Pick Wayne's Brain

February 23, 2013

Is Extremism in Denial of Liberty a Virtue?

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 11:54 AM

I’m worried about my country. I’m worried because our open and free society has been manipulated by extremists bent on exploiting the worst in us in order to achieve their own very undemocratic, very anti-freedom, and very mentally unstable goals. The First Amendment protection of Free Speech is great and this wouldn’t be America without it, but just because you’re allowed to say something, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to treat what you say as valid, nor does it mean you have any right to demand that people do. And there has been a perversion of our Free Speech rights such that to question anyone’s right to say insane, even traitorous things, brings wrath that is, for reasons that escape me, treated as valid complaints. We have a Right Wing movement in this country so extreme that to call them “Conservative” is to misunderstood what true Conservatism is about. Barry Goldwater, in his acceptance speech as the 1964 Republican presidential nominee, said that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” A nice, patriotic sentiment, as patriotic pablum goes, but if we accept it as valid, must we also accept that extremism in the denial of liberty is no virtue? Yet this is exactly where today’s so-called “Conservative” movement has gone.

If you believe in (more…)

February 16, 2013

Keep Watching the Skies!

Filed under: Commentary, Science — Tags: , , , , , , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 5:02 AM

Yesterday, and be thankful to Whomever or Whatever you believe in that we can start with that word, a large asteroid given the ever so endearing name 2012 DA14 (don’t you want to adopt one?) passed within about 17,000 miles of the Earth. We have satellites orbiting at about 22,237 miles (approximately 35,787 km) above mean sea level. [Thank you, Arthur C. Clarke, for figuring that out for us.] This asteroid passed (yes, past tense!) closer to us than that. It didn’t hit anything as it passed by, but that is really just a matter of luck, no matter how you believe the Universe works. You may be thinking, “So what? It missed us, right? What’s the problem?” Think of it this way: It missed us by fifteen minutes. As famed Science Guy Bill Nye explains, that’s not the one you should be worried about. For every one of these large asteroids that they’ve been able to find, it is estimated there are 99 that that haven’t been found yet.

But just as much a matter of luck was the meteorite that came crashing down in Chelyabinsk, Russia that same day. [BTW, that link you just passed has some fascinating information in it, including an explanation of the difference between a meteor and an asteroid. Check it out.] Due to some kind of fad or obsession among the Russian people (official motto, “Screw you, Life, we’re still here!”), there are a lot of people driving around with dashboard cameras. It has something to do with insurance claims, or maybe encounters with the police, or maybe even to catch a meteorite flashing across the sky in front of you.

And, because it crashed into Russia, there were the inevitable comparisons to the Tunguska Event. And that’s where I start to get worried. Because they’re talking about a once-in-a-hundred-years event that hasn’t happened in more than one hundred years!

Good night, now. Go to sleep. 😉

February 9, 2013

The Right Frame of Mind

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 5:03 AM

As usually happens when a re-elected president begins a second term (and this is the first time since Jefferson-Madison-Monroe that we’ve had three consecutive two-term presidents) many of the people who served during the first term leave and new people get picked to replace them. Many of these replacements need to get confirmed by the US Senate, and it was during one of these recent Senate confirmation hearings that the subject of our nation’s use of unmanned drones was discussed, specifically their use against American citizens. It’s a very controversial subject. [NOTE: In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. I have never taken a law class nor attended a law school (though I used to fix copiers in one.) But none of those things should matter because, well, you’ll see where I’m going with this.]

The nominee in question, John Brennan, appointed to replace Leon Panetta as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (or NAMBLA), was being asked about a report by NBC’s Michael Isikoff regarding a Department of Justice White Paper that laid out the legal reasoning behind why it was felt the president had the legal and constitutional authority to order the assassination of a US citizen in another part of the world. Not just any citizen. The person in question had to be (more…)

February 2, 2013

What Say Phil

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 11:25 AM

Well, it’s that time of year again – the time when reporters from all over the country congregate in a small Pennsylvania town to ask a local rodent to play weatherman. They grab the little fella from its man-made “burrow”, make him stare at where his shadow would be, and decide whether or not he sees it. If he does, then there’s supposed to be six more weeks of Winter (which is about how many more weeks Winter would last anyway), and if he doesn’t see his shadow, Spring is supposed to come early. Of course, I always wonder two things: Does it count if he can see his shadow because of the TV lights set up all over the place (in which case, why bother because he’ll always see his shadow in those lights)? And if not, why do they need to bring Phil into this at all? Can’t they just look at the ground and see if they can see their own shadows? There’s something about this whole Groundhog Day thing that I guess I’m not getting.

Oh, and the “Big Game” is this weekend. (The NFL gets very touchy about calling it by their trademarked name, especially if you’re trying to sell something, which we’re not, but why take chances?) If you’re not into professional American-style football (also known to some as Hand Egg), perhaps you’d prefer to switch over to Animal Planet to watch the annual Puppy Bowl. Here’s a sneak peek. Their half-time show features cute kittens.

UPDATE: Phil supposedly did not see his shadow today, which means Spring will come early. Then again, with the climate changing more and more, Spring comes whenever it feels like coming.

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