Friday, March 04, 2005

From the WSJ's weekly Tony and Tacky segment: "A Feb. 24 corporate press release from Costa Rica goes on for six paragraphs about the health and tenure of Pope John Paul II, speaking reverentially about his 'unshakable devotion to his calling,' and quoting one Barry 'Action' Jackson as saying the pope is a 'stand-up dude' and 'I wish him a long life.' Then comes the real point: Mr. Jackson is the president of, which 'is pleased to offer odds on: 'Who will be our next Pope?' ' How's that for a kicker?"

So very sacriligious, and yet oh so funny.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

This really is cool
Fossett makes history.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I love the smell of whining in the morning
Today's YDN headline "Local retailers seek ban on food carts" should read "Local retailers whine about capitalism."

If the city enacts a ban, I will be one unhappy camper. I don't eat at the carts, and I rarely eat at any of the restaurants in the Broadway area, but complaining because somebody else is providing a service that's in demand is ridiculous. People aren't going to the Burrito Man (the guy in the picture) because he's at a cart—they're going to him because he's a bit entertaining, and his food is significantly better (so I've been told) than that served at "Bulldog Burrito."

If you make better food, they'll come to you.

On the flip side, this op-ed about Yale's Flex dining option is spot-on. While I eventually use my $100 each semester, it is hard to feel like I'm getting my money's worth out of dropping the seven dining hall meals a week. Oh well.

Bad for science, bad for politics
Robert Novak talks about Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's recent positioning against stem cell research: "The outrage provoked by Romney was intense. Dr. Robert Lanza, medical director of Advanced Cell Technology, said of the governor's opposition: 'It is mind-boggling. He is completely out of step with the scientific and medical community.' But Romney is not out of step with the ordinary people of Massachusetts, who polls indicate unalterably oppose cloning."

This irks me to no end. It's the same problem I was talking about just last week—science should not be determined by public opinion. I'm as opposed to stem cell research as the next guy, because I agree with Governor Romney and his wife that we should not be creating and destroying life to deal with health problems, and also because I don't think our science is at a point where we know whether anything will come of it anyway. But I want our representatives in government to make their decisions based on scientific, philosophical, and moral grounds, not because the people feel one way or another. The people do not posess full information, and their scientific judgements are likely to be skewed. This is what screwed everything up in the global warming debate, and we're now headed down that road in a new arena.

It's time to turn back and make some better choices. Thankfully, however, Robert Novak is not the one making them, as it seems Governor Romney did the right thing before making his decision: "Romney met on Feb. 18 with Dr. William Hurlbut, a physician and Stanford biology professor who is working on a way to produce stem cells without a human embryo. I have previously reported how Hurlbut, a member of President Bush's Council on Bioethics, opens the theoretical possibility of solving this bitter political and social struggle."

At least someone is thinking responsibly.

Wow. "Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett took off Monday night on his attempt to become the first person to complete a solo trip around the world in an airplane without making a single stop." A single-engine airplane, no less. I hope this guy makes it, because that's ridiculously cool.

Monday, February 28, 2005

The Pope's Life
I haven't been reading Andrew Sullivan very regularly, since he claims to have retired from blogging. I check in every few days, however, and regularly find more posts, belying that claim. Today I found something he posted on Friday, and felt compelled to send him an email about it. I'll reproduce for you here first what he said, and then my emailed response:

We have been informed that the pontiff's current suffering and persistence against multiple illnesses and debilities is sending a message about the dignity of suffering and the importance of life. There is indeed a great truth to that. But there is also a point at which clinging to life itself becomes a little odd for a Christian, no? Isn't the fundamental point about Christianity that our life on earth is but a blink in the eye of our real existence, which begins at death and lasts for eternity in God's loving presence? Why is the Pope sending a signal that we should cling to life at all costs - and that this clinging represents some kind of moral achievement? Isn't there a moment at which the proper Christian approach to death is to let it come and be glad? Or put it another way: if the Pope is this desperate to stay alive, what hope is there for the rest of us?
I responded to this, saying:

I think you're making a serious mistake in understanding why the Pope clings to life, and doing Christianity a great disservice in the meantime. By your logic, Christians should welcome death as freedom from the Hobbesian concept of earthly existence. In reality, Christianity values the beauty of life as well. While we are here, we have callings that we are supposed to follow at every turn—most often in ways that dignify and improve the lives of those around us. The Pope has expressed repeatedly that he feels he was put on this planet to fulfill certain missions, and that he will continue on that path until such time as God calls him home. In that context, his struggle to cling to the time he has left is not a contest with God, or avoiding death, but an attempt to live up to God's desires. It is a beautiful thing for a man who is almost assured of eternal Grace in heaven to so profoundly want to remain here as long as he can make a difference. Christianity is not centered around the eternal salvation to come as too many misrepresent it (including many major sects), but around the goodness that is in everyone just waiting to be brought out in this existence through God's help. To succumb to the dying of the light would be to undermine God's wishes for us, and remove the dignity of following God's will, by choice, right until the last moment. Death is, by definition, God's decision for us; it is truly a miracle that the Pope is so strongly willed that he can hold true to his choice to leave his fate in God's all-knowing hands, rather than take it into his own and preempt that divine prerogative.

As my regular readers know, I'm not Catholic, but I am what I call Anglo-Catholic—that is, Episcopalian in the Anglican tradition, or as I sometimes say "Catholic without the Pope." As such, I don't follow the Pope's health too closely, but I do feel that he validates Christian life in the way he constantly hangs on, always trying to keep making a difference for the rest of us. Heck, the man just published another book!

For more on the subject, I invite you to read the brilliant thoughts of Peggy Noonan, who is actually Catholic, here.

Intolerant Tolerance
Way to go Howard. You truly are the present and future of the Democrat Party (via Best of the Web): "'Moderate Republicans can't stand these people (conservatives), because they're intolerant. They don't think tolerance is a virtue,' Dean said, adding: 'I'm not going to have these right-wingers throw away our right to be tolerant.'"

Got that? Right wingers are awful people, and we're good people because we're tolerant. Um, Howard, tolerance means accepting that people who think differently than you are just as valid as you are. And for the readers out there who think I'm reading too much into this, he made it quite clear as he continued how tolerant of differing opinions he really is: "This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good."

I don't care if you dislike people you disagree with—that's fine. But then don't misrepresent your intentions as those of tolerance.