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Antler Anxiety

I still keep coming back to this simple problem. If a prion disease like CWD (in deer) can spread as if borne by mobile ve

ctors or proximity-based contagion, then how can the prion-based BSE (in cows) be assumed to be not spreading despite “improvements” in industrialised slaughterhouse procedures.

CWD is passed with relative ease among deer kept together in a penned environment?within four years, 90 percent of the experimental group contracted the disease simply by living together. Scientists are still unsure about what transmits the pathogen: The evidence suggests that the disease must somehow linger in a shared grazing environment?likely in feces, urine, or saliva.

Earlier here.

Abominable Christians

So prompted by the fuss over Mel Gibson’s gruesome snuff movie (which itself features the usual anachronistically inaccurate White Jesus, and this during Black History Month!), I checked out some stills on IMDB.

All the rubbish about “accuracy” and I saw a few stills that clearly show a classical Germanic-derived White Jesus with flowing locks. No afro in sight. They seem to have “browned-up” James Caviezel with a slight tint of blackface so that he looks like a slightly tanned version of one of those mullet-headed Aryan heroes from the Lord of the Rings movie. Aragorn, Jesus, what’s the difference? Surely de-colourising the protagonist, stripping him of historical context and ethnic identity, is just the opening salvo in what is apparently an entire ideological edifice of cinematic anti-semitism!

I am still chuckling at the absurdity of this situation. Gibson’s God-Man looks about as authentically “semitic” as Peter Sellers looked authentically Indian in The Party.

Reconstruction of typical 1st-century Judean/Palestinian

Anyway, I was reading some of The Annals by Tacitus, brushing up on my recollections of the accounts of contemporaries concerning the unusual and often fanatical early Christians.

Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.

I was struck by the use of the term “Abominations”. Of course, 1st and early 2nd century Romans were quite morally conservative with respect to family structures and kinship arrangements, and looked on all the “Eastern” cults with suspicions because they tended to disarrange the traditional Roman household structure. They were seen as promiscuous, secretive, often anti-patriarchical, and inclined to cause people to withdraw from the public spiritual life of Roman cities. While the worship of small house gods and cults had always been condoned, the new trend for totalizing religious fervor within both public and private spheres upset the generally more secular-minded average Roman. Mithraism, Christianity, and even the Magna Mater cult were anathema to a populace who looked to the Pontifex Maximus for moral guidance. In fact, in a weird echo of today’s culture wars, the Pontifex was expected to resign his position as vehicle for the consumption of Rome’s Sacred Bread (“mola salsa“)were he to become divorced.

Anyway, because Christianity at that time was mostly a female religion practised in secret in kitchen enclaves, the same lurid stories about female sexuality and abandon were attached to Christians as had been attached to Bacchus/Liber cultists. Most of these stories were, of course, total fabrication, akin to the hysteria by Puritan Christians concerning the supposed carnal activities of Wiccans. What goes around comes around.

There’s more of this in the History of Private Life: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium. The analysis of the transition of Western Rome from pagan to secular to Christian, mostly told through diaries, letters, and personal accounts, is remarkably enlightening. I especially liked the explanation of the differences between secular Roman processional and theatrical cemeteries and their replacement by mournful Christian boneyards.

What I find most remarkable is that because Euro-dominated culture descended from a hybrid of Germanic-Gallo/Roman culture, Western accounts tend to undermine or underplay the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium (Gibbons was a classic example of this pro-German bias).

Byzantine society managed its transition to Christianity without completely destroying its economic base, urban structures, or social institutions, and so we see in late Byzantium a fascinating hybrid of ancient Roman social customs and late-era Christianity that is more “authentically Mediterranean” than the Germanic-influenced privatized social development that occurred throughout Western Europe.

George Bush – Spammers’ Friend

Fill out your letter using this form, and the George Bush Re-election Campaign will kindly email your letter to editors for you. How kind of them, especially considering the content is left up to you. If you are really excited, why not impress the homies with a George Bush Block Party?

Weasel Words

George Bush in a debate in 2000, speaking about “gay marriage”:

Q: So if a state were voting on gay marriage, you would suggest to that state not to approve it?
A: The state can do what they want to do.

Compare that with his latest desperate attempt to galvanize the frothing religious regressives out to the polls this November:

If we are to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America. Decisive and democratic action is needed, because attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country.

This position strikes even Bob Barr, the twice-divorced author of the problematically un-Constitutional “Defense of Marriage Act” as, well, a bad thing:

The Constitution is no place for forcing social policy on states, especially in this case.

Earlier here.

Holy Biomass Grail

Converting to a “hydrogen economy” given current mechanical efficiences will mean increasing the already unsustainable human agricultural footprint by around 50%.

The fossil fuels burned in 1997 were created from organic matter containing 44 ? 1018 g C, which is >400 times the net primary productivity (NPP) of the planet?s current biota. As stores of ancient solar energy decline, humans are likely to use an increasing share of modern solar resources. I conservatively estimate that replacing the energy humans derive from fossil fuels with energy from modern biomass would require 22% of terrestrial NPP, increasing the human appropriation of this resource by ~50%.

Saudi Oil Approaching Hubbert Peak

Despite being lambasted by his critics (mainly economists), M King Hubbert’s prediction that despite all possible advances in technology and expansion of drilling areas, US oil production would peak and then decline during the 1970s was borne out.

The earth is, of course, a finite system and so only a deranged optimist (or a Bush Gang crony) could assume that a larger, global Hubbert Peak was anything other than inevitable. So it was with mixed feelings that I read here that Saudi Arabia’s massive reserves are apparently topping out. Apparently, we can see reductions in Saudi oil exports by the teens.

As I drive home and watch other cars, I find it hard to imagine that within a couple of generations travelling by private automobile may very well have become a luxury that few will be able to afford. Or perhaps private automobile travel will be rationed, as during the World Wars, and limited to a specific number of miles or quantity of energy per year. It seems incredible, but people watching the endless herds of bison or flocks of passenger pigeons probably felt that the extraordinary quantity and of their existence was inevitable, and any alternative absurd. So it goes.

Ever since its rich reserves were discovered more than a half-century ago, Saudi Arabia has pumped the oil needed to keep pace with rising needs, becoming the mainstay of the global energy markets. But the country’s oil fields now are in decline, prompting industry and government officials to raise serious questions about whether the kingdom will be able to satisfy the world’s thirst for oil in coming years. Energy forecasts call for Saudi Arabia to almost double its output in the next decade and after. Oil executives and government officials in the United States and Saudi Arabia, however, say capacity will probably stall near current levels, potentially creating a significant gap in the global energy supply … An internal Saudi Aramco plan, the experts said, estimates total production capacity in 2011 at 10.15 million barrels a day, about the current capacity. But to meet expected world demand, the United States Department of Energy’s research arm says Saudi Arabia will need to produce 13.6 million barrels a day by 2010 and 19.5 million barrels a day by 2020.

Earlier here.

Let’s Hear It For The Autarchs

Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihanouk has shown that advancing years are no barrier to an open mind and liberal attitude. After watching television images of gay marriages in San Francisco, the 81-year-old monarch has decided that single sex weddings should be allowed in Cambodia too. He expressed his views in a hand written message on his website which has proved extremely popular in Cambodia. The king said that as a “liberal democracy”, Cambodia should allow “marriage between man and man… or between woman and woman.” He said he had respect for homosexual and lesbians and said they were as they were because God loved a “wide range of tastes.”

Earlier here.

First The War, Then The Revolution?

BREMER: On the question of the Peshmerga, let me address it as a somewhat broader question relating to militia and armed forces that are not under the control of the central government. We have made clear in discussions with the Kurdish leaders and other political leaders that we believe there’s no place in an independent, stable Iraq for armed forces that are not under the control of the command structure of the central government. Kurdish leaders have understood and agreed with that.

Kurdish leaders in the northern autonomous area are refusing to disband their military forces, the peshmerga, and are pushing for a veto over any deployment of the Iraqi army in their region … Mustafa Sayid Qadir, the deputy commander of the PUK’s peshmerga, said: “After the Irbil attacks, security has become our number one concern. Our history has taught us the risks of leaving ourselves defenceless.”

Halliburton: Burn & Loot

Halliburton?s construction-and-engineering subsidiary … Brown & Root was part of a consortium of four companies that built about eighty-five per cent of the infrastructure needed by the Army during the Vietnam War. At the height of the resistance to the war, Brown & Root became a target of protesters, and soldiers in Vietnam derided it as Burn & Loot … former Treasury Secretary Paul O?Neill charges that Cheney agitated for U.S. intervention well before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Additional evidence that Cheney played an early planning role is contained in a previously undisclosed National Security Council document, dated February 3, 2001. The top-secret document, written by a high-level N.S.C. official, concerned Cheney?s newly formed Energy Task Force. It directed the N.S.C. staff to co?perate fully with the Energy Task Force as it considered the ?melding? of two seemingly unrelated areas of policy: ?the review of operational policies towards rogue states,? such as Iraq, and ?actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.?

Invisible Dead

By refusing to make public its estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has undercut international support for the US campaigns in those countries and has made the postwar stabilization of the two societies more difficult … the Pentagon has not fully disclosed in recent years accidental deaths and injuries inflicted upon civilian populations by American military forces. Its failure to do so has made it more difficult to predict how local populations will receive the United States after a conflict … The report says the US military has wrongly given the impression that its high-tech form of warfare is extremely low risk, creating unrealistic expectations that war produces very low casualties.

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