Religious reactions to the shootings

When violence strikes innocent people close to home, you can expect religious leaders to immediately scramble to explain how their god can allow such things to happen. Some, like Bryan Fischer and Mike Huckabee, have suggested that god is punishing people for excluding religion from schools. Others are more aware that such a message it not particularly good public relations for their god and try to square the events with a god who is good and not easily irked into fits of violence. [Read more...]

How things change

Phil Burress is president of the Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values. Any group that has the words ‘traditional’, ‘family’, ‘values’, and the like in its title is likely to be narrow-minded and this one is no exception. CCV is one of those groups that fights for ‘Judeo-Christian moral values’ and ‘has been ‘protecting the family since 1983′ mainly, it seems, by fighting against pornography and homosexuality. [Read more...]

How mass killings should be covered

Although I own a TV, it is used almost exclusively to watch DVDs and I have not watched TV news or any programs in ages, preferring to get both via the radio or the internet. But I can imagine that there must have been wall-to-wall coverage of the shootings at the elementary school last week. My local newspaper the Plain Dealer had massive front-page, above the fold coverage of the news on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday even though the events took place in a distant state and had no local connection. [Read more...]

Support the Freedom of the Press Foundation

I am a big supporter of WikiLeaks and similar organizations that seek to increase government transparency. I contributed money until credit card agencies refused to allow payments to it, because of fear of offending the US government. I now hear of an excellent new organization called the Freedom of the Press Foundation that works towards increasing government transparency by encouraging whistleblowers and investigative journalism. [Read more...]

The difficulty with predicting behavior

When I first started teaching at CWRU over twenty years ago, I recall giving a physics final exam in which students wrote their answers in the familiar blue books. When I started grading them later, I found one in which the student had made little or no attempt at answering the problems. Instead he had spent the entire time sketching quite elaborate drawings of guns firing and other violent images for page after page. At that time, there wasn’t the heightened sensitivity to violence on college campuses that there is now and no training to be alert to such warning signs, and so apart from giving the student a zero on the exam, I did not do anything. [Read more...]

Clever sleight of hand

I’ve always been a fan of magic and, being a bit of a klutz myself, particularly impressed by the sleight-of-hand abilities of many of the best practitioners. Here is a great example by Yann Frisch in a variation of the familiar cups and balls trick. You always have to be wary of magic tricks you see on the internet because of the possibility of subtle cuts but this performance is apparently from a live performance at a competition where Frisch won a prize. [Read more...]