HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

April 7, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner


A couple weeks ago, I read of the extreme case of a person who had been forced to wait six weeks to receive his Kindle from Amazon. That was about the same time Jeff Bezos published a letter saying Amazon was catching up on its orders and would soon be able to send the reading device on the day it was ordered.  I am now at six weeks, with no word of any sort from Amazon. Something strange must be going on in their manufacturing process, but Amazon won't say what it is.

I notice that Jim Acosta of CNN several times called a student at a Virginia high school a heckler because she asked John McCain a question. If you watch the student asking the question, you see she was very polite and respectful. So why did Acosta use that term to describe her? I've seen no explanation from him or from CNN, but you could do worse than to write in and ask them to respond.

This week I discovered a web site titled the "Rootless Cosmopolitan" posted by Tony Karon, a senior editor at Time.com.  The site has intelligent commentary about the situation in Iraq, far better than anything you can find in ordinary newspapers. I recommend it to you.

There was a small flap caused by Ed Schultz, a Montana talk show host, who called John McCain a warmonger. This was said by some to be outside the range of responsible commentary. I, myself, wouldn't call McCain a warmonger, but I think he is a thoroughgoing militarist, which can be defined as a person who believes that military strength should be a nation's primary attribute, and who is willing to use military force as an ordinary and regular element of a nation's foreign policy.

I neglected to confess to you last week that I did a bad thing. I went to see 10,000 BC, thinking it would be simply diverting entertainment. It was not diverting. In fact, it was the worst movie I've seen in years. If you want an accurate description, go to the snippet in the first part of the New Yorker.  It's about as good a take on the film as you can find. Do not pay money for it.

It's becoming increasing clear that quite a few members of the Bush administration are war criminals by the standards of the international courts. I have in mind, at least, Jim Haynes, Alberto Gonzales, Daniel Dell'Orto, Jay Bybee, John Yoo, and David Addington. My advice to them is to give up traveling outside the United States.  For such patriots, that shouldn't be a huge hardship.

Reading in Pascal's Pensees, I discovered that the Christian religion consists simply of two points (I confess I already knew this to some degree). The first is that there is a God whom men can know. The second, that there is a corruption in their own nature which renders them unworthy of him. Pascal says that if one believes only the first, then he is a deist, who is as much at odds with Christianity as the atheist is. In fact, he implies that the deist opposes Christianity more potently than the atheist does. I have to admit, the point about the deist comes to makes sense when you begin to think about it.

I watched a long film on the internet about radical life extension put out by the Immortality Institute. It introduced me to many interesting figures about whom I had known almost nothing before -- men such as Aubrey de Gray, Stephen L. Coles, Antonei Csoka, Martine Rothblatt, Rafal Smidgrodzki, Michael Hartel, Robert Dale Hanson, and many others. The network of organizations working either to extend human life indefinitely, or to banish death altogether, is extensive and fascinating. Some of this activity is undoubtedly kooky, but some of it is not. I suspect it will get more mainstream attention as the 21st century progresses.

In Vermont, we are getting a few hints of warm weather and the snow is melting, if not rapidly at least steadily. So, I'm returning to the belief that spring will come round again. By next week, I may be able to walk easily down my back steps. Be sure to click on us next Monday to see if that's the case.


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