August 2008

Interviewed on Meet the Press August 24, Speaker Pelosi was asked when human life begins. She said the following (my emphasis):

“I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. . . St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know. The point is, is that it shouldn’t have an impact on the woman’s right to choose.”

Many Catholic leaders have released statements that reflect true Catholic beliefs and teachings. An excerpt from a statement by Archishop Chaput and Bishop Conley of Denver (my emphasis):

Ardent, practicing Catholics will quickly learn from the historical record that from apostolic times, the Christian tradition overwhelmingly held that abortion was grievously evil. In the absence of modern medical knowledge, some of the Early Fathers held that abortion was homicide; others that it was tantamount to homicide; and various scholars theorized about when and how the unborn child might be animated or “ensouled.” But none diminished the unique evil of abortion as an attack on life itself, and the early Church closely associated abortion with infanticide. In short, from the beginning, the believing Christian community held that abortion was always, gravely wrong.

Of course, we now know with biological certainty exactly when human life begins. Thus, today’s religious alibis for abortion and a so-called “right to choose” are nothing more than that – alibis that break radically with historic Christian and Catholic belief.

Abortion kills an unborn, developing human life. It is always gravely evil, and so are the evasions employed to justify it. Catholics who make excuses for it – whether they’re famous or not – fool only themselves and abuse the fidelity of those Catholics who do sincerely seek to follow the Gospel and live their Catholic faith.

And this is not just a Catholic teaching. The Bishops above also quote the Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.”

Also Cardinal Justin F. Rigali and Bishop William E. Lori (chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine) state:

In the course of a “Meet the Press” interview on abortion and other public issues on August 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.

In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” (No. 2271)

In the Middle Ages, uninformed and inadequate theories about embryology led some theologians to speculate that specifically human life capable of receiving an immortal soul may not exist until a few weeks into pregnancy. While in canon law these theories led to a distinction in penalties between very early and later abortions, the Church’s moral teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any stage of development.

These mistaken biological theories became obsolete over 150 years ago when scientists discovered that a new human individual comes into being from the union of sperm and egg at fertilization. In keeping with this modern understanding, the Church teaches that from the time of conception (fertilization), each member of the human species must be given the full respect due to a human person, beginning with respect for the fundamental right to life.

More statements of Catholic leaders are on the EWTN site.

Finally, I like the moral counsel Father Mitch Pacwa gave to Pelosi:

“If you are ignorant and you don’t know [when life begins], then you go on the side of safety and protecting rights. You don’t bomb a city where there might be a lot of civilians. You don’t do that. You say, ‘Well, I’m not sure.’ Well, then be on the side of safety. Protect the lives of the innocent, the non-combatants.

“Same with the unborn children. You must also go on the side of your ignorance to say then, “If I don’t know, then I’ll protect all the more. I don’t want to act while I’m ignorant.”

Martha Davis

Just got back from the Motels’ concert at Ram’s Head, Annapolis, MD. Great show. Martha Davis is quite a character. I haven’t followed the Motels in recent years; Martha has obviously replaced a few of the original band members with some, er, younger players. Yep, they played “Only the Lonely” and “Suddenly Last Summer”, but also new songs such as “The Day That Won’t Go Away”, which Ms. Davis said was dedicated to Keifer and the show “24”. Fun!

Marth Davis plays Guitar

After the concert Martha signed autographs for people, and seemed to have an interesting story for each person. She’s very nice and personable.

Martha Davis

I went to see Suzanne Vega at Ram’s Head tonight (Tuesday). Great show; front row table at this intimate venue. I had never seen Ms. Vega live before and I can say she didn’t disappoint. She played songs from her first album (Suzanne Vega), through to her latest (Beauty and Crime). I really enjoyed myself (hey, they have “Genius Stout” on draft – made there).

I recorded the show on a Zoom H2 audio recorder. I just finished processing the first 17 songs of the set, and I have to say, the Zoom H2 in combination with Audacity on my MacBook really does result in good sound! Highly recommended. I’ve put three links below to mp3 snippets. They are saved as high quality VBR, so they are each about 1 MB. This is my first foray into “good” audio recording; I’ve avoided it in the past due to the cost of equipment. But the (relatively) inexpensive H2 has me hooked!

I had tried to record a Wilco concert recently at Tanglewood in MA, but that was a stadium concert, and I had set the gain too high (as well as playing with other settings), so most of the sound was clipped. This time I did more research, and left the gain on the low setting, and did not boost the “level” via menu options on the recorder. I also recorded at 48k/16bit, as my reading indicated that the “native” sampling rate of the ADC chip was 48k, not 44.1k. And 16bit was more than enough dynamic range. Also, it appears that all the “options” (and there are many) available on the recorder are done in the digital domain, *after* the source is recorded by the ADC chip. So post-processing on the computer will accomplish the same thing. Thus, I left things as “raw” as possible for the recording and I processed the files in Audacity, increasing the gain there to normalize, and split the large sound files into smaller individual song tracks. Note that iTunes read in the 48k sample tracks just fine, but when I tried to burn a cd via Toast, the sound was icky. I guess I’ll have to export as resampled 44.1k files to burn to cd. Anyway, the snippets are below:

Frank and Eva snippet
Pornographer\’s Dream Snippet
The Queen and the Soldier snippet

[Read 2/01/2008] Science Fiction. 1968

I’ve watched the movie (Blade Runner) based on this book about 4-5 times now, and plan to watch it again; but only now have I read the book. Wow. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and I can see why people call it a classic. The edition I read was part of the Library of America edition of “4 novels of the 1960’s”, which included 3 other Dick novels: The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, and Ubik. I like the quality of Library of America books; this volume will last a few lifetimes!

There are significant differences between the book and the movie. I have to say that while I really enjoy the movie, the book as they say, is better. The movie relies on dark sets for “mood”, and the androids (“andys” in the book, “replicants” in the movie) are a lot more militaristic in the movie. \n\n

The basic plot is of a future where radioactive fallout from a world war has forced most of humanity to emigrate to colonies “offworld”. To help the colonists, humanoid robots (androids) are created as servants. The more recent models are indistinguishable from humans (hey! Cylons!). The only way to tell humans and androids apart is by application of a psychological “empathy” test. Since androids lack empathy, they fail. What happens when a deviant human (without empathy) takes the test is not explored.

Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter working for the San Francisco police. His job is to hunt down and “retire” (kill) androids – because by law they are illegal on Earth. Eight androids mutinied from a colony world and are loose on earth, and all happen to be in the San Francisco area. Rick spends the novel tracking down 6 of them (his predecessor got 2 – and now he’s in the hospital).

The development of Rick’s character in the book was very engaging. Yes, I felt empathy. He hooks up with Rachel – an android from the Rosen Corp (which manufactures the androids). Unlike the movie, Rachel learns early that she is an android, and just accepts it.

One of the ideas in the book is “Mercerism” – where people empathically connect with some guy Mercer who is trudging up some hill in an obviously Sisyphean task. Anyone holding on to their Empathy Box will join all the others currently holding on to theirs, including Mercer. I don’t really get the point to doing this (masochism?). Also in the story is a more appealing machine: the Penfield Mood Organ. You can dial in any mood you want, i.e. “Total Bliss”, or “Desire to watch tv no matter what is on”, or the recursive “Desire to dial in a mood”.

Note that in the book there is a ~2year lifespan for androids, but it is not intentional; they simply can’t get the body cells to last longer. In the movie there is an artificially imposed 4yr lifespan – in other words no technical reason that androids have to die (young). This adds an extra dimension to the movie, as it turns out Rachel was actually created without an expiration date.