Jefferson on funding NPR

I had never heard this quotation from Thomas Jefferson:

“To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

via Michelle Malkin.

It might be possible to make a case for public broadcasting–or it used to be, when higher-brow programming was not available before the advent of abundant-channel cable TV or digital radio.  (Though it’s still not clear to me why the state should fund high-brow programming with the tax dollars of those with regular brows.)  But isn’t it intrinsically wrong in a free society for the state to fund programming with specific political opinions?  Isn’t that what totalitarian states with their propaganda media do?

So should we de-fund NPR and PBS?  (Notice that “But I like their programs” is NOT an argument why taxpayers as a whole, including many who do not avail themselves of the programming, should pay for them.)

Sporting News

The weekend’s big loser in sports was conventional expectations. My Oklahoma Sooners, BCS #1 for one week, were beaten by Missouri. This makes three successive weeks that the #1 team has bitten the dust (Oklahoma meeting the fate of Alabama and Ohio State). I’m sure the Sooner defeat is my fault, through a mechanism I don’t fully understand, due to my puffing them up on my blog.

Of greater significance, The San Francisco Giants upset the seemingly sure-thing Philadelphia Phillies to make it to the World Series.

And in the one upset that gave me great pleasure, the Texas Rangers beat the Yankees to go to their first World Series ever. And you’ve got to like the Rangers on a personal level. When they won the pennant, they celebrated with ginger ale instead of champagne out of consideration for an alcoholic teammate, series MVP Josh Hamilton, whose Christian faith turned his life around.

You are not allowed to say what you think

Juan Williams, the African-American journalist who is often the token liberal on Fox News, was fired by National Public Radio for saying that passengers in Muslim garb on airplanes make him nervous.  This was in the context of arguing with Bill O’Reilly that he should be careful about stereotyping all Muslims as extremists.  See Williams’ self-defense: FoxNews.com – JUAN WILLIAMS: I Was Fired for Telling the Truth.

Other public figures have been getting pilloried for saying that they do not approve of homosexuality or masturbation or evolution or whatever.  These are things that lots of people think, but it’s not socially acceptable to say so.  Is freedom of speech just something for the government to not infringe, or should it be a value that the culture as a whole upholds, if it is to actually be a free society?  That is to say, if people lose their jobs for stating their opinion, do we really have free speech?

The opiate of the people

Communism teaches that religion is the opiate of the people, a consolation that prevents the masses from rising up against their oppressors.  Apparently, judging from this article by David Ignatius, the true opiate of the people in still-Communist China is material prosperity and pop culture:

Americans sometimes assume that a richer China will soon demand greater freedom and democracy. Don’t bet on it: What Chinese repeat to foreign visitors, in so many settings that the canned phrases become credible, is something like this: We like what we’ve got; we’re worried about losing it; we want stability even if it means less freedom and openness.

Chinese don’t seem to know much about Xi Jinping, the man who this week became heir apparent to President Hu Jintao, beyond the fact that he is a “princeling” son of power and that he is married to a star singer. This makes him a man who is likely to maintain the status quo — and perhaps reform the system and spread the wealth just enough to keep any dissenters quiet. For most Chinese I encountered, those qualities seem to be enough. . . .

There’s protest in China, to be sure, but it’s largely about economic and property issues. The freedom agenda of Tiananmen Square in 1989, embodied today by the imprisoned Nobel Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, has mostly been throttled. Among the elite in China’s wealthy cities, fear of the peasants in the hinterlands seems to be a bigger concern than the opaque Communist Party leadership.

For a snapshot of China’s future, talk with students at Beijing High School 101. Decked out in their blue-and-white uniforms to meet visiting Western journalists (organized by the Committee of 100, a private U.S. group that promotes Chinese-American dialogue), the children are astonishingly bright and well-spoken in English. But even here at the top of the heap, there’s a fragility. They’re all products of China’s one-child policy, and you sense the heavy expectations of their parents: Study, succeed, prosper, don’t lose your seat on the express train to riches. . . .

At Tsinghua University, a graduate student named Yin Wang offers a catchy and probably accurate line: “Young people don’t care who succeeds Hu Jintao; they care about who succeeds Michael Jackson.”

A recurring theme here is self-censorship by a population that doesn’t want to risk crossing the fuzzy limits on free speech. Students attend journalism school partly to learn what subjects are off-limits. Young reporters who dig beyond the official account get branded as “unreliable” and lose good assignments.

The government monitors the Internet to keep it tame, and Chinese businesses and consumers play along. One of China’s biggest Web sites is said to employ 100 people to scan the proliferation of micro-blogs here. Parents avoid telling their children about the Tiananmen protests for fear they will ask more questions — and get in trouble.

The threat to this elite urban life comes from the still-poor rural provinces. The Chinese revolution began among such peasants, and there’s an almost palpable fear that the new China’s growing inequality could trigger another such revolt. That’s one reason people are nervous about democracy: They don’t want to enfranchise those angry peasants.

via David Ignatius – In China, it’s all about prosperity, not freedom.

And isn’t that a danger here as well, that materialism and our entertainment fixation (“who will succeed Michael Jackson?”), are breeding political and spiritual apathy?

Cancer as a modern invention

A study of hundreds of Egyptian mummies and other ancient evidence has found virtually no cases of cancer, which first seems to turn up at the advent of the modern world.   Here are some of the conclusions from researchers:

Cancer is a man-made disease fuelled by the excesses of modern life, a study of ancient remains has found.

Tumours were rare until recent times when pollution and poor diet became issues, the review of mummies, fossils and classical literature found.

A greater understanding of its origins could lead to treatments for the disease, which claims more than 150,000 lives a year in the UK.

Scientists found no signs of cancer in their extensive study of mummies apart from one isolated case

Despite slivers of tissue from hundreds of Egyptian mummies being rehydrated, just one case of cancer has been confirmed. This is even though tumours should be better preserved by mummification than healthy tissues.

Fossil evidence is also sparse, with just a few dozen – mostly disputed – examples, Nature Reviews Cancer journal reports.

Even the study of thousands of Neanderthal bones has provided only one example of a possible cancer.

And references to cancer-like problems in ancient Egyptian texts are more likely to have been caused by leprosy or varicose veins.

Researcher Michael Zimmerman, a visiting professor at Manchester University, said: ‘The virtual absence of malignancies in mummies must be interpreted as indicating their rarity in antiquity. This indicates that cancer-causing factors are limited to societies affected by modern industrialisation.’

The ancient Greeks were probably the first to define cancer as a specific disease and to distinguish between benign and malignant tumours.

But researchers said it was unclear if this signalled a real rise in the disease, or just a greater medical knowledge.

The 17th century provides the first descriptions of surgery for breast and other cancers, while the first reports of distinctive tumours occurred in the past 200 years or so.

They include scrotal cancer in chimney sweeps in 1775 and nasal cancer in snuff users in 1761.

Co-researcher Professor Rosalie David said: ‘There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer.

‘So it has to be down to pollution and changes to diet and lifestyle.

‘The important thing about our study is that it gives a historical perspective to this disease.

via Cancer ‘is purely man-made’ say scientists after finding almost no trace of disease in Egyptian mummies | Mail Online.

Dead Sea Scrolls will go online

Ancient and modern communication technology come together, as the world’s oldest copies of the Hebrew Bible along with other texts from just before the time of Christ go online, where they will be more readable than ever:

The Dead Sea Scrolls, among the world’s most important, mysterious and tightly restricted archaeological treasures, are about to get Googled.

The technology giant and Israel announced Tuesday that they are teaming up to give researchers and the public the first comprehensive and searchable database of the scrolls – a 2,000-year-old collection of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek documents that shed light on Judaism during biblical times and the origins of Christianity. For years, experts have complained that access to the scrolls has been too limited.

Once the images are up, anyone will be able to peruse exact copies of the original scrolls as well as an English translation of the text on their computer – for free. Officials said the collection, expected to be available within months, will feature sections that have been made more legible thanks to high-tech infrared technology. . . .

Scholars already can access the text of the scrolls in 39 volumes along with photographs of the originals, but critics say the books are expensive and cumbersome. Shor said the new pictures – photographed using cutting-edge technology – are clearer than the originals.

The refined images were shot with a high-tech infrared camera NASA uses for space imaging. It helped uncover sections of the scrolls that have faded over the centuries and became indecipherable.

If the images uploaded prove to be of better quality than the original, scholars may rely on these instead of traveling to Jerusalem to see the scrolls themselves, said Rachel Elior, a professor of Jewish thought at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.. . .

For the last 18 years, segments of the scrolls have been publicly displayed in museums around the world. At a recent exhibit in St. Paul, Minn., 15 fragments were shown.

Shor said a typical 3-month exhibit in the U.S. draws 250,000 people, illustrating just how much the scrolls have fascinated people.

“From the minute all of this will go online, there will be no need to expose the scroll anymore,” Shor said. “Anyone in his office or on his couch will be able to click and see any scroll fragment or manuscript that they like.”

via Google to bring Dead Sea Scrolls online.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X