29 November 2006

Garrison Keillor Bashes Non-Christians

Garrison Keillor's latest salon.com essay is entirely too full of Christian Triumphalism. Some reader responses have suggested that his essay has drifted into coded anti-Semitism.

Here's a brief quote from his essay:
There are people who feel "excluded" by Christian symbolism and are offended by the manger and the angels and the Child, but there have always been humorless, legalistic people. Complaint is an American art form, and in our time it has been raised to an operatic level. To which one can only say: Get a life. When you go to France, you don't expect a stack of buckwheat pancakes for breakfast or Le Monde to print box scores. You're in France. Now you're in America. It's a Christian culture. Work with it.
According to a 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) survey of religious identification, 76.5% of the US population (159 million Americans) identify themselves as Christian. Given this current majority, it's very easy for the Christian Triumphalist bully to tell us "It's a Christian culture. Work with it."

However, it's never safe to assume that one can always be the bully.

The 76.5% of persons identifying as Christian is a decline from 86.2% in 1990.

Christian self-identification has dropped 9.7% in 11 years.

This decline is identical to that observed in Canada between 1981 and 2001. If this trend continues, then by about the year 2042, non-Christians will outnumber the Christians in the U.S. By about the year 2023, non-Christians will outnumber Christians in Canada.

Given this demographic trend in the US and Canada, perhaps a dose of Christian humility is in order here?

21 November 2006

Internet Porn - Its Role in Reducing Rape

If you haven't seen this article on Salon.com' s "Broadsheet" segment that covers issues related to feminism and gender politics, it appears that the empirical evidence (availability of internet porn correlates with a reduction in rape) contradicts the prevailing "conventional wisdom" that porn leads to increased violence against women.

Here's a brief snippet from "Broadsheet" about internet porn:

Here's some food for thought for conservative groups demanding restrictions on Internet porn to safeguard the minds of innocent boys (an oxymoron if ever there was one): As it turns out, all those clips on Hustler.com may be protecting womens' safety. A reader tipped us off to Slate columnist Steven E. Landsburg's analysis of how the increase in use and availability of Internet porn has, contrary to popular opinion, contributed to the national decline in reported rapes. As he puts it, "The rise of the Internet offers a gigantic natural experiment. Better yet, because Internet usage caught on at different times in different states, it offers 50 natural experiments." The results, according to a study by Clemson University professor Todd Kendall, indicate that a 10 percent increase in Internet access yielded around a 7.3 percent decrease in reported rapes, with states that had greater Internet access seeing the largest and fastest declines.

Still, as Landsburg points out, how do we know the Web use-rape link is connected to porn? Maybe online gaming, sports chat rooms or other male-dominated sites are in fact catching the attention of potential rapists. Kendall responds to this argument by offering murder rates; while the data consistently ties increased Internet use to decreased rapes, no such correlation exists for homicides. "It's hard to see how Wikipedia can deter rape without deterring other violent crimes at the same time," Landsburg noted. "On the other hand, it's easy to imagine how porn might serve as a substitute for rape." Coming as no surprise, the effects are strongest among boys ages 14 to 19, a demographic that Kendall, and common sense, identify as the group that relies most heavily on the Internet for porn access.

I've read about surveys that report an increase in misogynistic attitudes after viewing pornography. Apparently, they are due to an obviously behavioral research design flaw that was noted in the "Broadsheet" article:

As for psychological studies showing that male subjects are more likely to articulate misogynistic attitudes immediately after viewing pornography, Kendall dismisses the results by pointing out defects in the experiments themselves. As Landsburg delicately rephrases, watching porn in a controlled laboratory setting with teams of researchers looking on is hardly comparable to "the experience of viewing porn on the Internet, in the privacy of one's own room, [which] typically culminates in a slightly messier but far more satisfying experience."
Or ... in the paraphrased words of the comic Norm McDonald ... "Porn doesn't make me violent. When I watch porn I get sleepy."

09 November 2006

Ubuntu Wireless LAN Card Recommendation

On some liberal religious blogs (Michelle Murrain and Scott Wells), there has been discussion of open-source alternatives to the proprietary and costly Microsoft and Apple operating systems.

Most of this discussion has been on using the Ubuntu Linux versions as a free alternative.

Last night, I was setting up some old cast-off PCs with Ubuntu Linux 6.06.

These older PCs were a generic clone with an AMD Athlon CPU and a Compaq with a Pentium III CPU. I also wanted to put these systems on our church's wireless LAN and I found that the following card was reported to work "out of the box" with Ubuntu Linux 6.06 and 6.10 versions on the user support sites for Ubuntu:

D-Link WDA-1320 PCI 802.11g Wireless Adaptor for Desktop PCs

This card can be found for the $40.00 to $50.00 range. I found them in Shreveport for $39.95 and for $49.95 with $10.00 mail-in rebate.

Ubuntu 6.06 recognized these cards and there were no special Linux "tricks" needed to make them work.

This card worked with both PCs and I'll probably purchase the same card for use with the three additional cast-off Compaq Pentium III systems as well.

The card found our Wi-Fi LAN and connected with no problems once I used the "hexadecimal" choice for entering the WEP code. These wireless cards when used with Ubuntu were as painless as wireless networking with Windows XP and Mac OS X.

If your congregants have donated older computer hardware to your congregation, this wireless LAN cards is worth considering for use with Ubuntu.