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Happy Christmas! Here is a flame war in a can

Happy Newtonmass! (Yes, today is the anniversary of the birth of our rationalist saviour, Sir Isaac Newton.)

I have a personal tradition of always putting in some working hours on December 25th — not being Christian, and being a bit of a curmudgeon, it seems important to do so (even if I subsequently drop round on some friends and eat and drink far too much). I can just about categorize blogging as work (it's marketing/communications, dammit!) so this is my work for the day.

Because I'm a curmudgeon (the "G" in my initials is short for "Grinch"), the Christmas spirit thing really irritates me. A big part of it is the saturation-level advertising that crops up at this time of year: it leverages the winter festival to convey the message, "you will get into the festive spirit and Buy Our Stuff, otherwise you are socially inadequate". I do not care to be lectured about my social inadequacy by big box retailers: I especially dislike being defined as socially inadequate because I don't follow someone else's religiously-ordained festive tradition. Consequently, Christmas puts me in a contrarian mood. As a contrarian, right now nothing would cheer me up like a nasty, mean-tempered flame war — just to prove that the turbulent masses (this means you) haven't suddenly been turned into insipid, saccharine carol singers chorusing goodwill to all and peace on earth.

But I couldn't make up my mind whether today's blogging should be "gun owners: evil or wicked?", or "abortion: if you oppose it, you are murdering women"; I'm sort of in donkey-starving-to-death-between-two-mangers mode today. (Normally I try to avoid starting flame wars. Turning to the dark side, I suddenly find myself in a target-rich environment!) So I decided to go with something a little less controversial; why Jesus Christ bears such a remarkable similarity to Osama bin Laden that by 2312 there may well be a syncretistic religion worshiping him as the second coming ...

1. Jesus Christ is not his name. If he existed, his actual name would have been rendered in our alphabet somewhat like Yeshua bin Yussuf (he was later renamed Jesus™ by those pesky greeks). Also: forget that long-haired hippy 16th century Spanish nobility lordship you see in portraits of Jesus: he probably looked more like the guy on the left, only short and brown-skinned.

2. Yeshua, like Osama bin Laden, was born as the heir to a family construction business.

3. Yeshua, like Osama bin Laden, was a bit of a mystic and a dreamer. He dropped out of the family business, and took a good look at the society around him. In particular, he retreated into the desert for a while and tried to avoid the temptations of the flesh.

4. Yeshua, like Osama, decided that it was extremely important to get the imperial hegemon of the day to pull its troops out of the holy places of his religion.

5. With his followers, Yeshua attacked a major banking hub — the Wall Street of its day — in the shape of the money lenders in the temple grounds. (Due to the non-availability of weapons of mass destruction in his day, as opposed to Osama's, the temple survived.) (See also Revelations 18:11 and Revelations 18:19.)

6. Yeshua, like Osama bin Laden, preached subversive sermons, which were widely circulated among the masses suffering beneath the imperial jackboot.

7. Eventually Yeshua got up one privileged nose too many, and wound up being executed in a grotesque manner, to warn the masses (and his followers) what happens if you speak truth to power. See also Seal Team Six.

8. Over the subsequent decades and centuries, the numbers of his followers increased — principally finding recruits among middle-easterners pissed off at the imperial hegemonic power's continuing occupation and exploitation of their holy places. The followers of Osama Yeshua multiplied in numbers despite organized clamp-downs and purges.

9. Osama Yeshua's followers are — or were — big on holy martyrdom.

10. ... Okay, I've now run out of immediate similarities between Jesus and Osama bin Laden. Help me, somebody?



Donkeys are FAR too intelligent to starve between two perfectly satisfactory food sources. You know how, in Westerns, horses sometimes jump off cliffs? You never saw a donkey do that, now, DID YOU? You know why? THEY ARE TOO INTELLIGENT.

Stop donkey bashing. :P


Disclaimer: Nothing in the preceding blog entry should be taken as endorsing the beliefs or actions of those notorious terrorists, Osama bin Laden and Yeshua bin Yussuf.


I get it. The flame war bait is the part where you call Newton a rationalist, right?


Yes, but it's a good metaphor, even though we know it's wrong. See also: frogs in slowly-heating saucepans, the malign octopus of international [insert threat here], and so on.


Right! Alchemy forever!


Thank you for a lovely xmas day chuckle with some serious thought behind it (well we wouldn't expect anything less from you!) I'm glad you felt the need to do some work first, but given that most of the celebrations come from the pagan side anyway, please don't feel any guilt in joining the rest of us in overindulging...hic! :-)


Honestly, I don't think alchemy looks that misguided, these days. Work with the tools you have, and all that; those guys were on to some proto-singularity business well early.

  • The movements inspired by Yeshua and Osama were soon controlled by people who had never met the foundation of the movement, even when there were people with personal knowledge still alive. And these revisionist movements divided into sometimes conflicting factions. Some were forcibly merged into a locally dominant movement, some remained isolated.

  • The lives and deaths of both Yeshua and Obama became the subject of multiple conflicting stories, eventually being retold as Hollywood movies of a deliberately controversial nature.

  • 9:

    He was, like Osama, completely brain-stuffed. "Prophets", almost by definition have to be off their heads .. see also Mahmud the carpet (?) trader.

    Probably damaged in the posterior superior parietal lobe of their brains, where "religious" experiences are "seen".

    All three expected or predicted "second comings" - esachatology, in other words - a factor in common with the seriously mad William Blake, who regarded Newton as evil ... because he (Newton) was apparently a rationalist, who put "restrictions" on the Universe - "unweaving the rainbow" in another well-known phrase.

    I disagree about a new syncretic religion, since, apart from resurgent islamism, itself a sign of desperation, religion, generally is in retreat, even in the USSA, which is why the beleievers' leaders are shouting so loudly at present - they are hoping no-one will notice they have FEWER followers. Another reaons for depising nasty little crawlers like Blair, Camoron & the UNSPEAKABLE Peter Bone Euwwww ....

    Oh, thanks, Charlie, for resuscitating "The Pain", I think that web-site is, unfortunately dead for the time being - I used to like it .... oops, just checked - it has woken up again. Tim Kreider seems to have the necessary degree of cynicism!

    Like I said elsewhere: A good Yule to all fellow readers - eat, drink, it's mid-Winter.


    hope you and F have a lovely day - thanks for all the entertainment in 2012 xx


    Actually Newton's interest in alchemy and astrology was at least participation in rational belief systems which happen to be based on wrong premises. I am a lot more inclined to mock him for his assumption that the text of the Bible was so accurate - because guaranteed so by dint of being the Word of God (tm) - that you could use it as a source of accurate chronology and as the primary authority by which any other sources of chronology could be judged. He spent decades trying to sort out historical and biblical chronology as one of his major intellectual efforts - that's a lot sadder than alchemy.


    Some similarities, but the key point is that Jesus (and I'm not a Christian, though I've been brought up all my life in Christian schools) preached a message of peace, tolerance and love. Bin Laden didn't.


    Yeshua was rather more ambivalent to the occupying forces than Osama - he was prepared to acknowledge their power, not their right, to levy tribute, and would heal the servant of an NCO, indeed praise the NCO for his faith in him. He was also - I think - probably genuinely funny in performance; most of the parables are intrinsically comic and the ones that aren't probably are, just not across two millennia...

    Given he may have thought he was the Messiah, he was a lot less up himself than Osama.


    Didn't see that coming. I thought you were going to propose arming fetuses for self-defense as a way to solve the abortion debate.


    Actually, I should have blogged about the urgent, constitutionally-mandated necessity for Americans to keep and arm bears.


    This one's a stretch, but the way bin Laden involved himself in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as a sort-of proxy of the Saudis was kind of Messianic: sent from a greater power to throw-off a political oppressor.


    In other words, "normal" people don't accomplish great things.


    Did Jesus preach love and peace? We know he went around with a band of armed men, attacked the financial services dept of the temple and claimed he was bringing the sword and not peace at all. Despite what Billybob might believe, the Romans did not nail people up merely because they told people to love one another.


    As has already been observed, it seems possible that Osama may actually have been called Ozma, Oz or possibly "Dorothy Gale".

    The last-named of these seems the most likely alternative, since Dorothy once murdered a woman in order to steal her shoes, although the use of a Kansas farmhouse as the murder weapon is probably unique.


    Gud Yul, one and all, Happy Newtonmas and all.

    Can I take a contrary view on the gun one? Gun owners are probably not more evil or wicked than the general population. Those who argue that only the third and fourth clauses of the second amendment are important are more likely in that category though. Taken as a whole, solitary gun owners fail the first clause and it can be argued in this day and age that they fail the second too.

    Arguing that increased gun control causes lower deaths by guns (and using the UK as your source) is tricky - because we have always had fairly strong gun control and fairly low deaths due to guns. Since the gun control changes after Dunblaine we've had no massacres in schools though.

    And if you plot a graph of gun ownership against gun deaths in the US there is a very strong positive correlation.

    Taken together it's a strong suggestion more gun control might be a good way to reduce massacres in schools. But, of course, unthinkable to some - and they're in the evil camp for my mind.

    I'm also rather perversely amused that the larger "smaller government" NRA wants more government employees and so more taxes to pay for them.

    As for Osama and Yeshua - only one of them is recorded as favouring non-violent direct action, although his followers seem to have found a million exceptions to that message of non-violence.


    There is one argument that the codified biblical record actually conflates two different men; a violent revolutionary leader (who got crucified) and a peaceful essene preacher man of same or similar name (who didn't). This would explain a whole raft of paradoxes including the how-to-survive-your-own-crucifixion thing, and given that Christianity originated mostly as a codification of a word-of-mouth doctrine overlying a syncretistic slave religion (cult of Isis, bits of Zoroastrian dualism, bits of Mithraism, chunks of Judaism) it sounds relatively plausible to me ...


    "If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." John 15.6

    "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" Matthew 10.34

    "if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." Luke 22.36

    If you're reading is selective enough than Jesus preached peace and love, sure, but then bin Laden's rhetoric was pretty moderate up until the 1990's too.


    It occurred to me that, of course, there is a non-tax-increasing intermediate solution.

    The NRA want armed guards at schools. They are, hopefully, experienced in handling guns. The US Government should thank them for forming a training ground and take membership of the NRA as an indication that they are willing to volunteer to be part of a school-guarding militia. Unpaid, but trained. Not quite putting their money where their mouth is, but putting their bodies on the line for the beliefs. I wonder how much support they'd have then?


    And yet I knew (at least one of them has died of an illness despite their claims about how great USian healthcare is) Republicans who claimed that Christianity is a religion of peace and Islam one of hatred and war! We did the Crusades recently, so I'm fairly comfortable in saying that they were all started by "peace-loving Christians".


    Maybe a compromise. The only way to legally own military class rifles is to be a regular and active member of a militia. Not necessarily a state or federal militia.


    Radical Moral Authority confronts Cynical Realpolitik.. Which is hijacked by dogmatic absolutist authoritarianism .. Which becomes Cynical Realpolitik.. Which is confronted by Radical Moral Authority ..


    I'm a lot more partial to the Church Militant than the wishy washy hypocrisy of the Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild followers. Big red cross on the chest and sword in hand. I have a lot of sympathy for this guy:


    "Actually, I should have blogged about the urgent, constitutionally-mandated necessity for Americans to keep and arm bears."

    It's too bad you didn't:

    Because then we could have talked about Gordon Dickson and we would certainly have ended up with a science fictional Xmas.

    Joyeux Noel!


    If you had, I'd have taken the opportunity to point out that (in my part of Texas, at least) there's a strong feeling that the NRA has jumped the shark in recent days, by e.g:

    • Throwing the first amendment under a bus.
    • calling for a cop in every school, despite strong evidence of the terrible harm already caused by the "school to prison" pipeline, not to mention the fact that we're too broke to afford it.
    • and proposing a "solution" that consists of a bureaucratic "security" system to be run by a man from the Department of Homeland Security, of all places.

    One might make an argument that the NRA's recent conduct is a fine example of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy (I say this as someone who was born a Brit, naturalised a Yank, owns many guns and, despite that, has never shot anybody and has no desire to ever do so).

    OB on topic comment: One significant difference between Jesus and OBL that occurs is that the former appeared to be in the habit of putting himself on the front lines, while the latter preferred to hide in safety while sending young men with learning difficulties out to do the dieing.


    El, over the last fifty years I don't think that relationship holds. There may have been periods where it was true by coincidence, but I've never seen anything like a statistically rigorous analysis showing it.

    dirk.bruere, historical usage suggests that by "militia" the entire body of the people was meant, specifically the entire population armed and trained to defend itself both individually and collectively. Being part of a formal organization (whether government-run or not) wasn't required.


    I'd go with that, not least because it does impose a need for some sort of training, and might even succeed in teaching USians muzzle and trigger discipline.


    Jesus had a secretary named Kennedy who warned him against going to Gethsemane....


    "historical usage suggests that by "militia" the entire body of the people was meant, specifically the entire population armed and trained to defend itself both individually and collectively."

    You mean that when I read in 18th century dispatches (describing the US side in a battle against enemies) things like "the militia thereupon broke and fled" it really means that all the able bodied men of the 13 colonies got up and ran away?

    Where did they run to?


    I used to know a guy called Kennedy, specifically Kennedy Crawford. A nice bloke, but he was a chemical engineer and not a company secretary.


    Dirk @ 17 In other words, "normal" people don't accomplish great things. AND WHERE did I say that? Again, you are attributing to ne things I have neither said nor implied.

    Contra examples: Geordie Stephenson? Tim Berners-Lee? William Shake-Speare? Uncle Albert?

    Charlie @ 21 And, also, the systematic purging & restructuring of christianity up-to-through-&-post Nicea. Such as the removal of nasty, dangerous texts such as the "gospel of Magadalene"

    Paws @ 24 Don't forget the crusades launched against other christians, the most famous of which is the "Albignesian" one ...

    ndgmtlcd @ 28 You mean the Hoka ??? Aaaargggh!


    OED - Militia (1) a military force raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency. (2) a rebel force acting in opposition to a regular army. (3) (In the US) all able-bodied civilians eligible by law for military service.

    Anything I've read on the subject (normally by and about USians) suggests that option (1) is the normal usage.

    If we apply (3), that would suggest that only those members of the population who are eligible to volunteer for the military (or possibly even only those who are subject to the draft board) have a right to own weapons. Hmmm, that would appear to argue that the last spree killer used weapons which, since they were owned by his mother, were illegally held, but he could have held entirely legally.


    There's one huge difference between the early Christian church and the putative early Osamanians. Back in the 1st century AD, they didn't have TV or film or Internet. They didn't even have printing presses.

    And although Jesus' life and teachings were written down, in the form of the Gospels, this didn't happen until about 70AD.

    It would be like someone today trying to describe the Beatles based solely on the memories of people at least in their 60ies now. Without the benefit of being able to pop a copy of 'Yellow Submarine' in the DVD player or put The White Album into their iPods. Sure, there would be much that was accurate, but even if not deliberately falsified, the picture would be warped and retold in the image of those doing the telling.

    What would Christianity be like today if Jesus'd had access to Al-Jazeera in 30AD? Very different. Indeed, on this day we might well be eating our traditional meals of Beef to celebrate Mithras' emergence from the rock.


    Larry, most fetuses are armed... With a right and a left.

    Jesus is like a movie screen upon which Christians project their hopes and fears. Gods are created by humans and the Gods' stories tell us more about their worshippers than it does about the Gods.


    Where's the flame-bait? I guess I must be one of the very few evangelical Christians who regularly reads this blog, and nothing particularly controversial has been said about Christianity yet. Well, no worse than I can hear down the pub on any day. And that pain cartoon Charlie linked too was actually rather good from a Christian point of view. I could imagine it on the church noticeboard.

    Of course if there are any American gun-nuts reading this they might have problems with the other bale of hay - but then from my point of view the more clear air we ordinary Christians can put between us and the gunwankers and young-earthers and homophobes and so on, the better.


    Happy Newton's Birthday Greg!

    Ref my #24 - True, at least if we accept Gnostics as Christians (and Gnosticism is sometimes referred to as heresy), but if anything that supports my point about the historically warlike nature of the Christian church.


    I can't argue the whole history, nor am I sure of the relevance of it... But current data can be seen here and here and with strong p values suggesting its not just coincidence.


    Hey, don't bash it: given a nuclear reactor or a particle accelerator I think Newton would have been the one to crack the lead-to-gold nut--

    Though it seems likely he would have gone down the Curie death route shortly thereafter...


    Taking at face value the proposals to turn NRA members into (unpaid) school guards or other militia:

    First off, there is already an active, and well-armed "militia movement" in the southern US, which acts (or tries to) as a kind of unpaid, untrained, and gleefully unauthorized amateur border patrol, protecting holy American soil from being sullied by Mexicans without proper papers. Except that some of them aren't too fussy about the "without proper papers" part.

    Item two: the folks who are most eager to assert their second-amendment self-defense rights (as they see them) are not always, shall we say, the most judicious. Item: two recent Florida cases in which people are invoking Florida's "stand your ground" law to justify the use of firearms to finish fights they started. This law gives the gun nuts what they want: it allows them to use guns in self-defense by making it an affirmative defense to assault and murder if the gunman had a good faith belief he was in imminent danger.

    Thus late last month, a righteous dude named Michael Dunn fired several shots into the SUV of some black kids at a gas station after complaining about their annoying loud music, killing one, and then offered in his defense that he sorta kinda thought he saw one of them had a gun, and felt the need to defend himself. Lotta shadows in an SUV in the bright Florida sun. Kinda hard to be sure. The cops didn't find one, or anything that looked like one. But he thought it was there.

    I thought this ... specimen might be unique, but googling around for the case brought up another incident, just last week, where the annoyance was complaints about poor pizza service.

    I bring this up in the school volunteer-guard connection because, being the folks most eager to assert their second amendment self-defense rights (as they see them), they're also the most likely volunteers for such a squad.

    I'm not sure it was a serious suggestion to let these guys around schools, but particularly if some of the schools have black or hispanic students and parents, it's probably not a good idea.


    Maybe I missed a point somewhere, but I am very keen on the idea of the creators and writers of Jersey Shore meeting people who are packing heat!


    As for what the word "militia" might have meant to the people who wrote the bit of the US constitution about rightly arming bears, there is an interesting discussion about the wording on Language Log here: The New Yorker finds the U.S. Constitution ungrammatical which links back to one from a few years ago here: What did it mean to 'bear arms' in 1791? (some great comments but the thread later collapses under the weight of the Usual Suspects)

    I'm not an American, a historian, a linguist, or a lawyer, so I'm hardly qualified to judge (not that that ever stops me trying) but the weight of evidence does seem to be that the originators of that clause (claws?) probably did intend to allow the individual right to keep firearms at home (as was already the case under their previous English laws, so anything else would have been a restriction of individual freedom). Of course that has nothing to do with whether US law nowadays should restrict the kind of weapons that Americans use to murder each other nowadays. (To which my irrelevant answer is "of course it bloody should! My children's right to go to school in a reasonable expectation of safety outweighs your right to fondle your shiny big gun." But then I'm not an American) If 18th century rules don't fit in the 21st century, change the rules.


    Message from Ken Brown:

    Apologies for my two apparently unsigned messages above. (one saying the comments on Christianity weren't very inflamatory, the other linking to Language Log) The Google account I am signed in to on this machine to read my email also allows me access here, but I just realised that its not putting my name on the posts. I'll see if I can fix that.

    (Ken Brown)


    Incidentally (and utterly off topic) the "in a can" part of OGH's title reminded me of those Crosse and Blackwell breakfasts in a tin.

    It turns out that there are companies in the UK who will ship them to the USA - I'm about to gamble some money on them making it through customs...


    I had an inspiration, and instead of the concise OED, checked my Chambers which included "militia (US) The state National Guard". Other than the NRA, is there anyone reading who can not live with "the right to arm law enforcement officers and members of the National Guard"?

    Also, ref #45 - Rather than trying to unscramble Google accounts, why not create a local Movable Type account here?


    is there anyone reading who can not live with "the right to arm law enforcement officers To add a bit of petrol to the conflagration, why would a civilised nation think it needed routinely armed law enforcement officers?


    Linguistically, either "Hosea ben Yusef" or "Issa bin Yusif."

    And I still prefer the Romans to the rabble.


    Yeshke, Prince of Peace & Love? Yeah, not so much. His own supposed words, from KJV, somewhat repetitive and overlong [with some comments]:

    Matthew 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. [if the purpose of the Jewish messiah is to bring peace, this is enough to show the he wasn't it*] 10:35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 10:36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. 10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 10:38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 10:39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. [a call to martyrdom?]

    Luke 12:49 I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? 12:50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! 12:51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: 12:52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. 12:53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

    Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

    Luke 19:27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

    Been looking for a use for those. *Meanwhile, there have been a lot of false Messiahs, Yeshke wasn't the first, or the last (so much for A and Ω). See also Deuteronomy 13:2-6 for more possible reasons Jews don't accept him.

    So, will Osama be seen as the Mahdi? Or Islam and Christianity will come together for some sort of "Chrislam" (cue the clichés)?


    Baby steps man, baby steps.


    Para the last - "Chrislam", or "Isanity"? ;-)


    As I said yesterday, @160:

    Shouldn't that be 'ben Yosef', unless you're going for Aramaic, then it might be 'bar Yusuf'? And a more proper translation of Yeshuah would be Joshua. But I guess "Our Lord and Savior, Josh" doesn't have the same ring.

    Yeshua is a Hebrew word for salvation, and a form of the name Yehoshua--taken from the word (as is Hoshea, as you probably know), which in English is Joshua. All were fairly common names 2000 years ago in the area, as a sign of yearning for the end of Roman domination.

    So take your pick. I guess Charlie's going for Arabic now; bin Yussuf

    linguistic pedant hat now off--besides I'm no expert.


    @ 39 Sorry, but you are not an "ordinary christian" ... Ordinary christians are memebers of their churches, as described by Paws, or by history, & their record is not good.

    JPR @ 50 But, but, can we all play the quote-the-Bronze-Age-goatherders'-myths game? Pretty please? Matt 10, 35-37 is deliberately religiously provacative, since it directly contradicts the "10 Commandments", specifically Exodus 20, 12. Matt 10, 39 is a sepcific reference to the usual religious "new life" that is imposed/recieved/brainwashed into converts - see also communism for this one (!) Luke 19, 27 is pretty explicit, though, isn't it?

    Your Mahdi parallel is uncomfortably close, especially given the current guvmint in the (N) Sudan.


    A NEW SUB-TOPIC As suggested by OGH's own sub-heading to this thread.

    A list of our rationalist "saviour's" birthdays, to be celebrated as public holidays. Well, we've got one for Mid-Winter already, Sir Issac Newton. For the beginning of "lent" i.e. the old "hungry gap"/Fasching in Germany, I suggest Darwin's birthday, 12th February. So now, we need one for very early April, May Day (on general principles of fertility, drinking, etc), an early-summer one, one close to midsummer, one at approximately harvest time, & one to fill the long gap back down to Newton's birthday again. Any suggestions?


    While I think any country has the right to arm its police, it's on my list of "reasons not to go to country X" if all of their police are armed.

    I think it says a lot about the culture of the place if the police consider they need firearms to do their job effectively, and if the citizenry accept it. And while that's their choice and they won't lose any sleep over the lack of my tourist pound I'm sure, I'll avoid their culture if I can, thanks.

    That's not to say no police should ever be armed, although that would be my ideal. But in this day and age it's probably not viable - there are weasel-worded alternatives like no armed police and the army being deployed if firearms are necessary, but once you have a culture where firearms are occasionally necessary a subset of the police being armed is probably a pragmatic necessity. But it can still be small numbers. In the UK armed police have been deployed about 15,000 times in the last 10 years, but in the last 5 have only fired their weapons 60 times, more than half of those to destroy dangerous animals.

    With a bit of leeway (figures for different periods, so I'm assuming an even rate of deployments, although it might actually have increased, making it lower than this) that's less than 1% of deployments of armed police involve actually shooting at all, and less than 0.5% involved shooting a person. Makes me wonder how essential it actually is.


    Bertrand Russell - 18th May. Erwin Schrödinger - 12th August.


    Despite what Billybob might believe, the Romans did not nail people up merely because they told people to love one another.

    No. But they did nail up pretty much anyone who they thought might inspire a possible threat to their rule.

    Death by crucifixion was routine back then. For the Spartacus slave revolt they put up what, 6000 and let them rot as a reminder to anyone even thinking of doing it again.


    Matt 10, 35-37 is deliberately religiously provacative, since it directly contradicts the "10 Commandments", specifically Exodus 20, 12.

    Yep. I left this one out: Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law [the Torah], or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

    The mitzvot, or messianic prophecies? In the first case christians should follow not just the 10 Statements, but all 613 Mitzvot. And in the second, it sounds like he* intentionally modeled himself after certain passages in Isaiah (which he'd have been familiar with), which christians like to point to as prophesy of his coming, though they're about Isaiah's own time, and refers to the Jewish people--as the 'suffering servant'.

    *or rather, the people who later wrote about this supposedly historic person.


    I'm not an American, a historian, a linguist, or a lawyer, so I'm hardly qualified to judge (not that that ever stops me trying) but the weight of evidence does seem to be that the originators of that clause (claws?) probably did intend to allow the individual right to keep firearms at home (as was already the case under their previous English laws, so anything else would have been a restriction of individual freedom).

    I'm fairly certain that during the 1770s most every time the British soilders showed up one of the first things they did was confiscate the guns of all the locals. Which is where a lot of the impetus for the 2nd A comes from.


    Newton? Rationalist? That's a statement guaranteed to wind up any historian of science, although why OGH wants to troll that particular group of academics, I've no idea.

    Newton's thinking was a direct result of his religious beliefs, that there were pre-existing truths passed down from the ancients but hidden behind the inadequacies of human language and clouded by the Fall of Man. Hence his research wasn't driven by a desire to see a rational universe, it was driven by a desire to see God's creation as clearly as possible.

    All of this was thoroughly heretical at the time, heresy being punished by loss of pretty much everything, including death. So what Newtown really believed is a tad unclear - he wasn't going to be publicly disputing the divinity of certain Middle Eastern rebel scum.


    jezWeston @ 61 Among other things, wasn't Newton a "Unitarian" not bleivig in "the Trinity", for instance?

    strummist @ 57 Thanks - keep'em coming, we'll soon have a list we can select from for suitable dates. Or just have MORE HOLIDAYS, yeah!


    "gun owners: evil or wicked?" I'm wicked. Currently.

    "abortion: if you oppose it, you are murdering women" Abortionist shall make every effort to make a live extraction to determine viability, in which case it will have been a baby's birth. In case of non viability it was a fetus being aborted. Viability tests will expose the possible child to normal ambient conditions.

    Hah, yeah about Osama (he's dead and GM is alive, yay!) and Yeshua or whatever. You can do a lot with generalizations. Can't think of any more really, but I suspect that Jesus (habit) may have had leprosy just as Osama had that kidney problem. I mean think about it. Born in a manger (most leprosy is from exposer to unsanitary conditions early in life). Not afraid to go minister to the lepers. Lepers lose feeling so they have to constantly inspect for injury; compare to the anointing of feet and the palm sunday test. Insensitivity and knowledge of approaching death may also have assisted with a lack of fear or undue wimpiness upon crucifiction. Possibly even a temporary deathlike state.

    Thomas Jefferson said Jesus said a bunch of good stuff,

    so I guess he did, but his big hit was the golden rule. "If I can handle it, I can do it to you." I like the categorical imperative (basically, act as though the principle on which your action is based could become a universal maxim--do what you think everyone should do) because it's less about relationships, and thus less qualifiable, and more about general principles.

    But really, my take on the main theme of Christianity is that it is about getting somebody else to take responsiblity for you. Not gonna do it. Lay the punishment for my own sins on me please. I do not accept salvation, nope. However long you were going to suffer for my sins, take a break Jesus. I got this.


    Newton certainly denied the Trinity, at least in private, on account of the Church of his time being keener on death than cake.

    He was Arian rather than Unitarian, i.e. that Christ was a created being, rather than the Unitarian stance that he was pre-existing. At least, that's how I parse the reams of gibberish written about this point.

    Apparently, this was seen as an important matter, once.


    Funny how in US cop shows you don't see patrol officers as heavily armed as the ones I saw a couple of weeks ago in St Pancras - partial body armor and toting assault rifles (the Austrian one with the funky see through mags)


    Too ill to comment or read much, but Charlie? Thanks.


    Heh...I think you may be reaching a little too hard for the analogy in some places there.

    But be of good cheer, there's a silver lining (albeit small) for you this season...I got the last three of your books that I didn't already have as gifts from my sister-in-law. Well, one's the one you wrote with Cory Doctorow. But book sales are a good thing, no?


    Further on the militia, there is such a concept these days as the "organized militia", which would be things like the National Guard and during the First Tea-Related Unpleasantness would have meant bodies like the Minutemen. But note that the latter category had no ongoing existence at that time -- they were raised at need, made up of volunteers who typically brought their own weapons, and members often served somewhat irregularly. There was a clear distinction on the colonial side between "regulars" and "militia". They were utterly unlike today's National Guard in many ways.

    The Supreme Court opined on this as far back as 1939, in a decision that upheld the National Firearms Act, and although it's not legally binding the court found that "militia" clearly meant both organized bodies of fighters and the mass of civilian individuals who were physically able to serve in them.


    El, following those links, it looks like they're doing things like plotting gun ownership by gin deaths per state. That's not terribly useful precisely because there are so few data points and so many confounding factors.

    More interesting would be a plot of gun deaths vs gun ownership for each state over time, particularly where gun ownership changed a lot in a short time such as the expiration of the federal "assault weapons" ban in 2004. I have not heard of the statistics changing much in either direction in any state around that date. (No, I don't put much stock in John Lott's statistics either.)

    The other thing that made me groan a bit was the attempt to reduce gun violence to a Drake-style equation of probabilities, coupled with some large assumptions about which quantity was changing despite any model for a cause of that change.


    El@56 Armed response units are an unfortunate necessity, but the way they operate needs to be different to military units. A journalist colleague at an ITV company used to tell of a conversation he'd had with two police on the touchline of a local football match. One was gungho to do the firearms courses and join an ARU, the other had heard that conversation and quietly talked about his experience of watching the Hungerford gunman through rifle sights after the shootings and holding fire because by that time no member of the public was in danger.

    (Google string)@65 I think the St Pancras and airport police fall under security theatre, I can see the case for having an armed response unit on site but not patrolling. The Diplomatic Protection Group outside embassies and in Downing Street maybe have more of a case.


    Vulch @70 I think armed response units probably are an unfortunate necessity, I was just surprised to see how often they're used and how rarely they open fire. Could <30 cases in 5 years where they shot a person have been successfully handled some other way? I'm pretty sure the answer to that is yes. The question I don't know about is could they have been handled a better way that didn't involved an ARU?

    Kensey @69 I'm not sure what your discipline is but for lots of them, a group of 50 is more than big enough to say it's a population not a sample. There may be value in plotting each of the pairs for each of the 50 states on a year by year basis and examine the correlation coefficients and so on. But I'd be rather surprised if there's any utility to plotting all those graphs on top of each other and trying to draw conclusions that way. I would expect the slope of the graph to change over time as cultural values change - and that could quite easily destroy any indication of significance overall. If however (as I suspect but have no easy way to find the statistics to test for myself) each year shows a positive and significant correlation, the changes in the value start to be interesting about what they say about the culture, while the base conclusion that more gun ownership leads to more gun deaths per capita remains intact.


    that first paragraph originally said something like: Could those <30 incidents in 5 years where the police shot someone have been handled differently? I'm sure they could. Could they have been handled better? There's the question to which I don't know the answer - but we never seem to have a public debate on it.


    Downing street in case any dangerous cyclists appear


    ok. There's no html, but it's chewing a few sentences pretty reliably. Argh. Sorry, was using a less than sign and it was being taken as the opening of a tag I guess.

    Could those fewer than 30 cases where people were shot in less than 5 years have been handled better by some other means? They could almost certainly have been policed differently with some level of success. Whether that would count as higher or lower, I don't know and I don't know how to find out and open up the debate.


    I remember one of the British cop shows had an episode where a group of would-be firearms officers went on an introductory firearms course at the regional training centre. The gung-ho type lasted until the trainer demonstrated exactly what a sawn-off 12-bore shotgun did to a torso target built of ballistic jelly at which point he withdrew his application to become a firearms officer.


    That's the Downing Street the IRA mortared a few times?


    Dear Mr Stross,

    Thank you ever so much for the flame war. I enjoyed it immensely. Even now, hours after I first opened it, my cousins continue to play with it.

    Michael's mum took his new Lord of the Rings sword away after he hit the cat with it. He told her your thing about bringing peace with a sword but she didn't give it back, she made him go to his room instead. Which is think is what you meant, isn't it?

    Unfortunately my uncle Dave has gone down to his shed and is apparently very grumpy. My cousin Emma says he has a bear's right arm in there, but that doesn't sound right. Where's the rest of the bear?

    Love Moz


    I scoured my dictionaries in reply to that message; the word "militia" is not a synonym for "population".


    Para 2 - I do a bit of stats, and 50 states of the USA is a population, although 50 citizens of, say New York, would be a sample.

    Posts 72 and 72 - You need to use shift+7LT or shift+7GT to get less than and greater than symbols. shift+7 is typed to prevent it being converted to the symbols!

    [[ Mod note: to get the < symbol to display, you need to type &lt; (and to get & to display, you need to type &amp;) Hope this helps. ]]


    FFS, Charlie - Yeshua was much blacker than ObL. Mary was an Ethiopian and if the first humans were made in the image of their creator, then his dad is exceptionally black, too.

    7 falls right down. Yeshua's execution was excruciatingly public, where ObL's was done in the dead of night and off-camera simply to avoid ObL achieving Yeshua's legacy, namely that of becoming a martyr. You addressed this in #9, but failed to make the connection. The US Death Squad business is much better at PR than the Roman Empire was.

    And the name of the book is Revelation.


    One and the same; websearch "plebgate" if you don't understand the reference to cyclists. I would suggest also using the term "chief whip" but, well, Rule 34...


    Rumor has it Yeshua bin Yussuf went to the Indian sub-continent and came back inspired (radicalized) not unlike Osama Bin Laden.


    Nojay, the very same Downing Street I and any other member of the public could (and did) walk along in the early 1980s at the height of the IRA bombings. The one mortar attack was conducted by means of a van parked several streets away and fired by a timer. Bugger all any number of armed police could have done about it.

    El: It's worth noting that UK Crime Statistics for "Incidents involving firearms" can be misleading. It can be counted if an ARU turns up despite the perpetrator having nothing more offensive than a loud shirt in a built up area.


    TBH, I'm not sure what the "security gates" are supposed to achieve, particularly in these days of stuff like "Google Earth" which should allow you to achieve better range and bearing accuracy by planning using accurate maps.


    The other possibilities are that the Bible describes a completely synthetic figure, or that it describes a celestial god whose stories were moved from the celestial to the terrestrial worlds some time between the letters of Peter and the canonical gospels. We would not expect to have good evidence for a wandering rabbi in Judaea, but we ought to have most of what ever existed.

    Io Saturnalia!


    If you have an armed response unit then they need to be let out for a walk. Otherwise they'll get bored and excitable.


    Incidentally, while I spent the last few days cursing and muttering doing green fur and red contact lenses next year, I experienced the actual holidays somewhat relaxing, though that might just be "nice you stopped using the red hot knife, don't hurry with freeing me from the rack" values of relaxing.

    So well, at the moment I'm packing for 29C3 in Hamburg, trying to avoid an example people blaming anorexia nervosa on modern media are somewhat mistaken on TV

    oh, and posting on OGH site.


    why is there the correlation between pro-gun and anti-abortion?


    I suppose Google Earth might show you recent alterations to buildings but the traditional maps are called Ordnance Survey for a reason.

    I don't know how accurate G E elevation data is - probably quite good - but OS maps are outstanding.

    There are redactions from the OS for security reasons but I expect the same applies to google. And unlike google a paper map doesn't keep a remote log of everything you look at.


    edwin @ 82 No Yeshua effed off to "India" with Mary Magdalene, where they shacked up, & did NOT come back - having ("just" survived his very painful crucifixion, & being taken down, presumed dead, but actually heavily hyssop-drugged. [ An overdose of either or both of Hyssop or Sage will induce a deep coma ]

    Vulch @ 83 Oh, like firing a taser at a man with a white stick (partially-sighted/blind) in mistake for a samurai sword ... the cop should have been the one going to specsavers, actually! NOT funny or clever.


    Well, this Aussie pagan spent most of her Christmas day playing Dungeons and Dragons online (and avoiding a 39C forecast temp - the start of a heatwave, where we're expecting temperatures at or over the old 100F mark for the next 6 days of the old year).

    I once devoted a fair amount of time to going through the various gospels (in order of creation, so starting with the gospel of Mark, which was written down around 70AD - so about a lifetime after the death of the man it was chronicling) and finding the various things which were actually SAID by Yeshua bin Yusuf. It was an interesting read, really.

    For a start, the man didn't have anything to say on the topics which are of most interest to the various highly public preachers of the religion which is purported to have started from his teachings. He says nothing about homosexuality. He says nothing about abortion. He did have a bit to say about divorce - he was against it, because it was effectively legalised adultery.

    He says quite a bit about walking the path to righteousness - and how difficult this is. A lot of what he says is that the path to God is hard, and deliberately so. He makes the very definite point that some people will never be able to walk it, for various reasons; others may never succeed to the degree they were capable of; and that if you really want to walk the path to God, you have to be willing to give up every single thing distracting you from the path. Your job, your possessions, your family, even your physical life if necessary. He says a lot about how the standard "attend the place of worship on holy days, walk absent-mindedly through the rituals, go home and forget about it until the next holy day" style of religion isn't acceptable. He points out that if you really want to reach God, you have to be willing to go beyond the simple text of the commandments. For example, you can't just refrain from killing: you have to refrain from aggression in all forms, including rage and anger. You can't just refrain from blasphemy, you have to go beyond that to ensuring that your sworn word cannot be breached, even involuntarily - and the easiest way to avoid that is to avoid swearing oaths altogether. You can't just avoid committing adultery yourself - you have to avoid lust and covetousness. It's never enough to avoid sin yourself; you have to be willing to avoid causing others to sin (which is part of the reason for the ban on divorce - it's effectively causing the divorced partner to commit adultery if they wind up in another relationship).

    He also had a lot to say about public prayer, public worship, public professions of faith, and public charity. He was against the lot of them - they're more about impressing other people than they are about impressing God. God isn't impressed, and God judges you using the stick you use to judge others.

    Some people get the funny idea that Yeshua bin Yusuf preached Judaism Lite. He didn't. He preached Judaism: Nightmare Mode.

    (Oh, and on the Gospels - the impression I got from reading them as a kid was that they were each written for a different readership. Mark is the gospel of the biographer, because it's much more about what and when. Matthew is the gospel evangelising to the Jews, because it tends to link everything back to the Jewish scriptures and attempt to "prove" that Yeshua called Christos was the one who fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah. Luke is the gospel evangelising to the pagan Gentiles, full of miracle stories and things which prove that yes, this man was the Son of God as per pagan myths. [Note it's these two evangelical gospels we get the whole of the Christmas story from, and realise the whole thing is likely to be myth created to fulfil various conditions required.] The gospel of John is the gospel for mystics.

    I later had this impression confirmed for me by my father, who actually trained to be a minister in the Churches of Christ, and therefore had a bit of the background to the whole thing).


    Another similarity between Osama bin Laden and Jesus Chris is that both owed their early success in life to the Western power they went on to oppose.

    Before Westerners started using oil in industrial quantities Saudi Arabia was the arse end of the Islamic world. Now we Westerners have made a bunch of Iron Age religious maniacs rich. Lenin's "capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them" has never been more true.

    Jesus and his followers survived despite being Jewish heretics because the Roman government at the time took a dim view of their subjects slaughtering each other for belonging to a different religion. (Policy changed under Constantine a couple of centuries later.) Independent Jews behaved like Catholics vs Protestants or Sunni vs Shia. Read Josephus for the gory details of how the Maccabean rebels behaved once they'd thrown out the oppressors, or Tom Hollands excellent new book.


    andyf @ 88

    George Lakoff wrote a book with an interesting theory on why certain apparently contradictory opinions go together in American politics, called "Moral Politics." It's been a decade since I read it, but the basic thesis is that if you view being forced to bear a child as a punishment for crime (being a woman having sex), it goes along with supporting the death penalty and arming "good" citizens with guns.

    Definitely going off-topic, I don't recommend following up on this comment. But the book is too good not to recommend.


    I sometimes had the impression that Newton was a Socinian:

    At other times I had the impression that he was a Socinian because he believed himself to be the long lost (switched at birth by doctor Who?) son of God. So it couldn't be that Josh fellow who got nailed on a cross.


    I'll predict a similarity: What if the syncretic religion worshiping Osama Bin Laden has values and teachings as wildly divergent from OBL's as Christianity's from its founder? If the man who advocated treating children and women (even sex workers) and people not of your own race as equal human beings could accidentally found a religion that advocated the non-humanity of women and the violent deaths of millions - why would an OBL worshipping religion resemble anything he actually taught after a couple of hundred years?


    I haven't heard that rumor before. The one I heard is, he went to India learned about Hinduism gave it his own spin went back to Judea preached and got nailed to the cross. Could be he went back after that, having survived the crucifixion.


    So what Newtown really believed is a tad unclear

    There are 1000s of pages of his writings on religious/faith/supernatural issues. And most everyone who has looked at them say they make no sense. Unless someone discovers a key page that unlocks a hidden meaning he will likely go down as someone a bit nuts in later life. Maybe a lot nuts.

    One theory I've heard is that he poisoned his brain by tasking his alchemy concoctions. Supposedly a common practice at the time.


    Actually, since I believe in ghosts, there is no paradox in apparently surviving your crucifixion or the necessity of supernatural explanations. OK, "ghost" is maybe the wrong word, "strong echoes" might be better. Let me elaborate...

    It seems like humans represent part of their surroundings in mental maps:

    Since much of our cognition is social in scope and mode, it seems reasonable to imply some mental representation of our social surroundings, e.g. a mental social net. Also note that identification of the nodes is somewhat complex and might imply not just recognition of faces and other sensory input, but also emotional states etc., somewhat akin to classical conditioning; this recognition has quite a few failure modes:

    Now, if some person is removed from the environment, e.g. by migration or crucifixion, it might take some time for updating the mental map, with all the fun we know from syncing directories on a server.

    E.g. after some days of dogsitting, I somewhat "expected" the dog in my periphery and even, err, "saw" it there, even though it was clearly not in the appartment, but back with its owner.

    Point in question? I'm not in the mood for some higher criticism[1] at the moment (see: packing for 29c3),

    and it seems like early Christians couldn't even get their witness lists straight[2], but most of the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection are somewhat along the lines of "she/he/they met this guy, who in retrospect just might have been Jesus, though they didn't ask him, and he didn't say so, and they didn't recognize him either", which is quite compatible with misidentification by people in the clutch of a quite severe F 43.0. If you don't understand, I envy your innocence (or pity your emotional deficit). And, well, the Yeshua node wasn't removed from the mental map yet, though the guy was.

    As for the connection between Jesus and the Essenes and the Dead Sea scrolls, problem is that this is somewhat akin to explaining two textual enigma ("this Palestinian guy the gospels talk about"/"some dudes mentioned by Philo, Pliny and Josephus who have an eerie similarity to Pythagorean and other ascets in Hellenism") with each other and use this to explain an archeological enigma (whoever wrote the Dead Sea scrolls). Please note that Josephus says they only carried weapons to protect against robbers, err, I guess after 70 AD, that was somewhat akin to "most muslims are peaceful", and you wouldn't expect something where my first association was something like "Turner Diaries, anyone?"

    with such a bunch of guys...

    But then, living for themselves in the wilderness, preparing for armageddon, wasn't this what the Branch Davidians etc. were after?

    Thing is, we don't know that much about the movements in Second Temple Judaism, but there are quite some other movements that have similarities with the Yeshua thing besides the Essenes, e.g. this one

    so IMHO the "he was surely no sadducee, since he believed in resurrection, and identifying him with the pharisees is problematic, since these are the guys that started Rabbinical Judaism, and they seem inimical to him, so he must be close to the Essenes, but he doesn't fit in there, so he can't exist/is the son of god/is a product of amalgation of distinct traditions" logic is somewhat, err, problematic.

    To go for the devil's advocate, some of the things we deem as typically Christian or examples of Hellenistic amalgation (which is exactly distinguished from the usual Ancient Middle Eastern amalgation by what?), e.g. veneration of a "Queen of Heaven"/Mary

    or "Divine Council"/Bi- or Trinity

    might have been not that alien to Second Temple Judaism either. Where some of the folk versions of SCJ, when we're talking about it, maybe was not that much removed from the usual religion of speakers of the Canaanite branch of North-Western Semitic languages as the rhetorics make it appear...

    To come to a conclussion, I don't see any necessity to construct two Yeshuas; I agree the Yeshua of the gospels is likely to be an amalgation of different sources and some of his sayings are definitely from somewhere else, e.g. most Christians'd be surprised that Matthew 7,12 is somewhat ripped straight from Hillel (Shabbat 31a). But I don't see that much of a disconnect in the depiction of the person to necessitate two distinct sources. Where the whole person might still be fictional, of course. But to repeat myself, given Yeshua was a VERY common name, it's likely the Yeshua of the gospels is an amalgation, but I don't see the whole Yeshua movement as the outlier to SCJ both Christians and Non-Christians seem to imply. Except it survived, heavily transformed, along with Rabbinical Judaism, Samaritanism

    and Mandaeism.

    And Pre-Exile Israelite Henotheism, Hellenistic Judaism, Sadducees, Sicarii, Essenes etc., quite a lot of Jewish Christianity and the Gnostics bit the dust.

    Islam's position might be somewhat complicated, personally, I wonder how much of it is a continuation of original Jewish Christianity; now the usual suspects, the Ebionites, didn't believe in virgin birth, which muslims do,

    but there was another group, using the sarcasm very unique name of Nazarenes who did

    Also note using one of the Gospels of the Hebrews might explain why there is only one gospel in the Quran.

    [1] See "blessed be the greek" for the early stages of Q:

    [2] Let's start with Saul, err, Paul of Tarsus, who seems to be the earliest source; 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 lists, in chronological order a Cephas (likely to be Simon Petrus),

    the Twelve [whatever], 500 followers of both sexes, a James (maybe James the Just, the leader of the Jewish sect that was to become Christianity)

    and all apostles (wouldn't that be the Twelve already mentioned, or whatever?)

    The Gospel of Mark is somewhat more equal opportunity, with a narration that has Mary Magdalena as the first witness, then the eleven apostles (minus one Judas Iscariot, I presume). Immediately afterwards, Jesus ascends to heaven.

    Matthew has some poor wardens and the women at the grave(if all the gospels are somewhat more equal opportunity witnesses than Hellenic Judaism "women, cover your head" Saul, err, Paul, there might be pattern), then the eleven apostles, again.

    Luke has the women again, then the Emmaus story,

    then one Simon (St. Pete, again?) and lastly, the eleven apostles and other followers.

    And John has first Maria Magdalena, then his followers without Thomas, then his followers with Thomas, then Simon Petrus, Thomas and some others who don't recognize Jesus at first but guess it's him.

    I'm ommiting the "apocryphs" here, since there is already enough confusion. And yes, I ended up with doing some higher criticism.

    the reports differ somewhat, with Mark (likely the first gospel, but not before 70 AD) the simplest (a central female follower and the apostles, with ascension afterward) and John (consensus something about 100 AD) the most elaborate, just what you'd expect. Paul (57 AD) is something of an outlier, since lists even more witnesses than John but ommits the women, but then, it might be Paul was also an outlier to early Christianity in general and gained central prominence later.


    In general, the idea of both this Yeshua guy and Osama venerated not just in the same religion, but becoming one, is quite nice, Orange Catholic Bible, anyone...

    problem is, where does this religion come from? Mainstream Christianity seems an unlikely source, and Mainstream Islam has the problem that this Yeshua guy is already in it, albeit in the form of Isa ibn Maryam, or Jesus the son of Mary, to use Westernized names; as mentioned, Muslims have the virgin birth, too. A possibility might be a reintegration of the Christian Jesus as a doublette, e.g. one Isa ibn Yussef.


    A random flame comment to celebrate the silly season. I don't use guns myself, but I just wish governments wouldn't keep infringing on the liberties of the citizenry. Unless their is evidence that we intend unprovoked harm to others, we should be able to think what we like, do what we like and possess what we like...none of these rights are sacrosanct anywhere, including the USA, as far as I know.


    That was the Yeshua of in the scriptures of some followers eking out a life in the Roman Empire; the real McCoy might have been, err, different.

    Please note that "to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, to God what belongs to God" could also mean "nothing to Caesar".

    Implying you are of royal lineage doesn't help either, if the guy really said that, the only paradox is anybody of his family survived...


    On the religious side of the discussion, i imagine I can't be the only commenter who's read Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal? It takes some of the more apocryphal writings as part of its storyline, to fill in that troubling gap between 12-year-old Jesus and 30-year-old Jesus.

    On the statistics of the 50 states in parallel vs. in time series, I fundamentally look at the parallel analysis as an attempt to beg the question by handwaving correlation as causation. During the period 1996 to 2011, gun ownership in the US remained pretty static, but during that time, violent crime continued its long decline since its early-90s peak. So whatever violent crime rates correlate with, it seems obvious on its face that they don't correlate with overall gun ownership in the US unless a plausible mechanism backed up by some pretty specific statistics can be formulated. "The average tendency toward violence" doesn't pass the smell test for that to me -- it's impossible to quantify directly, and looks like the kind of thing people come up with when they desperately want something to be (or not be) true, but the numbers inconveniently disagree. So instead of admitting a term in the equation (influence of guns on violent crime) does not have the expected weight, one invents a new term and conveniently assigns to it the value that ruins the desired result.

    It is as if I hypothesized that the average height of the population is a major positively-correlated factor in piracy. Then when confronted by the fact that piracy has declined quite a bit while height remained pretty static or even increased globally, instead of retreating from the hypothesis I invented a new factor of an innate tendency to become a pirate growing weaker over time that more than offset the height factor, so that I could still argue that strictly controlling height is absolutely essential to reducing piracy.

    What I would want to see, ideally, would be a clear change from one year to the next in gun ownership that correlates with a change in crime rates against the established trend. (One year to the next precisely to try and minimize the confounding effect of unrelated long-term changes having the same result, such as a general change in the economy of a state). Or alternately, a sudden imposition or expiration of significant gun control laws that again correlates with a significant counter-trend change in violent crime that year. To the best of my knowledge only John Lott has purported to do this sort of analysis, and reported that the correlation worked out to "more guns, less crime", but I just fundamentally don't trust his analysis when he is still putting out that two-point-whatever-million defensive gun uses per year figure.

    And finally, paws4thot, on the militia definition again: looking at Webster's Online gives "2: the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service". (I have glossed over the "male" point up to now, out of a desire to recognize for women an equal opportunity to be members of the militia; however it is true that the technical definition as written in the Militia Act 1903 places both sex and age limits on the militia.) In particular for contemporaneous sources, look at Federalist No,. 29, which makes it pretty clear that the Framers meant a very broad section of the general population when they used the term "militia". There is also Federalist No. 46, which puts forth the calculation that the militia of the entire US would number about half a million armed citizens when the entire US population in the 1790 census was slightly less than 4 million. (Note that there would be significantly more gun owners than just the militia, as the elderly, the very young, and women were not expected to serve if the militia were called to service.)


    If Baby Jesus and Baby Osama were in the same stable and donkeys were carnivorous and thirsted for the blood of messiahs, then a donkey would probably starve to death between the two mangers.


    For "dangerous cyclists" read "politicians".


    From my own experience, I can believe that.

    I have, a few times at conventions, seen person A across the room and misidentified them as person B. No beards were involved.

    Of course, it is also possible that Omega has perfected a teleporter.


    He was, like Osama, completely brain-stuffed

    My favorite prophet is John the Baptist, who was so far out, everyone else in the Bible thought he was weird. Ponder that one a moment. "Sure, Ezekial and his flying wheel. Sounds plausible. But that John the Revelator? Fuck me, but that cat is strange!"

    Anyway, it amuses me to no end that, were Yeshua born today, most of his so-called admirers would want his ass on a terror watch list, post haste. All that anti-imperialist, anti-capitalism stuff? Bad for business.

    I expect to see Osama t-shirts in the style of Che t-shirts in 5-8 more years. Though if you want real flame war bait Charlie, you should sell t-shirts that say "Osama was right."

    --Keith Edwards


    A note on "militia", with degressions into history.

    The English model was for forces raised from trustworthy men by the local gentry. By the late 18th century this was getting modified, but the Yeomanry (militia cavalry) had this nature into late Victorian times, and it was revived in the rifle volunteer movement.

    I've seen a Yeomanry manual from the 1830s, and what we might call counter-insurgency was a matter that was covered. Remember, the US Constitution and the initial amendments were being debated and ratified while the French Revolution was happening (post-Bastille, but before the deposition of the King).

    The English militias went both ways in the Civil Wars of the 1640s, which partly goes to explain the development of a standing army. Infantry regiments were long known by the name of their Colonel, who had originally the responsibility of raising them, and the Green Howards derives its name from the situation in 1744. It's now the 2nd Battalion of The Yorkshire Regiment, and due to be disbanded.

    The "second son of the 3rd Earl of Carlisle" is a pretty solid marker for being a member of the "establishment".

    Incidentally, the Yeomanry are still around as part of the Territorial Army. They started out in the 1790s, and since cavalry need horses, were recruited from farmers, officered by the local gentry.

    Anyway, the idea of the militia, at the time the Second Amendment was being debated, was of a rather non-rebel volunteer force providing local defence, made up of relatively prosperous men. And the example of the 13 Colonies showed that such men could still rebel against tyranny which, when the Constitution gave the Congress the right to raise a standing army, seemed to make a militia a political necessity.


    Looking at incidents reported in both the UK and the USA, the idea that the Taser is "non-lethal" (certainly less lethal but...) seems to have led to far less restraint in its use. I don't think it is a good thing that Police issue of Tasers is encouraging violence by the Police.

    Under UK law, a Taser would be an "Offensive Weapon", and is also a Prohibited Weapon under Section 5(1)(b) of the Firearms Act. Good luck in court if you're not a cop, you will need it.

    Flamebait: it is rare for cops to be prosecuted for acts which the rest of us would be. With no prosecution, neither Judges nor juries can give any response to tasering a blind man. All that is left to us is the reporting in the media, with all the potential for abuse that incurs.

    110: 97 Para 1 - I believe in ghosts too (for values of "believe in" which reference a near certainty that certain locations experience a frequency of certain types of events that present day science can not explain. This does not, at least necessarily, mean that I think that the spirits of some dead people walk the Earth.

    In this context, note that whilst I have never "seen a ghost" I have experienced a feeling of unease in a location which I did not know to be, but later discovered to be "haunted").


    Commenting on the original complaint:

    1) switch off TV and radio 2) grab a book, cookies and punch 3) ommmmm

    HTH :)


    As earlier, the right to arm bears can be read as referring to any of:- 1) Members of a state National Guard. 2) Citizens of an age to be able to volunteer for military service. 3) Citizens of an age to be subject to a draft board.

    Do you actually believe that the Founding Fathers meant 'a 4" trench mortar in every cloakroom, a Maxson turret on every truck chassis, an AK-47 in every purse'?


    You can argue which gate he should have used both ways:- 1) If he was riding the bicycle, he was a vehicle, and should have been searched as such then allowed to use the vehicle gate. Of course, this would mean using an endoscope down his throat and up his, ah, tradesman's entrance! 2) If he was pushing the bicycle, he was a pedestrian and should have used the pedestrian gate.


    Given acquaintances who had less than stellar good sense and restraint cooking up explosives (and varying damage to self and buildings), I'm not sure I would welcome unrestricted ownership of anything, at least while people I care about (including me) might unwittingly wander into the blast radius.

    (to note: experimenters going overboard, no intent of damage to people or property (except a tree stump, in one case))


    It will be interesting, as more and more places end up with it, to see what a change live video of all incidents does to the relative immunity of the police from prosecution.

    I think, given we need police, to some extent they should be protected from prosecution. A police officer spotting a violent crime in progress needs to be sure they can pile in, batons waving to subdue the criminal, as part of their duties. Jo(e) Public in the same situation might well get away with it but it's riskier all round.

    However, we are seeing more and more cases where the police are, IMO rightly, being prosecuted for going too far. The guy that was beaten to death at the G10 protest marches - the copper that did it was prosecuted, tried and found guilty.

    There will always be tricky cases near the boundaries. Personally I think "we thought it was a sword" is a very poor defence for tasering a blind guy with a white stick. The two do not look alike. I think it's such a poor defence that the courts should probably be involved and may be eventually. The G10 death took something like 3 years to get to trial remember.

    If he'd been waving it around his head and threatening people with it - that would probably have been a sufficient defence for tasering him in my eyes. I know white sticks are light and insufficiently rigid to actually hurt much, but making the assessment that's exactly what it is when it's being waved around in a threatening fashion that way is quite a fine judgement.

    So, certainly not flaming you, I think it's a tricky line to draw. It's probably a bit too far in favour of the police at the moment but I think it's a line that needs small nudges with new tools rather than completely redrawing somewhere a long way from where it currently lies.


    This makes me think of an incident from an acquaintance's teenage years, involving a tree trunk that was "to be cut up for firewood", and a quantity of black powder.

    Yes, ok, black powder is "only" a deflagrant, but it was still fortunate that the tree halves took the trajectories that they did.


    Valerie @ 94 You must remember the vital & horrible role Nicea played in the “reform” of Christianity, displacing women & other lower orders & making it part of the new Byzantine state’s apparat

    Trottelreiner @ 97 I believe in ghosts Assuming you are not just shit-stirring, please provide evidence? There is even less evidence for ghosts than there is for a BSF. OK, I’ve read your “explanation” & I really think you should have used another word … Also, as for Yeshua’s parentage (Seen the R. Graves alternative explanations?) as well as his post-crucifixion survival, all these are alternate possibilities, which DO NOT require any supernatural ex-post-facto miraculous bullshit, just vague witnessing, of the type you describe. Never mind the textual & inter-sect differentiation you describe. Try this on a “born-again” & I wish you luck!

    Kedwards @ 104 Even “John the Baptist” wasn’t as wierded-out as the author(s) of “Revelation” – I mean what was the guy ON?

    @ 105 The relatives were “Considering legal action” – it has gone horribly quiet – to the extent I suspect a large pay-off & a gagging clause.

    @ 110 Please don’t! Back in the 60’s it was ridiculously easy to obtain things which could be made to go bang, including one which got very hot on contact with water, so you could make a baot-sinking “bomb” out of an old shoe-polish tin …… by using said mix as the detonator.


    I expect to see Osama t-shirts in the style of Che t-shirts in 5-8 more years.

    I was very amused to see that the Beijing equivalent of Camden market has a wide range of "Barack Obama as Chairman Mao" iconography. Much of it is now decorating our work Democrat's desk...


    The guy that was beaten to death at the G10 protest marches - the copper that did it was prosecuted, tried and found NOT guilty.

    -- There, I fixed that for you. (Source).

    On the other hand, PC Harwood was subsequently fired for gross misconduct, the pathologist (Freddy Patel) who conducted the first autopsy on Ian Tomlinson was struck off the medical register for deficient medical practice, and the incident caused a massive uproar. Unlike the outcome of most cases of avoidable-death-by-cop.

    Note that from 1998 to 2010 there were 333 deaths in police custody in the UK; no officers were charged, much less convicted, of negligence or violence in any cases -- which seems highly improbable. Especially as something clearly changed around 2008, with the custodial death rate falling to about a quarter of its historic level.


    Personally, I don't give a damn what the founding fathers wanted. But, as a free man I consider it a *god given right to do what I like, think what I like and own what I like as long as I intend no malice towards others. Why should a righteous man's liberties be curtailed to protect the mob from the actions of the ill intentioned. This extends to the great malaise of today's world, the fear of risk. You know that if electricity had been invented today, it would be banned because of the risk of some unsupervised child dying from it. No wonder we can't get off this damned planet when everyone is afraid of building nuclear rockets that were designed 50 years ago. ;)

    *I don't capitalize god because I see his job up for grabs as well if we dare.


    right to do what I like, think what I like and own what I like as long as I intend no malice towards others.

    That's a rather arrogant position to take; consider, for a moment, the fact that your acts may without malice nevertheless endanger your neighbours?

    Consider Paws' example at #112, involving teen-agers, black powder, and a tree that needed dismantling. Is it really a good idea to give teens access to explosives for lulz? (Or simultaneous access to cars and booze, for that matter?)

    The law needs to be drafted to protect us from the consequences of our neighbours' stupidity. Unfortunately the law cannot then make exceptions for the non-stupid (without, at least, some sort of stupidity-assessment-and-exemption-licensing scheme).

    Note, also, that you may be thinking in terms of American suburban living, where your neighbours may be quite a long way away. My nearest neighbours are about ten feet away, vertically, and thirty feet away, horizontally. This has some bearing on how the consequences of my (or their) stupidity might unfold.


    There are circumstances in which, despite you not intending harm to others, your "Dog* given right to do whatever the h*ll you like" can impinge on the rights and health of others.

    I'm not too happy with the idea of "nuclear rockets" (meaning primary or secondary boosters, not atomic batteries or extra-atmospheric engines not engaged until the vehicle has attained escape velocity), but that's on the "first do no harm" argument that most non-sociopaths will work to.

    *Dog because I don't care whether or not the post even exists, never mind whether or not it is open.


    I like the buzz words like "sociopath" and the traditional fingers in the ears, chanting "I can't hear you so you don't exist, nyah, nyah, nyah."

    I exaggerated the argument to make a point about today's world of ever diminishing liberties. Charlie's response is correct and I do actually see why people shouldn't store heavy weapons in their houses. I'm also not a supporter of hunting, but I do support the concepts of "stand your ground" and self defense

    I'm just tired of the fact that every time something bad happens we want to reduce liberties...reduce the speed limit, ban guns, don't let people swim at dangerous beaches, put remote areas out of bounds, try to ban cigarettes and alcohol, children not allowed to walk down the street without guardians etc etc etc.


    Exaggeration, like sarcasm, doesn't always come over in plain text. I'll cheerfully agree with all your cases in para 3 except cigarettes, and that since there is a strong statistical link between just being around cigarette smoke and a variety of lung complaints. I'm not just referring to "lung cancer" here; a friend of mine is married to a woman who gets asthma attacks from being in a room with just one smoker. "Your"(second person plural/impersonal form) "right to enjoy smoking tobacco" curtails her "right to free association".


    The idea of a syncretic religion blending Jesus and Osama Ben Laden reminds me of the Cao Dai in general:

    And more specifically it reminds me of whatsisname, the old SF author who wrote a short story (about 50 years ago?) where Viet-Nam became a world power eclipsing Russia and China, while sticking to the Cao Dai religion.


    @108 "All that is left to us is the reporting in the media, with all the potential for abuse that incurs." What about the power of lawsuits in civil court? There the burden of proof is lower and the power is actually greater. You can sue a police department and force a change of policy that will be enforced because the city simply doesn't want to go broke.

    @111 "Do you actually believe that the Founding Fathers meant 'a 4" trench mortar in every cloakroom, a Maxson turret on every truck chassis, an AK-47 in every purse'?"

    A good clue would be the temporary constitution they had at the time they were writing the one we have now

    Article VI of the Articles of Confederation states, "...every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of filed pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage."

    Field pieces are listed separately from being sufficiently armed; they are supplied and stored by the state.

    I would think sufficiently armed would mean a roughly contemporary individual weapon. Had the militias been called up and arrived with matchlocks that would have been insufficient. Judgement call I guess.

    Also re definitions of militia out of the OED, the proper source might be US Statute.

    The unorganized militia created by the Militia Act of 1903 ...consist of every able-bodied man of at least 17 and under 45 years of age who are not members of the National Guard or Naval Militia.(that is, anyone who would be eligible for a draft). Former members of the armed forces up to age 65 are also considered part of the "unorganized militia" per Sec 313 Title 32 of the US Code.[2]

    @120 Our Host "The law needs to be drafted to protect us from the consequences of our neighbours' stupidity. Unfortunately the law cannot then make exceptions for the non-stupid"

    The civil courts do a good job narrowing the gap between letting everybody do anything and prohibiting or licensing everything. Dangerous new products are removed because the startups that sell them go out of business from lawsuits. Dangerous old products (asbestos, lead paint, leaded gas) require more. As a heuristic (rule of thumb=how big a stick you can beat your wife with), laws need to be made when the civil courts are inadequate. As a meta rule maybe the power given the civil courts should be guided by how many times laws need to be made to cover what they don't. Stupidity is somewhat reduced by large notices on products such as a placard on a toaster "Do not operate underwater," which not doubt got there because somebody tried to operate it underwater and then sued over it. If that works, no need to outlaw toasters. There are not only left and right forces there are also polarization and moderation forces. Efforts to weaken civil courts are polarization forces, ultimately pushing for laws to be necessary.


    Thanks. Cheered me right up.


    "This extends to the great malaise of today's world, the fear of risk. You know that if electricity had been invented today, it would be banned because of the risk of some unsupervised child dying from it."

    Modern WHS practice is about minimizing risk not eliminating risk. In my industry we continue to use highly corrosive, flammable, carcinogenic and toxic chemicals, even though safer substitutes exist, because they are affordable, reliable and safe to use if appropriate controls are in place. If electricity were invented today we wouldn't ban it, we would insulate it, as we do now.


    Re answers to #111:- Para 1 (quote) - Er, that was partly a satire on a quote. As an aside on the Maxson, a group of friends own it, and once a year they go out into the desert, find a stretch where they can clear 4 miles downrange of the turret, and fire its mags from full to dry. They then spend the next 12 months reloading 0.5" Browning mg cases so they can do it again.

    More generally, your quote from the 1903 Militia Act filled in the ages I didn't know, or know where to look for, earlier. It also, quite clearly, places an obligation on firearm holders to seek out proper training in their cleaning and use (which IMO includes safe storage, and proper trigger and muzzle discipline).

    Incidentally "state of the art firearm" for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would be similar to a Baker.


    What about the power of lawsuits in civil court?

    Good luck with that; you won't get Legal Aid for it in the UK, nor will you get a lawyer to work for you on a contingency fee basis unless the case is blatant abuse. So you'd better have somewhere north of £20,000 in cash to pay the lawyers, just to get started.

    As the folks on the receiving end of police abuse are generally poor ...

    (2nd amendment)

    I would think sufficiently armed would mean a roughly contemporary individual weapon.

    For the past 80-plus years, the majority of casualties in war have been inflicted by crew-served weapons. Are you advocating partial ownership of 155mm Howitzers? F-16s?


    The Swiss seem to have the militia system with every adult storing a functional military assault rifle and being required to spend two weeks a year doing a refresher military service stint. I'm not sure wether they're issued with ammo in case they wake up to the 5th Reich driving down their main street one morning but it would seem like a logical conclusion.

    The Swiss are also Not culturally homogenous, at least outside their own cantons, which is one of the reasons places like, say, Japan are given a pass

    (Racially I don't know... are Italians, Germans and French really that different genetically speaking? North Italians, mind)

    While I share the typical European's awe at American gun culture, composed in equal parts of envy of the boy toys they get to play with, crogglement at the sheer availability of it all and a quiet respect for the sheer self control that stops them from killing each other on a daily basis (Seriously, we Euros would have all killed each other already with so much consumer grade firepower) this is a sci fi blog, and we all know that knowledge and therefore the individual's capability for mayhem is constantly becoming greater. We're just going to have to up our game when it comes to recognizing individuals who are about to go ballistic, because it's just a matter of time before the first engineer decides he can do better than just shoot up a public place and decides to take some bridges with him during rush hour.


    In fact, the Swiss stopped issuing ammo for reserve weapons in 2007, except for a few rapid deployment units.


    I thought that might be the case, but I couldn't recall for sure (d'oh, use wikipedia, fool!)


    For the past 80-plus years, the majority of casualties in war have been inflicted by crew-served weapons. This is one of the reasons (aside from knowing of one functional and firing live rounds) that I picked on the Maxson. Aside from the intended WW2 role as a fully mobile AA gun, it's been used anti-personnel/anti-softskin from 1944 until at least 1973, and if you fired a fully loaded one dry at the crowd leaving the Superbowl (or a NASCAR meeting), I could see the body count being in the thousands.


    There is a serious paper by Leslie Lamport, published in the journal Foundations of Physics, arguing an ass really would starve to death if placed equidistant between two bales of hay:


    Something changed in 2008? Maybe more cameras in custody?

    Nestor #131- seriously, I think we have WW2 to blame for a certain lack of military activity within Europe, as a really good example of what not to do.

    Dave L #98 - I'd love to find definite evidence for damage to practical alchemists in the historical period. What is very likely is that in a time before fume hoods they inhaled a certain amount of mercury, arsenic and other such vapours, and over many years exposure that would surely do the trick.

    On armed response stats, I see the media reporting air rifle misuse as gun crime/ firearms incidents, which, although there is a bit of danger, simply isn't the same as an actual gun made to kill people type incident. (One baby killed by an air rifle and a number of people blinded by them, over the last decade or so that i can recall) So that's probably upping the firearms incident stats.

    Hey, alchemy, even in the 17th century, was still somewhat rational. To add to the flame war, all you modern pagan type weirdos who smush alchemy into your syncretistic thinking can get stuffed! Alchemy underwent a number of mutations over the last 2,000 years, and don't wibble on about how alchemy is this, and alchemy is that, unless you specify which form of it in which period you are talking about.
    And Jung was totally fucking wrong about alchemy.


    Charlie @ 130 Re: "Crew-served weapons" Longer than that. 4th August 1914 is now over 98 years away, & the biggest kiilers in that war were: Artillery & then machine-guns. However, & contrariwise, what is the biggest killer of personnel serving in Afghanistan? I think it is individual Taliban & their assistants, which means individual weapons. Or is that why the body-count is so low (by "real war" standards, that is) ??


    Was that flamey enough?


    Toasty-warm, thanks!


    If you'd asked me, I'd have said that the biggest killer and maimer in Afghanistan was the mine (manufactured or improvised, pressure triggered or remote detonated).


    But we're not talking military activity, or at least I wasn't. Interpersonal violence in Europe with all the guns in the US? I have no hard evidence but I think we'd murdelize each other within hours :)

    Spain has a tiny gun owner population and we do get some limited shooting sprees on occasion, given American gun ubiquity, it doesn't bear thinking.


    Having been a member of the pagan "scene" for decades I can say that I have never met anyone who had anything more than a passing interest in Alchemy.


    Me neither. The only alchemy I've ever seen seriously practiced is the "internal alchemy" espoused by Taoists and similarly minded self-improvement types. That, of course, has nothing to do with chemistry.

    Still, if you're playing in a fantasy world where shapeshifting is possible, then logically alchemy has to be possible as well. From a stoichiometric perspective, shapeshifting probably never works completely, even without changes in overall mass. Alchemy has to occur in there as well.

    144: 89 asks:

    why is there the correlation between pro-gun and anti-abortion?

    Ans. For the same reason there is a correlation between anto-gun and pro-abortion.

    Martin Barlow


    Agreed. I believe H.L. Mencken said something along the lines of "Christianity was not tried and found wanting. It was found hard and not tried."

    I also like the pagan usage from a few years back of differentiating between Christians and Xtians. Christians were those (fairly few in number) who seriously tried to follow what Jesus said (as you noted above). Xtians are the loudmouths who give Christianity most of its negative press in the secular world, who say their Christian but whose actions differ radically from what Jesus is recorded to have said. Those pagans who were lucky enough to meet genuine Christians typically had few if any problems with them. The Xtians were a different matter entirely.

    The sad part is, I think most religions (including paganity) have their Xtian wing.


    Wait, gun deaths in the US tracking gun ownership? Nonsense! Ownership has been climbing consistently, and deaths dropping consistently, for decades.

    Myself, I had hoped to claim the coveted "pro-death" political label (pro-abortion, pro-gun, pro death penalty), but I find myself unable to embrace the death penalty, at least for the American judicial system. Oh well.

    Most of my gun-nut friends consider the NRA far to collaborationist with big government, and are directing most of their effort and donations to organizations like Gun Owners of America, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, and local groups, plus individual plans, supplies, and activities.

    The second amendment to the US constitution is a fine example of why "never explain" is such good advice. The "militia" clause doesn't limit the application of the rest, it's just there to explain why it's important.

    Before WWII, was ANY weapon ever the the main cause of death in a war? I thought it was always disease?


    Okay, well what do you call the modern esotericists who seem to have weird ideas from everything from Hermeticism through buddhism, taoism to magic?


    "why is there the correlation between pro-gun and anti-abortion?"

    Defence of innocent life.

    "why is there the correlation between anti-gun and pro-abortion?"

    Excuse for the criminals


    Pagans, esotericists, magicians, DIY religionists, shamans, whatever they'll accept. Since they're typically a bunch of chronic non-joiners, labels are a bit of an issue.


    Yellow flag, Dirk. (And mbarlow46.)

    This is not the "anti-abortionists: mad or evil?" thread. Kindly stop talking about it here, or I'll ban you.


    Apologies for trolling. But let me state the

    Theorem. If random variables X and Y are correlated, then so are -X and -Y.

    Martin Barlow


    Yes, but not-pro- doesn't necessarily mean anti-; and not-anti- for sure doesn't mean pro- when to talk about political -isms.


    And here I was thinking you wanted a flame war. I guess I'll just have to think up something annoying to say about guns and Your Saviour, Jesus the Christ


    Actually, most people are in the position of (old time) pagans having not heard the True Message of Christ. Not having heard it, or perhaps not understanding it, they are not in a position to reject it and hence cannot be condemned. Likewise, they cannot be fully saved either.


    An interesting test for this theory might be for someone with expert local knowledge to confirm whether or not there are already individuals or groups claiming 'miraculous' activities by Bin Laden. Any takers?


    Do you actually believe that the Founding Fathers meant 'a 4" trench mortar in every cloakroom, a Maxson turret on every truck chassis, an AK-47 in every purse'?

    Yeah, that's a bad argument to make on both sides. The obvious point is that none of those things existed. The less obvious point is that they did urge citizens to own state of the art military weapons, as such things existed at the time.

    I liked the reference RDSouth provided for field pieces being stored by the states. That seems reasonable to me; most folks wouldn't want the hassle of moving a cannon around before paved roads were common anyway.

    In the interests of full disclosure I'll mention that I do know a guy with a cannon. It's a little (100kg) black powder 2" signaling gun, but it's a faithful replica of the original. For its primary purpose of making a really loud noise it works very well. For sending a ball downrange at something? It's never been tried, and probably wouldn't be very effective. But it's technically a cannon.

    This is legal in the US. You can own field artillery. (Notice I never claimed the paperwork wouldn't outweigh the gun, or that this would be cheap. But it's legally possible.) Not many people do since there's not much reason to have one, and there aren't many units on the market since the primary owners rarely resell them into private hands in working condition. But I can't recall anyone using a 40mm Bofors gun in a crime!


    I'll run an abortion flame war just as soon as I can rustle up a commentariat who do not skew male (by about 90%) and somewhat libertarian/right-wing (by my metric: note that I consider Tony Blair to be hard-right). It is no fun fishing for trout in piranha-infested waters.


    Probably a waste of time. It's all a matter of irreconcilable opinions upon which science has no bearing.


    I'm not sure I would welcome unrestricted ownership of anything, at least while people I care about (including me) might unwittingly wander into the blast radius.

    This is about the US. There are areas with moles. Pesky creatures. They burrow just under the surface of your yard. Leaving behind raised mounds/tunnels. Really aggravating if you are after the perfect lawn. There are all sorts of contraptions available in mole areas to help you trap or kill them. Most don't work very well.

    One guy got fed up and poured a few gallons of gasoline down their holes. Then lit it. Guess what. Moles don't understand property lines. And he took long enough before lighting the gas that most apparently vaporized. He blew up most of his back yard. But better yet. About 1/2 of his neighbor's plus the back porch they had borrowed under. Which caught on fire.

    It was interesting for a while. Tense relations and all that.


    I mixed up my Biblical Johns. How embarrassing. That's what you get for writing comments after midnight with a head full of roast beef and gingerbread cookies.

    --Keith Edwards


    Actually, most people are in the position of (old time) pagans having not heard the True Message of Christ. Not having heard it, or perhaps not understanding it, they are not in a position to reject it and hence cannot be condemned. Likewise, they cannot be fully saved either.

    That's typical christian bullshit. Pagans of old times either a) didn't care about switching religions and thus became christians or b) rejected to become christians and were thus killed by christian "missionaries". This whole condemned/saved stuff is just a christian brainwash technique.


    You can own black powder weapons, including cannon, in the UK too. For example

    As you probably realise, I picked a grab bag of stuff I know to be in private hands (although whether the typical NRA member would thank you for an AK-47 is another matter).


    Wildly off-topic but Gerry Anderson died earlier today. :-(


    " This whole condemned/saved stuff is just a christian brainwash technique."

    Not at all. It is to do with the resurrection (or not) of Beings who almost inevitably are flawed though having non integrated and divided minds. Christ is the principle by which God removes the imperfections and contradictions in order to allow a perfected Being entrance to Heaven. Being ethical It requires your informed permission to accept the offer.


    Even “John the Baptist” wasn’t as wierded-out as the author(s) of “Revelation” – I mean what was the guy ON?

    One theory I've heard is ergot. That John was in prison being fed moldy bread and basically had the sort of bad trip one does on ergot. I think it was William Burroughs who popularized this idea, saying that he had done ergot once, out of curiosity (and talked to others who had as well) and that the general consensus was that it's not possible to have a good ergot trip, that it always produces horrible apocalyptic visions. Mix in some 2nd century politics and early Christian mysticism and you get the Naked Lunch of its day.

    As to why the Book of Revelations got canonized and other visionary mystical writings didn't is another mystery. I suspect that unlike the Gospel of Mary and other gnostic texts, the B of R has some politically useful imagery. It certainly seems to attract the attention of a lot of authoritarian minded preachers, who like to scare their congregations with it. And fear is a tried and true tool of political and social coercion.


    dirk @ 153 There isn't any "true" message of Yeshua "the christ" .. if only because the remaining "gospels" post date him (if he was a real person) by at least 40-50 years, & have been heavily modified later - see my comments on Nicea.....

    Also, re various comments, you have to remember in any religion that "The bigots are the true believers". One of the reasons I won't go near religion, any religion, any more.

    Charlie @ 156 OF COURSE Anthoiny B Liar ia hard-right, he's a fucking ROMAN CATHOLIC isn't he? You know, the church that crawled to Adolf somewhat, & even more notoriously crawled to Francisco Franco? & dirk @ 157 THAT is where you're wrong my little sunshine! Science does have a very distinct bearing on the subjects, it's just that the religious leaders shout so loudly as to prevent it being applied. They're terrified someone might notice.... & Andreas Vox Pay no attention, I think Dirk is just shit-stirring: He's very good at it! Until you notice, that is, oops. & @ 163 SLIGHT problem .... "requires your informed permission"... WHich requires a, (excuse me for repeating it) detectable signal to pass in both directions, does it not? And we just demolished that one, didn't we? Nice try, no banana!

    @ 159 & ... no alchohol? Shame on you!


    That sentence doesn't compute for me on so many levels...

    you seem to believe that a human mind can exists without its body. Or without its contradictions for that matter. What's the difference between an integrated mind and a divided mind? Less wrinkles? And what's a perfect being? If you have two perfect beings, are they distinguishable? If yes, why isn't one more perfect than the other? And this "heaven" concept - can you tell me what to do there without being bored to death, for heavens sake?


    What's the difference between an integrated mind and a divided mind? We know the area under the curve (warpedness) of an integrated mind?


    "There isn't any "true" message of Yeshua "the christ""

    Of course there is. Just because you cannot see it or acknowledge it does not mean it does not exist. It is not even tied especially tightly to any historical Jesus either.


    " seem to believe that a human mind can exists without its body."

    Obviously it can in the Mind of God.


    Glædelig Jul

    this new XKCD strip seemed particular appropriate here


    Killing heretics in order to save their, or other, souls is clearly justified given the stakes (Heaven/Hell). This life is as nothing compared the the eternities on offer. Sometimes one must be cruel to be kind.


    I expect to see Osama t-shirts in the style of Che t-shirts in 5-8 more years.

    What, that long? A coffee shop in the college town near me has had a figurine of an olive-skinned man with a long beard and Osama-like headgear, holding an AK-47, sitting on the counter for years. It doesn't actually say "Osama bin Laden" on it, but if it's not him it's his twin brother.


    The key phrase is "destructive devices" and it applies in the US too. The US Cannon Club is/was for owners of large-calibre guns of various sorts from field pieces through large-calibre Gatling guns as fitted on ships of the White Fleet. They occasionally fire these weapons but the ammunition they use must be solid shot and not explosive in itself as these are classed as "destructive devices" and the governments want to keep these a monopoly.

    A British civil-war-period reenactment group, not the Sealed Knot from memory, had a pair of 3" black-powder replica cannons made in the 19th century. For some arcane reason they had Birmingham Proof House marks at the touch-hole which led to the acquisition of some round shot, an endoscope borrowed from a vet and a visit to Salisbury Plain during Artillery Days.


    I believe H.L. Mencken said something along the lines of "Christianity was not tried and found wanting. It was found hard and not tried."

    Chesterton. It was ruddy GK Chesterton. There are interesting parallels between them, but big differences as well, and that was Chesterton - "A man who knew what was going on"

    For the record, it was: "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried"

    [this is about as close to flaming as I get these days]


    you seem to believe that a human mind can exists without its body.

    The obvious practical problems aside, this does not seem to be impossible in theory. We don't have practical uploading yet...but we might get as far as small invertebrates in the laboratory in the next few years. Various speculations on obstacles that would bind the process to the original hardware have been made, none with convincing evidence.


    It doesn't actually say "Osama bin Laden" on it, but if it's not him it's his twin brother.

    Google "Jihad Joe" for a selection; the joke has been thought up independently more than once, such as here.


    Um, there are batches of "old time pagans" for whom the whole conversion/death issue does not arise. Plato for example. Christianity had to decide what to do about these people, particularly as some of the big Greek names were rather critical to the development of Western culture and had a fair amount of stuff to stay about ethics that was incorporated into Church teaching.

    So, the official line (read your Dante if you want a more literary approach) is that they're in limbo. They can't go to heaven because they haven't been saved by the word of god, but they can't be condemned to hell if they lived righteous lives in ignorance of christ and how to be saved. Of course if they were not righteous, they can be sent down lower. But there's a whole section of limbo for the righteous pagans.

    Although I'm not a believer, I suspect if those processes turn out to be true, modern non-christians in the first world will go to hell. It's very disingenuous to suggest they haven't heard at least a bit about the teachings of christ as commonly presented. If they've decided to turn away... straight to hell. I can't remember which bit Dante would send them to but fairly low down, possibly low enough to be cold.


    dirk @ 168 So, there is a True message" from Yeshua, is there? Please demonstrate & show. Usual rquirement, put up or shut up, & provide supporting evidence, without handwavium.

    nojay @ 173 "Sealed Knot" - load of sissies! The King's Army & The Parliament Forces do the real thing, to scary effect.

    @ 174 Problem with G K Chesterton. He had R Catholicism very badly, & think he was something of an ant-semite, partly as a result of the RC brainwash.

    s-s @ 175 small invertebrates in the laboratory in the next few years $LOBSTERS?

    @ 177 No Probably to the circle of heretics - they (supposedly) "know better", remember?


    Greg, #165: OF COURSE Anthoiny B Liar ia hard-right, he's a fucking ROMAN CATHOLIC isn't he?

    This is your yellow card for this thread, Greg.

    You do not get to indiscriminately call all followers of a given religion "hard right". Yes, the Vatican hierarchy is incredibly reactionary, and yes, Catholic political movements generally follow the Vatican lead, but you're also missing things like the Liberation Theology movement (suppressed by the current crop of reactionaries), Vatican II (ditto), and the fact that over 90% of American Catholics actively ignore Church doctrine when it gets in the way of real life (figures for complying with the rules on contraception, for example).

    There's a fine line between valid criticism of an institution and bigotry against everyone who happened to be born of a family historically associated with that institution, and I think you crossed it.

    If you want to walk it back, you're welcome. Otherwise, cease and desist from beating this hobby horse.


    I'm in bed as I type, listening to someone snoring gently next to me while the kids are playing downstairs. I'm going to go with contradictions as a theme...

    I'm an atheist social democrat, happily married to a conservative believer (this leads to the avoidance of some topics). Both of us hold firearms certificates, both of us compete in target rifle; none of our rifles are practical for anything other than putting very small holes in paper targets at short range. I also quite like constitutional monarchy as a bulwark against political sociopaths and weasels, and have a nice scroll signed by Her Majesty marking me as trusty and well-beloved. I am the 150-lb computer geek who joined the infantry (left it fifteen years later as a long-forgotten 170-lb computer geek). From my time as a reservist, I knew a few chaplains as friends and colleagues - good and pragmatic men all, who in some cases had seen both the worst and the best that humans could do to each other - and I've led my Company in worship.

    So; does this make me a pro-abortion, pro-gun-but-anti-weapon, atheist, pro-church, socialist, monarchist, bundle of seemingly contradictory beliefs? Is this just normal jogging for people who accept that the world isn't black and white? Or am I just a hypocrite without any strength in my beliefs?

    Meanwhile, back onto strange attractors in the UK; the black-powder types at Bisley have a small cannon outside their clubhouse, which (I think) still works; and no-one has yet mentioned punt guns (very large calibre shotguns, mounted on shallow-draught boats, that used to be used for hunting wildfowl in wetlands). There are a few still around in private hands in the UK, quite legitimately. We're talking "up to 44mm calibre" here...

    Air guns have already been mentioned briefly. The SNP have made the repatriation of firearm law an "issue", in that it seems to be a way to curry political points. They have stated that they want all air guns to be individually licensed (currently, this only happens when they exceed a certain energy level, e.g. 12 foot-pounds for an air rifle); and for the banning of swords (this, for a country whose national dress involves the carriage of a knife in your sock). A party that demands freedom, in order to impose greater restriction.

    I've been grinding my teeth at the recent appearances of the author Alasdair Gray on TV in recent days. I'm not sure whether his insistence that senior positions in the Scottish Arts Council should be limited to Scots people is bigotry or affirmative action; and having read the full text of "Settlers and Colonists" (it has a certain degree of factual inaccuracy), I'm more worried about those who would twist its intentions to grind their own axes. As a Scot born in the south of England, I'm probably as twitchy on the subject as OGH about the potential for discrimination based on what a vote-hunting politician decides is my nationality.

    Flame war opportunity - is Scotland's First Minister just a deluded romantic trying to avoid or deny any inconvenient truths in desperation to make the facts fit his romantic ideal of independence, or is he just an opportunistic and sociopathic weasel who realises that his only chance of power is to be the big fish in a small pond? Is he another Milosevic or a Karadic, and will he attract a similar kind of supporter?

    Strange thought for the day, IIRC courtesy of Connie Willis' "Bellwether" (a fun and beloved book) and supported by Wikipedia. Alexander Fleming, he of Penicillin, was a keen rifle shooter who apparently wanted to be surgeon. St. Mary's had a good rifle team but no surgical vacancies, so he became a bacteriologist... Two of the chaplains I mentioned were members of the TA target rifle team; one had coached his battalion's snipers on their way to war.

    Like I said, contradictions.


    Now you are talking about this god-person again...

    Since god is just an idealistic projection of patriarchic power structures it's obviously the other way round: god exists in the minds of (some) men. This whole god-thing is so incoherent and internally contradictory that you really need a warped mind to believe in it.


    Sorry, I don't think it's kind if I get killed for someone else's delusions.


    If you check out cases of humans with brain damage or the effect of some drugs, you'll see that the human mind is tightly connected with its "hardware". Even small changes can cause profound changes in personality. I have little hope that it's possible to lift a human mind from its hardware without changing it beyond recognition.


    I've got an idea for a flamewar - new atheists, sceptics, the sceptic movement and misogyny. That's been occupying a lot fo bandwidth over the last couple of years. Add in some "Is Dawkins shrill?" and you've got a big heap of arguments.
    Even better, unlike abortion, it maps much more closely to your readership, but you might piss off one or two of them that way.

    As for cannon in the UK, look here:

    See, you can even get a replica bombard legally. There's a couple of videos of it firing out there somewhere. Please not it is big enough for a man to get inside it.

    Also all cannon made and sold in the UK as actual working cannon need to be proof tested. Which is likely why Nojay's #174, despite being 19th century, had proof test marks on them. People in the 19th century weren't stupid, and it wasn't that long after they stopped using cannon, they probably knew the value of proof testing as a check on whether or not they would be killed by their cannon exploding. (as happened to James II of Scotland)


    "Wildly off-topic but Gerry Anderson died earlier today"

    Well, you could have mentioned that his TV shows were absolutely, thoroughly secular.

    I watched his puppet shows of the early 60s, and then his live action shows of the 70s, when I was growing up.

    In retrospect there was never any trace of the divine, anywhere, unlike most of the US TV shows that I also watched. In the US shows sometimes a character would say "thank god" or there would be a mention of people going to mass on Sunday. Sometimes a priest, a minister or even a rabbi would pop up.

    There was never such a thing in Anderson's TV shows, at least the half dozen I saw when I was growing up.

    Arthur C. Clarke must have censored them!


    Charlie @ 180 Noted. Apology for probaly overstating my case _ I was not intending to tar all with the same brush- However, there is a technical term for people who don't slavishly follow RC offical doctrine - they are called (ahem) "protestants" ... errr ....( or something like that? ) Yes, I am quite aware of the liberation theology movement, & also how "Cardinal Ratpoison" (to use "Private Eye's" name for him) is determinedly opposed to that movement, & everything it stands for. BTW, & entirely relevant, are you aware that "Benedict" has publicly welcomed a serving RC, the speaker of the Uganda Parliament (!) who is repeatedly trying to get a law allowing the murder of gays onto the books? More information Here Euw. As regards Blair, I think I'll shut up for now!

    gravelbelly @ 181 Yes the blatant hypocrisy of the Wee Eck is truly disgusting, isn't it? As for "flame-war opportunity" I'm going to plump for sociopathic weasel .... I'd LURVE to hear Charlie's opinion on that one?


    No Greg - a protestant is not the same as a Catholic who doesn't follow all the Vatican's orders. The definition is different, and involves specifically rejecting the authority of the Pope, transubstantiation etc. Just go and read up on the 16th century, okay?


    However, there is a technical term for people who don't slavishly follow RC offical doctrine - they are called (ahem) "protestants" ... errr ....( or something like that? )

    No, those people are just called "Catholics". I still have to see a single RC who follows slavishly all RC doctrine - especially difficult when it contradicts itself.

    Protestants are those who wanted to change RC doctrine to something more sensible.

    And if you really try to follow RC doctrine slavishly you are on the best path to be killed as a heretic - see what happened to Waldensians and Cathars and others.


    guthrie @ 188 Oh dear - sorry, the implied sarcasm just didn't come across, did it? Oh, wait, but by using birth controls (to pick a specific example) supposed R-catholics are rejecting the repeated authority of several popes (aren't they?) Or am I talking bollocks?

    As for 16th C, somehwere in the Book of Common Prayer ... ah, here it is (thank you Wikisource) ... wonderful language: The Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, worshipping and adoration as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture; but rather repugnant to the word of God. However, the RC church has just dumped Purgatory, I think - a great shame, as Dante's description was great fun, if read as SF!

    Note the rolling phrase, often misquoted as: "A vain thing, fondly invented" - perfect for lively discussion, sometimes.


    Yes Greg, you are. But at least we have another data point for "You can't reliably tell sarcasm etc on the internet".


    Greg @ 187 "there is a technical term for people who don't slavishly follow RC offical doctrine - they are called lapsed or a-la-carte Catholics".

    There, fixed that for you :). Admittedly, Rome hasn't much time for them (oops, oh well), but then neither do the more traditionalist wings of Protestantism (Calvinist or Lutheran or Catholic Lite, er, Anglican) express much sympathy for their own 'lapsed' congregational majorities. You are veering very close to Rev Paisley territory, BTW. Hopefully by ironic intent ;).

    Back on topic - one other common factor between Ben Yusuf and Bin Laden: both seem to have been able to latch onto the Messianic zietgeist and rise above the crowd of other would-be Messiahs and Mahdis/Caliphs crowding around in the same era. I mean, OBL has pretty much got the (Sunni) market sewn up. How and why? Better marketing? Better stories?

    And on the gun flame-bait and UK firearms vs US, I think it's summed up well by a conversation I had once with someone who had an intimate understanding of diplomatic protection and armed policing, who said that the UK approach to protection was to attempt to identify and eliminate a reasonable level of risk (c.f. Charles & Camilla getting their car trashed on the way to the theatre by a scaffolding pole during the 'Student Riots'; Range Rover behind had armed protection officers in it who were very close to firing in the air but held off - had known about the riots prior to setting off but considered them accceptable-risk due to being in another part of Central London) whereas the US approach is to attempt to eliminate all risk, and being rather less shy about opening fire. Apparently the Secret Service drive the UK equivalent nuts with this when POTUS drops in, with snipers on every possible rooftop and whatnot - professional paranoia taking to extremes. But given what the modern-day US equivalent of your 19th Century anarchist can get their hands on, understandable I suppose.

    Also, differentiate Diplomatic Protection folks (who are usually ex-Special Branch, so think previously anti-terrorist or organised crime FBI) and Armed Response units, who are effectively part-time SWAT with a few ex-army snipers in the mix. Very different mindsets, usually.

    Here in Ireland there have been a few unfortunate police shooting incidents, but given the propensity for militant Republicans to cold-bloodedly execute Gardai as part of bank heists, I'm surprised there have not been more.

    193: 174 para 2, and reply to it in #179:-

    Ok, I should have said "...Sealed Knot[1] and Napoleonic Wars Living History groups...", but my only point was to illustrate that black powder cannon firing shot weighing several lb are in private ownership and reasonably regular use in the UK.

    [1] "English" Civil War Living History groups are also available.


    Per the subject of the First Minister, I think he's just a typical 21st century British politician.

    If the SNP and the Scottish independence movement didn't exist, he'd have joined Labour and migrated to his natural home, Westminster. Given his manifest political abilities I think he'd be front bench material at least, and probably a senior minister -- he's a British national-class front rank politician.

    Note I keep saying "politician". The minimum pricing for alcohol, 40 celsius maximum temperature for domestic hot water systems (I'm not making that up!) and mandatory licensing for all guns (including airsoft toys), is basically all part of the job -- pandering to the electorate who've been taken in by scare stories. Because, whatever his actual views on those topics, you can't win elections if you piss off the press by telling the voters that the newspapers are lying to them.

    Salmond has a huge advantage over his rivals, because promising politicians in the Scottish Labour Party (or the Lib Dems, or the Conservatives), tend to desert the provincial assembly with all possible speed for the bright lights of the big city in Westminster, where there's more scope for glory. Consequently, his opposition consists of second-raters (like the supremely crap Johann Lamont and the basically irrelevant Ruth Davidson), leaving him to play the piranha in a carp pond.

    (Translation for Americans: Scottish politics is like state politics. And Salmond is like a heavyweight congress dude from DC who has decided to pwn the provincials.)

    If a national-level heavy decided to muscle in -- if, say (playing political fantasy football) Gordon Brown decided to re-enter politics by running for a seat in the Scottish Assembly -- the piranha would suddenly find himself in uncomfortable proximity to a tiger shark.

    (Translation for Americans: it'd be like Bill Clinton saying "fuck this shit" and running for governor of [insert state where he's wildly popular and the incumbent just died]. The ordinary state-level candidates wouldn't know what had hit them.)


    I've actually met Alex Salmond several times, and my view is that he is an able politician, but if he'd just wanted power it would have been easier for him (remember this was the 1970s) to have joined Liebour or the Con Party (probably Liebour if he wanted to represent a Scottish seat).

    I think the SNP are suffering from feature creep, largely from people like Kenny MacKilljoy who are doing things "because they're good for you, whether you like it or not".


    Charlie @ 195 Re: Salmond: I think he's just a typical 21st century British politician. Ah, so he IS a sociopathic weasel, then? Oops! 40_degC for HOT WATER? You WHAT? And air-guns - & people actually swallow this shit? Never mind all the 25 directions he's trying to face over "independance"?

    Talking of socipathic weasels, try this (admittedly old) piece from the Grauniad. I invite others to form an opinion on that one ....


    40C for "hot" (used advisedly) water has its point; it will be possible to wash your hands under a running tap. None of this messing about with mixing a basinful of hot and cold water to get an acceptable temperature nonsense. Of course this actually uses more power (source my Grandfather, who reduced Nobel (Ardeer) power bills by several hundred pounds per quarter (1950s prices) by turning the hot water temperature up by 10F in the washrooms).

    And Greg, see #195 para 2 ref "Kenny MacKilljoy".


    The 40 celsius thing ...

    A young mother managed to scald her baby to death by not paying attention while running a bath.

    As a result of the ensuing tabloid panic, the SNP therefore passed a regulation requiring all domestic hot water installations to be maxed out at 40 celsius. Yes. All hot water systems, even in homes where the youngest occupant, aged 18, is a cat, and children are generally unwelcome. Because we must protect the [idiot parents of the] children [from the consequences of their stupidity].

    (Yes, I'm sure there's a thermostat you can twiddle with a nod and a wink to the plumber who installs it in accordance with the regs, but as you might imagine, this is deterring me from replacing my ancient but still working boiler.)


    I completely missed that one; still, we do have at least anecdotal evidence that the measure is anti-environment as well as control freakery.


    "So, there is a True message" from Yeshua, is there? Please demonstrate & show."

    I do not have to demonstrate, merely inform you as to what it is. Namely, there exists an intermediary between God and Humans that can, if requested, perfect us sufficiently for us to be reincarnated in Heaven. The method is to wash away our imperfections ie sins.


    You still haven't answered some relevant questions: what is heaven? why should we want to be resurrected there? and who is this god-person you keep talking about?

    And mind you, one man's sins are the next one's perfections. Sounds all very wishy-washy to me.


    "You still haven't answered some relevant questions: what is heaven?"

    An idealized state of being.

    "... why should we want to be resurrected there?

    The alternative is eternal death

    "...and who is this god-person you keep talking about?"

    The entity that makes the decisions regarding afterlives.

    "And mind you, one man's sins are the next one's perfections."

    No. Sins are weaknesses and failures.


    NO KITTENS IN HEAVEN - according to some, ayway .....


    "An idealized state of being." Idealized by whom? What if my ideal is not the same as their's?

    "The alternative is eternal death" Why is eternal death undesirable? Unless you accept certain metaphysical arguments as being correct, death is a state of unawareness of self, so why care how long it lasts?

    "The entity that makes the decisions regarding afterlives." On what/who's authority? Saying "his" just means that you're starting a circular argument, in which case the only way to win is to not play.

    "No. Sins are weaknesses and failures." By what definition? I consider my inability to master calculus to be a weakness. It seems unlikely that anyone other than Newton (Or Leibnitz) would consider it to be a failure or a sin though. Again 'Saying "his"'.


    Well, since I am short of time right now, here's a link to a book that puts it all in terms a Transhumanist atheist can understand:

    I will answer the specifics tomorrow


    Thanks, it was an honest mistake though. I haven't read any of Chesterton's work, and I somehow remembered reading it in a Mencken book. Now I know better.


    I think it's been a while since a royal or a sitting prime minister has been shot, or even shot at when not serving in the military. Am I wrong in this?

    In contrast, Wikipedia has a long list of assassination attempts and plots against sitting US Presidents, which makes for interesting reading. While we can chalk this up to a certain culture of violence in the US, I don't blame them for assuming there is a bulls-eye on their boss' back and acting accordingly.


    You missed the pIRA coming within about 60 seconds of blowing Margaret Thatcher to pieces in 1986, I take it? Or their mortar attacks on Downing Street when John Major was in office? For about 30 years it was open season on cabinet ministers, the PM, and members of the royal family (the Queen's father in law, for example). And that's leaving aside your regular loonies.


    dik @ 205 Please don't take this as an ad hominem attack, but your proponency of "trans-Humanism" & defence of belief in an undetectable BSF is beginning to sound and look exactly the same as all the other religious bullshit we have been subjected to for getting on for 3000 years, now. With as little basis in fact or experience as any of the other systems of mental blackmail.

    Come on, ante up some evidence to back your propositions that has even a faint chance of standing up in either/or/both a laboratory/law-court. And the temptation to start flogging dead horses, in spite of Charlie's friendly warning might get too big. So, please, give us a break, or give us some solid evidence, huh?

    Charlie @ 198 I remember the case, now, but the Snot'sTwaddlists' response is even more Upney. I mean, I don't think you can buy an electric immersion-heater that will dial down to below 55degC ?? (Mine certainly won't) [ For non-Londoners: Upney is the first stop PAST "Barking" on the District Line ... ]


    Yep, although I knew about Thatcher. The most recent active shooter at the White House was in February 2001 (not counting the fourth plane in 9/11).

    My personal favorite comment about the people who protect the president comes from Roger Hall's highly-recommended WWII memoir, You're Stepping On My Cloak And Dagger. Lt. Hall was an instructor in the OSS, assigned to a training area up in the mountains of western Maryland. "It could claim proximity to one thing, President Roosevelt's retreat, "Shangri-La," which was farther up the road and considerably less accessible, being surrounded day and night by a battalion of trigger-happy Marines. They seldom fired more than twice before yelling 'Halt.' "The Marines were only joshing most of the time. They knew about us and whenever we got close enough to reminding them we were all on the same side, the stock answer was, 'You ain't got a thing to worry about, doggie. We fired over your heads.' This hardly improved anyone's peace of mind, and most of our taller men developed a posture problem."


    hash tags relate to the numbers in the replied to post.

    205 - Pretty much my reaction too, and that's without considering the implied statement that I'm an atheist (I'm an "unconvinced either way", since neither side can actually prove their claim. What I will say is that I know some atheists who are more moral than some self-professed Christians and some Christians who live their value system). 198 - This was the first I knew of it, and I think that Upney understates the case; I'd go for a full-on "Dagenham East".

    " Roger Hall's highly-recommended WWII memoir, You're Stepping On My Cloak And Dagger"

    Boy, that brings back old memories. I must have read it back in the late 60s. It was even more fun than Evelyn Waugh's "Men at Arms".


    I just saw it a few months ago. Bluejacket Books (the US Naval Institute Press) reissued it, and I love the fact that the Navy is selling this memoir of WW2 Army life. I seriously doubt the Army (or the CIA, for that matter) wanted it to ever see daylight again.


    1979 - failed kidnap/assassination of Princess Anne in Pall Mall - four wounded. Allegedly this incident is why royal protection now carry revolvers, as they don't jam.


    Sorry, I mean 1974. 1979 was the plot to kill Princess Margaret.


    @ 200 "perfect us sufficiently for us to be reincarnated in Heaven"

    I don't need no stinking perfection. Or tranhumanism, though it would certainly be cool for that to be available. I'm staying "here" forever because if I die in one world, copies of me survive in others. I exist in every context that could have produced me, subjectively identical.

    Might be best to maintain a presence in as many worlds as possible though. There may be some value to it. In fact maybe you can make yourself so you fit into more worlds, and thus are largely there. (Do I want to be in a world where I'm being coddled, or where I have some purpose? Elba or France? Let me out of the matrix!) But I don't need no stinking intermediary for it, no offense to middlemen, but I want to speak to the manager directly. Also sometimes the branch off might be a ways back and the end will be lost. But still, no worries.


    The number of Americans who write with a straight face that someone with the money should be able to buy a 155mm howitzer or a nuclear bomb is one measure of the peculiar political situation there. As I understand it, in the 18th century "arms" were edged weapons, pistols, and stocked firearms as opposed to "ordinance" cannons.

    Backing away from the strange attractor, there are interesting similarities between book-based theology and American constitutional interpretation (and interpretation of setting canon by SF fans).

    @ Keith 160: I mixed up Paul and Peter which is worse!


    Wow. Why is it that people who "don't subscribe" to Christmas invest far more energy in talking about it than anyone else? I know half a dozen people who "don't subscribe" to Christmas, and I (and everyone else in keyboard-shot) end up being deluged in anti-Christmas rhetoric and humbugism for a month before the day. Even The Church only asks for one day of your time (I don't go, so I get out of that; the only supernatural being I believe in is Santa).

    A bit much, considering all you have to do is not join in if you don't want to. Nobody is forcing you (unlike the Anti Xmas League who bombard me with their gloomy self-interest each day despite my begging them to stop). You can shop elsewhere, and the TV has a bajillion channels, most of them unChristmassy (avoid BBC America though - they use the excuse to re-run Top Gear and Dr Who marathons).

    Just don't expect anyone else to join you in your gloom, doom and despondency; we get enough of that the rest of the year and could use the excuse to make merry in the face of having nothing to make merry about.

    mutters Jesus compared with Osama Bin Laden? All because you're against Christmas on principle? shakes head, rolls eyes.


    @ 218 Who says we are against a festival at this time of year? None of us are. You are putting your own particular narrow religious view on it - remember - Oliver Cromwell, a really good christian banned "christmas" - or did you miss that bit?


    How could we better celebrate a few days off work than with a Great Flame War, even if it's encumbered with all those restrictions OGH posed upon us.


    Wow. Why is it that people who "don't subscribe" to Christmas invest far more energy in talking about it than anyone else?

    You appear to be oblivious to the saturation-level media bombardment for Christmas that starts, these days, in mid-October -- often before the Halloween decorations are on the discount shelves.

    And I'd like to note that your argument has a nasty miasma of privilege clinging to it ... Just try applying a bit much, considering all you have to do is not join in if you don't want to to any discussion of gender roles or racism if you don't see what I'm getting at.


    Meh, eternal boredom and no kittens? Give me eternal death instead, please!

    And the most idealized state of being is obviously "not being": can't beat that in terms of equality, definiteness, conceptual clarity and universality.


    The Swiss seem to have the militia system with every adult storing a functional military assault rifle and being required to spend two weeks a year doing a refresher military service stint.

    • you forgot women exist
    • you did not guess that women aren't subject to the draft in Switzerland
    • you do not consider women adults

    As a result of the ensuing tabloid panic, the SNP therefore passed a regulation requiring all domestic hot water installations to be maxed out at 40 celsius.

    Meanwhile in Germany there is a regulation requiring all hot water systems serving more than a very few households (memory says 10, but don't sue me over that) to heat up to 60 deg C at least once a day, to kill bacteria that love 40 deg C water and are pretty nasty when inhaled (eg while in the shower).


    You can shop elsewhere,

    Apparently, even going shopping in China may not actually save you from being bombarded with the High Mass of Consumerism and the Feast of the Local Retail. Do you know shops where the home run area to the register/checkout wasn't Christmas hurdles the past 8 weeks?


    I will note that the commonest form of new hot water installation in Scotland is the combi-boiler -- combination gas-fired hot water central heating and gas-fired water heater. Water drawn up from the cold riser is heated up to hot-tap temperature as it's used; so there's no storage tank for Legionella to grow in.


    In the UK, it's rare for a domestic hot water system to supply more than one household (central heating systems sometimes supply more, but when they do the only common point is likely to be the cold water feed to the building).


    In my Mum's preferred local supermarket it's been difficult to get into the shop due to an extra display of mince pies (Non UKIans note; these actually contain spiced dried fruit) about 6 feet long.


    Given earlier comments, you may wish to know that I know 2 plumbers and their take on combi-boilers is AVOID.


    There was an issue with Legionella spreading around the UK via stagnant water in truck windscreen washer fluid reservoirs; the epidemiologists had a field day figuring out what was going on. (Legionella likes warm stagnant water; windscreen washer reservoirs full of water -- in summer -- were a great way of breeding the bacteria, and then spraying them over windscreens resulting in aerosolized clouds of pathogenic bugs that were sucked into the ventilation intakes of trucks and other vehicles.) But it turns out that adding antifreeze kills the bacteria really efficiently, in addition to keeping the wash reservoirs from freezing in winter.

    Cold water from a municipal supply should already be chlorinated ...


    "adult male", sure, I beg your pardon for my inadvertent patriarchal faux pas. The Israeli military service might be more agreeable to you.

    Being a flame war thread, the subject has plenty of scope for controversy but I'm not going to touch it any further, not up to it.


    Spent the last 2 and a half years in a flat with one of those. Worked pretty well, can't report on the economics since utilities were included in the rent. It was definitely not a new jobbie. I did have to spend a chilly morning in december pumping water back into the radiator circuit using a hose that didn't quite fit but I'll chalk that as a learning experience in not overpurging radiators that haven't been purged in living memory... turns out the cup of stinky water I extracted was enough to tip it from "enough pressure for central heating" to "freeze, suckers"


    Further point from my Mum's neighbour (circa 1910 stone semi villa, gas boiler as primary supply for CHS and hot DWS); it is really difficult to get enough hot water from a combi to run a decent bath. Of course, you may both prefer showers, or you may not in which case you probably want to know that.


    This is because there are in actuality 2 holidays called Christmas:

    1) A modest celebration of the birth of a particular mythic figure venerated by a once popular but now receding hero cult from the Near East. This used to involve 12 days of prayer and fasting followed by a feast, but has since dwindled to just the feast day itself.

    2) A secular orgy of consumerism that begins mid October and ends somewhere in the last week of December (check local customs for exact dates). This is a 2 month long time of enforced "cheer" when even introverts and non-participants are coerced into pantomiming a melodramatic imitation of high spirits, spending unfeasible amounts of money purchasing gifts for even coworkers and acquaintances, decorating their homes in contrarian fashion and engaging in maudlin acts of contrition with family members they would rather not associate with.

    The confusion between the two Christmases is common and exacerbated by the fact that the first overlaps the tail end of the second.

    There are even some people who make the conflation worse by pretending that there is in fact only one holiday called Christmas, and that the activities involved in the second are in fact an outgrowth of the first (a claim that makes little sense, as the religious tenants of those who celebrate Christmas 1 are explicitly contradicted by the acts celebrated in Christmas 2).

    These oafs make matters worse by heaping scorn on those who gripe about the omnipresence of Christmas 2, claiming that they are being culturally insensitive to the few remaining members of the cult who practice Christmas 1.

    It has been suggested that one of the holidays change its name. The cult members, laying claim to ancient tradition, claim those who celebrate Christmas 2 should be the ones to adopt a new name while those who are in charge of marketing for Christmas 2 claim that this would require a lot of money to rebrand the holiday properly and that the cult members should just be good sports and change the name of their holiday.


    That's funny, I've had a working combi-bioler for 6 years now. And it produces enough water to run a bath for myself. Seeing as its just a 2 bedroomed flat, there's no point having a large tank of hot water sitting around half the day just in case it is needed. What I would like to install is a small electric water heater for the bathroom sink, rather than run the gas boiler for hot water for hand washing.


    Perhaps if we moved Christmas 1 to around the actual date of the Roman census of Palestine, say mid-August, and renamed Christmas 2 as, say Yule?


    That was the the tl;dr version of a 10 minute whinge about them being difficult to set up, and to fix if they went even slightly wrong.


    We did not have a bathtub, shower stalls are becoming ubiquitous lately. But the boiler would run as long as you had the tap on, so the amount was not limited in any way.


    Random stuff, because there's a lot in here:

    Chrimboness... my other half works for a large US department store of Nordic origins in their back office stuff. One of the things they insist on, much to my surprise and pleasure, is they don't allow any decoration nor reference to Christmas until after Thanksgiving. In their flagship and original store, staff still come in after Thanksgiving dinner and join the family who own it to help dress the store for Christmas. They are actually a nice employer. Which is rare for here.

    Jesus - as others have pointed out, the issue is over the version of Jesus we got from St Paul and the machinations of the Council of Nicea. The Gospel of St Thomas and some of the others give a very different insight into the hippy.

    Guns - a USian obsession which befuddles me even after 5 years here. Of course, come the Zombie apocalypse (or Mt Ranier going phoom) I'm heading for my mate's house, with the semi-automatic riffles, the week's supply of water, enough medical equipment to do a surgical procedure and a week of food and propane. Just saying.

    PIRA - ah, the good old days of those warm fluffy types who'd think nothing of putting a bomb on a trembler switch on a cabinet ministers car while parked in the Westminster car park... That said, and something for those that say if guns are harder to find, then they'll use bombs. PIRA got bloody good at bombs, especially after cheap detonators. But, as has been shown over and over again, absent some quality Semtex as a catalyst, building a homemade explosive from scratch is much MUCH harder than the movies suggest.



    Once you accept that the change over valve in the average Combi-boiler will break down and will need to be repaired and/or replaced every few years, especially in a hard water area, then you're Golden.

    I'd much rather have one than a water tank sitting there full of water being heated that I may or may not use.


    Good luck getting Christians to move their 2nd most sacred holiday to just 4 months after the 1st. Or at all.

    It'd be easier to just scale back Christmas 2 and change it's name to something less religiously contentious. And while I'm asking for the impossible, we could just move to a post-scarcity, secular, Democratic-Socialist utopia, thus eliminating the need for either holiday.


    an extra display of mince pies about 6 feet long

    Six-foot long mince pies? With a bit of brandy butter that would keep me going for a while…


    Not all that long ago there was an article in the Washington Post about what they put applicants for the Presidential detail through. It's brutal and the final exam is simple: you're put in a fight you have to win.


    "we could just move to a post-scarcity..."

    Can a free market economy ever transform itself into a post scarcity economy under it's own power? I mean prices incredibly low because production and distribution is so efficient and everybody lives off of stock portfolios. I mean, post scarcity means low prices, and if a sector in a free market suffers low prices they go out of business relative to the rest of the economy. So prices go up, because the year the turnip harvest was so abundant the prices for turnips fell to near zero, putting the turnip farmers out of busness, was the year before the price of turnips went through the roof and the one turnip farmer who stuck in there sells them at very high prices. For prices to fall permenantly (deflation) they have to fall all at once across the entire economy. The airlines don't go out of business when fares drop because the price of oil drops. The oil companies don't go out of business when the price of oil drops because their expenses also drop. And it goes all across the board except for wages, and that would spur automation so they would no longer be a factor, which would lead to unemployment, but if the price of shares also fell and dividends were paid, paychecks would not be missed.

    The only institution likely to bring that about is... Wal-Mart. They sell everything and they insist on suppliers providing stuff at lower prices every year or they don't supply to wal mart. The only problem is that they don't have a monopoly (all this sentimental attacment to inefficent "mom and pop" stores) and there isn't an adequate minimum wage being enforced broadly enough. But other than that, Wal-Mart is the way to heaven.

    And during the holidays you can go there at 2 am and avoid lines because they are open 24 hours.


    Do we have a genuine free market in anything?

    And if the choice is between God and Walmart, I think we might be driving a supersonic car up a blind alley.


    SPZ @ 225 Shops without a “home run” (so you are a USSAian?) to the checkout? Well, my local Waitrose was OK, so there!

    Legionalla various Nonetheless, how long before there are mass outbreaks of “Leg” all over Alba, because of this insane “regulation”? My guess is sometime in 2014 (?) And will the Public Health Inspectors be allowed to publicly say why this is so – I wonder? Charlie @ 230 - washing-up liquid will off the little buggers, as well – it does their internal osmosis in.

    Also Combi-boilers… It strikes me, as for all domestic equipment, the problem is reliability. In the meantime, an electric immersion heater has its uses, especially if you insulate/lag said hot-water tank well. Your heat losses are low, even more so if said lagged tank is inside a cupboard, in which you can keep clothes - & in my case, I also use to dry and prepare herbs & beans for long-term storage: it’s slightly warm, dark & very dry in there …..

    Paws @ 228 An 6-foot long mince pie? Yum! Ah robertprior @ 242 has noticed that as well, which reminds me: If you want pies that size, you should try Denby Dale, in Yorkshire – they specialise in giant pies. I think the latest (year 2000) massed 12 tonnes. More Yum.

    RDS @ 244 Do I suspect just a smidgen of sarcasm, there?



    October? You have it good! Here in Germany the christmas stuff is brought out in middle to late August, with a few stragglers waiting until September.


    Good luck getting Christians to move their 2nd most sacred holiday to just 4 months after the 1st. Or at all.

    Why not?

    In the Jewish religious calendar, Yom Kippur falls ten days after Rosh Hashanah, after all. Similar relationship in terms of precedence.

    Personally, as someone living in Scotland, I vastly prefer to celebrate Hogmanay. It's a genuine no-frills secular New Year's Holiday, when everyone who wants to celebrate it gets roaring drunk, and we get a second day off to deal with the hangover.


    Is Kedwards being sarcastic or something? Easter is usually 4 months or less after Christmas. I suppose Easter is the most important, but really I don't think the precise timing would matter. The problem is the 1500 years of habit of the current timing.


    The scriptural evidence is that Christ (or Yeshua ben Yusuf) was not born on December 25, A.D. 1: He was probably born about 4 BC, and probably not in December. Early Christians knew this, and a "Christmas" mass was celebrated monthly. Later, Dec 25 was fixed as it coincided with a major holiday celebrated by a dominant polytheistic religion.

    Easter is, without a doubt, a more important holiday (remembering "holiday" derived from "holy day," not "day to gorge on meat and deserts and lounge around watching spectacles") to Christians.


    @245 There has never been an absolutely free market in anything anywhere. There is always some kind of interference in something that impacts. Its all relative. Perhaps I should have said said "ostensibly" or "trying to be."

    @246 I was using some sarcasm and some irony. And writing somewhat in the vein of the comparison of Osama and Yeshua: you can find some surprising things if you squint at them. The case can be made for Wal-Mart (and similar megastore retail chains such as your UKian Tesco) as a positive force, though countercases are also persuasive. I think mainly I'm saying its all very well to speak of post scarcity, but how do you get there from here? Given current realities, is there a surprising path that need merely be modified and guided?

    Currently Wal Mart and the like reduce prices by demanding lower prices from suppliers and not asking how they accomplish that. What that leads to is near-slave labor in the third world because its cheaper than automated factories. (Rome never went beyond where it did becaue they had slave labor, no need to develop those watermills further. Europe vaulted past the rest of the world in the Renaissance partly because labor costs went up after the Black Death. But those are semi-isoloted civilizations which were essentially their own whole world.) Plus these huge retailers often pay the minimum possible wages to store employees and get as much work out of them as they can, by any means they can get away with. And they drive everybody else out of business so they tend to get a monopoly which means they don't have to keep prices low any more. Except that they get competition from imitators. So the model gets a monopoly, rather than the specific business.

    But the generalities still ring true. What is post scarcity but low prices and high wages?
    And what is public ownership but broadly held stock corporations?

    I guess even if you could make it work economically, there would resource limits. If an automobile costs less than an hour's wages, why fill up the tank with fuel when it runs out. Just abandon it and get a new car. That would use up the world's iron supplies and fill the junk heaps really quick, even if process of turning iron into cars and getting them to purchasers was essentially free. So, you don't want it to be so post scarcity that cars are disposable or the like for everybody, but you want it to be post scarcity enough that if somebody wanted a bunch of cars, say if you wanted to do experiments to see if you could cause a car to flip by dropping a heavy weight on the hood (bonnet). If that's what you wanted to focus on, it should be possible for you to get that many automobiles by foregoing, say, wearing new clothing every day and instead washing and rewearing old clothing. Natural resources will always create some degree of scarcity, and it should ideally function as a motive to get more natural resources from nature rather than to take them from somebody in a zero sum manner.

    @249 Easter isn't as easily understood by children. Christmas is Easter for children (and those childlike pagans/seculars). Nice man gives presents if we are good. Lets all be jolly to each other. Easter is the more theologically correct holiday. Problem is the Easter theology is nonsensical, so the effect is to make everything revolve around children and what they can understand, and thus to keep things at a childlike level all the time. This is explicitly stated, but nobody seems to pick it up. They want to treat us like children and make us sheep. Fight to the death!


    Ed @ 250 "Christmas" was fixed so as to NOT QUITE co-incide with the major pagan festival of Mid-Winter, but close enough for a feast, as in "Saturnalia". The earliest day it is "easy" (for certain values of easy) to determine that the days are getting longer is 26th Dec (Boxing Day) by our calendar ....

    RD South re "Eostre" Mid-Winter/"christmas" is a secular holiday based on the turning of the seasons, the end of the darkening (in the N hemisphere) and the beginning of the careful period. The next marker is "Fasching" the begiining of "lent" when you have to be really careful with food supplies. Eostre & the following May celebrations are those of vegetative & animal rebirth - time to plant, time for animals to breed, time for humans to emerge into the fields properly. The christian roots of "Easter" are planted on top of those pagan festivities, &, of course on to the jewish festival of Passover, itself a planting/fertility ritual. The "explanations" given by the usual suspects are all ex post facto bodges anyway.


    Greg, since you seem to dismiss statistics as an argument eg simulation argument I assume that you merely have blind faith that the sun will rise tomorrow.


    The appeal to QI is limited, especially as there is a strong implication that as the improbability of your continued existence rises, then at some point it overtakes the improbability of you not being in a simulation. And whatever runs that is for all intents and purposes God.

    Furthermore, if it's a God based on anything we consider at all reasonable it won't be be "upgrading" Ted Bundy or Jack the Ripper, hence Judgement Day.


    "Give me eternal death instead, please! And the most idealized state of being is obviously "not being": can't beat that in terms of equality, definiteness, conceptual clarity and universality."

    I'm sure any future Artilect God reading that will take it into account when it decides who not to resurrect. Only the amoral ones will ignore your request.


    If we did live in a simulated universe being run by a conscious being then the problem of evil already shows it to not match my definition of reasonable.

    Being brutally tortured, imprisoned, oppressed, raped etc and then being told "it's alright, I won't let the people who did that to you into the super fun party land that you're going to" by someone with the capacity to have stopped the torture, imprisonment...etc is no comfort at all. In fact it's sickening, like a policeman observing a crime about to happen but instead of stopping it arresting the criminal after and taking them to be judged.


    The post scarcity society. What it really means is that trivial crap in unlimited quantities will be effectively free, but a nice house in a nice area will still cost a fortune. Oh... and the poor will be fat.


    Um, you've got to remember calendar creep, which is what the leap years are supposed to correct. The winter solstice was originally the New Year, and I'm pretty sure that Christmas was originally supposed to be on the winter solstice as well. If you don't add in all those pesky leap years, and don't have a leap year on the three centuries that don't divide by 400, then you get these extra days creeping in over the long course of the years.


    The sun rising tommorrow isn't statistics, but an understanding of the operations of the physical laws of the universe.


    And according to the laws of the universe the sun could suddenly tunnel into the black hole at the center of the galaxy. Except it's rather improbable - something to do with statistics and quantums apparently.


    (so you are a USSAian?) Bavarian, in fact. I suppose the people I 'talk' to rub off.

    I'm a bit surprised that having separate faucets for hot & cold is a thing in the UK. Is that simply old installations that still work well enough so don't get replaced, or is there a perceived advantage?

    As to heating, my landlord put about twice the solar collector area that would be usual onto the roof, so now if we have a few sunny days in a row, the water reservoir starts to boil. The next bill for heating et al is going to be interesting.


    dirk @ 253 WHERE, precisely do I dismiss statistics as an argument ?? Statistics are a tool, if properly applied [ See also my references elsewhere to N N Taleb, whom I am finding to be a fascinating read.] Like all tools, they must be properly applied The "blind faith" you refer to is the same of everybody - that things will CONTINUE to operate by the same rules everywhere & everywhen, with no exceptions. Usually called (according to breadth of subject) either "Physics" or "Science" - see also guthrie @ 259. Any evidence to the contrary has not yet been detected. Your comment @ 260 is equally wide of the mark, since we are dealing with serioously macroscopic objects here, where Q-tunnelling effects are THEORETICALLY possible, with P<=10^(10^100) or something similar. Longer than the time to the heat-death of the universe, anyway.

    Your so-called "arguments" in 244 & 255 are identical in form to the standard blackmail proposed by christian & muslim preachers - "You'll be sorry - & go to hell - if you don't do as we say". Your similar proposal that we are a simulation (aka "running in the mind of god") is equally false, both for the reasons given in 256 by Ryan, & other faults, such as we should be able to detect such a prop-up....

    Please stop this, it's becoming tiresome, & repetitive, at least in the complete absence of any supporting evidence.


    If you don't add in all those pesky leap years, and don't have a leap year on the three centuries that don't divide by 400, then you get these extra days creeping in over the long course of the years.

    Or lead to legends about the Russians showing up late for a battle.


    I'm a bit surprised that having separate faucets for hot & cold is a thing in the UK. Is that simply old installations that still work well enough so don't get replaced, or is there a perceived advantage?

    It's a fashion snob thing. "Classic" designs are currently what high end and imitators of such put in for all kinds of things in a home in the US. Separate hot and cold faucet handles fall into this for now. Single handles are required in public for ADA reasons and this adds to the impression by many that a single handled faucet is just "plain". I've been shopping for plumbing fixtures lately and have been banging my head at the lack of choices for single handled fixtures.

    As an architecture friend of my once said. Copying a classic design isn't all that bad of a thing. But most larger "ornate" houses in the US are bad copies of a bad copy. Think big columns in front of two story houses. This is to imitate memories of old large southern mansions. But the columns don't really hold anything up and the whole house wrap around porch on the first and SECOND floor is also MIA most of the time. And the reason for the columns was to hold up the second floor porch and roof over it. And the porch existed as a place to sleep in the summer as inside of a wall was a bit unbearable when the temp is 100F or more with a relative humidity of 80% or more.


    Personally I often find single taps in public lavatories confusing, since it is often not clear which way to turn them to get hot or cold water, or more or less water. By contrast two different ones, with little red or blue bands on them for identification purposes, is a lot simpler.

    Also, Dirk, the universe comes before statistics, as it were. They're just a model.


    It's a fashion snob thing. "Classic" designs are currently what high end and imitators of such put in for all kinds of things in a home in the US

    Not in the UK (which was what our Bavarian friend was asking about).

    In the UK, when you do plumbing, you expect it to stay done, so a lot of what's around is a few decades old and predates good modern reliable single-spout single-handle designs. We actually have single-spout taps on all our basins, replacing their 25 year old predecessors, but that's because we didn't like the avocado porcelain of the basins. New basins -> new taps -> opportunity to catch up a bit.

    But the changeover is a slow process.


    Separate hot and cold faucet handles fall into this for now.

    but these still have one "snout" where the water comes out mixed, from both the cold and the hot water pipe (obviously, if you opened both), don't they?

    I was asking about a design where you have two snouts, one only delivering icy water (too cold to hold your hand under for more than seconds) and the other only delivering hot (in Scotland, if according to the regulation discussed above, pleasantly warm).

    So you can't rinse off soap by holding your hands under the tap, you have to fill the wash basin and rinse them off in that.

    I was wondering if there was reasonable expectation that you would change the hot water supply so the new regulation became relevant while retaining the "two faucets" system.


    I'm usually being sarcastic, so that's a fair assumption.

    Sure, holidays have been moved before and some are even set on relational schedules, but if you want to move Jesus' birthday to the summer, you'd have to convince the same people who think Evolution is a conspiracy against the Bible and gay marriage a threat to civilization that this isn't somehow a Humanist/Muslim plot against baby Jesus. Good luck with that.


    let me guess, you can't just fit one of the tap holes with a mixing tap and the other hole with a plug, the pipes wouldn't fit, you have to replace the procelain? I can see that tipping the scales to "it's not -that- much of an inconvenience".


    Here in the US and I suspect in the UK and other similar places once you start working on 25 year old porcelain basins and tubs you many times have to trash them as the iron/steel under the porcelain is rusting and there are stains where old fixtures fit. Plus if the piping is iron/steel trying to remove old fittings will many times just lead to breakage down the line. Usually in those cases when you start just plan to toss the basin and fixtures, cut off the pipes cleanly at an accessible spot and build things back up with modern stuff.

    Quick test if you have a 20 year old porcelain/steel basin. Plug the drain then fill the sink till water is running out the overflow. Wait a few minutes. Good chance the overflow channel has rusted out and now you have water running out under the basin.

    Which is why the synthetic/faux marble cast basins and counter tops are so popular now.


    JC vs. OBL

    I think of them as mirror images.

    JC wanted to fight the established religious figures and ignore Rome. (To contradict a few comments upstream.) OBL wanted to fight "Rome" and double down on the established religious figures.

    Most followers of JC don't follow his teachings (or Paul's commentaries on them) very well or at all. Most followers of OBL seem to go to extremes to follow his teachings. Although if this latter group grows to a significant portion of the population that may change. As it did with JC.


    Mixer taps have been around in the UK for decades - at a guess, for longer than the average lifetime of domestic plumbing. Contrary to popular belief in certain parts of Europe, they're not unusual, though I have no idea whether they are as widespread as they are elsewhere, or why this might be.


    For values of "mixer tap" that (for legal reasons until about 10 years ago) separate the hot and cold water flows (including separate control valves for each) up until the actual outlet point.

    Source me, who from 1967 until 1982 lived in a house that had one.


    Legal reasons? I read a book a few weeks ago on plumbing, intended for those doing NVQ's or whatever they are called. I don't recall it mentioning legal reasons for the different designs of mixer taps. Unless this is a really ancient piece of legislation you are talking about, i.e. more than 20 years, and I doubt it is in operation now.


    Relevant known dates in source attribution. The tap was installed before my parents took "vacant possession" of the property.


    I hadn't realised that anything had changed - are the up/down for on/off, left/right for hot/cold ones a new thing? (Well, newish if it's been 10 years.) Do you think this is likely to change takeup in the UK? To me, the sort we had 20 years ago seem like a big step up on having two completely separate taps, so I'm not sure what's likely to change.


    "If we did live in a simulated universe being run by a conscious being then the problem of evil already shows it to not match my definition of reasonable."

    If most realities are resurrection sims then the problem of evil is easily solved - its the price for living again. OTOH, first time round its shit happens and free will that's responsible. I assume this is where you tell me that free will is too high a price given a consequence is evil in the world?


    "Your comment @ 260 is equally wide of the mark, since we are dealing with serioously macroscopic objects here, where Q-tunnelling effects are THEORETICALLY possible, with P<=10^(10^100) or something similar. Longer than the time to the heat-death of the universe, anyway."

    [[ Please be careful with your HTML. Corrected ]]

    Which is a number comparable to the improbability of our universe coming into existence in the low entropy state it has. Read Penrose for details.


    They're new (by plumbing standards) yes. They're ok, but unless you're fitting new porcelain they're not an option to replace separate taps.


    There has also been a manslaughter case in 2011 involving domestic hot water, although not in Scotland:

    The transient temperature when the shower first came on was scalding hot, and did in fact scald a toddler. It was accepted that the original injury was an accident - the crime took place over the next two weeks, as none of three adults in the house took a badly scalded toddler for any medical care until she was on the verge of death. (I only know about this case because an old schoolfriend was on the jury, and I kind of wish I didn't.)

    Is there any technically better way of avoiding very high (and definitely undesired) transient temperatures than a limiting peak temperature? I have no plumbing knowledge whatsoever.


    Presumes electric shower rather than water-blending type - The usual method of avoiding that sort of scald is to not direct the water over a person for about 15s after initial switch-on. Domestic showers don't deliver that sort of water temperature except under a "low flow" condition that normally only happens whilst the flow rate is building, and do have thermostatic cut-offs as standard.


    Resurrection via simulation might be a popular SF trope but it makes little real sense. Sure you could simulate all the possible paths that history could have taken to get to the present (and by could I mean theoretically) but you've got no way of knowing if the collection of person X you've managed to simulate matches the person X you were trying to. You might be able to do it if person X was born, lived and died in a world of total surveillance and you had the capability to make a life box from that life log but even then there are no guarantees.

    As for "it's the price for life" that falls back to the same argument I put forward above. If "god" told me that all the shit in my life had to happen so that I would be close enough to a long dead Ryan so that "god" could stamp me as a resurrection of him I would reply with a resounding fuck you. Why should a simulated person care how similar they match the person they are based on? Put it this way, if the next ten years of my life were destined to be shit because the real Ryan's were then I'd rather say thanks but no thanks "god" I'll take who I am now

    And really? Free will argument? You realise what that boils down to is that "god" therefore respects the free will of rapists over rape victims? To use the policeman analogy again it would be like one not preventing or stopping a rape because being raped is the price the victim must pay to live in a world where free will us possible. Utter nonsense if that is your basis for your religious moral system.

    Seriously Dirk I'm not seeing any difference between what your espousing and any other religion. Trying to wrap it up in arguments about simulations by AI rather than the mind of god does nothing to change the fact the arguments are the same old.


    "Resurrection via simulation might be a popular SF trope but it makes little real sense. Sure you could simulate all the possible paths that history could have taken to get to the present (and by could I mean theoretically) but you've got no way of knowing if the collection of person X you've managed to simulate matches the person X you were trying to."

    Addressed here:


    That doesn't address what I said, it just acknowledges it. You say that if you simulate enough then eventually you'll get something that does most of the same thing but that's still not necessarily a perfect (or significantly close) copy. At the most you've found the one monkey simulation that wrote Shakespeare but that's no guarantee the next play it produces will be similar or any good.

    It also doesn't address the rest of what I've said, namely that you can't squirrel away the problem of evil with free will and price for life justifications.


    It explains in detail how if we live in a sufficiently multiverse performing a reconstruction will result in at least one perfect copy


    "It also doesn't address the rest of what I've said, namely that you can't squirrel away the problem of evil with free will and price for life justifications."

    It can and does. If you want the full discussion of theodicy spend $2.99 on the book


    Actually it demonstrates perfectly how your stock answer to any sufficiently advanced question on free will is "buy and read my book". I've got no specific issue with you punting your book here if Charlie doesn't, but it's not getting me to reach for my credit card.


    Shouldn't that be Yeshua ben Miriam, Judaism being matralialial?


    So what do you want? A couple of thousand words of explanation dropped on this blog? Or do you think that it can all be wrapped up neatly in one sentence?


    Neither; there should be some sort of middle ground on the type(s) of answer you can give.


    Probably not. Jewish descent is matrilineal (why I'm a Jew, despite the name), but naming is after the father*.

    Which does cause a problem, since Joseph was supposedly not Jebus' biological father, though presumed to be. So, if he had a different name, he would have been looked on as a Mamzer--bastard.

    *At least until Frederick the Great did his census and insisted that everyone have a family name, which why you end up with all the stereotype Jewish/German names. Or something like that.

    And having said all that, I'll add that when I (seldom) need to use my Hebrew name, I am son of my mother, since my father's not Jewish. But that's a personal choice. Also (because I haven't had reason to mention it before), my brother is a Sean Eric--not Fagan. Seeing that name here threw me he first time I saw it.


    but naming is after the father

    Because, as in nearly all ancient cultures (and some not so ancient), children and spouses were considered as property of the men.


    I have already given the answers in the links to articles I posted. In one case the respondent obviously did not read or understand the article.


    dirk @ 293 & previous. I echo Ryan @ 282: "Same Old" And - it is. Provide something new, or we'll just write you off as another religious nutter, I'm afraid. Snake-Oil: NOT buying it.


    I did reply to one of your earlier posts IIRC but is disappeared into moderation and has not been heard of since.


    Rhona speaking here........ Charlie @ 208 - You have got your murdered royals mixed up. EIIR's FIL was Andrew of Greece and Denmark, who died of natural causes 3 Dec 1944 (which is why he is missing from the 1947 wedding pics). Andrew - the helicopter pilot in the Falklands - is named after him. The guy who was murdered was the last Vicroy of India, brother of Alice of Battenberg (Philip's mother) and brother of Queen Louise of Sweden. Their father (another Louis of Battenberg) was First Sea Lord at the outbreak of WWI.

    David @ 270 - this house is 1893. The old (still intact) cold water mains are lead (very hard water here so not an issue) and the rest are all copper. Steel pipes are vitually unknown in the UK. Though stainless steel is somes used now, but copper is preferred.


    I did read it and as I said I saw nothing concrete there to address the points raised. IMO it's both rude and a waste of time to reply with a link or a plug for your book. At the very least you could highlight what you think specifically addresses the points and why rather than linking to a rambling article on the superficial similarity between your ideology and older religions.


    Ryan, FWIW, I think that what's Dirk's concealing (deliberately or otherwise) is that his "new way" is basically techno-Gnosticism. He may now claim that I didn't understand what he's written either, but if 2 or more people don't understand or misunderstand what you wrote, maybe it's at least partly your writing?

    Dirk, a blank refusal to answer specific questions suggests that at best you don't know, and at worst you do not want to give, answers to those questions.


    The point you raised was about how an exact copy could be made without exact information. The multiverse solves that problem and the mechanism is explained in the article.


    Techno-Gnosticism is a good description. Anyway, ask your questions, but I am not going to answer in any more than 3 sentences. Note that if I could accurately explain everything in 3 sentences or less I would not have written 40,000 words.


    Thanks; that tells me everything I wanted and needed to know in 6 words.


    Let me guess - the vital clue is where I draw parallels with gnosticism?


    I'm sure you can do it if you try.

    I wrap mine up neatly in one sentence.

    Reality is comprehensive, so coincidences intelligently promote complexity through order, thus cooperation is advisable.

    Admittedly it's run on, but it implies everything that is unique. The rest is either explaining connections, implications, or common knowledge anyway.

    I guess I could really trim it down.

    Reality is comprehensive, productiveness lucky. Every word needs qualification, so it's all there, like an equation where every symbol needs a footnote.


    dirk @ 299 But we want an "exact" copy in THIS universe. How big are your error-bars allowed to be before the "copy" fails? How much allowance is made for cumulative errors? Sorry, but this is a standard problem with measurement, any measurement, never mind reproducing a pre-exsiring structire, never mind a living entity ... Technology FAIL, I'm afraid.

    As for the rest, yes, it's gnosticism, so it is just more religious bollocks. What a shame, what a waste of time & effort. I'm reminded of Crookes, who wandered off into spritualism, of all things... And Robert Stirling, who got distracted by perpetual-motion machines ... though his children turned out to be gifted engineers, anyway. His oldest son, Patrick Stilring was responsible for one of the most famous, & beautiful steam locomotives ever constructed Old Number 1 ...


    "But we want an "exact" copy in THIS universe."

    No. An exact copy ie same brain states, in a simulated world with this level of macroscopic detail would be sufficient. Note that if brain states are identical then the perception of the world is identical.

    As for "religious bollocks" only a fool ignores such powerful social engineering tools.


    dirk Sorry "copy of brain-states" - really? Very good in the Culture, but not here. How much detail do you need to calculate the eaxct parameters of successive billiard-ball collsions - a really, really simple model, NOT involving complicated things like multiple electrochemical signals inside a brain? Easy for one ...but, by the time you get to the 8th/9th collision, you have to factor in the gravitational attraction caused by the observer(s) standing aropund the billiard-table [Example taken from N N Taleb, actually] In other words, it is NOT calculable. There are limits to our knowledge & measurement, as (also) Mandelbrot, Poincaré & others have found.

    I did not suggest ignoring religious bollocks, merely rejecting it, utterly & completely, since it has done immeasurable evil & caused untold suffering over the centuries. If you are in favour of deliberately using such social engineering techniques as part of your zero state project, then you and your associates are evil. As evil as the RC church, the Taliban & the communists [Note that I'm carefully NOT mentioning the other lot - Godwin & all that]


    Greg, ignoring the "infinite quantities of handwavium" argument, I think we're talking about a megaqubit megaflop computer to handle the calculations for replicating one human brain at a given instant, and I suspect we need to go to a gigaflop computer to even approach doing it in real time (for the commonly accepted value of "real time" meaning 1 update per second).


    "Sorry "copy of brain-states" - really? Very good in the Culture, but not here."

    Well, unless you think there is some mystical quantum woowoo going on in the brain most measures of the brains processing power is less than an exaflops, which should be available for the various whole (Human) brain emulation projects within 7 years. Given that I am talking about technology at least 50 to 100 years hence I think I am the conservative one here.


    Actually, reconstruct brain states.


    Um, why do you want to reconstruct all the brain states of a human? That's ludicrous. You can probably train a much simpler neural network to act the same way as that human, if you give it enough inputs.

    Here's the critical, unspoken question: how does anyone know that a totally detailed simulation of your brain would be conscious enough to think it was you? Similarly, how could you tell that a well-trained neural network wasn't you?

    In both cases, the simulation is not you, because it's outside your skull, and it certainly won't share its internal state with your brain. A copy is a copy, no matter how it comes to exist.


    paws @ 307 Given that a human can easily detect half-second signals ( i.e. 2 Hz ) and that 0.1-second events are readily detected by people, then I think we're going to need another 2 orders of magnitude, at least.

    dirk @ 308 I don't think you previously specified the computing power required, & the projected amount available in the near future, I may be wrong & you may be correct, after all. However, remember that you still have the problem of "sufficiently good = small error-bars" measurement of those states. Good luck with it.

    Meanwhile I note that you are carefully NOT addressing my charge of deliberately using "religious" style programming on people, and that this is evil. Who gave you permission? Whom among your victims will have given you their informed consent? WHat make you think that "It will be different this time, because our herts are pure" [SNARK] ?? What gives you any right at all to do this to others, anyay?

    I await your answer with interest.


    "Um, why do you want to reconstruct all the brain states of a human? That's ludicrous."

    Why? Because there are 10^(10^16) of them? Quite do-able if distributed across the multiverse.

    "A copy is a copy, no matter how it comes to exist."

    Just like the copy of you now is merely a (poor) copy of the original of 10 minutes ago.


    BTW, in the book I claim that the essential "ingredient" is continuity of consciousness.


    Greg, depending on how you measure "detectable", you may need to take the update rate as fast as 25Hz (speed at which persistence of vision makes a flickering image appear steady). I only picked on 1Hz because that's officially defined rate between updates for "real-time data processing".


    "Meanwhile I note that you are carefully NOT addressing my charge of deliberately using "religious" style programming on people, and that this is evil."

    That's merely your own value judgement. Others believe differently, including me.

    "Who gave you permission?"

    Do I need permission?

    "Whom among your victims will have given you their informed consent?"

    Everyone who reads the book and agrees with its sentiments.

    "What gives you any right at all to do this to others, anyay?"

    Free speech


    dirk @ 315 And so ("Others believe differently") do all the other murderous, lying religious blackmailers throughout history - what evidence do we have that you are any different - show please! For instance, so do the Taliban & Opus Dei & the N Korean communist party. Belief does not make either virtue or right.

    YOU MISSED THE POINT What about those who get or are subjected to your programme, whether they like it, or not? If it's a religion (& it is) it will behave like one - really nasty.

    You claim "Free Speech" Fair do's. One SLIGHT problem - it is not your speech that bothers me - it is your putative future actions based on said religious belief, and doing unto others. I saw you palm that card!


    Well, lets just go the social darwinist route. You fight your corner and I'll fight mine and the best man is always defined by who wins.

    "If it's a religion (& it is) it will behave like one - really nasty."

    Yes - we must get rid of those evil Jains.


    AGAIN - I'm getting tired of this ... You put words into my speech that I have never said. Have I mentioned "Social Darwinism" or anything related to it? NO

    Yes, I've met a couple of Jains - very clever... Now what about xtianity & islam & communism? Even Jainism subjects women, to some extent .....


    I'm startled that no one yet has referred to the great Ron Cobb's cartoon on the "real Jesus" (down the page).


    Now that you bring this thread up, and unrelated to the amusing cartoon but sort of inspired by the few posts above it.

    Religion is the belief that beliefs matter in and of themselves, thus that life is somehow a filtering of humanity on the basis of personality, implying that it is some world beyond this one that matters. The key statement of religion is the "just testing you," of an evil person trying to persuade you to evil, then resorting to an excuse when called on it. Theirs is the same kind of behavior and thinking that fills our world with punishment responses for trusting and reaching out a hand when we see a problem like someone being abused(assuming it is a trap laid by the evil to catch the good), thus driving us into ourselves.

    My minister said yesterday, "If only it were all so simple, if only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." Good sentiment, and we all need to watch and improve ourselves, but I think there are evil people, consciously making life worse than it is, not casually, but with focus and forethought.

    I think they are working for space aliens who are our rivals for the job of favored servants of the Galactic AI, unable to touch us directly while we are being cultivated to be scabs, their replacements due to their rebelliousness. But I don't think my beliefs matter. Just a thought, and a perfectly reasonable one if you really think about it. What, are you FOR the space aliens?

    Re Social Darwinism Social Darwinists are powerfull still, and I think we should all be prepared to play their game, even if we don't agree with their theory. There's no such thing as virtuous defeat. Does that belief constitute putting belief above behavior?



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