I never would have suspected as being crazy at the time) aimed a starter pistol out their car window at a car next to them. A car chase ensued that covered most of two counties and ended with police at parents' doors. No damage done, but damage could have been done had there been an accident. But these guys, last night, came down our street looking to pop car windows.

It's hard to get my head around that... it's not like stealing, where they get something out of it (although as I was scheduling the repair I thought, "wouldn't it be smart for the auto-glass place to hire teenagers to go around smashing out windows"). I don't know... it's probably something I shouldn't spend time trying to figure out... like The Pew Lady says, it's prideful to play the "What if" game. I imagine it's prideful to play the "Why do people do the things they do" game as well; it just distracts you from things to which you should be paying attention and makes you linger on the randomness of specificities.

Monday, June 07, 2004

OK, here we go. 58 Senators seek to loosen stem cell research restrictions. Now the death of Ronald Reagan will be used to fuel a ground swell of support for stem cell research. The emotion of the moment will bulldoze anyone trying to stand in the way.

Mark Roberts is on a trip to Europe... and his blog has gone with him.

I had to be at work this morning before dawn and drove by St. Paul's Catholic Church, which is being torn down because the 100 year old building is too expensive to repair. The back wall was gone, was a pile of brick and rubble, was open to the air and I could see into the great vault of the empty church. The razing of this particular church building had begun late in the night, just a couple of hours before I drove past. The air was brightening, a light blue dawn, but the vault of the church was still murky with dust. It appeared as though the stained glass windows had been removed already because the windows up high, above the alter, were clear, white-blue arches. I didn't have my digital camera with me or I might have parked and snapped a few pictures because it was an eerie site, a sad sight. I'm sure countless soldiers in World War II saw just what I was seeing this morning, the insides of a church razed and open to the air, but still, all of the prayers of a hundred years, all of the baptisms, all of the glory and tears the building represents... all going, all fading into the death of memory.

What was it Baudelaire wrote... something like,

I idolize you like the vault of night,
tall woman, vase of all sadness.
I love you more since you're apart from me
and since you seem, through trickery of light,
to further fade into the miles that lie
between my arms and blue immensity.

Sometimes, headline writers let their true hearts out for all to see. "Genes may be to blame for infidelity," says the headline, but in the article, scientists stress, "genes alone do not determine whether somebody is likely to be unfaithful." So this is what is taught in journalism school? That the headline should be the opposite of what the article actually states?

Scientists say Blue is Black

When Timothy Renno, head of the School of Social Science, Oxford, was made aware that one of his socks was blue and the other black, he said, "When you get right down to brass tacks, there is more black in the color blue than vice versa. Now, I'm not saying that blue is black, but given that they are different colors, blue is more black than it is yellow."

So anyway, the scientist who said maybe genes (among a variety of social factors) might affect infidelity said, "it makes good sense in evolutionary terms to get a good mix of genes - and for women to chose a better option if one came along." So this doctor assumes that it's better for the human race for women to trade up -- trade up based on what? He doesn't even try to go there. What is the best evolutionary trait in men that women ought to trade up for? Wouldn't it be better for the human race for women (and their children) to have stability? Further, since the article states that only 23% of women are unfaithful, this scientist also must assume that either 1) 77% of woman chose the best man on first try, or 2) 77% of women never encounter a man who's better than the one they chose, or 3) only 23% of women are on the right evolutionary track. So which is it?

The evidence this doctor has for an infidelity gene is that if one of a set of twin women is unfaithful, the other is more likely to be unfaithful as well. Well, I suppose if one of a set of twin women speaks English, the other is more likely to speak English as well... so there must be a "speaking English" gene. If one of them Catholic, the other is likely to be Catholic as well... the Catholic gene, of course. If identical twins curse with colorful fluency, a layman thinks they probably learned the language in the same house, but a scientist finds evidence for a cursing gene.

On another note, anytime a scientist starts going on about there being a gene for a particular failing in a human, like when they say your genes make you predisposed to be an alcoholic, etc. Aren't they really saying something beyond even that alcoholism is not your fault? Aren't they really saying that given 'proper' genes Man's predisposition is to be good? Aren't each of these studies into genetics to find the cause of human behavior assuming that there is a normal state of human behavior and that normal state is pretty much to behave like Jesus? If bent genes cause alcoholism then the correct state for Man is sobriety, yes? If bad genes cause anti-social or criminal behavior, then normal genes result in what? Christian behavior? The article says that women are normally faithful and if one twin is unfaithful, it's more likely the other will be as well. Since most women are faithful, couldn't the headline have read, "Fidelity found to be Natural State" instead of "Genes may be to blame for infidelity?" But, of course, no self-respecting scientists (or journalist) would ever write a headline like that, would they? Why? Because it boils down to the headline: "Man made in God's Image."

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Odd Couple Who Diffused Nuclear Threat

None of my children remember the threat of nuclear war. They never had duck and cover drills in school or had to consider how really lame hiding under your desk is when the threat is a thermonuclear warhead. My vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980 was my first Presidential vote. I voted for him again in 1984. The growth of the defense industry through Reagan's policies provided my first real job. I wonder whether the defense budget under Reagan was the equivalent of Roosevelt's public works projects and perhaps equal to his tax cuts in getting the nation moving again. My children also don't have to remember 20% interest rates on their houses and double digit inflation.

However, back in 1986, when Reagan was negotiating with Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, I became very angry with him. I felt he was playing poker with nuclear war. One of the offers on the table in Reykjavik included complete disarmament if we would just give up talk of our Star Wars missile defense system. Reagan wouldn't do it. At the time, I was in a speech club and was writing a speech. I said in my speech that Reagan's was treating the American people and the people of the world like those Who's on the dust speck in Dr. Seuss's "Horton Hears a Who." "All my life," I said in the speech, "I've been stretched out over a cauldron of boiling oil. All my life the chant of 'Boil that dust speck, Boil that dust speck' has been roiling through the world. All my life the people of the world have been shouting, "We are here, we are here, we are here!"

You see, I didn't then and I don't now believe our missile defense projects can protect us from the massive type of nuclear war we saw in the movie, "War Games." I didn't and don't believe missile defense can ever be a shield that stops nuclear war as seen in movies like "Threads" and "The Day AFter." Missile defense might be lucky enough to stop a missile, one missile, launched from Mexico or from off the coast, but never thousands of missiles in a wave.

Today, most people believe Reagan was the architect of the downfall of the Soviet Union. The person most responsible for removing the threat of nuclear war. I'm glad my children don't have to grow up under the threat of a massive nuclear strike that no one could survive, but to this day I believe it would have been better to disarm. I'm like "Chuck" in the movie "Amazing Grace and Chuck." If you've never seen that one, you should find it. The movie is about a kid (Chuck) who stops playing baseball because of the threat of nuclear war. Eventually, a Michael Jordonesque basketball player nicknamed "Amazing Grace" joins him... and many other children and athletes in the world stop playing, demanding disarmament. Amazing Grace is murdered and Chuck stops talking... eventually all the children in the world stop talking, demanding a future for themselves. Gregory Peck plays the president...

Anyway, if we had disarmed in 1986 the world would be a different place now. Perhaps there wouldn't be stray nukes floating around, available for a price to the terrorist world. Perhaps... oh, the perhapses can go on forever but there's no way to know, is there. Reagan may have been right in playing hardball with the soviets, maybe there was no other way to free Eastern Europe. The world is safer today than when I was growing up. At least it feels safer. I forgave Reagan for Reykjavik long ago.

Reagan was a great man and a great leader. Some people have called in to CSPAN this morning and have blamed him for everything from AIDS to obesity to homelessness, but he had Faith and he believed in Truth and people saw that about him. I begin to know how people must have felt when Roosevelt and Churchill died. Reagan and, indeed, Pope John Paul II defined the times when I became an adult. It's a sorry day when strong leaders leave the world.

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