Nov 202017
 

The headline is more than a little misleading. “Mad Mike” here isn’t a rocket scientist; in fact, this actual-Flat-Earther states quite clearly that he doesn’t believe in science. Still, he spent a whole lot of money building himself a “skycycle”- like rocket vehicle with which to lob himself into the air.

If you have time to kill and want to chuckle sadly, take a look at this winners Facebook page. He’s not just any Flat Earther, he’s one of those belligerent ones. He thinks that somehow lobbing himself a short distance into the sky will “prove” the Flat Earth delusion to be true… where somehow decades of high altitude balloons, sounding rockets, orbital flights and missions to the moon and beyond somehow all seemed to miss it.

And if there was any lasting doubt that the news media is just not very good, here’s a collection of headlines that will make aerospace engineers – including former rocket engineers like myself – want to pull their hair out:

Self-Taught Rocket Scientist Mad Mike Hughes Plans to Launch Over Ghost Town

This barmy self-taught scientist called ‘Mad Mike’ is going to launch himself over California in a homemade rocket

Not only is there a whole lot of copying off each other – rather than, you know, actual journalismizing – there’s the repeated mis-use of the word “scientist.” Even disregarding the fact that he doesn’t believe in  science, there’s the basic fact that he’s not actually *doing* any science.

 Posted by at 11:12 am
Nov 142017
 

The BBC website has an autoplay video covering a recent “Flat Earth Society” convention in North Carolina. It certainly seems to have been better attended than it should have been. But the perpetual question about flat-Earthers is: how many of them are actual believer, how many of them are there as a lark, how many of them are outright pretending to believe? Flat Earth is such a patently ludicrous notion that it seems like it would be reasonable to suggest that most people who claim to buy into it really don’t. But then you look at the vast spectrum of stupid that humans glom onto with a passion and… yeah, I suppose there really can be that many people who actually think the Earth is a flat disk.

Why do people still think the Earth is flat?

As with most conspiracy theories, I doubt that most true believing Flat Earthers could be logicked or evidenced out of their belief. And the harder you try, the harder they’ll dig in their heels. It provides them a sense of wonder coupled with a sense of “I’m one of the *special* people because I know *The* *Truth.*” Such a feeling cannot be reliably countered with “No, you’re not.”

 Posted by at 9:28 am
Nov 112017
 

NPR today ran an hour of interviews on the subject of “the West,” in the context of the clash of civilization between The West and, well, the non-West. The first interview was with Victor Davis Hanson who did a good job of defining just what is “The West.” The concept of The West is much like that of the United States… neither are based strictly on a geographic region, nor of a particular ethnicity or religion. Instead, *anyone,* no matter where born or raised or how indoctrinated, can become a Westerner by accepting the basic precepts of Westernism. Thus places like Japan and South Korea can be reasonable described as “Western.”

A New Clash Of Civilizations?

The precepts Hanson puts forward include:

  1. Free market economics
  2. Protection of private property
  3. Free speech
  4. Free expression
  5. Secularism
  6. Diversity of religion
  7. Emancipation of women
  8. Trust in rationalism and scientific inquiry
  9. Induction rather than deductive or religious superstition

Hanson also wrote about these assumptions a month and a half ago regarding the current fad for stuffing Columbus Day down the memory hole:

It is fashionable to trash the civilization that created Columbus as destructive and pathological, but those who do so often have never experienced the alternative first-hand or at length, and assume that their own prosperity, security, and protected freedoms are birthrights rather than fragilities that exist largely only in the West and Westernized Asia or emanate only from the Western anomalies of self-criticism, secular rationalism, unfettered inquiry, free expression, constitutional government, free-market economics, private property and religious tolerance.

Hanson ended that piece with this important observation:

In some strange reductionist and iconic way, the symbolic world of the Aztecs is romanticized — and left far behind; the world of Columbus is still demonized but constantly sought out.

This being NPR, though, this first good interview that defends the worth, value and importance of The West and argues for the preservation of it is followed by a series of interviews that smear the West and Westerners and those who support The West as being Nazis, rapists and Islamophobes. Because Of Course.

The final piece is about the history of contact between Elizabethan England and the Ottoman Empire. It’s interesting, but there’s one particularly telling bit. A British history professor, who has written a book on the topic, is asked by the interviewer to tell of the “wonderful stories” of Englishmen who “freely and openly converted to Islam.” And what’s the story we get? An English merchant named Samson Rolly (sic?) was kidnapped by Turkish pirates circa 1570, forcibly converted to Islam, *castrated,* and somehow winds up being the chief eunuch and treasurer of Algiers. Around ten years later an English ambassador asks Samson (now with a new name) if he wants to go home, and the guy decides to stay where he is. This “wonderful” story, which the professor chuckles his way through and calls “funny,” is the story of someone kidnapped, mutilated, brainwashed and deep within the throes of Stockholm Syndrome. And yet, it’s those who want to defend the West from exactly this sort of thing that are the bad guys in the bulk of the piece… and in a whole lot of modern culture.

Guh.

Well, the first bit with Hanson is certainly worth a listen. If the embedded player doesn’t show up below, you can download the audio file HERE.

 

 Posted by at 5:56 pm
Nov 092017
 

Now this could get interesting, if true:

Trump thinks Scientology should lose its tax-exempt status

It certainly makes sense that a President would want the CoS to lose its tax exempt status, but I have doubts that a President can actually *do* anything about it. That sort of thing is up to the IRS,and as the article suggests, a President making a stink about a particular case could sorta poison the well. This is, of course, exactly the sort of thing Trump likes to do, though, such as chiming in on Twitter about criminal cases yet to come before the court, thus promptly giving the defense attorneys a perfect chance to make a case that the jury has been tampered with.

 Posted by at 9:51 pm
Nov 012017
 

Since yesterdays Cultural Enrichment Event in New York, I’ve heard more than a few politicians on the right argue that the driver should be dealt with not as a criminal, but as an enemy combatant. from a certain point of view this kinda makes sense… the guy is not a US citizen and he was pledged to a foreign political entity and an alien ideology. But the thing is, though… if he’s an enemy combatant,that makes him a prisoner of war. And there are two problems I have with that:

1: There is dignity and honor in being a POW. This feller has neither.

2: POWs go home.

There are two preferable outcomes for the driver after a proper trial: execution or life in a deep dark hole. Can’t execute a POW. The upside, though, is that POWs go home when the war’s over… but this war? I can’t see how it will *ever* be over. Who’s the leader on the Surt Worshipping Cultist side? Who has the power and authority to surrender or draw up an armistice? And even if someone did, does anyone honestly think that the attacks would stop, the radical would de-radicalize, the jihadists would convert to quiet Lutheranism, Mecca would become a world famous tourist attraction known for its welcoming acceptance of all creeds? No, this war is never going to end, so the POWs would remain POWs forever… or until some weak-willed administration decided to trade them away.

Treat the guy like what he is: a criminal. A good, honest trial followed by a life sentence in general population.

 Posted by at 7:59 pm
Oct 292017
 

From a theological point of view, “witchcraft” is no sillier than any other religion. From a practical standpoint? Yeah, it’s pretty damned silly, and not all that useful.

And thus, we get this:

Is Tumblr witchcraft feminism – or cultural appropriation?

It’s a perfect storm of every SJW identity politics group getting into a circular firing squad. The nucleus of this is a book written by a non-Wiccan, non-religious Hindu-Quakers working with an atheist who doesn’t believe in the occult that purportedly aims “to arm women – ordinary women who may scoff at spirituality or magic – with the subversive feminist powers of traditional witches.”

Yeah.

It’s the kind of empowered identity promoted in podcasts about toppling the patriarchy and Facebook posts about the radical importance of self-care.

Snerk.

As the article points out, there are several categories of witches,” including Tumblr/Instagram-dwelling SJWs who are politically active idjits generally supporting regressive political nonsense and using the iconography of newage claptrap to advertise and support their delusions. This new book is supposed to be aimed at that group. What’s startlingly hypocritical here is that this book is written by people who clearly don’t believe it. It would be like me writing a book on how to colonize Mars using acupuncture and dowsing rods. I suppose that might actually sell well… it would certainly be a unique item on the book market, but it’d make me feel sullied and unusual to write unless I wrote it as a satire. But to write it in such a way as to buttress the silly and self defeating beliefs of the deluded? Lame.

 Posted by at 6:47 pm
Oct 122017
 

Well, *THAT* was dark.

Once again it was very much a Star Trek sort of episode, but it had some very non-Star Trek moments. From the alien religious service that featured something they *never* showed on Trek, to the message at the end: you really probably aught to have killed the children. Yikes.

It was awesome.

It did present what I’ve always thought was just about the only motivator for interstellar war that makes any sort of sense: religion, or something like it. If interstellar travel is s difficult and expensive as we currently foresee it being, then interstellar warfare would be ludicrously unlikely. It would consume an entire solar systems economy for centuries, for no good purpose. If, on the other hand, interstellar travel becomes as easy as its shown in Star Trek/Wars, then most of the motives for war vanish… sure, the Klingons can get *here* relatively easily, but the universe is essentially infinite. The motives of power and resources pretty much vanish in a world of infinite area and stuff.

But if you throw in religion, then interstellar warfare becomes less ludicrous (from a certain point of view). If your god tells you to conquer the whole universe, why, you go and do it.

And f you throw religion into the mix, then reaching an understanding with the aliens could become *real* difficult. In TNG+ Trek, somehow or other humanity has become essentially entirely atheist… something I really doubt. But everybody *else* in the Trek universe? They’re all religious (and it seems that each species has a grand total of *one* religion). But all the Trek religions seem to play well with each other, with virtually nary an interaction. But the great thing about “The Orville:” the Krill religion does *not* play well with others. it started off looking bad, and by the end of the episode… it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better.

Originally it looked like the Krill were going to be the Klingons of The Orville. But the Klingon religion, what of it has been shown, seems to involve a lot of wrastlin’ around and drinkin’ and partyin’. The Klingon religion seems like it would accept non-Klingons. the Klingon *culture* seems like it would accept non-Klingons who adopt the Klingon culture. The Krill? Not so much.

So, yeah. I continue to like “The Orville.” Even in a jokey show, they cover some really pretty disturbin’ stuff, while still being optimistic.

 Posted by at 11:49 pm
Oct 022017
 

I’m constantly hearing about how Americans are too freaked out about terrorism, how Europeans have a more laid back, adult and rational response to it, how they just get on with life, don’t freak out about it. And then this happens:

Wimbledon station commuters flee train in ‘Bible’ panic

In short, some guy started reading aloud from the Bible on a British commuter train, so other passengers actually forced the doors open to get away from him.

Seems a bit of an over-reaction.

 Posted by at 3:06 pm