Dying to Believe

Number 118 in a series

Who needs Jesus? Premature death is available from all manner of false belief. For example:

Prosecutor: Missing boy died at New Mexico compound in religious ritual

Y’all be careful out there. Religious zeal knows no limits.
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This is your President speaking.

Number 132

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

“Seems like the Department of Justice (and FBI) had a program to keep Donald Trump from becoming President”. If this had happened to the other side, everybody involved would be in jail. This is a Media coverup of the biggest story of our time.

I never grow tired of posting words from the President of the United States. But then, that’s a lie, because it’s the same old story every day. Is the President ever going to grow up and find a way to keep repeating the same lies day after day?

Jesus, I hope not.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 231 of a series

It doesn’t take long to find a bad movie. Go back to 1933, and there is a bunch. This is The Kennel Murder Case, with William Powell as Philo Vance. This is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The movie gets it title from the opening scene, a dog show, at which Philo’s Scottish terrier is eliminated before the final round. Then Philo catches an ocean liner to Europe.

I selected this shot to show how Powell looked in the old days.

Another person with a dog in the show was Archer Coe (Robert Barrat). He’s a generally bad fellow, and a competitor’s dog ends up dead in an alley. The next morning the butler brings Coe’s breakfast up to him, but the door is locked, and there is no answer. Peering through the keyhole, the butler spies the dead Mr. Coe, sitting in a chair.

Philo learns of this and interrupts his trip, getting off the ship before it sails and coming to investigate what turns out to be a murder. The original assumption was that Coe shot himself in the head inside a locked room. But the coroner discovers a nasty blow to the head and also a knife wound in the back. Philo figures out how the killer was able to lock the inside lock from the outside. The trick involves some fishing line that is ultimately pulled through the keyhole without leaving a trace.

But there were two murders. Archer’s brother Brisbane (Frank Conroy) was the first to strike, tracing back from his presumed train trip to Chicago to do the crime. But he never made it out of the house. The second killer finished the job and then killed Brisbane, leaving the body in a closet. Inside another closet is another dog, a Doberman, discovered by Philo’s dog. This dog was apparently struck by the killer, but he recovers.

Brought back to the scene of the crime, the Doberman is unleashed, and he goes straight for the sought after killer. The movie allows the Doberman to chew for mostly a minute before others come to the rescue.

On top of that, the print is in really bad shape. And this is the digitally remastered version. Amazon Prime has four copies available for viewing to Prime customers, and another is for sale. Hopefully it’s in better shape.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a series

A guy goes fishing every Saturday morning. He gets up early and eager, makes his lunch, hooks up his boat, and off he goes, all day long.

One Saturday morning he gets up early, dresses, quietly, gets his lunch made, puts on his long johns, grabs the dog, and goes to the garage to hook up his boat to the truck, and down the driveway he goes.

As he is coming out of his garage rain is pouring down. It’s a torrential downpour. There is snow mixed in with the rain, and the wind is blowing 50 mph.

Minutes later he returns to the garage. He comes back into the house and turns the TV to the weather channel. He finds it’s going to be bad weather all day long, so he puts his boat back in the garage, quietly undresses, and slips back into bed.

Thee he cuddles up to his wife’s back, now with a different anticipation, and he whispers, “The weather out there is terrible.”

To which she sleepily replies, “Yeah, can you believe my stupid husband is out fishing in that shit?”

Your Friend The Handgun

Number 123

The answer to the gun death crisis is not fewer guns but putting God back into our lives. How’s that working out?

1 dead, suspect in custody after shooting at Mormon church in Nevada

Last Updated Jul 22, 2018 11:34 PM EDT

Authorities are investigating a shooting that took place at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fallon, Nevada. At least one person was killed and one person was injured Sunday afternoon, according to CBS affiliate KTVN-TV. The station writes that the suspect, John K. O’Connor, 48, is in custody but has not been charged yet.

KTVN-TV reports there were about 50 witnesses when the incident unfolded inside the church. Police say the suspect went home after opening fire and police followed him there where a hostage negotiator was able to get him to surrender.

I’m glad we finally got that matter settled.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

From 2004 it’s Suspect Zero, featuring Aaron Eckhart as FBI Agent Thomas Mackelway and Ben Kingsley as Benjamin O’Ryan. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The opening shows traveling salesman Harold Speck (Kevin Chamberlin) enjoying coffee and a newspaper at a diner beside the highway. It’s raining outside, and in walks a mysterious stranger, who sits himself across from Harold, and accosts him. The stranger speaks probing suggestions into Harold’s life on the road, what Harold does when his wife is at home alone. Harold gets nervous and leaves. He ends up dead in his car exactly on the Arizona-New Mexico line. There is a reason for this. That makes the killing FBI jurisdiction.

We find out later the stranger is Benjamin O’Ryan, and he has stalked and killed Harold. We also learn later that Harold was a serial killer.

Meanwhile FBI Agent Mackelway arrives at his new posting in Albuquerque, supposedly the armpit of FBI postings. He was previously at the Dallas office, but he once pursued a suspect across the Mexican border and kidnapped him. After six months of psychological observation he has been allowed to go back to work. There is something troubling the mind of Agent Mackelway,

Meanwhile, O’Ryan has visions, and he sketches them. He mails some to Mackelway, along with cryptic notes. They relate to serial killers.

A mysterious truck stalks two young boys riding their bicycles. One of the boys disappears and is later presumed dead.

A hot young thing is celebrating her sexuality at a roadside bar. When the bartender insists she show ID to order a drink, she goes out to her car, in the dark, to retrieve it. We know exactly what is going to happen. A nefarious character follows her out.

The man grabs miss hot body in the parking lot and drags her to his vehicle, where he rapes her. But a mysterious stranger appears, breaks through a window, and drags the attacker out. It is later revealed the rapist is a wanted serial killer, and he is now dead on the pavement.

Mackelway goes to visit Professor Dates (Robert Towne) who reveals the identity of Benjamin O’Ryan, formerly a secret FBI agent who participated in remote viewing experiments. It becomes apparent O’Ryan is seeing at a distance and is stalking and killing serial killers. Mackelway has similar visions.

Mackelway and O’Ryan team up and track a graveyard of victims they have visualized to a desert homestead. A field contains dozens of graves. When the mysterious truck appears, the two give chase. The chase ends in a crash alongside a desert road, and the culprit attempts a getaway across the hellish landscape.

Mackelway phones the situation in to the authorities, who come rushing to the scene. Mackelway’s partner Fran Kluck (Carrie-Anne Moss) rescues a young boy from the truck, then she takes out after Mackelway and the killer.

Mackelway catches and subdues the killer. O’Ryan appears and insists that Mackelway kill him (O’Ryan). He hold’s Mackleway’s pistol to his own forehead.

But Mackelway will not, so O’Ryan pulls out his knife and menaces Mackelway. Fran shoots O’Ryan dead. The two stand over O’Ryan’s body and stare down at it.

It’s the same scene depicted in one of O’Ryan’s drawings.

Yes, the bit about remote viewing is preposterous.

In the early 1970s, Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ joined the Electronics and Bioengineering Laboratory at Stanford Research Institute (SRI, now SRI International) where they initiated studies of the paranormal that were, at first, supported with private funding from the Parapsychology Foundation and the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

I was once called in to do a TV interview and explain what was wrong with remote viewing tests that purported to show positive results. There is more available from the North Texas Skeptics. More recently Harold Puthoff was doing edgy research in Austin.

Ben Kingsley is always worth a watch. We have already seen him in Shutter Island and also Sneakers.

The Government You Paid For

Number 40 of a Series

I was talking to Bill (not his real name) last week, and he told me how he could not bring himself to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. I had to agree, considering all that Clinton would do if she had been elected. I mentioned her intent to appoint Rick Perry the Secretary of Energy, Ben Carson the Secretary of HUD, and Betsy DeVos the Secretary of Education. I forgot to mention that Clinton was likely to appoint Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor and to nominate Scott Pruitt to head up the Environmental Protection Agency. Then I remembered where I had got it all wrong. It was Donald Trump who got elected, and it was Donald Trump who put all these people into positions of power.

Bill pretended to be embarrassed, but in reality he was not. He felt Donald Trump would be a strong leader, and he allowed that recent history has borne this out. President Trump’s public swaggering and his rude and stiff-necked approach to our allies and trading partners are the kinds of thing this country needs in a leader. Bill made his remarks without a hint of embarrassment, to say nothing of shame. He is getting the government he paid for, which government I like to shine the light on as often as possitle. So, what’s latest? After eight years of boredom we finally have an administration that provides endless entertainment.

Yes, that’s former Trump campaign staffer Rick Gates along with his business parter and former chairman of the Trump campaign Paul Manafort. While he was working for the campaign, Manafort, along with Donald Trump Jr. and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and others at Trump Tower, ostensibly to obtain juicy information the Russians had on opponent Clinton.

Imagine their chagrin (the Trump critters, not the Russians) when it turned out Veselnitskaya only wanted to talk about smoothing over the matter of Americans adopting Russian orphans. In fact, Donald Jr. expressed his disappointment.

No, wait. That’s not the right picture. Here it is.

Actually, that’s former Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying the words for Don Jr., but I’m sure there is somewhere the Jr. did express disappointment.

And the reason that Trump campaign manager Manafort was at the meeting was the same reason he joined the campaign in 2016. His income from supporting Russian lackey Viktor Yanukovych, had been ousted as president of Ukraine and was no longer able to pass on to Manafort the money (supposedly) provided by the Russian government. Manafort needed to get in with the United States government in order to wield the influence that would draw rubles from Russia in exchange for influence. Manafort figured Trump was his best bet, and he was on the team until August of 2016, at which time the stench became to much even for Trump critters.

But, as they say, that’s so much water under the Zhivopisny Bridge. Paul Manafort has been disassociated from American politics for mostly two years, and in the intervening period President Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey, apparently for refusing to back off on his investigation of Russian attempts to influence the 2016 elections. Exit Mr. Comey, and a new Assistant Attorney General has charged Robert Mueller with continuing the investigation. Mueller’s arm reaches far, and Mueller’s arm reaches wide, and in its reach it came to scoop in Mr. Gates and Mr. Manafort. It became apparent why Mr. Manafort had agreed to work for free for the Trump campaign.

They had Gates dead to rights, and he caved quickly. He had been helping his parter Paul Manafort cook the books.

Gates agreed to plea guilty to the charges that were so obviously true, and part of that agreement was that he would dish the dirt on Manafort.

Now Paul Manafort has gone to trial, and Gates is telling an Alexandria, Virginia, jury the same things he told the Mueller team.

Yes, he did. And what were those crimes?

To be clear, Manafort and Gates committed their crimes before they became associated with the Trump campaign, and none of the crimes being prosecuted today involve collusion with foreign governments. So, that’s the end of it.

Actually, no. Stand by, as there is more to come. There will be suspense (some),  and there will be drama ( a lot). But will there be embarrassment, and will there be shame? Not an ounce. Conservatives are getting the government they paid for.

Dying to Believe

Number 117 in a series

Did I say it’s necessary to believe in Jesus in order for you to die before your time? If I ever said that, then I need to apologize. It is not necessary to believe in Jesus for you to die needlessly. But it helps:

In October 1994, Tony Dutoit’s infant son (Emmanuel Dutoit), aged three months, was killed at the group’s centre in Morin-Heights, Quebec. The baby had been stabbed repeatedly with a wooden stake. It is believed that Di Mambro ordered the murder, because he identified the baby as the Antichrist described in the Bible. He believed that the Antichrist was born into the order to prevent Di Mambro from succeeding in his spiritual aim.

That’s the Order of the Solar Temple, and it should not be considered representative of all Jesus-based cults. But let’s work on the premise that OST is representative, and let’s all enjoy a safer existence.

Quiz Question

Another one from the Internet. People, I don’t think these up, myself:

Huge pie. A huge pie is divided among 100 guests. The first guest gets 1% of the pie. The second guest gets 2% of the remaining part. The third guest gets 3% of the rest, etc. The last guest gets 100% of the last part. Who gets the biggest piece?

Submit your answer in the comments section below.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 231 of a series

I haven’t figured out why this one wasn’t BMotW years ago, but here it is now, from 1987, The Running Man, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. There is not much to the plot, but here is a synopsis.

Arnold is police helicopter pilot Ben Richards in a dystopic future world where brutal government oppression keeps things straight, almost. Ben refuses to fire on unarmed civilians who are participating in a food riot, and he becomes an unperson, working in a slave labor camp, where prisoners die of starvation and rough treatment regularly.

But Ben engineers a break. The prisoners know what’s really going on, and they’re going to take their country back. Here he goes mano-a-mano and defeats a prison guard.

In the world outside, gladiator games keep the population distracted. One such game is The Running Man, which involves professional stalkers hunting down and exterminating prisoners turned loose inside a human game preserve. The master stalker is Captain Freedom, played by Jesse Ventura, before he became governor of Minnesota.

The Running Man is a TV game show, run by Damon Killian, played by Richard Dawson. Here he watches video of Ben’s prison escape and gets the idea of capturing him and putting him into the game.

Ben figures he needs to get out of the country, but he has no travel pass. He abducts somebody who has one, Amber Mendez (María Conchita Alonso), who looks really sharp in her workout suit when Ben walks up and places his hand over her mouth.

But at the airport Amber blows his cover, and Ben is captured. He and two other recaptured prisoners are put into the game, dressed in slick fugitive suites and harassed by goons on motorcycle until they start running down long, dark tunnels.

I will not elaborate further. Amber gets wise to the scheme when she views the actual footage of Ben’s rebellion, but she gets scooped up and thrown into the game with Ben and the others. The two other escapees die in the game as Ben and Amber defeat a series of stalkers sent after them, finishing up with Captain Freedom.

The crowd turns against the phony game, and Ben captures Damon. He places Damon in the fugitive sled, and sends the sled down a long chute and into the air, where it scores a bull’s eye on a notorious billboard.

And Ben and Amber get ready to make whoopee as the crows cheers them. And that’s the end of the movie.

Not so amazing, the film made $38 million in the U.S. on a budget of $27 million. It has since become a kind of cult classic, and last week I talked to an otherwise intelligent person show acknowledged he has viewed the film multiple times. Once turned out to be enough for me.

That same year, Jesse and Arnold appeared together in Predator, apparently Jesse’s first film. I have previously reviewed Arnold in Kindergarten Cop, one of his best roles. We have also seen Commando and The 6th Day.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a series

The college professor had just finished explaining an important research project to his class. He emphasized that this paper was an absolute requirement for passing his class, and that there would be only two acceptable excuses for being late.

These were a medically certifiable illness or a death in the student’s immediate family.

A smart ass student in the back of the classroom waved his hand and spoke up. “But what about extreme sexual exhaustion, professor?”

“Well,” the professor responded, “I guess you will just have to learn to write with your other hand.”

The Years of Living Stupidly

Number 8 in a series

The photo shows creationists Walter Bradley and Ide Trotter at a workshop hosted by the Texas Education Agency, where they were assigned the task of reviewing high school biology texts for public schools.

I tend to devote this series to people being stupid about science, such as by using science and religion in the same sentence. That often comes about when people, caught up in religion, carry the contagion with them when they step across the line into fields of science—or into any other area requiring rational thought. Who does this a lot are the people at the Discovery Institute (DI), the premier organization in this country promoting Intelligent Design.

A rich resource on this kind of foolishness is the DI’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC), founded by creationist Stephen C. Meyer, among others. the thinking of DI fellows and the CSC are made public on an associated site called Evolution News. More recently, I found the following posted on the Discovery Institute site:

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor: Why Machines Will Never Think

From remarks at the official launch of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence

ROBERT CROWTHER, II AUGUST 1, 2018

This is interesting on multiple levels, one of which relates to Dr. Michael Egnor, whom we have met before:

Michael Egnor is a prominent neurosurgeon and a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Stony Brook University. He became inoculated against evolution (the science of biological evolution) after reading  Michael Denton‘s book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Egnor has aligned himself with the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture (CSC), one of the leading creationist organizations in this country and likely the absolute leader in support of the Intelligent Design version of creationism. An excerpt from one of his posts on the CSC’s Evolution News blog may be characteristic:

Scopes was put on trial for violating the Butler Act, which prohibited teaching human evolution to schoolchildren in Tennessee. What Scopes actually taught, if anything, is unclear, because Scopes was untruthful about what he did, and the trial was a legal ploy to spur a Supreme Court ruling. The truth was a secondary consideration at best to Scopes and to his team.

Hunter’s textbook Civic Biology was racist and taught eugenics. It was vile stuff. If a teacher taught from it today, he would not be prosecuted for violating the Butler Act. He would be prosecuted for federal civil rights violations.

Follow the link and read the post for complete details. Anyhow, Dr. Egnor now proposes to  boldly step outside his realm of expertise and into the quagmire that is Artificial Intelligence (AI). I took some time to read through his thinking on the matter, and you are invited to do likewise. What I found is that, while Dr. Egnor is likely correct in some of his conclusions, he is correct for the wrong reasons. An illustration from Dr. Egnor’s monograph:

What is the hallmark of human thought, and what distinguishes thoughts from material things? Franz Brentano (1838–1917), a German philosopher in the 19th century, answered this question decisively. All thoughts are about something, whereas no material object is inherently “about” anything. This property of aboutness is called intentionality, and intentionality is the hallmark of the mind. Every thought that I have shares the property of aboutness—I think about my vacation, or about politics, or about my family. But no material object is, in itself, “about” anything. A mountain or a rock or a pen lacks aboutness—they are just objects. Only a mind has intentionality, and intentionality is the hallmark of the mind.

Another word for intentionality is meaning. All thoughts inherently mean something. A truly meaningless thought is an oxymoron. The meaning may be trivial or confusing, but every thought entails meaning of some sort. Every thought is about something, and that something is the meaning of the thought.

That’s what I like about philosophers. First, they fall back on what other philosophers have said—with little or no attempt at confirmation, and they talk of things being true, apparently for the sole reason that they say they are true. How about, “Only a mind has intentionality, and intentionality is the hallmark of the mind?” Whether he realizes it or not, what Dr. Egnor has just done is to write a definition for the word mind. Please note the statement does not preclude a computer becoming a mind. What it says is that if a computer attains intentionality, then a computer can become a mind. Dr. Egnor never offers any reason a computer cannot become a mind. He says it, so it must be so.

Under other circumstances I would pass off Dr. Egnor’s musing as the product of religious corruption. I cannot do this, because it happens that Dr. Egnor, in his musings, is in the company of mental giants, one being renowned mathematical physicist Roger Penrose. It happens that Penrose is of the same mind as Dr. Egnor in this matter. Neither believes a computer can become a mind, and Penrose has written a book on the matter titled The Emperor’s New Mind. I have had a copy of the book since it came out in 1989, but I did not read through it. That’s because I quickly encountered conclusions I cannot sign off on. In the book, Penrose seems to invoke the argument from incredulity, much as Dr. Egnor does above. Martin Gardner wrote the forward, concluding:

Penrose’s achievements in mathematics and physics– and I have touched on only a small fraction– spring from a lifelong sense of wonder toward the mystery and beauty of being. His little finger tells him that the human mind is more than just a collection of tiny wires and switches. The Adam of his prologue and epilogue is partly a symbol of the dawn of consciousness in the slow evolution of sentient life. To me he is also Penrose– the child sitting in the third row, a distance back from the leaders of AI– who dares to suggest that the emperors of strong AI have no clothes. Many of Penrose’s opinions are infused with humour, but this one is no laughing matter.

Penrose, Roger. The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Oxford Landmark Science) (Kindle Locations 143-148). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

Here is a sampling of Penrose’s own thinking, highlighted in my Kindle edition by earlier readers:

Most particularly, I argue that the phenomenon of consciousness cannot be accommodated within the framework of present-day physical theory.

Penrose, Roger. The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Oxford Landmark Science) (Kindle Locations 153-154). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

My reasoning, as presented in this book, has two main strands to it. The first of these endeavours to show, by appealing to results of Gödel (and Turing) that mathematical thinking (and hence conscious thinking generally) is something that cannot be encapsulated within any purely computational model of thought. This is the part of my argument that my critics have most frequently taken issue with. The second strand of the reasoning is to demonstrate that there is an important gap in our physical picture of the world, at a level which ought to bridge the submicroscopic world of quantum physics to the macro-world of classical physics. My viewpoint demands that the missing physics falling within this gap, when found, will play an essential part in the physical understanding of the conscious mind. Moreover, there must be something outside purely computational action in this sought-for area of physics.

Penrose, Roger. The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Oxford Landmark Science) (Kindle Locations 164-170). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

Penrose appears to set aside a special place for living forms, and he does not limit this thinking to the mind. I took four courses from  Wolfgang Rindler, and after I got my degree I came back to the campus to attend a 70th birthday party for him. Roger Penrose attended, as well, and he gave a talk in which he explained that living material needs to be explained in terms of  quantum physics. I  got that this was an explanation in terms of quantum  physics beyond the fact that quantum physics determines basic chemical properties of the elements, and I asked the question, “Are you resurrecting the concept of vitalism?” He assured me he was not, and I let it go at that. For the moment. The truth is, I consider Penrose’s invocation of quantum mechanics as vitalism dressed up in a lab coat.

Apparently anybody can be a philosopher, so I’m thinking about giving it a try. In future postings I will provide rational explanations for human thought, life, death, and the origin of the universe. Keep reading.

This is your President speaking.

Number 131

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and “Public Enemy Number One,” or Paul Manafort, political operative & Reagan/Dole darling, now serving solitary confinement – although convicted of nothing? Where is the Russian Collusion?

Yes, it is breathtaking. And it’s coming from the President of the United States. Perhaps some examination is needed. “Serving solitary confinement.” Don’t know about that.

“Convicted of nothing.” Is he serious?

Paul Manafort was not one of those to plead, so he remained out of jail on bail, confined to his quarters and wearing two ankle bracelets to track his movements. The problem was they forgot to put ankle bracelets on his cell phone, and shortly the FBI, having obtained a warrant, noticed criminal activity salted among his communications.

Yes, he was caught attempting to influence potential witnesses against him. He wanted them to lie.

Of course, when Robert Mueller’s prosecutors presented evidence of this to federal judge Amy Berman Jackson she laughed it off.

Just kidding. She had some choice remarks relating to what actions she could take.

And she didn’t. She revoked Paul Manafort’s bail and ordered him to jail on Friday, where he has been since. Given his age and given the charges against Paul Manafort, if convicted he will possibly spend the remainder of his life behind bars. President Trump came forth quickly to comment on this obvious miscarriage of justice.

And back then the President of the United States was saying:

Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other top political people and campaigns. Didn’t know Manafort was the head of the Mob. What about Comey and Crooked Hillary and all of the others? Very unfair!

And more:

Your Friend The Handgun

Number 122

This is good news. Apparently having your friendly handgun now ensures you never have to take crap off anybody anytime, especially in Florida. A few years ago, likely at the urging of the National Rifle Association, Florida enacted what is called a Stand Your Ground law. Summarizing from memory it says, in Florida, if you feel your life is threatened you do not need to take it. You can fight back. Specifically, you can shoot to kill. That is especially good news for one Mr. Michael Drejka, 47 years old:

Florida Sheriff Cites ‘Stand Your Ground’ in Not Arresting Shooter in Parking Lot Killing

By Julia Jacobs July 21, 2018

A man who shot and killed another man in Florida this week during an argument over a parking space will not be arrested or charged by the sheriff’s office because of the state’s so-called Stand Your Ground law, the authorities said.

To summarize, Ms. Britany Jacobs was sitting in a car in the parking lot of a convenience story in Clearwater,  Florida. Everything would have turned out just fine that day, except the car was parked in a handicap space, and there was no handicap permit anywhere in appearance.

Enter Mr. Drejka, who voiced objections. Enter one Markeis McGlockton, 28 years old at the time and not destined to get any older. He was sweet Britany’s boyfriend, and he was in the store doing some business. When he came out and saw Mr. Drejka harassing his main squeeze, he got physical. He shoved Mr. Drejka. Mr. Drejka did not shove back. He pulled his weapon and dispensed with the person of Markeis McGlockton. You can watch the video. So much for parking in handicap when you’re not supposed to.

This might not be big news were it not the end of a string of such occurrences since the Florida law was enacted:

  • George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, 17 on February 26, 2012, about the time Martin was getting the better of Zimmerman on the grounds of an apartment complex. Zimmerman walked.
  • In November 2012 Michael Dunn opened fire on a car in a parking lot in Jacksonville after an argument over loud music coming from the car. The gunfire killed one Jordan Davis, then 17. Mr. Dunn is now serving time.
  • In January 2014 Curtis Reeves, then 71, opened fire in a suburban Tampa movie theater when a Mr. Chad Oulson threw movie popcorn on him at the culmination of an argument. Mr. Oulson did not survive. A judge in the case has ruled that Mr. Reeves is unable to invoke the Stand Your Ground law. The most recent news has a trial date still to be set. It’s possible Mr. Reeves’ lawyers are trying to run out the clock, expecting him to succumb to old age before there is any resolution in the case.

So, the NRA is telling us that such laws are appropriate to ensure public safety. Really? How’s that working out?

Darwin Day

A continuation

Back in February the Freethinkers Association of Central Texas (FACT) contributed an op-ed piece to the San Antonio Express-News in celebration of Charles Darwin’s birthday—Darwin Day. You can follow the link at the top of this page and read a reprint.

Subsequently there was a response from creationist Matthew Cserhati. I am reprinting his editorial here so you will have the opportunity to read it and also to allow me to link to it in something else I’m writing. Here it is:


Creationism is, in fact, science

By Matthew Cserhati, Correspondent
Published 12:00 am CDT, Sunday, July 22, 2018

Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species,” published about 100 years ago, expounded the theory of evolution. Creationists continue to insist it isn’t proven, final science.

Re: “As logic, science come under attack, push back with facts,” Another View by John Blanton, Feb. 11:

John Blanton, a member of the Freethinkers Association of Central Texas, paints what he calls religious people as opponents of reason and free thought. Specifically, he cites creationists on a wide spectrum challenging established science.

First of all, it is a well-known fact that science did not begin with Darwin, whose 209th birthday was being celebrated by FACT. Rather, science has its origin within the Christian church, with the command from God to “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). In order to subdue nature, one must understand it — hence the biblical injunction to pursue science.

Second of all, because it cannot be directly observed or verified, macro-level evolution cannot be considered to be a fact, however strong FACT would insist that it is. Explanations are offered only as to how species could have evolved. Lacking is the exact, precise demonstration that organisms did evolve. Thus evolution is only a theory.

Furthermore, it should never be a crime to question the authority of a well-nigh monolithic theory, which thousands of Ph.D.-level scientists such as I call into question based on scientific evidence. Blanton should remember that in 1925 the American Civil Liberties Union argued for equal representation of evolutionary theory during the Scopes trial, to which he referred. One voice openly questioning evolutionary theory should become millions, since half the population of the United States doesn’t accept evolution. An open public debate between creationism and evolution leads to more healthy science. Offering always only one side of the story leads to bad science and bad explanations.

Blanton cannot see the forest because of the trees. Blanton’s religion is materialistic naturalism, stemming from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s idea that nature is everything that was, is and ever shall be, purposefully excluding God and the divine from the grand picture a priori. How can you be open-minded if you’re willing to consider only one line of explanation? Taken to the logical extreme, skeptics must doubt everything. Thus, truly, like Descartes they know next nothing. But God knows everything.

Creationism is scientific. Atheists acknowledge the fact that why the universe came into existence is a metaphysical question. Thus whether the universe came about either through natural or supernatural means is an open question. Therefore, since the origin of the universe has not been observed by a human eye, it is certainly possible that God created it. And, in such a supernaturally created world, it is possible to pursue origins science. Creationism doesn’t claim to be privy to the supernatural process of divine creation. Rather, creation science studies the handiwork of God’s creative acts. God created, therefore, let us examine the created world.

It is a well-known fact that thousands of so-called living fossils exist all over the world, resisting change over long periods of time. Taxonomists have discovered and studied millions of species, which all cluster into disjunct kinds that are spoken of in Genesis 1:21. Missing links are still missing. The scientific literature is chock-full of examples of genetic structures being “evolutionarily conserved,” an oxymoron if there ever was one. Genome reduction in organisms is so pervasive that researchers Yuri Wolf and Eugene Koonin in 2013 devised the biphasic model of genomic evolution whereby the genomes of organisms undergo initial rapid (miraculous) complexification, followed by gradual genome reduction, which is itself contrary to evolution.

Thus instead of trying to extinguish other opinions and points of view, so-called freethinkers should allow them to flourish.

Matthew Cserhati is a bioinformatics programmer living in San Antonio. He has a doctorate in biology and a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He has been active in the creation/evolution debate for 17 years and has presented on this subject numerous times.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This one caught my attention when it first screened in 1995, but I never saw it. It’s now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. It’s Dead Man Walking, based on the book of the same name by Sister Helen Prejean, who is the subject of the story. Details are from Wikipedia.

Here is Sister Prejean as a young girl, shown in flashbacks from home video, at I presume to be her confirmation. Sister Prejean as a young girl is played by Eva Amurri Martino, daughter of Susan Sarandon, who plays the grown-up Sister Helen.

Sean Penn is Matthew Poncelet, a piece of Louisiana white trash, who six years previous teamed up with a buddy to murder a young couple at night out by the swamp. Both Matthew and his partner raped the girl, and Matthew shot the boy in the back of the head with a .22 rifle. Now Matthew faces death by lethal injection at what, in another movie, came to be called Louisiana’s Green Mile. Peen is perfectly cast for this role. Nobody else can project worthless humanity with aplomb as Penn does. Wait. Note the facial hair. I imagine the prison barber asking him, “Matthew, what do you want to look like?” and Matthew flashes a big smirk and tells him, “Make me look like a don’t-give-a-damn punk killer.”

So, Sister Helen takes on the chore of being Matthew’s moral counselor, and that’s what the story is all about. The matter is, the Catholic church is dead set against the death penalty, and they want to stop any and all executions. So, how does Sister Helen and her pro-bono defense lawyer attack the case? By demonstrating to the appeals board that the death penalty is in violation of the Constitution or is otherwise inappropriate? Of course not. They attack the ruling of Matthew’s guilt, something that is, in reality, unassailable.

Here is Sister Helen exiting the clemency hearing and running into parents of the two dead victims. The person on the right is R. Lee Ermey as Clyde Percy, father of girl who was raped and killed.

Of course all attempts to forestall the inevitable are to naught, and the execution goes off on schedule. I’m posting two shots from the execution, because I find them worth noting.

The first shows preparations for lethal injection. They are going to stick a needle in Matthew’s arm. And, yes, the person doing the sticking first sanitizes the area with an alcohol patch. The person who is seconds  from death needs to be protected from infection.

Now they strap Matthew to the gurney. You see that? yes, it’s almost a perfect crucifix. Jesus Christ, they want to call attention to his martyrdom.

And that’s the movie. No real action except flashbacks of the crime. Nobody falls in love. Nothing of any interest happens to anybody except for Matthew. Sarandon spends a lot of the movie listening to other people talk.

Amazon Video’s X-ray feature makes some interesting points.

  • In real life the killer got the chair.
  • In the movie, Sister Helen gets pulled over by a Louisiana trooper for speeding. This happened after the movie started filming, so they added that scene to the movie.
  • Louisiana now uses injection, but they strap the convict to the gurney after laying it flat.
  • This is one of several movies where Sarandon’s character as a child is played by her daughter.

R. Lee Ermey is famous for portraying Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, eight years prior to this one. More recently I watched him almost daily as a military interpreter in various shows on The History Channel. He died April 15 from pneumonia, in Santa Monica, California.

Dying to Believe

Number 116 in a series

Feeling as though the world has started to go loopy? You’re not alone, and it has:

Nearly 90 Percent Of Americans Have Prayed For Healing

Prayer is a common but little-discussed feature of therapeutic care.

If you’ve ever prayed for healing for yourself or someone you know, you’re not alone. In fact, the majority of Americans have prayed for healing at least once in their lives, and this prevalence suggests the spiritual practice could have some major benefits, according to a new study.

About 79 percent of people have prayed for themselves and 87 percent have prayed for others, according to data from a randomized Gallup survey of 1,714 Americans. Among those who have prayed for themselves, 32 percent reported they do so often, and among those who have prayed for others, 51 percent do it often.

More than half of the survey respondents have asked for prayer for themselves or participated in a prayer group (54 percent and 53 percent, respectively), and 26 percent have even participated in a laying on of hands, or when a person places their hands on the body of someone who needs healing while praying for them.

A little background. I had hospital procedures on two occasions this year, and I kept getting this question in the entrance interview. “Do you have a religious preference.” I’m wondering if I answered yes, and something went wrong in the O.R., would they pray for me, or would they actually make an attempt at saving my life? The things is, I would never know.